By: Michelle Mehlhopt, Jesse Aimer
Nine years on from the devastating earthquake of February 2011, the Government has heralded a movement to a new era of regeneration for Christchurch through the introduction of the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Amendment Bill (Bill) to Parliament.  This note outlines the changes proposed by the Bill and considers what this means for local decision making in greater Christchurch. 

Key aspects of the Bill

The Bill proposes to amend the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act 2016 (Act) by:
  • repealing specific provisions early;
  • removing certain powers that are no longer needed;
  • disestablishing Regenerate Christchurch; and
  • providing for limited extension of some land powers.
Early revocation of section 71 powers

The Bill brings forward the revocation of powers contained in section 71 of the Act from the end of June 2021 to the day after the Bill receives Royal Assent.  The section 71 powers currently provide an expedited way to make changes to Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) plans and other documents by allowing the Minister to suspend, amend or revoke these documents.  This process is notably more streamlined than standard RMA plan making processes.

The powers under section 71 have been used on several occasions, including to make amendments to the Residential Unit Overlay, establish the Yaldhurst Recreation and Sports Facility and a car parking proposal in Lyttleton. 

The early repeal of section 71 recognises that extraordinary powers are no longer required and demonstrates the Government’s intention to transition back to local decision making.    

Early disestablishment of Regenerate Christchurch

The Bill brings forward the disestablishment of Regenerate Christchurch, an organisation jointly controlled by the Crown and the Christchurch City Council to lead regeneration in Christchurch, to 30 June 2020.  The Bill also provides for some consequential amendments to remaining statutory processes, such as removing Regenerate Christchurch’s role in regeneration plan processes. 

Limited extension of some land powers

The Bill extends Land Information New Zealand’s (LINZ) powers for title reconfiguration (primarily conducting surveys, road stopping, title amalgamation and land disposal) for land within and adjacent to the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor.  These land powers are proposed to have a maximum extension to 30 June 2023.  However, a new Order in Council mechanism will allow these powers to be revoked earlier if they are no longer needed. 

The proposed extension allows for a process that is outcome, rather than timeframe, focused.  In our view, this approach is sensible due to the large scale of title reconfiguration required in the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor.  Extending the powers ensures the Crown has enough time to complete the work before transferring the land back to the Christchurch City Council.

Other matters

The Bill also removes:
  • the requirement of section 150 for the Minister to commission an annual review of the Act;
  • the requirement for Ōtākaro Limited to provide its consent on any regeneration plans that include residential red zone land (although Ōtākaro Limited will still be consulted on draft plans along with the other parties listed in section 29(1) of the Act); and
  • the definition of the Christchurch residential red zone, which would no longer be required with the disestablishment of Regenerate Christchurch and the removal of Ōtākaro Limited’s consent role.
Conclusion

The transition to local leadership proposed by the Bill is seen as an important stage in the long-term process to regenerate greater Christchurch.   With nine years elapsing since the earthquakes, many are of the view that the time for using the extraordinary measures contained in the Act has passed.   The amendments also provide additional time for LINZ to complete required land title reconfiguration and give certainty on Regenerate Christchurch’s future. 
 
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