Pressure on to develop Christchurch land

21:18, Jun 24 2011

Land developers and local authorities are coming under pressure to speed up subdivisions for displaced Christchurch residents.

Several hundred sections are for sale in and around the city, and several thousand are on the drawing board, but many more will be needed to rehouse those whose properties are to be abandoned.

Clearing complex red tape to get sections to market has taken some Canterbury subdivision developers over a decade in the past.

Yesterday Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said there were potentially 20,000 sections in and around the city.

However, much of that land is not yet subdivided or approved for housing. Roads and infrastructure for water, power and sewerage also need to be designed and built.

"There has been much comment about whether we have enough property to satisfy people looking to move from the red zone to other parts of the city. And the answer is yes," Parker said.

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The mayor said the council would "definitely" be talking to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) about whether there was a need to speed up the authorisation of land for housing development.

The Government announced this week that 5100 homes would have to be abandoned because of quake damage to land, with the fate of another 10,000 yet to be decided.

There are now about 40 subdivisions, large and small, selling sections within commuting distance of Christchurch, and website TradeMe was yesterday listing 401 sections for sale in the city, plus others in surrounding townships. Some are dotted around established neighbourhoods; others are in new subdivisions.

Sections are also due to come onstream in large developments already under way in places such as Halswell, Wigram, Yaldhurst, Rolleston, Lincoln and Pegasus.

Ngai Tahu Property development manager Alan Grove said the iwi was keen to speed up its Wigram Skies subdivision, and hoped authorities would play their part.

"The market is going to demand that councils start processing consents quickly. It's just not going to be acceptable any more for consents to take forever."

The quakes have also hastened moves for another 5100 sections near Marshlands. Last week, plans were revealed for 2400 sections in a subdivision to be called Highfield, east of Redwood, on land approved but not yet zoned for housing.

Yesterday, the planned Prestons subdivision further east was given a boost when the city council revealed it had reversed its opposition to the 2700-section project.

On Thursday, Environment Canterbury announced it wanted to push out its 2009 limit on housing development around Christchurch. A redrawn boundary line, which would include Prestons and other peripheral sites, is to be considered by the Environment Court in Queenstown.

Section prices in existing Christchurch subdivisions start about $150,000, or less in the towns. The bulk are priced in the $175,000 to $300,000 bracket, but buyers can pay much more for sites with attractive views or exclusive locations.

Most smaller subdivisions sell bare land only while large ones also offer house-and-land packages.

The Press