Running out of space

How can I avoid a blue-green or general algal outbreak on...
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Running out of space?

The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions. Click here for full Terms of Use.

What else should I know about buying rural land?

The definition of rural land includes any land that is used or intended to be used for the grazing of livestock, dairy farming, poultry farming, grape growing, orchards, beekeeping, horticulture, the growing of crops of any kind, and vegetable growing.

This intended usage makes the soil quality and land slope more important than the land you buy for a family home.  Some important issues to keep in mind are:
  • Is the land surrounding the lifestyle block you want to purchase used mainly for agriculture, commercial purposes or private use?
  • Does the property already have appropriate Council approvals and the correct zoning for any external buildings or other developments you have planned?
  • Consider your own health and age. Will you have regular need for medical facilities and services that are only found in cities and regional centres?  Does your new rural location have a doctor or medical centre nearby?
  • Does the Sale and Purchase Agreement for your lifestyle block include any required licenses such as water usage rights etc?  It's very important to make sure that you know what is, and what is not, included in your purchase.  Get legal advice if you are a first time lifestyle block buyer, to minimise risks.
  • How easy will it be for you to have utilities such as power, gas, sewage and phone connected to your lifestyle block?  What costs are involved?
  • Check for flood plains, areas with access problems or limited water supply.
  • Check for any easements or rights of way that may be through the property. Even though they may have not been used for some time, their use by others can affect your own usage rights.
  • Check that effective noxious pest controls are in place on your land. Pest eradication can be expensive, so prevention is usually the best approach.

What should I check for when buying completely undeveloped rural land?

If you are considering buying undeveloped rural land, check the following:
  • Water tables, depth, quality and reliability
  • Closeness of utilities like water, gas, electricity, telephone and any costs to bring them to the land / property for installation and maintenance
  • Local road maintenance and accessibility, and any potential costs to connect these up to the property

What type of insurance do I need for a Lifestyle Block?

Lifestyle blocks are very common in New Zealand, and most major insurance companies offer lifestyle block insurance policies tailored to your needs. These policies typically cover home and contents, accidents (including liability), farm buildings, farm equipment, vehicles, livestock and other animals.

Depending on the level of income you receive from your lifestyle block, you may want to consider additional insurance. Insurance policies will typically cover loss of income from adverse events (droughts, severe frost, animal sickness or even rustling). Your insurance broker can advise on the right insurance policy types and the appropriate level of insurance cover you need (if any is required).

What about organic farming?

Organic farming and organic produce growing has become increasingly popular options for New Zealand lifestyle block farmers. Organic farms use more natural farming methods including natural manures, compost, crop rotation and organic feed for livestock. Organic farms also avoid using pesticides and fertilizers containing non-natural chemicals. Note that these farming methods may mean more work for the farmers, as hard work is sometimes used in place of chemical compounds.

Most organic lifestyle farms specialise in one type of produce, but there are a wide variety of options.  You may choose to produce organic goat’s milk and cheese, organic fruit and vegetables, or plants such as lavender and other herbs for use in cooking or alternative medicine.  You can sell these items from a roadside stall, an on premise farm shop, or via wholesalers and distributors in your local area.

How can I improve water quality on my farm?

Preventing livestock on your property from accessing any running water source, such as a stream or a river, will help improve water quality.  This quality will be beneficial for both downstream users of the water and for natural inhabitants.

Use fencing on your lifestyle block to help keep livestock well away from water sources. Use some plants or trees on your property to act as a natural buffer to catch nutrient runoff from your lifestyle block, protecting neighbouring properties.

Where can I find information about average rainfall for my region?

Most New Zealand areas have a relatively consistent amount of rainfall throughout the year, but there are regional variations, which are largely dependent on the landscape. The West Coast of the South Island is the wettest part of New Zealand.  The East Coast of the South Island is the driest, due largely to the rain shadow caused by the Southern Alps.
 
Despite regular rainfall, some areas of New Zealand will suffer from occasional droughts. The year 2013 saw one of the worst and most widespread New Zealand droughts. That drought affected southern Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, the central North Island, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, the Wairarapa, and parts of the north and west of the South Island, for over a month.
 
