The Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, and the continuing aftershocks, present major challenges for the future planning of the region and well being of the community.
Fortunately, councils in the earthquake-affected area of greater Christchurch (Christchurch City, Environment Canterbury - the regional council, Selwyn and Waimakariri Districts) along with the NZ Transport Agency and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, had collaboratively developed a strategic plan to manage future growth called the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy (UDS).
A key issue was deciding where development should occur in the city and the districts. Threats posed by natural hazards, such as earthquakes, floods and rock falls, were factored in to ensure the most appropriate land was identified for development.
Areas to the west and north of Christchurch, including Belfast, Wigram and Halswell, and Lincoln, Rolleston, Rangiora and Woodend/Pegasus were identified for long-term growth. Partner local authorities have prepared development plans for the majority of these areas, working with developers and preparing funding and infrastructure programmes to support future development. Some of these plans, and construction, were already well advanced before the first earthquake struck, enabling development to be accelerated to support relocating households. This means the UDS not only remains relevant after the earthquakes, it is actually critical for the recovery.
There can be no denying the challenges ahead. Thankfully the years of hard work spent developing the UDS have provided the strategic direction, plans and tools to implement recovery and ensure future growth is managed effectively.
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Earthquake recovery is clearly the top priority for the UDS partnership. The change of priority hasn't changed the UDS long-term vision for greater Christchurch, or the strategic directions and general areas identified for growth.
The timing and sequencing of development and infrastructure provision proposed in the UDS has required review, however the UDS provides the appropriate long-term settlement pattern within which short-term recovery planning can occur.
Immediately after the earthquakes Councils, CERA and the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery responded to the need for land and housing for people relocating from the red-zones by accelerating development of areas already identified for growth.
These steps have now been integrated within a Land Use Recovery Plan (LURP) that provides greater certainty and direction for ongoing rebuild and recovery activities. It supports and complements the measures for the central city in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan and advances many of the key principles set out in the UDS.
A range of associated recovery programmes have also been developed by CERA and other organisations, working collaboratively with UDS Partners. Many of the UDS key approaches and actions have also informed the development of these programmes.
Clearly recovery has and will continue to entail some hard decisions and disruption to our everyday lives however it also presents opportunities to implement some UDS initiatives and changes ahead of their original schedule. As an example, the UDS plan encourages greater levels of urban living in and around the central city and within key suburban activity centres. The Land Use Recovery Plan and the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan seek to make this objective a reality by creating the conditions and showcasing the possibilities for private investment to follow.
The UDS Partners continue to work together with CERA to ensure a successful social, built, economic and environmental recovery that gets the region back on track to the UDS vision for a vibrant, prosperous, thriving, diverse community in the beautiful environment of Greater Christchurch.