There is no doubt that a drive around the outer city limits
reveals some idyllic scenes. Quiet country living with a few sheep
or cattle grazing or pretty olive trees is a life long dream for
many people keen to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
However, trying to get your head around all of the many issues
that go with buying and owning a rural lifestyle block can be very
Unlike a simple residential purchase, there are a whole raft of
issues that you will need to get your head around. Deciding whether
or not to register for GST, knowing what types of resource consent
are required for land use, water and sewage disposal, understanding
RMA planning requirements to ensure you can undertake the
activities that you intend, and knowing what the neighbours can (or
cannot) do are all complicated issues which you will need to
carefully consider before committing to a rural lifestyle block
Here are some of the important issues that you will need to
GST: You will need to check whether the vendor
is registered for GST and whether the purchase price is "plus
GST if any" or "inclusive of GST if any". The last
thing you will want is an unexpected GST bill. You will also need
to consider whether you should be registered for GST or not on the
purchase. This will usually depend on the size and scale of the
lifestyle block being purchased. Most agree that unless it is going
to be a reasonably large rural lifestyle block that will be run as
a commercial enterprise, it is best not to register for GST. This
will keep your life simple (eg no regular GST returns) and you will
not need to account for any GST on resale.
Sewage: Many rural lifestyle blocks are not
connected to reticulated sewage schemes and instead rely on septic
tanks or other sewage disposal systems. If you are buying a block
with an existing dwelling, it will be important to understand what
type of system has been installed, whether it has the appropriate
permits or consents and whether there are any ongoing maintenance
obligations. If you are looking at a bare land block, you should
make sure you know what the current requirements are under the
local council and regional council plans, and whether resource
consent will be required for sewage disposal. It may also be
necessary to ensure that any current resource consents are
transferred to you on settlement.
Water supply: Many rural lifestyle blocks are
not connected to Council water schemes and water is supplied by
private schemes or bores/wells located on the property. Generally
speaking, taking water for domestic and stock watering purposes is
a permitted activity but use of water for irrigation or commercial
purposes will most likely require a consent. If you are buying a
rural lifestyle property, make sure you know where the water comes
from, whether all the necessary consents have been obtained and
whether the water quality is potable. Ensure that your agreement
for sale and purchase provides for the transfer of any water
consents required for the property, especially if irrigation is
involved and be aware that the availability of water in many parts
of Canterbury is becoming limited.
Land covenants: If you are buying a rural
lifestyle block that has been subdivided from a larger block of
land, the developer (or the Council) may have created a range of
land covenants over the subdivided blocks to manage the way that
they can be used. These covenants may restrict the way the land is
used (e.g., prohibiting certain types of farming or types of
domestic pets) or they may impose positive obligations that require
you to maintain or develop the land in a particular way. If you are
looking at buying a lifestyle block that is subject to land
covenants, make sure you carefully read the fine print in the
covenant documents to ensure that you can use the property in the
way that you intend.
RMA planning issues: While living in the
country has lots of advantages, many "townies" forget
that the rural landscape is also a working environment. There are
many aspects of rural life that are noisy and smelly – for
example effluent spreading on dairy farms, harvesting, frost
protection on orchards and vineyards and fertiliser and spray
applications. Councils try to minimise these conflicts by imposing
setbacks around rural activities with potential noxious effects
– for example building setbacks from boundaries with
properties where effluent disposal takes place. Make sure you check
out zoning rules and activities on adjoining properties so that you
understand what kind of activities can take place on the properties
around you to avoid any unwelcome surprises.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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