New rules for Port Hill homes

LOIS CAIRNS AND ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2014

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Proposed new council planning rules could stop people in some hill areas from extending their homes, subdividing their sections or building a new home.

The rules - which are still only proposals at this stage - are aimed at reducing the risks of rockfall and cliff collapse.

Council natural environment and heritage unit manager Helen Beaumont said the aim was to "avoid development where the life risk is intolerable".

As part of its review of the natural hazards chapter of the District Plan, the council had pulled together all the geotechnical information it had gathered since the quakes and used it to map out areas in the Port Hills where there was a risk to life from rockfall, cliff collapse or slope instability.

It believes in some of those areas the risk to life is unacceptably high - at more than 1 in 10,000, which is greater than an individual's chance of dying in a road accident in a year - and any new development should be avoided. It is looking at altering the planning rules to make new development in those areas either a non-complying or a prohibited activity.

If new development becomes a prohibited activity, resource consents cannot be issued for any new building projects. If it becomes a non-complying activity, resource consent can only be issued if the applicant can prove they have mitigated the hazard risk.

Many of the properties within the hazard management areas have already been red-zoned by the Government, but there are some that are green-zoned.

Diane and Wayne Jamieson's quarter-acre property in Maffeys Rd falls within one of the proposed hazard management areas due to mass movement risk.

The Jamiesons, who are renting in Redcliffs with their two teenage sons, were forced to halt rebuild plans for their quake-damaged home after being told of the proposed new rules at a public meeting in November last year.

"We're all set to go. The retaining walls have been built. We have got consent, but . . . we could build the house and never occupy it. I wish they had informed us more," Wayne Jamieson said.

The discovery was "a total shock" because a geotechnical report was submitted as part of the approved building consent process, but Jamieson said he understood there were "bigger issues at play" in the wider area.

"The land moved by half a metre. It's important that we're safe here," he said.

He was hoping for some clarity so he and his wife could decide whether to "start building or abandon the site".

"We're quite stuck. We're paying rent that we don't particularly want to. We need to know either way, so we can get on with it."

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Beaumont said the hazard management areas also covered undeveloped land that might be eyed by developers in the future.

Existing use rights would apply to dwellings captured within the hazard management areas, meaning quake-damaged homes could be rebuild within the existing footprint.

Beaumont said letters would be sent out to all affected property owners in the next few weeks. Homeowners could also check to see how their property might be affected by using the maps online at www.ccc.govt.nz.

The council expected to notify the plan in May. Then there would be more public input through the formal submission and hearings process. December was likely to be the earliest the new rules could come into effect.

- The Press

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