Growth constrained in Amberley

More houses are needed for Amberley, but growth is being held back by rules to protect surrounding agricultural land.

The population of North Canterbury's south ward, currently at 5590, could double over the next 10 years, Hurunui District Council estimates show.

But Mayor Marie Black said there was uncertainty over where the new homes would go due to national legislation.

For now, the south ward’s main town of Amberley is surrounded by land which is protected under the existing National Policy Statement (NPS) on highly productive land.

A district councillor suggested terraced housing could allow for more homes in the future.

The Hurunui District Council’s strategy and community committee has adopted a draft South Ward Spatial Plan, which looks at growth over the next 30 years.

The spatial plan is expected to lead to more houses for Amberley, while Leithfield will retain its village feel.

It is now out for public engagement from until April 29 and the district’s south ward councillors are keen to receive feedback from residents.

Should there be any legislative change to how the land is categorised after the spatial plan is adopted, the council’s chief strategy and community officer Judith Batchelor said this can be addressed through a plan change when any land is rezoned.

"We will look to influence the highly productive land mapping in conversation with Environment Canterbury, but at the moment we need to comply with NPS.’’

She said Environment Canterbury has indicated the draft mapping will come back to the district council for comment.

District councillor Pauline White said adopting the draft spatial plan is ‘‘a positive step’’.

"It is important for the council to be aware of what might be coming and how the community would like to see that growth managed.’’

District councillor Garry Jackson said the draft plan addressed both residential expansion and commercial development.

"Amberley is within commuting distance from Christchurch, so it is about how we manage that growth so we retain the country feel as opposed to becoming a suburb of Christchurch.’’

Fellow south ward councillor Vanessa McPherson said housing capacity is sufficient in the short and medium term, but options like terraced housing could be looked at in the long term.

"You only have to look at some of the developments in Christchurch to realise that with design guidance, retaining rural character is achievable.’’

Allowing for industrial land is also essential to the area’s economic growth, she said.

The spatial plan identified the need to consolidate Amberley’s growth, where there is existing infrastructure and services, while the Leithfield village has limited room for growth.

The coastal settlements of Amberley Beach and Leithfield Beach have constraints which have been identified in coastal adaptation plans.

No growth is proposed for the rural settlements of Balcairn and Broomfield, while there is already land zoned for development at Ashley Forest.

South Ward Community Committee chairperson Jo Hassall, who also chairs the Leithfield Community Centre committee, said she is pleased the council listened to Leithfield residents in its initial engagement.

"We have such a nice village we don’t want to lose that village feel. The council staff originally suggested they could expand the village up the hill, but now they realise there is plenty of spaces to infill in the village rather than spreading out.’’

The plan also identifies opportunities to lobby for public transport as the population grows.

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

■ LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.