Land use and growth  |  12 Apr 2022

Christchurch City Council is taking steps to ensure that new housing development in Christchurch does not come at the expense of the city’s tree canopy.

As part of the Draft Housing and Business Choice Plan Change, the Council is proposing to start charging developers Financial Contributions if their developments leave a site with less than 20 per cent tree canopy cover.

Money raised through Financial Contributions will be used by the Council to plant trees on publicly-owned land around the city.

“The scope of Financial Contributions enabled under the Resource Management Act has been broadened, which means that we now have the opportunity to use them to offset some of the adverse effects of development on the environment,’’ says Council Head of Planning and Consents John Higgins.

“What we are proposing to do is to use Financial Contributions to incentivise the retention of existing trees on development sites.

“If a developer chooses not to retain existing trees and they develop the site without sufficient tree planting to reach 20 per cent canopy cover, then they will end up being charged Financial Contributions.

“The Council will use the revenue from Financial Contributions to plant replacement trees across the city,’’ Mr Higgins says.

“If the development meets the 20 per cent tree canopy cover target, developers won’t have to pay a Financial Contribution.

“This is one way we can help protect the tree canopy in Christchurch as new development happens and the city continues to grow. We’re keen to hear from our residents if they think Financial Contributions to replace trees are a good idea.’’

The plan change also proposes that approximately 900 significant trees listed in the current District Plan should be protected from increased development.

The latest study of Christchurch’s tree canopy shows that nearly 14 per cent of the ground area in Christchurch city (excluding Banks Peninsula) is covered by trees.

The Council wants to significantly increase the tree canopy because trees play a vital role in carbon sequestration and are also integral to the quality of Christchurch as a place to live and Christchurch’s image as the Garden City.

“We’re connecting across the Council to ensure we’re working toward the same goal and are looking at the regulatory and non-regulatory actions we can take to achieve a sustainable increase of tree canopy cover across the city,’’ Mr Higgins says.

The Council is looking at how it manages and maintains trees in public spaces. In February 2021 it adopted a Tree Policy. The policy requires that for every tree removed, a minimum of two new trees be planted and that the projected canopy cover must replace what is lost within 20 years or additional planting may be needed.  It is also developing an Urban Forest Plan to address the strategic planning of the city's urban forest, which is due out for consultation later in 2022.

Learn more about the Draft Housing and Business Choice Plan Change and how you can give feedback.