The Christchurch District Plan helps look after our way of life now and for the future.

The plan, which we are required by law to produce, manages development so the right things are in the right place; homes, business and industry.

It guides what activities are able to happen in which locations and makes it clear where activities are anticipated. It lists activities that are allowed and others that need a resource consent, as well as rules or standards that apply.

All Councils must review their district plans in full every 10 years, and give people the opportunity to make submissions on the proposals through hearings, before the plan is finalised. Here in Christchurch, we last reviewed our district plan in 2014 through an amended and faster process to help the city’s recovery from the earthquakes. The plan became operative 19 December 2017.

In addition to full reviews, we are always happy to receive suggestions for improvements which can be actioned as plan changes. This is to make sure the plan is working and achieves the right outcomes for people and the environment.

The District Plan does not cover building consent issues such as the structural safety of buildings.

Interpreting the District Plan

You can use the District Plan to see if certain activities are allowed in certain areas. To determine if an activity is provided for by the Plan, or is provided for in a certain area:

Step 1 – Check the zone that applies

Use the Property search and planning maps(external link) to find the property and determine its zoning.

Check for any special feature, designation or general rules that apply. Refer to the abbreviations and definitions in Chapter 2(external link) for help in interpreting rules.

Step 2 – Confirm if any notation, overlay or designation applies

Use the planning maps to confirm whether the property has any special feature or designation on it.

Notations are spatial layers used to achieve particular outcomes on a smaller scale.  For example, building height restrictions or urban design in a particular area. 

Overlays are spatial layers that usually extend more than one zone and manage a district wide issue or activity.  Examples include natural hazards, outstanding natural landscapes and heritage overlays.

A designation is an area of land identified in a district plan that is intended to be used for a particular work or project (such as a road or school) by a requiring authority.

Step 3 – Confirm the activity status

  1. Go to the relevant chapters for the zone that the property is located in
  2. Check the Activity Status Table and the Built Form Standards for the activity you wish to do. Every activity will be indicated as being either a permitted, controlled, restricted discretionary, discretionary, non-complying or prohibited activity.  See section 1.5.2 of the District Plan(external link) to understand what these different activity status mean.  Refer to the abbreviations and definitions in Chapter 2 for help in interpreting the rules
  3. Determine the activity class
  4. If your activity is permitted you can proceed without obtaining resource consent

Step 4 – Apply for resource consent 

  1. If your activity is classified as controlled, restricted discretionary, discretionary, or non-complying you will need to apply to the Council for a resource consent
  2. If your activity is classified as restricted discretionary or discretionary the District Plan provides guidance on the matters of discretion that the Council will apply in its consideration of the resource consent application. Consideration is also given to the Plan’s objectives and policies
  3. Applications for resource consents must be made in writing to the Council. Application forms, and details on the information that must accompany an application, are online or available from Council offices. Fees apply.

How changes are made to the District Plan

Plan change process – overview

In addition to full reviews of the District Plan every 10 years, we are always happy to receive suggestions for improvements, which can be actioned as plan changes. This is to make sure the plan is working and achieves the right outcomes for people and the environment.

A plan change may include amendments and additions to existing objectives, policies, rules, methods, and/or planning Maps within the District Plan.

A proposed plan change process can be initiated by the Council or anyone else. The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) outlines what should be included in a plan change, how consultation will occur and time frames for the plan change process.

A plan change can take up to two years from being notified, although this can vary depending on the issues involved.

The process for a Council-led plan change is described in the table below. You can see the steps for anyone else preparing a plan change in the private plan change guide [PDF, 742 KB].

Council-led plan change

Stage Engagement

Evidence gathering

  • Scoping of issues and options
  • There may be consultation with relevant Community Boards and the Committee on issues and options
Engagement with relevant stakeholders on the scope, issues and options

Drafting of plan change

  • Drafting of Objectives, Policies and Methods, including rules as appropriate
  • A section 32 report is also to be prepared. Section 32 of the RMA requires that Council provides an evaluation of whether the proposed provisions are the most appropriate way to achieve the objectives of the plan change and the purpose of the RMA. The report must consider reasonably practicable alternatives, and assess the costs and benefits

Engagement on draft plan change. A draft s32 report may be included but is not required during pre-notification consultation 

Pre-notification consultation

  • Purpose: To engage with affected parties
  • The RMA requires consultation with statutory bodies (Minister for the Environment; Other Ministers of the Crown who may be affected; Local authorities who may be affected; tangata whenua of the area who may be affected, through iwi authorities (MKT); anyone else who is deemed to be affected) and anyone else potentially affected prior to notification of the plan change
  • Consultation is in accordance with principles defined under the Local Government Act 2002
Amend draft plan change, as appropriate, based on comments received during pre-notification consultation

