The Government enacted The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 (CER Act) after the 22 February 2011 earthquake to fast track the rebuild of Christchurch. Pursuant to this Act, the Christchurch City Council has prepared a Central City Plan, a draft recovery plan for the Central Business District where about 50% of the buildings in the red zone need to be demolished. The Central City Plan is to guide how the Central City will be redeveloped and rebuilt.

The Central City Plan was published for feedback on 16 August 2011. Submissions on the plan closed on Friday, 16 September 2011. Following this feedback the plan will be finalised by the Council and then presented to the Minister for Earthquake Recovery and Chief Executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority in December 2011 for approval. Once approved, the Central City Plan will be given legislative status by Order in Council. The plan is not required to follow the normal consultative procedure for preparation of a regional or district plan under the RMA, there is no right to make submissions, or subsequently appeal to the Environment Court. Once approved, all persons exercising functions under the RMA must not make a decision or recommendation that is inconsistent with the Central City Plan in relation to resource consent applications, notice of requirements, and the preparation of RMA documents including the regional policy statement, regional or district plans.

The Central City Plan is intended to enable the redevelopment of the Central City over the next 10 to 20 years. In summary, the key provisions of the Plan provide for:

  • Widening the banks of the Avon River/Ōtakaro and providing boardwalks and green spaces;
  • Re-locating shops and offices into a smaller, defined, low rise, and concentrated CBD area, bounded by Lichfield, Manchester and Kilmore streets and the Avon River/Ōtakaro (retail and commercial businesses will still be able to operate outside this area);
  • A short-term light rail system route to be developed from the University to the Central City, with the strategic long-term goal being a shared regional priority to establish a light rail system linking settlements in Greater Christchurch, including Lyttelton, Rolleston and Rangiora to the Central City and key attractions;
  • A new sports hub, including a state-of-the art aquatic centre, indoor stadium, a health and fitness centre and elite performance training facilities will be built in the south-eastern corner of the Central City;
  • Redevelopment of Christchurch Hospital;
  • Retention of Cathedral Square;
  • A new central library and convention centre;
  • A new transport network designed to walk, cycle, use public transport or drive and park with ease;
  • A network of neighbourhood parks and gardens spread throughout the Central City to provide inner city residential and mixed use neighbourhoods with a variety of green spaces to enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle;
  • 11 precincts, five neighbourhood centres and three transition areas within the central city. The regulatory framework will be tailored to ensure decisions on land use and urban design support the development of precincts and neighbourhoods;
  • Framework to support the retention of key heritage buildings in the Central City, the retrieval of key features (such as facades) and appropriate reuse of material that is salvaged from demolished buildings;
  • Potentially controversial minimum and maximum height limits with additional floors as an incentive where good urban design and green technologies are employed. Heights will vary from the Core with a maximum of seven storeys (29m) to the Edge with a four storey maximum(14m) (the cathedral is noted at 63m high); and
  • Design standards and guidelines to promote high-quality rebuilding.

The Central City Plan also sets out how the Council will work with CERA, Environment Canterbury and Ngāi Tahu, as well as central government, private investors, developers, businesses and the community to rebuild and redevelop the Central City in line with what the community identify as critical to make Christchurch a lively city.

A key issue is the funding for the rebuild. It is anticipated that the private sector will invest up to 10 times more than central and local government. Financial and other incentives will be offered to encourage and direct new developments which support the recovery plan for the Central City, as will Public Private Partnerships.