Brownlee orders land-use plan

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has ordered Environment Canterbury to create a recovery plan that will override existing land-use plans in greater Christchurch, Selwyn and Waimakariri.

The order was made under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act and will work in much the same way the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority's CBD blueprint overrides the Christchurch City Council's plan for the central city.

Brownlee directed ECan and its strategic partners to create a "land-use recovery plan", which will identify priority areas for housing and business infrastructure in the region.

Brownlee gave the directive under the act, after a request from Environment Canterbury for him to do so.

Brownlee could not be reached for comment yesterday.

ECan commissioner Peter Skelton said the directive was important, citing an urgent need to "fast-track" the recovery more quickly than possible under existing plans.

"The needs of people and businesses seeking to locate and relocate are pressing," he said. "This plan is going to tell . . . the people who are investing in the infrastructure . . . where it's got to go," Skelton said.

Any Resource Management Act plans would have to be altered so they align with the land-use recovery plan, Skelton said.

"It can make changes that the district plan hasn't yet caught up with or would have to spend years doing," Skelton said.

He said it covered everything apart from the CBD, Christchurch's residential red zone and the Port Hills.

Labour's earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said the move was "better late than never".

But it was "in the wrong order".

"Why make decisions about the locations of schools before [deciding] where development might or might not proceed," she said.

Dalziel said she suspected the Government wanted to "move things along" before the April 2013 deadline for red-zoners to vacate their homes.

Skelton said ECan and its partners - the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council, Waimakariri District Council, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu and the NZ Transport Agency - will be talking to key stakeholders before Christmas.

A draft recovery plan will be presented to Brownlee by the middle of next year, when he will call for written comments before considering the draft plan.

A property developer said he hoped the land use recovery plan ordered under earthquake powers will be a clean slate, with ECan judging all possible land developments on their merits.

For more than a year, property developers, ECan and its partner councils have been fighting through the courts over which housing and business subdivisions would be allowed to go ahead.

Heathcote developer Creag McCulloch was one of them.

He said he was unsure what effect the plan would have on his potential subdivision until he spoke to his lawyer.

However, he hoped the recovery plan would be the chance for a fresh start and expected the best land in the right places would get the nod for development.

''Looking at this with an objective mind, I would say this is a good idea," he said.

But he wondered whether it was just a backdoor for ECan to get the development it wants in the areas it wants.

He pointed out ECan had asked Brownlee to use his emergency powers to tell them to develop a land use recovery plan.

''The other way of looking at it is this gets ECan - who were having trouble in the Environment Court - off the hook,'' McCulloch said.

The Press