Christchurch City Council Plan Change 14

Level up Christchurch. Let your city councillors know you support higher density housing in our city,

UPDATE: Plan Change 14 was notified by the council but an independent hearing panel process will begin soon to recieve submissions on the qualifying matters (such as the sunlight access QM) in the plan. Keep up to date on progress by signing up as a Generation Zero supporter here.

On the 1st of March 2023, the Christchurch City Council will be voting again on notifying Plan Change 14 (PC14), which would enable more medium and high density housing in our city, with some exceptions in some areas for heritage, natural hazards and infrastructure reasons.

In September 2022, the previous term's councillors voted against notifying Plan Change 14 from immense pressure from residental homeowner groups prior to the 2022 local elections, despite legally being required to by government legislation that was passed in 2021 in a bi-partisan effort. Our submission on the District Plan change can be found here.

It is important that you let your councillors know that you support housing intensification in our city as it:

  • Will help solve the housing crisis by increasing housing affordability
  • Will reduce road transport emissions as more people live closer to active/public transport routes and work places
  • Will increases economic vibrancy due to easier access to amenities
  • Will increases safety in the community due to more people in shared spaces and more eyes on the street
  • Will increase tree cover and plant area as part of proposed plan compared to status quo
  • Will reduces rates for residents

It is also important that you let your councillors know that:

  • Many other cities in the Northern Hemisphere with latitudes equivalent or further from the equator than Christchurch have very liveable cities with high density living, therefore sunshine is not an issue if we use these cities as example to develop towards. 
  • If we don't allow higher density housing, the alternative is building more sprawling subdivisions with no required minimum plantings on flood plains and wetlands, increasing the risk of catastrophic floods in the future. 

Even though city councillors are elected to represent their constituents in the city, many councillors interact on a regular basis with a small group of constituents who have the time and availability and are highly motivated to meet with their councillor. Most constituents are too busy with work and school to get the chance to interact with their councillors, despite many of the decisions that councillors make can impact their lives greatly. One of the most accessible ways for people to get in touch with their councillors is via email.

What is Generation Zero advocating for?

We want the Christchurch City Council to vote for notifying Plan Change 14, but vote against the Sunlight Access Qualifying Matter as part of CCC's PC14 notification. 

By voting for Plan Change 14 notification, we can begin housing intensification in highly serviced areas with good public transport, which would in turn make it more efficient to invest in Mass Rapid Transit systems such as light rail and commuter trains. Doing this as soon as possible would allow the city to make great strides towards reducing our emissions so we can meet both local and Zero Carbon Act emission reduction goals. But if the Sunlight Access Qualifying Matter is also voted in with the notification, this work will be delayed.

The Sunlight Access Qualifying Matter would gut the aim of the government legislation to increase density as it would keep height/stories restrictions on new builds to similar levels we have currently. The qualifying matter would also delay any work on new denser housing construction because it is placed on the whole city. As part of the notification process, an Independent Hearings Panel will be convened to hear submissions on the plan after notification, and therefore any issues or recommendations will only be resolved approximately around early-mid 2024. This is unacceptable as housing intensification is climate action, and delay is the new denial. Therefore we implore councillors to vote against the qualifying matter.

If Plan Change 14 is not notified (i.e. voted against) then the Government may step in and force it to be notified as it is required to by law. If this happens, the notified plan could differ from the city council's plan and thus lead to nonoptimal intensification that ignores some concerns raised in the council's plan. 

How do I let my councillors know?

Below is the list of email addresses of your local Christchurch City Councillors and their respective wards.

Councillor (Ward) Email Address Councillor (Ward) Email Address
Phil Mauger (Christchurch Mayor) [email protected] Aaron Keown (Harewood Ward) [email protected]
Pauline Cotter (Deputy Mayor and Innes Ward) [email protected] Sara Templeton (Heathcote Ward) [email protected]
Tyrone Fields (Banks Peninsula Ward) [email protected] Mark Peters (Hornby Ward) [email protected]
Kelly Barber (Burwood Ward) [email protected] Yani Johanson (Linwood Ward) [email protected]
Tim Scandrett (Cashmere Ward) [email protected] Victoria Henstock (Papanui Ward) [email protected]
Jake McLellan (Central Ward) [email protected] Tyla Harrison-Hunt (Riccarton Ward) [email protected]
Celeste Donovan (Coastal Ward)  [email protected] Dr Melanie Coker (Spreydon Ward) [email protected]
James Gough (Fendalton Ward) [email protected] Sam MacDonald (Waimairi Ward) [email protected]
Andrei Moore (Halswell Ward) [email protected]    

We recommend that you email the mayor, deputy mayor and your local ward councillor but all councillors is fine. You can find out your local ward here. 

We recommend that you reach out to your councillor in a personalised format. If you don't have the time, then you can copy from the format below which you can edit to see fit (overwriting the [ ] brackets) to represent you. 

Recommended email format:

Dear Councillor [Name],

I'm reaching out in regards to the upcoming council meeting to notify Plan Change 14. I live in [suburb] and work as a [occupation]/study at [institute].

[Write your personal reasons for supporting housing intensification]

I believe you should vote to notify Plan Change 14 so we can increase housing density in our city around services and public transport. This is a necessary step to help solve the housing crisis, the climate crisis and to make Christchurch a liveable city.

I also believe you should vote against the Sunlight Access Qualifying Matter that is part of the council's proposed plan as it would delay any new construction to the new standards through out the city for over a year. With the qualifying matter, the height restrictions would not majorly differ from the existing limits on residential building heights currently imposed on the city, restricting the types of medium density homes that could be built. Many highly liveable cities around the Northern Hemisphere are further from the equator with lower sunlight angles than Christchurch, yet are denser with a wide range of medium and high density residential buildings. Therefore, we should be learning from these cities rather than restricting what we can build here. 




