Council to ask for pause on housing intensification plan

Housing in Christchurch. Photo: Newsline
Housing in Christchurch. Photo: Newsline
Pressure from residents' groups appears to have paid off over the contentious housing density rules planned by the former Labour Government.

City councillors decided yesterday to ask new Environment Minister Penny Simmonds to pause the $4.2 million independent hearings process.

It came after months of opposition to the new rules from many of Christchurch’s residents’ associations, particularly the Riccarton Bush-Kilmarnock group.

The intensification plan being considered would allow for three residential buildings of three storeys each to be built, without a resource consent, across large parts of the city, and higher storeys – potentially up to 10 – in main suburban centres.

The new Government said it would make the density standards optional for councils across New Zealand. But councils must comply with the current laws until they are changed, meaning decisions must be made by September 12 next year.

Hearings in Christchurch over the issue are set to resume in late January, hence the decision yesterday to ask Simmonds to put the process on hold.

Heathcote Ward’s Sara Templeton was the only city councillor to vote against the pause, citing the cost, $2.63 million, already spent on the hearings. There were costs involved in stopping now and new legislation could be six to 12 months away, which could lead to the council to starting the process again, she said.

But Tony Simons from the Riccarton Bush-Kilmarnock Residents’ Association, who represented a combined group of about 20 residents’ associations, disagreed.

Continuing the hearing would be a waste of money, he said.

Cr Sam MacDonald echoed the views of many councillors saying requesting a pause was a pragmatic solution.

He wanted Simmonds to make a quick decision.