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Are Christchurch Suburbs To Be The New CBD?

Seven groups representing residents in Riccarton, Hornby and Papanui have asked for, and been granted, a private briefing to hear why city council staff are now recommending 10 storey buildings be allowed in the suburbs of Christchurch.

Last minute changes to Plan Change 14 (PC14) now propose taller (eight, nine and ten storey apartment buildings) be allowed around main shopping areas, even taller than currently allowed in the CBD; and the changes are not open for public objections.

Our media release (22 July) suggested we should be afraid of what future Christchurch might look like. It has proven to be prophetic.

The even taller buildings, over a wider area of the city, are part of recommendations contained in the city council's evidence for the Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) considering PC14.

City council staff kept this quiet and even our elected councillors have been blindsided. Nothing was published on the city council's 'Newsline' website about it. The change was only spotted by an observant Riccarton resident a couple of weeks ago, as she was reading council evidence on the IHP website.

This higher level of densification was never notified and is a kick in the teeth for a city that asked for low-rise development after the earthquakes.

The residents associations have secured a meeting next Monday afternoon (11 Sept) with senior council planning staff to clarify exactly what is being proposed and to explain why.

The media are NOT invited (at the request of city council staff) however interested councillors, community board reps and political candidates are being invited to observe.

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Christchurch residents groups (25 across the city signed on) strongly opposed the original scope of residential intensification proposed in PC14 and, as a result, the council did recommend some Qualifying Matters (QMs), limiting density in vulnerable areas, where there is limited public transport, and to give better access to sunlight.

We didn't think those QMs went far enough (they allowed 6-storey buildings in the suburbs) but we think council staff have been swayed by political and commercial interests to increase density even more, apparently to compensate for the QMs.

Many submitters, including shopping mall owners and property developers like Kainga Ora, appear to want to be able to build as tall as they like wherever they like.

Just as we thought we were making progress, our city council seems to dismiss any thought of a bespoke city plan (as suggested by former Mayor Lianne Dalziel), any concept of sensible staged intensification, or any commitment to preserve the CBD as the priority place to live, work, and shop.

The changes even propose eight and nine storey buildings under an airport noise contour zone proposed for part of suburban Riccarton, and are totally out of step with the newly passed National and Built Environment Act requiring councils to protect trees.

This is nuts, and most concerning is the fact it will not be open for any public challenge.

Submissions on PC14 are closed, so anyone who has not already submitted on PC14 cannot have a say. That is unfair and unjust.

Residents groups in the most affected areas include:

- Central Riccarton Residents' Association
- Church Corner Residents' Association
- Deans Avenue Precinct Society
- Greater Hornby Residents' Association
- Ilam and Upper Riccarton Residents’ Association
- Papanui Heritage Group
- Riccarton Bush Kilmarnock Residents’ Association

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