Extaordinary Powers to Expedite Recovery

Part 1:  The Central City Recovery Plan

July 2011


The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 (the Act) vests extraordinary powers in the Minister for Earthquake Recovery, the Hon. Gerry Brownlee, to circumvent or fast-track usual RMA processes to expedite the recovery of Christchurch.  This is the first of a three-part series of articles examining the application and implications of these powers.  In this bulletin we consider the Central City Recovery Plan (the Central City Plan).  Next we will address the Long-Term Recovery Strategy for Greater Christchurch, followed by a third article dealing with the Minister's powers to fast-track specific RMA proposals by Order in Council.

How does the Central City Plan affect you?

Purpose of the Central City Plan

The Central City Plan will sit beneath the yet to be developed Recovery Strategy.  The purpose of the Central City Plan is to guide the rebuild of the Central City by imposing necessary controls and establishing direction for future development.  It will detail what needs to be done within the Central City and how it will be implemented.  The Act provides for the Central City Plan to address social, economic, cultural or environmental matters, as well as infrastructure, works and activities. 

Status and implications

The Act requires that the Christchurch City Plan (the City Plan) and Central City Plan be read together.  In the event that the Central City Plan is inconsistent with the City Plan, the Central City Plan will prevail.

The Central City provisions of the City Plan are relatively permissive.  The Central City Plan may well introduce controls that are significantly more restrictive.  Such controls are discussed later in this article.

The normal RMA timeframes for public participation in planning processes have been substantially reduced and appeal rights have been removed.  If your interests are likely to be affected, we recommend that you (1) proactively establish contacts with the Council so that you are informed and (2) develop a strategy to participate in the public submission process.

Resolution of competing interests

The Central City Plan will be the point at which potentially competing needs and interests meet through the public submission process.  These needs and interests will be discussed at hearings and determined by the Council to inform the final version of the Central City Plan for the Minister's approval. 

The Council have already engaged with the wider community through the 'Share an Idea' campaign.  This campaign gave the public an opportunity to have their say about how the Central City should be redeveloped. 

The most common themes which emerged from this campaign were:

  • Putting people at the centre of the redevelopment of the Central City.
  • Making the Central City a special place to go and enjoy a range of activities.
  • Providing an abundance of green space for lots of activities.
  • Creating precincts which will attract people.
  • Integrating transport networks with pedestrians as a priority.
  • Having well-designed, sustainable low-rise buildings.
  • Making the Central City inclusive and accessible.
  • Creating a ‘business-friendly’ environment.

The Council has stated that all ideas will be considered but not all will be adopted or implemented.  This reflects the challenge faced by the Council in coordinating and balancing ideas received.  Some ideas, such as low-rise buildings, simply may not be commercially viable for property owners - who will be interested in receiving the best financial return on their investment.  Proposed transport options, such as an extended tram network to the suburbs, might not be realistic given the financial challenges faced by the Council at the present time.

The extent to which the public interest may conflict with the needs of property owners is not presently clear.  However, this will become apparent once the Central City Plan is notified.  We anticipate the Central City Plan may introduce more controls regarding use and development in the CBD, including matters such as building height controls, green space, and pedestrian network requirements.  Precincts for different types of activities and/or requirements for mixed uses may be included.  Building design controls that are subject to design panel approval might also be introduced. 

When developing the Central City Plan, the public's central city vision will need to be weighed against property owner interests in order to create an attractive, safe and commercially viable city centre.  The challenge will be to weigh these competing interests and priorities to reach an outcome which is effective in expediting the recovery of the central city.

Property owners

Several property owner groups and coalitions have been established to deal with the myriad of issues that have arisen as a result of the earthquakes.  The Central City Plan has significant implications for property owners and they are encouraged to make common submissions on the Central City Plan where they face common issues and concerns.  In addition, a group submission will likely create more of an impact, and may be able to provide common solutions, ideas or suggestions to assist the Central City recovery.

Timeline for development

A timeline which shows the process for preparation of the Central City Plan is available in the PDF version of this article located on this webpage.

The Central City Plan will be notified on 22 August 2011.  This will be an opportunity for you to shape or influence the contents of the final Central City Plan.  Submissions close on Monday 19 September 2011

A hearing will be held soon after in late September/early October.  Those who have made a submission will have an opportunity to present their views at the hearing, after which the Council will finalise the Central City Plan for approval by the Minister. 

Key messages

The Central City Plan will become the dominant planning instrument shaping the future development of the Central City.  It will prevail over the City Plan and likely contain substantially greater controls over use and development within the Central City than presently exist.

The Central City Plan will be where community aspirations meet commercial reality.  The community has expressed its views through the 'Share an Idea' campaign.  The submission and hearing process provides an opportunity for property owners and others to ensure their views about future development of the Central City are heard.   

However, time will rapidly become of the essence to participate in the submission process.  If your interests are likely to be affected, you should rapidly establish a strategy to participate in the Central City Plan submission process. 


More information and updates on the Central City Plan are available here.


Disclaimer:  This is a brief summary for information purposes only and is not legal advice.

Posted on Wednesday 13th July, 2011 at 09:43 am