Urban growth is influenced by population increase and economic activity within the city that generate demand and competition for the use of land, buildings and structures.

New urban areas integrate with existing land uses

A mix of urban intensification and selective peripheral development has been identified as an effective way of minimising the effects of urban sprawl, and promoting a socially and economically sustainable urban form that is enjoyed by residents. 

Key points

  • Population density in Christchurch was 30 people per ha in 2015.  Density has been slowly increasing, although amalgamation with Banks Peninsula and the earthquakes have reduced the population density in the City.  Increases in greenfield development post-quake, and the loss of people from existing parts of the City have also had an effect.
  • Employment density decreased between the mid-2000s and 2012 from 97 to 92 employees per hectare. Since then density has increased by 14% to 104 employees per hectare in 2015.
  • 29,000 ha or 12% of Christchurch's total area of around 160,000ha is urbanised.  In 2006, when Christchurch amalgamated with the Banks Peninsula District the total area of the city quadrupled, mainly with non-urban land.
  • The rate of residential development outside of the urban area over the past 30 years has been around 32 new houses per year. Between June 1990 and June 2016 - 835 rural residential houses that are either part of farms or life style properties have been consented.

Population Density

Population Density graph

Source: Statistics New Zealand, Subnational Population Estimates(external link)

Employment Density

Employment Density graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Longitudinal Business Frame(external link)

New Rural Residential Housing

Rural Housing graph

Source: CCC, Residential Building Consents

Christchurch Urban Area

Christchurch Urban Area graph

Source: CCC, Zoning Information

More detail and information

Land Use Recovery Plan:(external link) The plan puts land use policies and rules in place to assist rebuilding and recovery of communities (including housing and businesses) that have been disrupted by the earthquakes. 

Suburban centres provide a focus for local activity

Suburban centres provide the majority of the goods and services required by Christchurch residents. They are generally well distributed throughout the city's residential suburbs to offer convenient levels of service to the surrounding public. It is important suburban centres identified as "key activity centres" continue to develop as community hubs and locations where residents can live, work and play.

Key points

  • Employment provides an indicator of economic activity in suburban centres.  Total employment grew by 21% between 2000 and the earthquakes (2011).  Growth since the earthquakes grew by 20% from 33,800 in February 2010 to 42,400 in February 2015.
  • The largest sectors of employment in suburban centres are retail which makes up around a quarter of all employment and Accommodation and Food Services with around 10%.
  • The suburban centres share of employment has grown from 47% in 2000 to 51% in 2015.  Much of this has been at the expense of the loss employment, particularly retail, in the Four Avenues which has declined from just over 25%, to 15% as a result of the earthquakes.
  • The suburban areas of the City with the greatest recent employment growth tend to be the larger one on the western side of the City, while the eastern areas and older areas such as Beckenham have tended to lose employment.
  • In 2016, less than 12% of all shop frontages in suburban centres were vacant, only a quarter of these appeared to be from earthquake damage.  Across the 36 suburban centres surveyed, 190 shop frontages were vacant in 2016.

Business & Employment in Suburban Centres

Business & Employment in Suburban Centres graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Longitudinal Business Frame(external link)

Post Earthquake Change in Total Employment

Post Earthquake Change in Total Employment graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Longitudinal Business Frame(external link)

Proportion of All Employment in Suburban Centres

Proportion of All Employment in Suburban Centres graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Longitudinal Business Frame(external link)

Vacant Shop Frontages in Suburban Centres

Vacant Shop Frontages graph

Source: CCC, Suburban Centre Shop Vacancy Survey

More detail and information

Suburban Plans: The Council’s Suburban Centres Programme provides coordinated planning and assistance to help with the rebuild and recovery in suburban centres.

Housing location and density meet development goals

The Council has worked with the community and key strategic partners Selwyn District Council, Waimakariri District Council, Environment Canterbury, Ngai Tahu and the New Zealand Transport agency to prepare the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy - a blueprint for how our city can grow sustainably and successfully into the future. The Strategy identifies a mix of urban intensification and peripheral development to achieve its goals.

Key points

  • The earthquake has impacted on the number of households within the City. The greenfield areas grew by 7000 households between the 2001 and 2013 censuses.  Whereas the existing parts of the city lad a net loss of 2800 households over the same period, despite increasing by 3700 households between 2001 and 2006.
  • 53% of new residential development since 2000 has been in greenfield areas.  Since the earthquakes this has increased to 62% of new housing totalling just over 14,000 new houses compared with 12,000 new housing units in existing aprts of the City.
  • The proportion of total infill development peaked in 2008, with over 60% of all new housing occurring in existing parts of the City.  The earthquake has had a significant impact on infill development with the proportion of infill declining to 30% in 2013 before climbing to 44% and 39% in the years to June 2015 and 2016 respectively.
  • Around half of infill development since 2000 has been in the suburban areas,  followed by the central area which includes the Four Avenues and the medium density areas surrounding it with a third of the infill development, with the remainder in the other intensification areas of the City (e.g. around key activity centres).

Total Number of Households by UDS Area

Total Number of Households by UDS Area grapg

Source: CCC, Residential Building Consents

Proportion of Infill

Proportion of Infill graph

Source: CCC, Residential Building Consents

New Net Housing by UDS Area

New Net Housing by UDS Area graph

Source: CCC, Residential Building Consents

Cumulative Net New Housing by UDS Area

Cumulative Net New Housing by UDS Area graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Census of Population & Dwellings(external link)

More detail and information

Dwelling & Household Estimates:(external link) Estimates of all private dwellings in New Zealand at a given date, and estimates of all households usually living in New Zealand at a given date.

Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy(external link): The Council is a Strategic Partner for the UDS.  More detail about the strategy and strategic partners is available here.