Before rural land can be used for housing, it must first be rezoned within the Christchurch City Plan from rural to residential or living zone through a Plan Change.
The Canterbury Regional Policy Statement defines the areas of rural land which can be used for future housing. The City Council can only re-zone land to be used for housing if it is located within one of these areas.
Note: The Canterbury Regional Policy Statement (external link) is an Environment Canterbury document.
The Plan Change process is necessary to determine if the land is suitable to be re-zoned for housing. Not all land within areas identified for future housing is suitable because it maybe subject to risks such as flooding or damage from earthquakes.
Land within the Plan Change area may also need to be set aside for such things as major roads, parks, a local shopping centre or to retain stormwater to avoid downstream flooding.
The Plan Change process will also establish the rules that apply to the zone, such as the range of section sizes that will be permitted and how close houses can be built to property boundaries.
This process takes on average six months to two years, depending on the complexity of the development.
A plan change to rezone land for housing can be either led by Council or a landowner/ developer.
Step 2 The plan change request process formally begins when the plan change is lodged with the Council.
Plan change request lodged with Council
The plan change request process formally begins when the plan change is lodged with the Council.
Further information can be requested to better understand the effects of the rezoning proposed and ways in which the effects are proposed to be managed, the alternatives to rezoning the land and consultation undertaken.
At this point the Council will decide whether to allow the plan change to be publicly notified and submissions called for, or to reject it. The Council may refuse to allow a request for a plan change to progress if the necessary information has not been provided, the plan change is fundamentally unsound or in a limited number of other circumstances.
Once a plan change is publicly notified, the public has 20 working days to make comments in a submission, supporting or opposing the plan change or parts of it.
Comments can be made as ‘further submissions’ on what others have sought in their submissions. There are restrictions on who can make further submissions. Further submissions must be made within 10 working days of the public notification of the summary of submissions and call for further submissions.
Council officers, the applicant requesting the plan change and those that made submissions, and further submissions, present their views on the plan change to a hearing panel. The hearing panel may be made up of councillors and/or commissioners.
The Council has a maximum of 2 years from the date that submissions are invited by public notice to make a decision on the plan change. The hearing panel considers all the information and makes a recommendation to the Council as to whether the Council should approve the plan change to rezone the land, approve only parts of the plan change, or refuse the plan change.
Once a Council decision has been made and notified, an appeal can be made to the Environment Court by the applicant or a submitter within 30 working days of receiving the decision. If an appeal is made, the Environment Court conducts a new hearing and makes a decision.
When all appeals have been resolved, a plan change is made Operative and inserted into the City Plan.
Next Subdivision process
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Once land has been zoned for residential use, the land can be subdivided into individual sections. The developer needs to lodge a subdivision application with the Council. The Council is required to check that the proposed subdivision meets certain requirements such as whether each section proposed meets the rules for section sizes, whether the land is subject to natural hazards, whether the sewer pipes and roads proposed are large enough for the number of sections they are serving, whether there is adequate provision for stormwater disposal, and whether certain other legal requirements will be met.
The subdivision process is described in this flow chart (steps 11 to 17) for non-notified applications.
The application submitted to Council will include a plan of the proposed subdivision and an assessment of the effects of the subdivision and how these effects will be managed. Council encourages applicants to meet with staff before submitting an application for subdivision.
The application is assessed against the rules in the City Plan to determine whether sufficient information has been provided to decide the application. To help Council understand the effects of what is proposed, more information may be requested.
Following a decision on whether the application is notified (submissions invited on the application), a report is prepared with a recommendation to grant or refuse the application. A decision is made by a Panel as to whether the application should be consented. If subdivision consent is granted the decision may include conditions that require certain works to be undertaken or requirements to be complied with.
After a developer has obtained consent, they will have detailed plans prepared by an engineer for the infrastructure proposed e.g. sewer design. These detailed construction plans are submitted to the Council for approval. Once the Council has approved the engineering plans the developer can undertake the works, potentially including the construction of roads, connections to sewer and water supply and other infrastructure for the development in accordance with the approved subdivision consent and engineering plans.
A surveyor will prepare a plan showing the area and dimensions of the sections as they have been pegged out on the land. The survey plan is provided to Council for approval, which is assessed as to whether it conforms with the consent granted at Step 13. If the survey plan is accepted the Council will issue what is called a 223 certificate. Step 16 has to be completed within 3 years of Subdivision Consent being granted.
The developer applies for a certificate (known as a 224 certificate), which is issued by Council when all conditions have been met and all infrastructure has been built and accepted. This is sent onto Land Information NZ. This step has to be completed within 5 years of the Council approving the Survey Plan (Step 15).
Land Information New Zealand will issue Titles for the new properties when it has received the relevant documents including the 224 certificate. This allows sections purchasers to be completed. House building can then begin, subject to obtaining building consents and meeting other requirements.
Note that Titles for individual sections will not be available until the developed subdivision has been checked to ensure it complies with the approved subdivision application.
The steps in the subdivision flow chart are a summary of the subdivision process where the application is not notified (publicised for submissions). Most subdivision applications are not notified. However, if the subdivision application does not comply with the rules in the City Plan, it may be notified.
Notified applications involve additional steps including the opportunity for those affected to make comments in a submission supporting or opposing the proposed subdivision application. In addition, there may be a hearing where those who made submissions can present their comments to a panel of Commissioners and/or Councillors, who will make a decision to grant or refuse consent.
Please note: The information above is intended as an explanation for those who are not familiar with the plan change and subdivision consenting process. For more detailed information on the process please contact the Council. Any proposal for rezoning or a subdivision should be in accordance with the Resource Management Act and other statutory requirements and the above explanation should not be relied upon for these purposes.
Those wishing to undertake a plan change to rezone land or a subdivision application are recommended to contact an appropriate planning or surveying firm.