Rural and Flood Channel Review

We've been reviewing the Rural and Flood Channel provisions in the Manawatū District Plan. This project is known as Plan Change A: Rural and Flood Channel Review (PCA). We're sharing a Draft version of the upcoming changes to get your feedback.

The Rural and Flood Hazard zones have not been comprehensively reviewed since they were introduced into the District Plan in the mid 1990s.

We are proposing changes to a number of chapters within our District Plan. The changes include:

  • a new General Rural Zone Chapter to replace the existing Rural Chapter and Rural 1 and 2 zones.
  • updating the extent of flood hazards in the district using new Flood Hazard Overlays. This includes a new Natural Hazards Chapter with new rules for activities in the Flood Hazard overlay areas.
  • new subdivision rules for land zoned General Rural Zone or within one of the new Flood Hazard Overlays.
  • a number of key consequential changes to make the District Plan easier to use.

More detail on the changes is outlined below, or you can read our Fact Sheets and new chapters.

How might these changes affect me?

Changes to the District Plan can affect everyone working or living in the district. For example, if you're a landowner, they could affect the way you can use, develop, subdivide or build on your property in the future.

Right now, the changes have draft status. This means that we are not at a point where we are formally consulting on the changes. Feedback from our community will help us further shape our draft changes, ahead of formal consultation in the near future.

It's worth remembering that some of these changes have been driven by national direction from central government, and there are aspects that we cannot change or have influence over. Where this is the case, we have included references to the national policy statements for more information.

It is important to be aware of the changes and provide your feedback.

How can I provide feedback?

It’s important we hear from our residents so we can incorporate feedback into our final plan changes which will be shared with the community during a formal consultation.

We're seeking your feedback on our draft changes*. You can do so in the following ways:

  • dropping a pin on our interactive map and complete the pop-up form,
  • complete the digital form at the bottom of this page,
  • or download the PDF version of the form here and return it via hand delivery, mail or email (all details are on the form),
  • You can also pick up a printed copy of the form from the MDC Main Office or the Feilding Library.

Please provide feedback by: 4pm, 24th November 2023.

*We are seeking feedback on draft PCA as part of a new round of Clause 3 consultation under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Draft Changes

A new 'General Rural Zone' chapter

We currently have rules that relate to activities in Rural Zone 1 and Rural Zone 2. We propose replacing these zones with one zone called ‘General Rural Zone’, including a corresponding new chapter.

The draft changes set out within the General Rural Zone chapter are:

  • New rules for land classified as highly productive land under the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land. Council is directed by the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS:HPL) to include specific provisions in the District Plan. (Refer to the factsheet for further discussion on highly productive land)
  • Many of the current provisions relating to farming have been retained. Updated rules for managing intensive farming, including new definitions for intensive indoor farming and intensive outdoor farming, and an amended definition for farming have been included
  • Updating air noise insulation requirements for houses within the air noise contours for Palmerston North Airport and Feilding Aerodrome

Refer to the quick links to read our Factsheets about Highly Productive Land, the General Rural Zone, or to review the draft chapters.

A new ‘Natural Hazards’ chapter

We have used the modelling data from Horizons Regional Council, alongside a technical review of areas that have not been modelled, to better understand the flood risks and hazards in our rural areas.

A new draft Natural Hazards chapter replaces the Flood Channel Zone. Three new Flood Hazard Overlays are proposed:

  • Flood Hazard Avoidance Overlay – areas where water can be deep and flows quickly where development should be avoided due to the risk to human health and safety
  • Flood Hazard Mitigation Overlay – areas where development can be undertaken so long as there is appropriate mitigation, such as minimum floor levels and the siting of building so to not impede flood flows
  • Floodways Overlay - are the identified floodways listed in Horizons One Plan in Schedule J. These are areas with risk from flood events and include the Taonui Basin, Kopane Spillway and Reid Line Spillway

The draft planning rules categorise activities into two groups, based on the sensitivity to flood hazards and where people (or groups of people) reside:

  • Hazard Sensitive Activities (e.g. residential units, healthcare facilities)
  • Less Hazard Sensitive Activities (e.g. farm buildings, garages, temporary structures)

Refer to the quick links to read the Flood Hazard Factsheet.

Have questions?

We have identified some frequently asked questions that might answer questions you have. If you have additional questions talk to our Policy Planning Team on (06) 323 0000 or email


We understand our communities may have questions about these changes. We've created some FAQs to help explain the draft changes.

The Rural and Flood Channel Zones have not been comprehensively reviewed since they were first introduced in the late 1990s. National direction and regional policy introduced since then requires changes and updates to the District Plan. We also need to update the District Plan with the latest hazard information, including flood modelling from Horizons Regional Council.

At this point the changes have draft status, and no legal effect.

However, if you live or work in the Rural or Flood Channel Zones of the Manawatū District, Plan Change A might affect how you can use, develop, or subdivide your land in the future. Providing feedback will help Council understand issues and shape the formal plan change.

