Christchurch is New Zealand’s third largest city (and the largest city in the South Island).  In February 2011 a magnitude 6.4 earthquake killed 185 people and caused extensive damage.  As a direct result of the earthquake, 70 per cent of Christchurch city centre was either destroyed or has subsequently needed to be demolished.

Earlier this month Christchurch took an important step forward in the process of recovering and rebuilding when the ‘Christchurch Central Recovery Plan’ (the Plan) was formally released.

The Plan is a critical planning document.  From the time of its notification, all persons and authorities exercising functions or powers under the ‘Resource Management Act’ (equivalent to Victoria’s Planning and Environment Act) must not make decisions that are inconsistent with the Plan.  The Plan also directs the Christchurch City Council to make a series of specific changes to its ‘District Plan’ (planning scheme) which are intended to give practical effect to its vision.

The Plan includes a detailed ‘blueprint’ for rebuilding the City (see below).  It also describes a series of key ‘anchor projects’ (convention centre, civic square, cultural centre, bus interchange, sports stadium and so on) and outlines a framework for implementation.  Key design principles which underpin the Plan include ‘compressing’ and ‘containing’ the size and scale of the new city centre and using the key anchor projects to activate areas of space and to ‘catalyse’ opportunities.  Other design principles relate to re-using existing buildings and building elements to provide continuity and reference points to the City’s past and focusing attention on the areas that need the most assistance to redevelop.


The Plan seizes the opportunity to ‘rethink, revitalise and renew’ central Christchurch by promoting a more compact city centre (just 40 hectares compared to the previous, pre-earthquake 90 hectares) with clearly defined precincts (retail, health, convention centre, justice and emergency), improved connectivity and accessibility and greater emphasis on green areas (including the Avon River).

A short message of hope and strength is included at the start of the Plan.

“The 2010 and 2011 earthquakes struck one of New Zealand’s oldest cities, a community with deep ties to the land, the environment and each other.  The devastation was widespread, especially in the city’s centre.  Some questioned whether central Christchurch could ever be the same again. It won’t be.  It will be even better.”

We really hope so.  It is a bold and ambitious project and we will monitor its progress with interest.

Contact: awb@collipl.com.au