Previous droughts occurred in 2007, 2008 and 2010, so the 2013 drought is not an isolated case.  If you are purchasing a lifestyle block, you should definitely consider rainfall and the effects on your land if it does not arrive.  The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) is the authoritative source for weather information in New Zealand.  It's a Crown Research Institute established in 1992.
 
Farmers in the region you’re moving to will also be good resources to help you understand the long term weather trends, and the best ways to cope with weather up's and down's. Our First National Rural Specialists can really help too. Contact us now, and we’ll happily share our comprehensive rural expertise with you.
 

Should I be worried about any fire risk from fallen timber?

Due to high rainfall, New Zealand is not generally at risk from wildfires, except in the drier summer months (November to February), or during drought periods.
 
To reduce fire risks generally on your lifestyle block, keep your property grasses cut regularly, and ensure that there is plenty of clear space (without dry grass or wood items) around your lifestyle block houses, sheds and buildings.
 
Fallen timber occurs naturally on farms and lifestyle blocks. It can form the basis of native habitats, and it contributes to a healthy eco-system by helping native fauna to flourish. Fungi growing on rotting timber will also help to recycle nutrients back into your soil and nourish the next generation of plants. If fallen timber does pose a fire threat, simply relocate it to a safer place on your property.
 
For information on New Zealand fire risks, visit the National Rural Fire Authority.

Is water affected by algae safe to drink after it has been boiled?

Water infected with or tainted by algae can be poisonous to humans and livestock.  It should be avoided in all cases.  Boiling algal water will not make it safe to drink.
 
Do not drink or swim in algal water. Don’t rinse vegetables or fruit in it, or cook with it. Don’t wash your clothes in it, as the algae can cause rashes and infections. Don’t eat shellfish or fish caught in it, as the fish may have ingested the algal water.
 
Take extra care not to spray or flood irrigate pastures or crops with it. If you do use algal water on your farm by mistake, you could infect your entire food crop.

How can I avoid a blue-green or general algal outbreak on my block?

Cyanobacteria, better known as blue-green algae, is a bacteria than can be harmful to humans and animals. While it occurs naturally, it can be inadvertently encouraged to bloom when nutrients like phosphorous are introduced to waterways by humans.  Many popular cleaning products use phosphorous in their formulations.
 
To avoid algal bloom outbreaks, limit the amount of nutrient run-off from your property entering waterways. Avoid excessive use of farm fertilisers and maintain good farm vegetation to act as a natural nutrient run-off buffer. If you don't have good lifestyle block vegetation areas, move any livestock further away from waterways.

Other things you can do to reduce the risk of algal bloom outbreaks include:
  • Minimise the amount of time soil remains exposed to wind and water. Don’t work soil too much, or work it too far ahead of planting
  • Practice minimum soil cultivation techniques to maintain soil structure
  • Avoid cultivating very steep slopes of soil where limiting runoff will be difficult
  • Use green manure crops and work them into the soil regularly
  • Use crops that cover the soil where you can.  This helps prevent soil erosion
  • Use buffer strips of dense vegetation in steep locations to catch runoff
  • Use surface drains or diversion banks alongside dams and rivers
  • Leave natural drainage areas on your lifestyle block grassed.  This helps with drainage, and reduces the amount of runoff as water is absorbed into the soil
  • Build culverts and bridges or hard crossings for stock, and vehicle crossings
  • Maintain quality of stream banks with solid grass cover, trees, shrubby plants and native grasses
  • Keep livestock away from streams and waterways by using traditional or electric fencing. Livestock may get sick if they consume algal water.  They may also spread algal water across your property, causing further blooms

What do I need to do to look after my animals during particularly hot weather?

While New Zealand may not have the weather extremes that farmers in Australia and other countries have to contend with, it's still important that your livestock are well cared for during hotter periods. Ensuring that your livestock have access to a plentiful and clean supply of water is essential. If your lifestyle block is in an area that attracts a lot of sunshine, provide shelter and tree shading for your animals.
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