Central government will ‘likely’ intervene in Christchurch housing density row, mayor says

Christchurch City Council has voted against implementing national housing density standards.
Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The central government will “likely” step in to implement housing density standards in Christchurch after its council voted to reject the decision, Mayor Lianne Dalziel has said.

Christchurch City Council is writing to the Minister for the Environment demanding to be excluded from government rules for the construction of more houses.

Council yesterday voted against the implementation of the National Housing Density Standards, which allow apartment buildings of up to 10 storeys in some central suburbs, and three houses of up to three storeys in most residential sections , without a building permit.

Councilors, who were expected to submit their own plans for how they would comply with the new law, instead say they want the government to reconsider how best to enforce the law in a heritage city like Christchurch.

But the government could also get in on it, putting it at odds with local leaders in the country’s second-largest city, currently led by a respected former Labor minister.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said morning report supporters of the decision to reject housing density standards had been warned of the possibility of government intervention.

“That’s the reality of local government.

“Local government cannot choose what central government asks it to do.

“The law was changed last year. In fact, Labor and National held hands, they talked to each other before local government talked about introducing medium density housing standards in all areas. Tier 1 cities enshrined in the Resource Management Act and we are required by law to do so,” Dalziel said.

Lianne Dalziel

Lianne Dalziel, Mayor of Christchurch. File photo.
Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The central government now had the option of requiring someone else, such as a commissioner, to enforce the new density standards, she said.

That was probably the decision the government would make, she said.

“I think that’s the step they’re likely to take, I’m certainly writing to the minister and asking them not to take this step but to work together with this city to try to resolve some of the outstanding issues.”

One of the issues in question was the lack of an obligation for developers to retain existing trees, plant new trees or contribute financially to council efforts to maintain the city’s tree canopies, Dalziel said.

The mayor reiterated that she voted to implement housing density standards.

“As mayor of the town, I have to move forward with the decision that council made… the record shows that I voted for notification and I did so because we are legally required to do so, the local government is a creature of law that we can only do what the law authorizes us to do and we are bound to do what we are ordered by law to do.”

Although housing intensification played an important role in avoiding urban sprawl which she said was “detrimental” to the city’s environment.

His support came with a few preconditions.

“Row after row after row of houses that are all the same… without the kind of landscaping and the canopy of trees that gave us the name of our garden city, I think it’s very detrimental to the kinds of environments we want to live in,” she says.

Linwood Ward Councilor Yani Johanson said Christchurch already had the land and rules it needed to allow significant development.

He said national standards have done nothing for affordability.

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