Selecting a rural site

Last updated: 9 August 2023

selecting rural site

Building on a rural site can provide an opportunity to build smarter, but be aware of the challenges too.

A home on a lifestyle block

If you're planning to build in the country, or relocate to a rural property, do your research so you can take advantage of the benefits and be prepared for different challenges to urban living.

As well as the potentially lower cost of land and a larger property, you might plan to live more self-sufficiently, earn an income off the land or work from home. High-speed internet and wireless connectivity are now available in many parts of rural New Zealand.

You may also have an opportunity to protect and enhance the natural environment. If you’re able to build on a site that's already cleared, you might be able to avoid some clearance and earthworks.

One of the challenges of living rurally is that, even if you don’t want to be more self-sufficient, you might need to be. Depending on how rural your property is, and what you are used to, you may need to adjust from an urban way of thinking (for example, it might be a long drive to neighbours, medical services, supplies and a petrol station).

What you can build

One of the first things to consider if you’re planning to build on a rural site is the district plan requirements. Your council will have specific requirements related to the number, size and height of houses permitted within a certain area and will confirm any resource consent requirements.

Choosing a site has more information.

Before you begin

To ensure you know about any special rules or requirements, as well as what services are available, contact your local council.

Check the Local Government NZ website for council contact details.

Services to your site

Consider the cost and availability of power, gas, phone, internet, water supply, wastewater treatment and rubbish disposal. You'll need to consider any up-front capital costs as well as ongoing maintenance and operational costs.

You may need or want to be self-sufficient and could consider:

  • generating your own electricity
  • collecting and using rainwater
  • reusing greywater.

You'll need to check whether your local or regional councils place any restrictions on installing particular systems.

It can be expensive to connect to the electricity grid, especially if you have to lay a copper cable to the nearest power line. Instead, you might decide to install your own generation (photovoltaic panels, wind turbines or micro-hydro generator) and battery storage.

Typically, you will also need a backup generator (for example, petrol or diesel) to bridge long periods when your generation system is not able to generate power. As well as benefiting from lower fuel and electricity costs, you will still be able to function in a power cut (for example, if the power lines in your area are damaged in a storm).

Factor in ongoing maintenance and fuel costs for running the backup generator, in addition to the upfront cost of buying the power generation system and batteries.

If you are very remote, you may also be unable to connect to the town water supply and sewerage. If you plan to be totally independent, you will need to ensure you have sufficient water storage to last through dry periods. If you run out, you may need to buy water and have it delivered.

There are now a wide range of choices for on-site wastewater treatment, which can be more environmentally friendly than the traditional septic tank. These include aerated systems (which require energy), composting toilets and vermiculture treatment (worms).

Greywater recycling is becoming an increasingly important component of a wastewater system, as it recycles or diverts the bulk of the wastewater directly to the toilet or garden, reducing the load on the treatment plant.

Water and waste has more information.

The costs associated with services are sometimes underestimated and can lead to cost overruns or people taking 'shortcuts' with water supply, wastewater treatment and energy supply. These can have serious consequences on your lifestyle and the environment.

Access roads

The construction of access roads onto rural sites can be extremely expensive, especially if it involves wet ground, steep slopes, or waterways.

You may also need to commit to keeping your access ways maintained. If you share access ways, make sure you understand exactly what your maintenance responsibilities will be. It’s a good idea to get a written agreement that has been checked by your lawyer.

If your access is well-designed and constructed, you’re more likely to have:

  • reduced erosion and sedimentation on the property
  • lower maintenance costs
  • all-weather access.

Emergency services

Emergency services can take longer to reach a rural property, with most areas serviced by volunteer brigades covering fire and medical emergencies. Make sure to factor the following into your planning:

  • practical access for vehicles including trucks
  • adequate, accessible water supply for use by emergency services
  • safe storage of flammable items, such as firewood
  • signposting your property.

If your site has a natural water reservoir such as a stream or a well (or access to one), this could become your emergency supply (for example, in case of fire). You’ll need to plan how to handle an emergency, including being able to easily connect a hose to the emergency water supply. Keep this in mind when choosing a site and positioning your buildings.

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: