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Friday, May 13, 2011

New law 'likely' to fragment city plans

New law 'likely' to fragment city plans

Last updated 05:00 13/05/2011
A far-reaching law rushed through Parliament after Christchurch's earthquake might overrule years of planning work to control the city's growth over the next 30 years.

Lawyers for Environment Canterbury (ECan), the Christchurch City Council and the Selwyn and Waimakariri district councils this week requested an urgent pre-hearing conference to adjourn 51 Environment Court appeals against ECan's proposed change 1 of the Canterbury regional policy statement.

The policy statement, which was publicly notified in 2007, seeks to control greater Christchurch's growth to 2041 and was developed by the councils and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

Hearings were set to begin next month and last a month. But court documents filed by the councils' and the NZTA's lawyers on Wednesday said recovery strategies and plans developed under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery (CER) Act will be "incorporated into and prevail over" regional and district planning.

The court memorandum said the appeals should be adjourned because the recovery "instruments" mandated in the Act would impact on the long-term planning for greater Christchurch.

"This would avoid a significant expenditure of time and resources by the court and the parties, when there is a separate process under way," it said.

ECan commissioner Peter Skelton, a former Environment Court judge, said: "There's no point in two processes proceeding at the same time. We need to see what happens to plan change 1 under the CER Act before we continue with the court proceedings."

He did not know if appellants would fight the attempted adjournment, which resulted from an Environment Court request in March for a report into the Act's implications.

Under the Act, passed in Parliament under urgency last month, a recovery strategy and central business district recovery plan must be developed and draft documents notified by January 19 next year.

Lincoln University planning and environmental management professor Ali Memon said the new Act and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) would fragment the region's urban development strategy, the long-term plan to manage greater Christchurch's growth.

"It's [Cera] an emergency reconstruction authority and the powers that have been given to it are arguably needed for it to undertake its function," he said. "I hope it won't work in a top-down, command-and-control kind of way and it will work in a collaborative way with other partners, like the city council and regional council."

The Environment Court could not confirm yesterday if the memorandum had been received or when a hearing might be held.

Before the legislation was passed, Canterbury University School of Law senior lecturer John Hopkins called the CER legislation "one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation to grace our statute book in modern times".

- The Press

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