Thinking about flooding and cyclones? What the future means for land developers.

Rethinking Land

It’s hard to believe that Cyclone Gabrielle was less than two months ago, for many kiwis the impacts are still fresh and will be felt for some time. The infrastructure rebuild costs are estimated by Grant Robertson to come in at around $13BN, a similar price tag to the Christchurch rebuild after the 2011 quakes.  Robertson blames the high costs on a lack of investment in climate-change resilient infrastructure and suggests that our current approach to adapt “has not been significantly robust.”  We saw properties lost due to slips, landslides and torrents of water sweep through forestry harvested areas, and flood-plain communities destroyed.   With environmentalists predicting that NZ is falling short of our emissions target of zero carbon 2050, we can expect to see weather events with increased intensity in the years ahead.

So as a property investor, what can you do to ensure the future of your land remains a safe investment?

Rural Landowners

If you were affected by flooding, consider getting your surveyor to review your land and identify any risks that may affect your investment in the coming decades.  They will identify other risks such as any local policy changes to nearby forestry land or increased infrastructure builds for new transport arterial routes that might change the flow or rate of water run-off and impact your land in extreme weather conditions. For those whose crops and livelihoods have been affected by flooding, your surveyor may propose critical recommendations for your future planning that will ensure the impact of future events are minimised on your business.

Floodplain Communities

In Nov 2022, the government identified forty-four communities around twelve regions of New Zealand vulnerable to ongoing flooding events. Most kiwis located in coastal regions and near rivers are likely to be living on floodplains and may be unaware of the risks. If your land is on a floodplain and you are thinking of subdividing or developing land for sale, you may need to consider how to future-proof your developments in the event of further heavy rainfall in the future. Your surveyor will also identify whether your community is at longer term risk, which may affect your plans for the land.

Flood-affected Aucklanders

The floods in February this year did not only affect older Auckland homes.  Some affected residents were living in homes built within the last three years and given resource consent, despite known issues with ground stabilisation and stormwater management planning. James Shaw and the Green Party don’t believe any development should be going ahead in flood zones, but local councils continue to issue consents in these areas.  If you are choosing an Auckland investment property or are proposing to develop, get a good surveyor on your team and follow their advice about developing your Auckland land, rather than assuming a resource consent means it will be safe long term.

Cross-lease Properties

If your home is on a cross lease, you may have a few more issues to deal with now and in the future because of your land title.  Cross-leased homes share responsibility for the land the properties occupy, and you may have joint responsibility for stabilising your drainage or making repairs, even if your own property was not affected by flooding.   One way to minimise your future risk here is to undertake a form of subdivision and changing the land tenure from cross lease to fee-simple title.  This will allow you to make changes to your home and land to protect yourself from future weather events, without requiring the consent of your neighbour to do so. It will also alleviate any responsibility to the rest of the title you currently share.

We are living in a new era for land development. A good surveyor on your side could be the most important player on your team right now, my advice is to pick one you can trust and stick with them.