How would allowing more medium/high density housing increase housing affordability?

Increasing housing density, both in the city centre and suburbs, would increase the overall housing stock. Reduced housing supply is one of the main drivers of housing unaffordability. This is a major issue in New Zealand, where housing construction rates have been declining since the building boom of the 1960s and 70s. This has coincided with an explosion in house prices across the country, which have increased 425% over the past 20 years. Christchurch is not immune to these issues. While its housing cost to household income ratio of 6.9 in Q2 2022 was lower than other major centres, this is still well above 5.0 which is when a market is considered ‘severely unaffordable'. Christchurch also has the second highest rent-to-income ratio amongst all major centres in Aotearoa.
Restrictive zoning laws, which force people to build low-density houses, artificially slow down the supply of homes. This lack of supply leads to price increases. There is clear demand in Christchurch for denser housing, as evidenced by the boom in townhouse construction, so CCC should take advantage of this as a means of improving housing affordability.

How would allowing more medium/high density housing reduce our emissions? 

Denser housing leads to decreased household emissions. Road transport emissions are the single biggest factor in Christchurch’s overall emissions profile, and so the council has made a decrease in transport emissions a key part of their emissions reduction plan. Building denser housing, close to key public transport routes, would help to achieve this reduction. With people living closer to employment, services, and amenities, they are more likely to use public or active transport. This would also have health and wellbeing benefits: active transport use can improve physical health, while reduced commutes would mean that people can spend more time socialising, exercising, and partaking in hobbies.

How would allowing more medium/high density housing affect my community?

Urban density is associated with improved safety and increased economic vibrancy. Increased number and diversity of people means that streets and amenities are used throughout the day, rather than just in distinct time periods. This increases the demand and resources for amenities as well as increases the safety of our streets and neighbourhoods, with more people being out and about. This array of people is also associated with increased community cohesion due to regular interactions in shared spaces.

How would allowing more medium/high density housing affect rates?

Intensification would reduce rate increases. By increasing the number of units within the city, intensification provides new revenue streams for infrastructure improvements. Chronic under-investment in assets is further perpetuated by low-density greenfield development that requires investment in new infrastructure. This takes money away from upgrading existing infrastructure that benefits existing communities. These benefits include flood mitigation measures and other improvements. Increased urban sprawl is linked to increased operational costs for local authorities, as services such as rubbish collection and sewage treatment are more expensive to maintain per person in low-density areas.

Is Christchurch too far from the equator to allow medium/high density housing without affecting sunlight?

Christchurch’s latitude has come up in several submissions concerning loss of sunlight. However, this argument ignores existing, highly livable, cities around the world. The equivalent latitude in the Northern Hemisphere cuts through the south of France, Italy and the Northern USA (Figure 1). 193 million people live in the 392 cities which both have a higher density (more than 1300/km2) and are further away from the equator than Christchurch (further than 43.5 degrees North).
The cities in Figure 1 vary greatly in size (ranging from 18 km2 to 2560 km2), population (ranging from 100K to 13 million), and location. This includes Vienna (4326/km2), Copenhagen (4454/km2), Toronto (3087/km2), Geneva (1800/km2), and Calgary (2100/km2) which consistently rank as the world’s most livable places. The latitudes of these cities have not served as a barrier to housing intensification, and as such they provide important case studies for how to densify our city. There is no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the future of housing in Christchurch. The blueprint for densification can be found across the world, in cities of various sizes and locations.

A world map showing all the cities in the Northern Hemisphere that are either 43.5 degrees north or further from the equator, while also showing Christchurch at the equivalent latitude of 43.5 degrees south of the equator.

Figure 1: Map of cities which are both further from the equator and denser than Christchurch

Would building more medium/high density housing increase flooding risk?

Arguments against urban intensification that suggest an increase in flood risk are unfounded. Flood risk is exacerbated by several factors (increasing groundwater levels caused by climate change; increased perviousness especially in the upper catchments; inadequate stormwater infrastructure). Density will reduce flood risk (provided the intensification does not occur in known flood risk areas). By living more densely, we reduce impervious surface area by building on already developed land, rather than sprawling out and building on pervious areas (such as farmland). Importantly, the MDRS embeds permeable area requirements into the council’s District Plan. Under the current District Plan there is no required area of grass or plants for single-unit homes in most suburban areas. Under the MDRS every residential site is required to have at least 20% of the site area covered by grass or plants.

The Christchurch City Council also has a number of tools at its disposable to limit intensification and manage the storm-water infrastructure in areas of high flood risk. CCC has also created qualifying matters for areas with high tsunami and landslide risks, preventing intensification in those areas.

Would building more medium/high density housing increase pressure on fresh water/waste-water infrastructure?

City water infrastructure is planned out using expected growth expectations and therefore when the new plan is put into place, these plans will be reviewed to take into account the change in growth expectations. Infrastructure capacity audits will identify when upgrades are needed and will emsure that upgrades will take place to handle an increase in population growth due to intensification.

What is the MDRS and NPS-UD?

MDRS stands for the Medium Density Residential Standard which enables three story houses upto 12 metres to built on a single property without resource consent. This was brought in by the Resource Management Act Amendment 2021.

NPS-UD stands for the National Policy Statement on Urban Development which directs councils to enable intensification and growth in areas with good existing access to services, public transport networks and infrastructure.


If you have any other questions, contact at [email protected]

Many thanks to Dr Tom Logan and Matt Edwards from the University of Canterbury Civil and Natural Resources Engineering Department for providing information. The original briefings and references can be found below.