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.
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 - https://tinyurl.com/JLLoperationmoonshot)
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