Before rural land can be used for housing, it must first be rezoned within the Christchurch District Plan from rural to residential through a plan change

The Canterbury Regional Policy Statement(external link) defines the areas of rural land which can be used for future housing. The Council can only re-zone land to be used for housing if it is located within one of these areas.

The Canterbury Regional Policy Statement is an Environment Canterbury document.

The plan change process

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 may be 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.

10 steps of the plan change process

Step 1

Preparation of plan change

A plan change to rezone land for housing can be either led by Council or a landowner/ developer.

Completed by the applicant and/or Council.

Step 2

Plan change request lodged with Council

The plan change request process formally begins when the plan change is lodged with the Council.

Completed by the applicant.

Step 3

More information required

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 the consultation undertaken.

Completed by the applicant and/or Council.

Step 4

Decision on whether the plan change should be processed further

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.

Completed by the Council.

Step 5

Submissions invited from the public on the proposed plan change

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.

Completed by the Council.

Step 6

Further submissions invited on what has been sought in submissions

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.

Completed by the Council.

Step 7

Hearing of submissions and 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.

Completed by the Council.

Step 8

Decision made on the plan change

The Council has a maximum of two 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.

Completed by the Council.

Step 9

Appeal to Environment Court on decisions made by Council

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.

Completed by the applicant or any submitter.

Step 10

Plan change included in the District Plan

When all appeals have been resolved, a plan change is made Operative and inserted into the District Plan.

Completed by the Council.

The subdivision process

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 below in steps 11 to 17 for non-notified applications. 

Step 11

Application for subdivision consent prepared and submitted to Council

The application submitted to the 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. The council encourages applicants to meet with staff before submitting an application for subdivision.

Completed by the applicant.

Step 12

Council may request further information

The application is assessed against the rules in the District Plan to determine whether sufficient information has been provided to decide the application. To help the Council understand the effects of what is proposed, more information may be requested.

Completed by the Council.

Step 13

Subdivision Consent granted by Council

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.

Completed by the Council.

Step 14

Engineering plans approved

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.

Completed by the applicant.

Step 15

Survey plan is approved

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.

Completed by the applicant.

Step 16

Council certificate confirming compliance with subdivision consent and infrastructure accepted

The developer applies for a certificate (known as a 224 certificate), which is issued by the Council when all conditions have been met and all infrastructure has been built and accepted. This is sent to Land Information NZ. This step has to be completed within 5 years of the Council approving the Survey Plan (Step 15).

Completed by the applicant.

Step 17

Survey plan deposited and Titles are issued for new properties

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.

Completed by other.

Please 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.

Notified applications

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 District 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.

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.