Our Space 2018-2048 is currently out for consultation here. This is a plan prepared by the Greater Christchurch Partnership, which is made up of people from Ecan, Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council, Waimakariri District Council, Ngai Tahu, NZ Transport Agency, Canterbury District Health Board, Regenerate Christchurch and Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The document basically just says how much Christchurch will grow in the next 30 years, and makes a high-level plan for accommodating that growth. To save you some reading time I’ve highlighted the key points.
Christchurch is due to grow by 190-314 thousand people in 35 years.
In the medium growth scenario we’ll need another 87,000 homes. The plan is for 65% of these to be in Christchurch City, 20% to be in Selwyn and 15% to be in Waimakariri.
In 2048 there’ll be 71,000 more jobs. The vast majority (88%) of these will be in Christchurch City.
The report contains some nice maps showing, firstly, where development will not be occurring. This first one shows natural hazards:
No real surprises – Christchurch is built on a swamp so lots of flood risks.
The next map shows the groundwater protection zone.
I thought this was interesting. I had never really thought of this is a constraint to where we can develop, but on reflection it does seem important that we keep our water sources clean and unpolluted.
The next map shows outstanding natural landscapes.
Again no massive surprises. Port hills, beaches and rivers are all nice.
And this one shows “versatile soils”.
The report doesn’t actually say what a “versatile soil” is, but a quick google search indicates that it is talking about its fertility, it has nothing to do with its structural behaviour in an earthquake. The scale goes from 1-8, so soil class 1 (yellow) is the very best soil you can get, while user class 2 (brown) is not far behind it. Basically this map is about trying to save our most fertile land for growing food and only using the less fertile stuff for urban sprawl.
So that’s the constraints.
Now for the map showing where the growth is planned to occur.
It shows greenfield growth around the Christchurch city northern and southwest fringes, and also Rolleston, Lincoln, Kaiapoi, Woodend and Rangiora. The proportions of each are:
For context, the previous version of this plan (the Urban Development Strategy) aimed for 60% intensification and 40% greenfields growth, but development since the earthquakes has been only 25% through intensification and a whopping 75% on greenfields. So the proposed plan has less greenfields growth than what’s happened post-quake, but still more than our previous plan. Auckland’s unitary plan decided they wanted their growth to be 70% intensification and 30% greenfields growth, so quite a lot less than this 45%.
That’s the guts of what’s in the report. My overall feeling after reading it is one of being a little underwhelmed. The sentiment is really powerful, it includes lots of statements about how we will be “incorporating mixed-use and transport-oriented development”, “supporting increased density”, “reducing dependency on private motor vehicles”, “promoting active and public transport”, “comprehensively integrating transport infrastructure with land use planning”. But the sentiment doesn’t really match the plan. Making 55% greenfields growth, much of it out in areas that are very auto-centric and will most likely require just about everyone to drive their cars for every trip they do, is not a great outcome. It could be worse, it could be higher than 55%, but it still seems too close to the status quo for me, given things like the recent IPCC report making it very clear that we need to change and we need to do it quickly.
The problem is not the 55% greenfields growth per se, it’s the nature of that greenfields growth. So far pretty much all greenfields growth in Greater Christchurch has been very auto-centric. That is, standalone houses which are very difficult to service with public transport due to the low density, which also spreads everything out and so makes most trips too long to be done on foot. As a result, almost every one living in them drives everywhere, with all the associated costs that imposes on us as a society (more carbon emissions, more pollution, worse public health, more deaths and injuries, more congestion, more expensive car parking needed, more expensive roads needed, etc etc).
But greenfields growth doesn’t necessary have to be auto-centric. In other countries it’s often not, and even in NZ we’re beginning to take our first steps down the path of transport-oriented greenfields growth in Auckland. I’d like to see us here in Christchurch be more intentional in doing our greenfields growth in such a way that everyone isn’t forced to drive everywhere. Something like building a light rail line from the CBD out to one of these greenfields areas, then allowing high-quality high-density development clustered around the stations.
The big uplift in land value around the corridor could be used to fund the infrastructure, maybe through a targetted rate, and the resulting high patronage makes the services viable into the future. It’s much much easier to build density and good public transport infrastructure from the outset, than it is to come back and try to retrofit it in 20 years time. This sort of approach is very common overseas, even as close to home as Australia, and we’re well overdue in doing it here. Brendon Harre has a lot of thoughts on this, some of them in this article.
As always, I’d encourage you to get in and have your say here. If you’re not sure what to say, some ideas might be:
- The plan needs to be more ambitious if it’s going to achieve the stated goals.
- More sustainable development is needed, not more auto-centric sprawl. This might be either intensification around existing public transport corridors, or making sure our greenfields growth has high quality public transport infrastructure installed from the outset so that they can be developed at higher density.
How do you think we should grow as a city? Does this plan represent what you value or would you like to see a different approach?