By Pattrick Smellie
The government has cut through a thicket of appeals against plans for more intensive urban land use in Christchurch, using emergency earthquake legislation to deal with regional policy changes that were first proposed more than four years ago.
The changes will take effect from next Monday, and will allow development in new areas in the west and north of Christchurch and in surrounding towns, including Rangiora, Kaiapoi, Rolleston, and Lincoln.
The changes will allow denser housing than has previously been permitted in urban areas, with up to 10 household units per hectare in greenfield areas of Selwyn and Waimakariri districts, 15 households per hectare in greenfields areas of Christchurch, grouped around Halswell and Papanui, up to 50 households per hectare in the Christchurch city centre, and 30 households in other areas identified in the Christchurch City Plan.
The proposals were already part of the so-called Proposed Change 1 in the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement, put forward in July 2007.
The process had ground through acceptance by the regional council, Environment Canterbury, by late 2009, but was still facing 51 appeals in the Environment Court.
The government decided that process needed speeding up because of the large number of people forced to relocate because of the earthquakes over the last 13 months.
“The changes … will accommodate both the population relocation forced by the earthquakes and population growth as the pace of rebuilding and development quickens,” said Brownlee.
To achieve this, the proposed change has been revoked and a new chapter 12A inserted into the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement, specifically referring to “accelerated gains of population … in western Greater Christchurch (including Christchurch City) as people and business activity has of necessity moved from the east (where earthquake damage has been most significant) to the west.”
“Since the earthquakes, shifts in population across Greater Christchurch have occurred and continue to do so (people leaving, both temporary and permanent and new people arriving as part of the rebuild),” says commentary on issues in the new chapter. “Given the potential impact these growth drivers have on Greater Christchurch, it is critical to understand the volumes of growth and the choices available for accommodating this level of future change, in the most sustainable manner, along with the investment in and development of strategic infrastructure which will be required to provide for such growth.”
The newly approved changes identify areas available for urban development, specify residential densities, make provision for business, require local authorities to provide for sequenced developments, and provide for form, design and development plans for integrated management of the area’s growth.
The decision to invoke emergency powers follows a string of related decisions, including to bring the previously opposed Prestons Road subdivision into the city limits, and to allow development in Kaiapoi in an area that Christchurch airport wanted kept clear as a noise corridor.
Brownlee also announced today that all but 20 properties on Banks Peninsula had been rezoned as “green” from “white”, making them capable of being built on and repaired.
That follows last month’s announcement that 9,700 Port Hills properties had also been moved from white to green zone status.