Land use change report

MPI commissioned a report which looks at the current drivers and barriers to changing how land is used in New Zealand. View the report and maps showing land use capability for different regions.


The characteristics of soil have an important effect on the land's suitability for different uses. Some land is suitable for any type of primary production – other land isn't. Improved matching of soil type to land use can improve environmental, social and economic outcomes across New Zealand.

The land use change report will inform:

  • government policy on land use in New Zealand
  • individuals and communities deciding how to use land.

Land use change report

Download the land use change report [PDF, 2.7 MB]

The Ministry for Primary Industries commissioned AgFirst – an agricultural consulting company – to do the report. It looks at the current drivers and barriers to changing the use of land in New Zealand. The aim is to provide planners, regional councils and landowners with information so they can make better decisions about land use.

The report discusses 'land cover' – this refers to what is on the land. Land cover includes:

  •  exotic forestry
  •  grassland
  •  crops
  •  horticultural trees and vines   
  •  urban buildings.

The report looks at a variety of factors that can affect people's decisions to change the use of land. It finds that while there are strong economic incentives to optimise land use, a variety of factors slow this down. The main issues are the cost of converting land, farming preferences, and information barriers.

Tables in the report

A main focus of the AgFirst work was to analyse current land cover, matched to land use capability (LUC). With LUC, land is categorised into 8 classes. This is based on the land's long-term capability to sustain one or more productive uses. For example, Class 1 (elite soils) are usually flat lands that can grow anything.

This information was used to produce tables showing the area (in hectares) of current land cover by:

  • current land cover category
  • LUC
  • region. 

The tables are attached to the report and include 8 LUC categories and 5 land covers within each region. This data has been converted to produce a map for each region with land cover and LUC.

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Maps of land cover by land use capability
View regional maps from the report showing land cover and land use capability in New Zealand.

These maps are best viewed on screen. They can be accessed by following the links below:

Who to contact

If you have questions about the information on this page, email

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