The Future of Greater Christchurch

The Land Use Recovery Plan (‘the LURP’) is the most significant planning document for urban development in Canterbury. It shapes the future urban development of Greater Christchurch and will result in significant changes to the built environment of our communities.

The LURP has been prepared under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 (‘the CER Act’) to assist with the recovery of Greater Christchurch following the Canterbury Earthquakes.

The LURP has immediate effect and all Councils must now act consistently with it when making decisions on planning issues and resource consents.

In this article we provide a brief overview of the main points of the LURP, including implementation mechanisms, Housing and Business.

Implementation mechanisms

As the LURP has been created under the CER Act (as opposed to the RMA), it has broader implementation mechanisms than any other planning document in the country. Some of these implementations mechanisms include:

  • Inserting a new Chapter 6 into the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement.
  • Directing the Christchurch City Council to conduct a review of the Christchurch City Plan (which is already underway)
  • Directing specific changes to the Selwyn District Plan and the Waimakariri District Plan
  • Ensuring infrastructure is completed for priority areas, key activity centres and neighbourhood centres
  • Ensuring Council’s provide appropriate funding to support the recovery outcomes of the LURP
  • Requiring strategic partners to work in a collaborative and cohesive manner

If any of these mechanisms are not working effectively, the Minister can step in and utilise his powers under the CER Act to make further changes.


Due to the Canterbury earthquakes there was a significant loss of existing housing stock, resulting in the short term loss of between 10,000 and 20,000 dwellings in Greater Christchurch. In addition to this loss there is now greater demand for housing due to an influx of rebuild workers. Statistics NZ have suggested there will be the need for an additional 35,000 households by 2028. Greater Christchurch does not currently have the capacity to deal with this expected demand.

To deal with this deficit the LURP proposes two solutions:

  1. It identifies priority residential areas within Greater Christchurch; and
  2. It seeks to create an increased supply of smaller, more affordable homes by encouraging more intensive housing types within existing residential areas in Christchurch City.

The second solution is new in the LURP and we will focus on these specific changes to the Christchurch City Plan.

Enhanced Development Mechanism

One of the mechanisms that has been inserted into the Christchurch City Plan is enhanced development, originally called the ‘floating zone’ in the draft LURP. This mechanism allows developers in appropriate sites to create significantly more intensive accommodation.

To be eligible to use the enhanced development mechanism, any design submitted must provide for a minimum 30 household per hectare (one unit per 330m2) up to a maximum of 65 households per hectare (one unit per 150m2). This is a significant increase in density compared to current rules.

Design and timing

Developments must be well designed to ensure that any effects are confined to the site and a number of development standards will apply. This mechanism is only available for a limited time and will expire in December 2018.

Appropriate Sites

An appropriate site for use of this mechanism must be over 1500m2 and less than 10,000m2. To qualify sites need to be close to business centres, open space and public transport. In particular ,the site must meet all of the following criteria (with some specific locations excluded):

  1. 800m walking distance of Central City Business or mixed use zone, or a business 2 zone, or a supermarket larger than 1000m2;
  2. 800 metres walking distance of either a primary or intermediate school;
  3. 400m walking distance of an Open Space 2 zone or an Open Space 1 zone that has an area greater than 4,000m²;
  4. 600m walking distance of a core public transport route;
  5. In the Living 2 and Living 3 zones, or a Culture 3 (school) zones where the education use of the site has ceased and the underlying zone is L2 or L3.

Possible areas that may meet these requirements include land around Eastgate Mall in Linwood, and the area surrounding Barrington Mall, among others.

Vacant sites

Where there is a vacant site that is not large enough to qualify for the enhanced development mechanism there are still methods to allow for greater intensification. In the Living 1 or Living 2 zones the City Plan has been amended to permit two residential units on any vacant site, provided they meet the underlying bulk, location and amenity standards of the area.

Community Housing Redevelopment Mechanism (CHRM)

The LURP has identified areas where a significant proportion of the housing is owned by social and community housing providers. These properties are in need of improvement and the LURP provides an opportunity to improve the overall amenity of these areas. Under the CHRM developers and property owners will be able to submit applications to redevelop these sites with greater intensification that was previously permitted.

This only applies to existing community housing areas as identified in the LURP and must meet eligibility criteria that are similar to the Enhanced Development Mechanism. For example, it must provide a density of between 30 and 65 households per hectare and only applies to sites between 1,500m² and 10,000m².

Immediate accommodation needs

The influx of workers for the rebuild and displacement of families whilst homes are being repaired or rebuilt is causing a high demand for rental accommodation.

The LURP makes amendments to the City Plan which enable homeowners to provide rental accommodation by converting individual dwellings into two units (in the L1, L2, LH zones) or by using an existing family flat as an independent residential unit. Restrictions on the use and ownership of existing elderly persons’ housing have also been eased.


Whilst the LURP provides a number of solutions to assist the housing crisis in Greater Christchurch, it also aims to provide opportunities for businesses. The LURP provides certainty, in particular for displaced business, which are looking to re-establish, when temporary approvals expire in April 2016.

The LURP identifies where business development can be located, and in doing so where the necessary infrastructure and services need to be repaired or established on a priority basis.

Neighbourhood and Key Activity Centres

Existing neighbourhood centres and key activity centres provide for primarily commercial development, including both office and retail. Under the LURP, they must be developed in a way that complements the new compact CBD.
In identifying these centres, the intention is that development or redevelopment as the case may be, will support an efficient transport network and meet community needs.

The LURP requires Council’s to implement town centre strategies and masterplans (many of which area already up and running) to revitalise these centres, and to integrate public investment into these areas.
Notably, if any barriers to implementation exist, the use of powers under the CER Act may be considered.

Business Priority Areas

The LURP also provides for industrial land in Greenfield areas – Map A identifies these as Business Priority Areas. The LURP will provide over 900 ha of land which is sufficient to not only meet future demand but provide for choice of location and market competition.

Development in these Greenfield areas is intended to be primarily industrial development with restrictions on commercial activity (e.g. offices and retail) unless it will not give rise to significant adverse distributional or urban form effects.

The LURP has also recognised that some businesses cannot easily relocate, and will need to be supported to remain, and where necessary rebuild in existing areas.

Brownfield Sites

The City Council will also review opportunities for promoting mixed use development and redevelopment of Brownfield sites such as former business sites, in established neighbourhoods, suburban or key activity centres and other suitable locations.


With the implementation of the LURP, you can expect to see current rural areas being developed and existing residential areas becoming more intensive, with infrastructure and roading being prioritised to support these developments.

If you have an interest in urban development, your first point of call should be the LURP. From now on when applying for resource consent or a plan change if your application is not consistent with the LURP then the Council cannot grant it

The LURP can be viewed at www.cera/lurp 

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

Posted on Thursday 19th December, 2013 at 03:03 pm