New Zealand's best soils to be protected for food growing

Councils will be required to protect New Zealand's best food-growing soils under new Government policy.

Pukekohe grower Bharat Bhana welcomed the move, saying something needed to be done to stop the most productive land in the country being converted into buildingsbefore it was too late.

"We're only caretakers and we've got to leave some of this beautiful land we've got to generations that come after us."

Horticulture NZ and Federated Farmers have been pushing for a mechanism to stop urban subdivisions and lifestyle blocks swallowing up prime growing land.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor and Environment Minister David Parker have announced a National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land would be introduced, after a discussion period of two months.

Speaking at Bhana's property on the outskirts of Auckland, O'Connor said once productive land was built on, it could no longer be used for food production.

About 14 per cent of New Zealand's land is categorised as highly productive.

Since 1998, 5800 new lifestyle blocks a year have been given the green light by councils. Bhana said in recent years up to 150 hectares had been lost in Pukekohe to housing and light industrial.

"Once you've got the public surrounding you, your right to farm is eroded, so even if you have elite soils you can't use them."

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