Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 38 (March 1962)
– 23 –

Town and Country Planning

Until recently, if you owned some land you could do what you liked with it. You could build a house, a factory, a shop, and it was nobody's business but your own.

But if you were to build a home for your family, and then someone else were to come and build an ugly and smelly factory next door, you would probably be unhappy about it. In the past this sort of thing happened a lot. People were free to build as they liked, and freedom is a very important thing. But in this case the result was often a mess, and everyone suffered because of this. It is not good to have factories, shops, farms, homes, all mixed up together in an unorganized sort of way.

So the time came when people decided that we must plan the development of our cities and our countryside, and that there would have to be a law to say what sort of building you could put on your land. This is why the Town and Country Planning Act was passed in 1953.

The Town and Country Planning Act is there to see that we use our country's land to the best advantage. It says that in towns there must be some areas for shops, some for homes, some for factories. It says that there is a difference between towns, which are residential places where people live on small pieces of land, and the country, which is rural, and should be used mostly for farming. It is this distinction between rural and residential land which chiefly concerns Maori people, since most Maoris live in the country.

Sometimes it is a puzzle why the distinction between rural and residential land is an important one. How can it matter to anyone else, and to the Government, if someone wants to build a new home on half an acre in a country area? But there are reasons why this does matter to other people.

Land for farming is the most valuable thing that our country possesses, and because of this its proper use is very important to all of us. Unless our country uses its farming land properly, we will all suffer. And if there are too many homes dotted all over the countryside on rather small pieces of land, there is going to be quite a lot of land which cannot be used for farming any more.

As well as this, it is not easy to see that homes in the country have proper facilities. People need a good water supply, good sewerage, good roads, good postal and telephone service, and so on. It is difficult and expensive to supply these things to them when they live a long way from towns.

So the Town and Country Planning Act says that it is better if the people who live in the country have enough land to be farmers. It says that if you wish to build a new house in the country, you must either be a rural worker (that is, someone employed as a worker on a farm), or else you must own enough land to farm. In some circumstances five acres is considered to be ‘enough land’; in other circumstances it is necessary to own ten acres. There are other considerations also, but these are the main ones.

Now of course all of New Zealand is divided into counties, and each county has an elected council which is responsible for looking after such matters as the roads, stock and drainage within its area. It does this with the money from the rates which it collects from property-owners. Cities and towns are also organized into administrative divisions called boroughs. These have elected councils in the same way as counties, and do the same job in the towns as the county councils do in the country areas.

Counties Must Decide

The Town and Country Planning Act says that each county and each borough must draw up a plan showing how the land in its area can best be used. So it is, for example, the responsibility of each county council to decide which parts of the county are residential, where you need only a small piece of land to build on, and which are rural, where you must have five or ten acres if you are to build. This decision is not altogether final, because after a period of five years the matter can come up for re-consideration.

If someone wishes to build on a small piece of land in a rural area, and the county council tells him that he cannot do so, he is naturally going to be annoyed. It is inevitable that there should be disagreements about such a very difficult subject. But it is always best at least to know the reasons why such regulations as these exist. That is why this meeting was held at Waihi Village. It is very valuable for people to meet in this way to discuss their problems, and it is to be hoped that there may be meetings of this kind in other parts of the country where similar problems have arisen.