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Christchurch Residents Heard At Last! A Christmas Gift Of Community-friendly Intensification?

Christchurch residents’ groups (supported by city councillors and their planners) appear to have received an early Christmas present with news that the council is now proposing major changes to its city plan that could restore sunlight to neighbourhoods and prevent the immediate adoption of medium density housing (MDRS) standards across the city.

City council staff presented webinars last week on proposed amendments to a plan change (PC14) that would have imposed one-size-fits-all residential intensification across Ōtautahi.

The amended version, if accepted, will put key aspects of the government’s new medium density intensification rules on hold until a public hearings process is completed.

This is a major step forward. It means our Council is now proposing a plan change that could reflect more of what our residents say they want for our city, rather than having the government’s dictate thrust upon us. This may be a win-win outcome that keeps our city looking like one we can be proud of, while still providing scope for intensification.

The new MDRS rules (seemingly designed for Auckland) would have taken immediate effect in Christchurch in September 2022, but intense combined pressure from 25 residents' groups resulted in most councillors voting NO to the changes, despite it putting them at odds with the law. The government might have forced the issue but instead it appointed an investigator, John Hardie, to get to the bottom of the matter. Hardie's job is to tell the government why the council voted NO (as if it doesn't know already), and to report back to government on what it plans to do next.

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The council must notify a plan change at some point, but it is now indicating some significant changes may be introduced, including:

reducing the overall size of the Christchurch urban area that will be subjected to medium and high-density intensification by about a third

offering more protections for green space, public land and heritage areas

restricting development along the boundaries of Papanui Road and Riccarton Road to allow for future road widening

restricting intensification in the entire residential area between Riccarton Bush and Riccarton Road

proposing changes to preserve sunlight and lessen shading across the entire city, due to the sun being lower in our southern sky.

The council planners have already established sunlight and shade rules in the current plan, and provided these are maintained, we would be fully supportive.

We expect this last change, if current shade rules are maintained, to have minimal impact on the scope of intensification possible, but a huge impact on preserving sunlight for existing homes. It would also have the effect of making all of PC14, including the MDRS, subject to public submissions and scrutiny. That is a process that is unlikely to be completed until early 2024, after the next general election.

It is now very clear that ordering city-wide intensification was totally unnecessary and damaging. Compared to the rest of the country Christchurch does not have a housing supply or affordability problem, particularly given the impact of the earthquakes. Our housing is not only more affordable than Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Rotorua and Wellington; it is also more affordable than Napier, Whangarei, Whakatane, Nelson, New Plymouth, Dunedin and Palmerston North (source: JLL Strategic Consultancy -

This latest change in direction by council staff could represent real progress. It remains to be seen exactly what the changes will look like, and whether or not they fully meet our city’s needs, but it has the potential to be a very positive step forward.

It also leaves us wondering why this more considered approach by the council could not have been employed in the first place. We wonder if it was because the government wanted changes rushed through (as the Intensification Bill was placed under urgency last year), without giving anybody enough time enough to think of unintended consequences.

The irony may be, once this is all over, Christchurch City may end up with a community-friendly version of intensification (that will preserve liveability and sunlight), much more so than Selwyn and Waimakariri, because our councillors voted NO whilst Selwyn and Waimakariri voted YES.

Once again, Christchurch residents thank those city councillors who took a stand, and we look forward to their continued support through the plan change and submissions process.

Addington Neighbourhood Association

Avon Loop Planning Association

Burwood East Residents Association

Central Riccarton Residents Association

Charleston Neighbourhood Association

Christchurch Civic Trust

Church Corner Residents Association

Cracroft Residents Association

Dallington Residents Association

Englefield Residents Association

Greater Hornby Residents Association

Halswell Residents’ Association

Ilam and Upper Riccarton Residents’ Association

Inner City West Neighbourhood Association (ICON)

Lower Cashmere Residents' Association

Middleton-Matipo Residents Association

North Beach Residents’ Association

Northwood Residents’ Association

Riccarton Bush-Kilmarnock Residents’ Association

St Albans Residents’ Association

Somerfield Residents Association

Spreydon Neighbourhood Network

Sumner Community Residents Association

Victoria Neighbourhood Association

Westmorland Residents Association

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