Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Land use capability (LUC) handbook

LUC handbook cover

LUC handbook cover

This handbook introduces the reader to the methods and standards of the Land Use Capability (LUC) system. This system has been used in New Zealand to help achieve sustainable land development and management on individual farms, in whole catchments, and at the district, region, and the national level since 1952. The LUC system has two key components. Firstly, Land Resource Inventory (LRI) is compiled as an assessment of physical factors considered to be critical for long-term land use and management. Secondly, the inventory is used for LUC Classification, whereby land is categorised into eight classes according to its longterm capability to sustain one or more productive uses.

National and international experience has shown that the classification of land according to its capability for long-term production, based on its physical limitations and site-specific management needs, provides the most reliable basis on which to promote sustainable land management.

The Handbook is divided into five sections.

  1. Section 1 provides a concise overview of the LUC Classification.
  2. Section 2 outlines the standards and methods for preparing LRI, including significant updates for the five key factors of rock type, soil, slope, erosion and vegetation cover.
  3. How to apply the LUC Classification is detailed in Section 3, along with improved discussion on LUC classes, subclasses, units and suites. Existing practitioners should take careful note of the revised LUC class definitions.
  4. Section 4 covers survey procedures.
  5. The final section provides farm, district and regional examples of LUC applications, to help demonstrate the practicality and utility of the system.

The importance of robust and objective evaluation of New Zealand’s land resources in planning and the promotion of sustainable land management can be emphasised in two important ways. Firstly, the value of New Zealand’s annual agricultural and wood exports in 2007 totalled $13.45 billion and $2.25 billion respectively (NZETS 2007). To maintain and increase this productivity requires sustainable land management, the primary objective of the LUC system. Secondly, land management requires an assessment technique that will provide planners, policy developers, and regulatory teams with confidence that their land use and management decisions are based on a transparent robust assessment and good science, and one that is able to withstand close scrutiny through the legal system.