Notification of plan change and submissions

  • Report to Council recommending approval to notify the proposed plan change including the s32A Report.
  • Subject to approval by Council, the plan change is limited or publicly notified.
  • Copies of the notified plan change must be provided to the Minister for the Environment, the Regional Council, adjoining district councils and to iwi authorities in the area.
  • Submissions are invited for a period of at least 20 working days after public notification is given
 Submissions invited

Summary of submissions and further submissions

  • A summary of the decisions requested in submissions is prepared and notified
  • A copy of the submissions (incl. the summary of decisions requested) is to be published
  • Further submissions are invited for a period of at least 10 working days from the public notification of the summary of submissions
  • Further submissions can be made by:
  • Any person representing a relevant aspect of the public interest
  • Any person that has an interest in the plan change greater than the interest the general public has.
  • A further submission can support or oppose a submission already made and cannot introduce new issues.
  • A copy of the further submissions (including summary of submissions and further submissions) is to be published
Further submissions invited


  • Council prepares a report under section 42A of the RMA, which provides an overview of the
    • Issues
    • Consideration of direction in national, regional and local planning documents
    • Analysis and evaluation of the decisions sought in submissions and further submissions
    • Recommendations
  • The report is to be received by submitters at least 5 working days before the hearing, or 15 working days if a direction is given by the Commissioner/ Hearings Panel


  • Council may delegate responsibility to a Hearing panel and/or a Hearing Commissioner, who must be accredited under the Ministry for the Environment’s Good Decisions Programme.
  • Submitters have the right to be heard
  • The Hearings Panel/Commissioner may ask questions
  • The Panel/Commissioner prepares recommendations in a report
Submitters can prepare documents/ evidence and present at a hearing


  • Council considers and makes a decision on the recommendations made by the Commissioner/ Hearings Panel.
  • The Council is limited in the options it can consider, which include:
    • To adopt the plan change as its decision
    • To refer the matter back to the Commissioner with a direction that s/he reconsider some or all of the issues
    • To refer the matter to someone else to rehear
    • To withdraw a plan change
  • The Council cannot reject a recommendation outright or substitute its own decision because it has not heard the evidence and submissions.
  • A decision not to accept the recommendation could expose the Council to the risk of legal challenge, whether by way of judicial review or potentially a civil claim.
  • If the Council wishes to refer the matter back to the Commissioner or to someone else to rehear, it must have good reasons for doing so, e.g., the Commissioner has overlooked an important issue or failed to apply a correct test with the result that the decision is fundamentally flawed

Appeals period

  • Submitters may appeal Council’s decision to the Environment Court within 30 working days of the decision being served
Submitters have the right to appeal


  • Following the expiry of the appeal period and the final resolution of any appeals, the plan change can be made operative.
  • Council are to give final approval for the plan change to become operative.
  • Once the resolution is made by the Council, public notice must be given that the change will become operative on a date specified in the notice. This date must be at least 5 working days after the notice is published

Ministry for the Environment

A plan change can be made using a few different processes. Below are links for the various plan change processes available under the Resource Management Act:

Giving feedback on a change to the District Plan

How to make a submission

Anyone can make a submission if a plan change is publicly notified. If a plan change is limited notified, only those invited to can make a submission.

All publicly notified plan changes are open for consultation through Have Your Say. You can complete a submission form online, or hard copy forms are available from our Customer Service Hubs and libraries

Forms not completed online should be addressed to: Christchurch City Council, City Planning Team, PO Box 73012, Christchurch or emailed to:

Your submissions must reach us by the closing date of the submission period.

Please be aware that your submission will be available to the public and anyone can make a submission supporting or opposing it.

How to make a further submission

Further submissions in support of, or opposition to, the earlier submissions received and summarised can be made.

A further submission can only support or oppose a submission. It cannot extend the scope of an original submission.

The following people are able to make further submissions where it is publicly notified:

  • Anyone representing a relevant aspect of the public interest, or
  • Anyone who has an interest in the proposed plan change greater than the interest that the general public has, or
  • The Council

If you want to make a further submission, you can again complete a submission form online [PDF, 54 KB], with hard copy forms also available from our Customer Service Hubs and libraries

Forms not completed online should be addressed to: Christchurch City Council, City Planning Team, PO Box 73012, Christchurch or emailed to: We must receive the submission before the closing date for further submissions.

If you are making a further submission in support or opposition, you are also required to serve a copy of this to the person whose original submission is supported or opposed. You will find the original submitters contact details in the summary of submissions which will be on the plan change website. This must be no later than five working days after the day on which the further submission is provided to the Council.