Councillors acknowledge value of soil

Auckland Councillors have raised concerns about any weakening of rules that protect highly productive land from development.

Council’s planning environment and parks committee was responding to a request for feedback on proposed government changes to the National Policy Statement on Highly Productive Land. The changes would allow some new exceptions on highly productive land for solar farms, piggeries, poultry farms and greenhouses.

Cr Greg Sayers said he did not support allowing piggeries and solar farms on highly productive land.

“Once the concrete is down, you can’t use the land,” he said. “Who is going to dig it up in the future?”

Independent Māori Statutory Board member Edward Ashby said the soil was a finite resource that could potentially shrink “chicken farm by chicken farm”.

“I am mindful that it takes 500 years for every inch of topsoil so if you get it wrong you are waiting a long time before you can grow anything again,” Ashby said.

Cr Chris Darby said rural Aucklanders would want a say, but so would urban Aucklanders who consume food grown on these soils.

“Natural soils are like gold and high-quality soils are like lithium gold,” Darby said.

“Soil, at a minimum, takes about 10,000 years to make through natural processes and an excavator or a digger can wipe it out in about 30 seconds and it’s gone forever.”

He said solar power and wind farms were important to address climate change, but council needed to be careful in not creating another problem around sustaining the people.

Council’s draft submission on the issue will come back to the committee on November 2.