Christchurch Urban Development Strategy

New Zealand


Despite its clean and green image, New Zealand is one of the most urbanised countries in the world. Greater Christchurch is the most urbanised area in the South Island, housing over 414,000 people.

Greater Christchurch is governed by Christchurch City and Waimakariri and Selwyn District Councils. It is experiencing significant growing pains from high migration, continued pressure for low density rural residential development and a lack of policy coordination among governmental institutions.

The Urban Development Strategy covers around 1,400 square kilometres and includes a city centre, several peripheral regional towns and a significant area of undeveloped rural land.

The model evolved from previous sub-regional growth strategies in New Zealand and Australia. These included the Melbourne 2030 strategy which delivered a calculated benefit over a 'business-as-usual' approach including:

  • $25-43 billion (Australian) savings
  • 14 per cent reduction in vehicle kilometres travelled
  • 23 per cent less travel time across the region.

Urban Development Strategy aims

The Urban Development Strategy aimed to establish a development strategy to 2041 which allowed both greenfield growth and urban intensification/consolidation in the most sustainable way possible.                                                      

A holistic urban design framework underpinned the project, based on nationally adopted urban design principles, local priorities and key development issues. This was based on the 'quadruple bottom line' approach - aiming to achieve environmental, economic, social and cultural benefits (Figure 1).

Project phases

The Urban Development Strategy took four years to develop, culminating in an intensive nine-month workshop-based design and consultation process. The main project phases were:

Project organisation

Strategy partners

  • Transit New Zealand (now the New Zealand Transport Agency, a national agency managing the state highway network)
  • Environment Canterbury (the regional authority)
  • Christchurch City, Waimakariri District and Selwyn District Councils

UDS Forum group

A UDS Forum group and supporting management team managed the project. The UDS Forum consisted of:

  • an executive governance group of chairs, mayors and councillors representing strategy partners
  • appointed stakeholder representatives from public and private sector groups
  • an independent chair.

UDA management team

The UDS management team included senior officer representatives from each of the strategy partners. Two independent project co-ordinators liaised between the Forum and the management team. The full project organisation provided continuity and ongoing leadership to the project.