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Christchurch struggling with Government's high-density urban housing directives

In July, the previous Labour-led Government introduced directives aimed at getting New Zealand’s largest cities to build up, rather than out. 

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In July, the Government issued directives to encourage higher-density housing in the cities. Source: Q+A

Months on, though, there’s mixed response from councils about the National Policy Statement on Urban Development, like in Christchurch. 

In the affluent Merivale suburb, Merivale Lane residents are frustrated about the building of 18 townhouses among already-congested streets. 

Waimairi Ward Christchurch City Councilor Sam Macdonald is opposed to more intensification in the suburbs.

But, he said he didn’t mind seeing high-density housing in the CBD, and only there. 

“It’s an Auckland plan, worsely written by Wellington bureaucrats. It makes no sense for Christchurch.”

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Emma McInnes says developing transport infrastructure around high-density housing is crucial. Source: Q+A

The policy statement was introduced by the then-Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford and allowed for high-density builds in the city and along key public transport routes in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Queenstown. Requirements for car parks have also been relaxed. 

The Unitary Plan in Auckland and post-earthquake relaxing of consent requirements in Christchurch has meant boom times for infill developers.

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The Government slammed poor planning at the local level for hindering growth in New Zealand cities. Source: 1 NEWS

“Building up, increasing density is great. It gets more people in,” developer Matt Withington of Williams Corporation Capital said. 

“We see it as a real positive, anything that gives the ability to build more affordable property for people is a really good thing.”

The company had sold more than $124 million worth of townhouses in the past three months, and have complexes across Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington. 

In Wellington, housing developer and designer Mike Cole thinks the new rules would take the heat off councils, and he’s looking forward to building up. 

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“Most designers and developers will relish the opportunity to do additional work within those new rules,” Cole said.

He acknowledged some people may have concerns about the standard of work completed. 

But he said, for others, they just feared change. 

Watch Q+A's full story in the video above.