27 Sep 2018

Christchurch City Council staff will prepare a plan change for the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister to consider in a bid to bring a swift end to the confusion in the District Plan.

At its meeting today the Council decided to ask the Minister to use her powers under section 71 of the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act to amend the District Plan to provide clarity over what building activity can occur in flood-prone coastal areas of the city.

“We are determined to get this issue resolved as soon as we can and have asked staff to report back to us by 23 October, at the latest, with a draft section 71 proposal for the Minister to consider,’’ says Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

“Council staff will use the time between now and then to seek advice from former members of the Independent Hearings Panel so the formal process can begin as soon as possible. They will also notify our strategic partners, including Regenerate Christchurch, to ensure they are in a position to respond quickly when we formally send them the proposal for comment.

“It is vital that we clear up the confusion over the planning rules and how they apply as fast as possible. Asking the Minister to use her section 71 powers to amend the District Plan is the quickest option available to us and should ensure the community gets the clarity it needs,’’ the Mayor says.

The Mayor reiterated that once the policy is inserted, people will still have to apply for a resource consent. 

What’s the issue with the District Plan?

The District Plan seeks to avoid new building work in areas of the city where there is considered to be a high risk to people and property from the depth of a significant flood event. These areas are called High Flood Hazard Management areas.

Within those areas there are some pockets of residential land where the main contributor to this high flood risk is from future projected sea level rise.

The Independent Hearings Panel (IHP) appointed to make decisions on the District Plan decided that in those pockets, new residential building work could be allowed, on a discretionary basis, where the risk to people’s safety and property could be adequately mitigated. They have called this the Residential Unit Overlay because it only covers residential units, not subdivisions. 

The IHP did not amend the associated policy which would have identified that the “avoidance rule’’ does not apply, which has created confusion about what can and cannot be built in those areas.

How did the confusion arise?

When the Independent Hearings Panel released its decision on the High Flood Hazard Management Areas – known as Decision 53(external link) – it did not amend the “avoidance” policy. It only made amendments to the rules and the maps.  

How many properties are affected?

There are 1486 sites within the Residential Unit Overlay area. However, most of those sites will likely have existing use rights or be permitted under the District Plan for the repair and replacement of buildings.  Existing use rights allow similar dwellings to be rebuilt even they don't comply with the current rules.  However, existing use rights usually expire if the use (in this case a dwelling) has ceased for more than 12 months. 

Also, if a dwelling existed on the site after the 10 November 2016, a replacement dwelling is permitted under the HFHMA rule.

Since the new District Plan provisions came into effect, 37 resource consents have been issued in Residential Unit Overlay.  These have mostly been for replacement dwellings or small additions. Where the main issues with the District Plan have arisen is where the dwelling was removed more than 12 months ago and prior to 10 November 2016.  These dwellings are not permitted under the District Plan nor can they rely on existing use rights.    

We estimate that there are around 80 vacant sites in this situation. Most of them are in Southshore, south of Caspian Street (33) and in Redcliffs (23). 

Even in the case of vacant sites where they are not permitted under the District Plan and existing use rights don't apply, resource consents can still be granted for relocatable buildings for a time limited period associated with sea level rise (in most cases around 50 years).

How do I know if a property is within one of these areas?

You can use our District Plan property search(external link). It will tell you which planning rules apply to a property and how that may impact your plans. If you still have questions you can call our Duty Planner on 03 941-8999 or email dutyplanner@ccc.govt.nz. We also have an online guide (external link) if you are looking to buy a home or land, develop a property or change its usage.