Land use and growth  |  11 Apr 2022

More intense housing development will be allowed in most residential parts of Christchurch under the Draft Housing and Business Choice Plan Change, now out for consultation.

The draft plan change is being driven by the need to comply with new Government direction that prioritises the need for more housing to accommodate our growing population.

“The Government’s National Policy Statement – Urban Development and the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply) Amendment Act set clear direction on how towns and cities should develop and requires us to amend parts of our District Plan,’’ explains Christchurch City Council General Manager Infrastructure, Planning and Regulatory Services, Jane Davis.

“Under the Act, in most urban residential zones of the city we have to enable medium density housing. That means people will be allowed to build up to three houses per section, and up to 12 metres (usually three storeys) high, without a resource consent.

A hierarchy of commercial centres

“The NPS-UD requires even greater levels of development – both residential and commercial – to be allowed within and near to the central city, suburban commercial centres and mass rapid transit stops. A hierarchy of commercial centres is proposed with different zones around these that will enable increased building height over and above 12 metres.”

The highest development is proposed in and around the city centre, followed by Christchurch’s biggest commercial centres, with this gradually reducing out to smaller commercial centres. Resource consent will still most likely be required for development over 12 metres.

Ms Davis says good rationale exists for allowing more intense housing development.

“Building upwards in and around our commercial centres means there is less demand to grow outwards and build homes and roads on the versatile soils on the fringe of our city. This will help provide a broader range of housing for our changing population.

“It is also good to have people living close to where they work, where they shop and where they go to school because that will help us to our reduce greenhouse gas emissions and will bring us closer to our goal of Christchurch being carbon neutral by 2045,’’ Ms Davis says.

Not all areas suitable

“However, we know intensifying housing development across all of Christchurch is not going to deliver the best outcomes for our city. There are pockets of Christchurch which, for one reason or another, are not suitable for the amount of increased housing that is enabled by the recent legislation.

“For example, it doesn’t make sense for us to allow medium density housing development in coastal areas where there is a high risk of flooding or erosion as sea levels rise. We also don’t want to destroy the special character or heritage of some of our residential areas by enabling medium density development to occur there as of right.

“Fortunately, there is provision under the legislation to exempt areas from the housing intensification rules if there is sufficient evidence to justify exemptions – which the legislation refers to as ‘Qualifying Matters’.

“The threshold for Qualifying Matters is set very high, but through the Draft Housing and Business Choice Plan Change we have identified some areas where we think there is justification for having less dense housing development than in standard residential areas,’’ Ms Davis says.

Have your say

“The Draft Housing and Business Choice Plan Change will have a significant influence on how our city develops over the coming years when it becomes part of the District Plan so I really encourage people to have a look at it and consider giving feedback.

“We’re not yet in the formal statutory process for making the change to the District Plan, and the feedback we receive will help inform what is finally included in the formal Resource Management Act plan change process.

“Some aspects of the Plan Change cannot be altered because we have to adhere to the Government direction that has been set. However, there are some things that we can change if there is enough evidence.’’

The Council is keen to hear if people think we have gone high enough in areas that have been identified as being suitable for more intensification than the 12 metres minimum. It would also like feedback on whether the areas around our commercial centres for intensification seem about right.

Feedback will be used to shape the draft Plan Change ahead of formal consultation in August 2022.

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