Vast swathes of rural Queenstown land will be protected under new plans to limit development.

But no one seems particularly bothered – despite a local planning expert saying they “propose to remove existing landowner rights and expectations”.

Queenstown’s council is consulting the public on proposals to create two new zones in the Wakatipu Basin – a rural amenity zone (RAZ) and lifestyle precinct (see map).

Within the 4672-hectare RAZ, new sections need to be at least 80 hectares. In the 2198ha lifestyle precinct, they need to be at least 6000 square metres.

They’ll replace the existing rural, rural residential and rural lifestyle zones.

There’s less than a month left for the public to have their say.

However, while the council’s plans to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Airbnb and also non-registered accommodation providers has garnered a mass of national attention and submissions, it’s tumbleweed time over this district plan change.

“So far we’ve only had a couple but our experience is all the submissions seem to come within the last day or two,” council planning policy boss Ian Bayliss says.

“I thought this plan change would be more of an attention-grabber than the other one, but that’s the way the cards fall.”

The zones, if approved, will be part of the new district plan.

A hearings panel last July told the council they didn’t think the current subdivision regime would deliver what the council wants from the plan in terms of preserving key landscapes.

Bayliss: “They were concerned that further development within the basin has the potential to cumulatively and irreversibly damage the rural character and amenity of the basin.”

Council commissioned a study to understand where in the basin could absorb more development and where couldn’t. It, somewhat controversially, identified Ladies Mile as somewhere that could.

The changes also introduce 20-metre setbacks from public roads and 50m from a landscape feature. All buildings, except small farm buildings, will require resource consent in both zones.

Bayliss says the changes are “really significant’.

Veteran local planning lawyer Warwick Goldsmith says the proposed variations “not only ignore, but propose to remove, existing landowner rights and expectations”.

That includes the right to build a house on the 300-plus approved but unbuilt residential building platforms (RBP) within the areas.

“That right would be worth, on average, at least $750,000. Every existing landowner currently holding such a right will have to apply for it again, at significant cost.

“The new planning regime is so tough there can be no guarantee, or even a reasonable district plan expectation, of being able to renew that right.”

Even if an RBP is renewed, a further consent application is required for a house. The variations also remove the existing RBP right to build an attached residential flat and to alter or extend a house.

All these changes also apply to existing rural residential lots (which do not have RBPs) within the variation area.

“There is an entirely separate debate about whether any new rural living should be allowed,” he adds, saying 80ha minimum lot sizes and a tougher planning regime seem designed to virtually prevent that happening.

“Strangely that regime does not appear to be landscape-based as it includes areas previously zoned for rural living where houses already exist.”

Submissions close February 23.