To find out if your land is affected by Plan Change A, you can use the online Planning Maps tool here

Your comments and feedback will help shape the next steps for the plan change. We are sharing our work on the draft plan change to test proposals and hear your feedback. Is the two-tier approach to manage flood hazards a good approach? Are there other suggestions on how we can implement the NPS:HPL and protect highly productive land?

You can provide your comments in the following ways:

Manawatū District Council cannot change the highly productive land status or map extent through PCA.

We are directed under the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS:HPL) to use the interim definition to identify highly productive land. In brief this is any land mapped by the New Zealand Land Resource Inventory as Land Use Classification 1, 2 or 3.

Horizons Regional Council has the responsibility for mapping highly productive land and must do so by 2025.

Further information on the NPS:HPL is available on our Factsheet, or online

Draft PCA includes two definitions relating to farming activities: farming and land based primary production.

The Council is required to protect highly productive land for land based primary production which is defined in the NPS:HPL as: production from agricultural, pastoral, horticultural or forestry activities, that is reliant on the soil resource.

Activities which are not reliant on the soil resource are not permitted to establish on highly productive land.

Council is aware of the diversity of farming activity in the Manawatū. For land not classified as highly productive the definition of land based primary production is considered too narrow. Amendments are recommended to the existing farming definition to cater for a wider range of farming and related farming practices, e.g. processing of farm produce grown or produced on the landholding, free range poultry, and research farming and associated facilities.

Nodal Areas in the current District Plan are not identified as specific zone. The underlying zone of Nodal Areas is the Rural 1 or 2 Zone.

Under the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land, lifestyle zoning is to be avoided on highly productive land.

Recent Case Law from the Environment Court is that you need to assess the nearest equivalent zone. In our case given the land is Rural Zone, then the nearest equivalent zone is General Rural Zone, not a Lifestyle Zone.

We have used the Australian Rainfall and Runoff (ARR) Guidelines to identify two types of flood hazard areas: Flood Hazard Avoidance Overlay and Flood Hazard Mitigation Overlay. These overlays consider factors like flood depth and velocity.

There is another flood overlay which identifies the floodways and spillways from Horizons Regional Council's One Plan.

Refer to the Flood Hazard Factsheet for more information.

Using updated modelling and data from Horizons Regional Council, and local technical knowledge where the models don't exist, we are now better able to understand the flood risks and hazards in our rural areas. The changes proposed are vital for safeguarding our residents from the risk of flood hazards.

The new overlays have planning rules that categorize activities into two groups:

  • Hazard Sensitive Activities (e.g., residential units, healthcare facilities) and
  • Less Hazard Sensitive Activities (e.g., garages, temporary structures).

The rules restrict certain activities based on their sensitivity to flood hazards and risk to human health and safety.

This reflects the most recent modelling completed by Horizons Regional Council. Recent modelling is based on an entire catchment, not just the main river stem. This means that more overland flow paths and streams are likely to be identified. We expect all new models completed by Horizons to result in maps that will look similar.

Following the 2004 flood event, Horizons Regional Council completed stopbank works along the Ōroua River in this area. These works mean that the area near Kopane and Main Drain Road is no longer subject to flood risk and these areas do not need to be identified on the flood hazard overlays.

The area around Hansens Line and Ōroua Road was not previously identified as a Flood Channel Zone. The most recent flood modelling information from Horizons Regional Council identifies additional land located outside the existing Flood Channel Zone where there is a risk to human health and safety from flood events. The flood hazard overlays have been prepared using this more recent information.

The National Planning Standards require that hazard areas (including flood areas) must be identified as overlays:

An overlay spatially identifies distinctive values, risks or other factors which require management in a different manner from underlying zone provisions.

Yes, the Planning Maps will be updated to reflect the draft zone changes. We are proposing to rezone the majority of land previously Flood Channel Zone to the General Rural Zone.

There are a few areas where Flood Channel Zone will switch to Village Zone, reflecting the adjacent zoning. Some Council owned land will switch from Flood Channel Zone to Recreation Zone.

We are aware that Horizons Regional Council is completing new models in different parts of our District. As this new flood data becomes available, the District Plan will need to be updated to reflect these changes. This ensures that the District Plan remains current and responsive to evolving flood hazard risks. No new areas will be introduced into the District Plan without a public plan change process in the future.

Your comments on the draft PCA proposal is the beginning of the Plan Change process. (Schedule 1, Resource Management Act).

After feedback closes, we will work through comments provided and review the draft Plan Change proposal. Where necessary we will contact you to discuss your feedback points.

We will then prepare PCA for public notification. At that point you can make a formal submission on the Plan Change, and attend a hearing if you wish.

The Hearing Panel will make a final decision on the Plan Change, and subject to any Environment Court appeals, PCA will become operative.

The Council is required to implement national direction, (e.g. National Policy Statement or Environmental Standards) as part of our district plan review process. National direction can change. This could be an update of technical advice, or changes in government policy.

If required to respond to a change in policy direction, PCA can be updated prior to notifying the plan change.