Brownlee slams council housing failure

04:21, Nov 21 2013
Gerry Brownlee
EMBATTLED: Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has been forced to walk a legal tightrope.

Gerry Brownlee is threatening to seize control of city housing rules after councillors today failed to pass a crucial development plan for Christchurch.

The council had called an extraordinary meeting today to pass the Land Use Recovery Plan (Lurp) aimed at freeing up housing rules - only to find it had been signed off by the wrong council official and could not be voted on.

Furious, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, said he was "deeply disappointed".

"The longer we wait the more severe our housing issues will become.

"Even a modest uptake of the proposals in the Land Use Recovery Plan would deliver many thousands of extra residential properties into Christchurch city's catchment," said Brownlee.

The new plan would have revoked a decision made by the previous council over how much extra housing could be squeezed into existing residential boundaries. But legally, this revocation had to be recommended by either the mayor or council chief executive, not council strategy and planning general manager Michael Theelen.


Brownlee said he had tried to work with the council, and would give it one more chance to make the rule changes.

"Out of respect for the incoming council, and recognising tensions with the old council and complaints over a perceived lack of democracy in the city, I waited and engaged on the Lurp in good faith.

"I've bent over backwards, mindful of court instruction, to carry out my statutory responsibility while recognising the role of the democratically elected council," Brownlee said.

Council given one more chance

"At the Mayor's request today I will attempt one more meeting with the Christchurch City Council tomorrow morning.

"If that doesn't lead to some resolution then I'm left with no alternative but to approve the Land Use Recovery Plan in the form stakeholders believe is best for addressing urgently required residential and commercial development across the region."

Brownlee said the "very important plan" had been developed over two years by Environment Canterbury, the Selwyn and Waimakariri District Councils and the Christchurch City Council, in conjunction with Ngāi Tahu, the NZ Transport Agency and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA).

"[The Lurp] effectively determines where residential development can occur across greater Christchurch from this point on.

"It's very clear that if we are to have any chance of containing house prices, particularly for new entrants to the housing market, we have to make more land available.

"For that reason brownfields development - housing added to bare land on existing residential sites, or on cleared formerly residential sites - becomes extremely important."

Dalziel apologises for report error

Earlier today, Dalziel apologised for the council's error but said the council could not make a decision based on Theelen's report.

It would have to be presented again at next week's council meeting, either under her name or that of acting chief executive Jane Parfitt.

The report was recommending the council approve revising the draft Lurp to allow more intensive housing development ahead of the "pinch" forecast to  hit the city between 2014 and 2017.

Under the changes proposed it would be easier to split big houses into flats and within the Living 1 and 2 zones people would be able to build two houses on vacant house sites as a permitted activity for the next five years.

Granny flats would be allowed to be used as stand-alone homes and younger people would be able to live in over-60s housing.

A new planning mechanism would also be introduced that would allow the development of multiple adjacent sites for high density housing in some Living 1, 2 and 3 zones.

It would mean that sites between 1500sq m and 10,000sq m could be developed to a density of between 1 unit per 330sq m and 1 unit per 150sq m, provided they were buffered from adjacent projects and met urban design standards.

Riccarton resident and former city councillor Helen Broughton, who was given speaking rights at the start of the meeting, said she was concerned that most people would be unaware of the changes the council was proposing and suggested that more consultation with the public needed to be done as any decision to allow more intensive housing development would have far reaching consequences.


The Press