Board briefed on housing intensification

Earlier this month the Waipapa/Papanui-Innes Community Board received a public briefing from Christchurch City Council staff on rules regarding housing intensification. The purpose of this briefing was to provide an overview of the current planning rules regarding housing intensification as well as potential future changes coming from the Government, in response to community concerns regarding intensification.

Council staff had previously presented the same briefing to the Council’s Urban Development and Transport Committee, before embarking on a series of public briefings to Community Boards. In the case of our Board, a number of members of the public were in attendance and were able to ask questions of staff.

In a bid to improve access, our Board live-streams our public meetings so that those who cannot attend can follow along online, and/or view the recording afterwards. We do this on a best-efforts basis using our own technology at zero cost to the ratepayer – an approach that comes with some limitations. Embedded below is the video from the housing intensification briefing – as you will see this has been streamed using a single webcam with limited video quality. Staff giving the briefing can be heard very well, however some of the questions from the floor not so much – apologies for that.

Live stream of the Community Board briefing, from

The slides presented in the briefing are included below – for the best experience you may wish to click through this PDF while listening to the audio from the live stream.

Some notes from me (see the slides & video for the full briefing):

  • Christchurch’s population is growing ‘very fast’, and the Council is processing record numbers of building consents
  • The Council is getting ‘strong direction’ from central Government on housing
  • The map on slide 5 shows where the District Plan allows housing intensification
  • The heatmap on slide 6 shows where most multi-unit development has taken place between 2016-19 (note that St Albans shows as a distinct area, Papanui not so much)
A heatmap showing areas with the most multi-unit development between 2016-19
  • Christchurch housing is ‘more affordable’ than other NZ cities – attributed to higher housing supply
  • Benefits of intensification include increasing housing supply (and urban regeneration), while limiting sprawl, emissions, and use of productive land.
  • Slide 12: intensification is a key component of the strategy to meet population growth over the coming 30 years.
  • Slide 13: the Council’s long term target is for intensification to provide 1500 new houses per year – higher than any year to date, although 2020 came close.
Net new houses per year in Christchurch vs the long term target
  • The Resource Consent process is explained at slide 15
  • Less than 1% of Resource Consent applications are notified (which is consistent with elsewhere in country)
  • Urban design assessment (slide 18, required by most multi-unit developments): this is not open-ended, but rather is primarily focused on arrangement, appearance & function, rather than design preference. The assessment “cannot redesign” developments.
  • Is there an upper density limit for developments (slide 19)? There is no specific density control in the Residential Central City, Residential Medium Density, or Residential Suburban Density Transition zones.
  • Developers can apply for consent under the Enhanced Development Mechanism, however this is more restrictive and not often used.
  • The link on slide 19 is a resource consent decision available on the Council website that works through the issues of density and the Enhanced Development Mechanism (“a long read but quite informing”).
  • Common concerns – slide 20: dominant buildings affecting neighbours’ outlook and privacy – “that’s true, what is allowed by the District Plan is large, and will have windows that look over neighbours – this is allowed as of right”. Council can’t restrict that completely.
  • The landscaping requirement for trees is 1 tree per 250m2 (“so maybe two on a typical multi-unit site”)
  • The National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD, slide 24): the Council is required by February 2022 to remove all minimum car parking requirements (without public consultation); by August 2022 an intensification plan change will go through public consultation (with limited scope for changes to be made).
  • Slide 25: what the NPS-UD terms ‘metropolitan centre zone’ and ‘walkable catchment’ mean in Christchurch is unclear at present
  • Resource Management Act (RMA) reform (slide 28): there will be limited Council ability to influence the Regional Plan that is set to replace the current District Plan. (Council submitted on this – link.)

Question for readers

What are your thoughts on intensification in Christchurch under the current rules? What impacts do you see coming from the NPS-UD and RMA reform?

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