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How much sprawl in Christchurch?

We tend to focus on issues related Auckland however a recently a video from the NZTA caught my attention. The main purpose of the video is to show some very pretty animations of what stage 2 of the Christchurch Southern motorway will look like. The project is part of the Chistchurch RoNS and is currently going through the Environmental Protection Authority process to get consent, it’s open for submissions. I guess the video was put together for to help show the impact.

I don’t know enough about the project to say if it is needed or not so won’t comment on that aspect. What struck me in the video is the amount of sprawl that is suggested will occur over the next 30 years. This is highlighted as occurring in Rollerston, Lincoln and Prebbleton. Showing each area separately helps to reduce the impact but when you look at the the areas shown, you see they all merge together forming one large continuous mass in an area that it appears would almost rival Christchurch for size. Here are the images I’m referring to:

Chch video Rollerston

Chch video Lincoln

Chch video Prebbleton

Now perhaps the video is just trying to show the potential area where growth could occur but if that is the case then it just seems sloppy. If that much land is actually planned for growth then I am very very worried for Christchurch and it would be another case of them making many of the same mistakes Auckland has made.

The NZTA have also put this video out showing what the road may look like from the drivers seat. Do they really have that much money floating around for crap like this? Silly question, of course they do.

41 comments to How much sprawl in Christchurch?

  • Poor Christchurch, first the quakes, then Demolition Gerry, now state subsidised sprawl. Please please protect some Transit corridors while it’s easy. Unless they think Pakuranga highway is perfect….It is just like Auckland’s mistakes especially as it dumps all this new traffic smack into the centre of Rolleston, which is meant to grow into a bigger place. have we learnt nothing? Taking highways through the centre of a place is to debase it. Rolleston could grow with a village green heart but this thing would have to be sent around it to achieve that. At the very least.

    • Patrick, I agree so much that I got together with a group of volunteer professionals and we looked at all the “what is known” about how to do city development RIGHT and we decided to give an alternative to the sprawl plan. Some of the results are presented in a lecture.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTrj2f9t3So

      It’s a full 40 some minutes, so maybe too long for non-CHCH people to be interested in. But – I have also taken a 3 minute bash at sprawl as a long range city development plan:

  • Kevin

    Can you clarify what this blog stands for? Is your utopia a set of extremely compact cities with as many people as possible living in a small space served by a bus and preferably rail network operating on dedicated infrastructure? A world where personal transport such as cars are unwelcome?
    Having recently joined this blog my impression is there is enthusiasm for buses, bus lanes, trains and intensification coupled with a dislike of spending on roads.

    • Lti

      Kevin,

      I think its a dislike of spending on roads at the expense of better solutions. The blog is about trying to explain that it is impossible to build your way out of congestion by focusing solely on motorways. And if you try, you create a very human un-friendly environment.

    • TheBigWheel

      Dislike of *disproportionate* spending on roads, especially those with negative cost benefit, and even more especially those which subsequently drive enourmous and invidious external costs (including hard $, loss of amenity, profligate use of energy and land) of sprawl..

    • star

      Quite right. The blog is about complaining about all forms of transport planning excluding trains. Certainly truth and balance don’t play a part.

      • “excluding trains”

        Sorry, excuse me if I laugh out loud. Have you actually read any posts here lately, or do you just trawl for places in the comments to have a good old unjustified whinge?

      • harrymc

        “Truth”? Are you accusing someone of lying? Please explain.
        The truth be known, there is more complaining about trains on this blog than anything else.
        “Balance”? I think it would be nice to see some balance in transport expenditure.

      • There have been plenty of times we advocated for other forms of transport. Hell in this post the only mention I made about the motorway being planned was that I didn’t know that much about it so couldn’t make a call on it. This blog has not objected to lots of projects, we have been pretty neutral or even mildly supported many roading projects like the Victoria Park Tunnel and Waterview among others. A few months ago we suggested that they should be a focus on building infrastructure like road bridges to help better connect communities. Just this morning I called for more level crossings to be removed, the primary beneficiary of which is cars.

        We have also said that we don’t support some rail projects or services, e.g. we don’t agree that we should retain expensive rail services beyond Swanson as there isn’t enough patronage to justify it.

        If you don’t think all we do is complain then why do you read the blog?

    • Mr Anderson

      If you think that there’s a good argument to be made in favour of a roads centric transport policy then send in a guest post. We’ll be happy to put it up as long as it makes a coherent argument.

  • BD

    I think the Christchurch rebuild plan is an excuse for building urban sprawl in towns outside of Christchurch. The rebuild plan as a whole is a shambles, and the government is doing a lousy job. There is no provision for public transport or commuter rail mentioned anywhere in the rebuild plan, instead the government wants to use the business as usual approach and rush to rebuild Christchurch as quickly as possible without taking into consideration of the other stuff. Plus the fact is that so many people are leaving Christchurch and seems absolutely ridicolous spending obssense amount of money on a stupid motorway proposal.

    • MrV

      It was always going to be a shambles as soom as it became a top-down “The Rebuild”. Rebuilding is an individual and in many cases painful and personal decision.
      The idea there is going to be one grand plan is where the whole thing headed off the rails.

  • Malcolm M

    The target area represents one of the most productive agricultural areas of New Zealand, where there is a combination of flat land and and underground aquifer for irrigation relatively close to the surface. The 2041 scenario is for 8900 new households in the area, which would be extremely low density and presumably be a combination of extension of the current scattered urban areas and conversion of agricultural land to hobby farms. Land use is not under the control of NZTA, but their road investments provide access to a new group of “highest bidders”, which are sprawl developers and hobby farmers. The new road would have ample capacity to service the additional 8900 households, but there would need to be additional investments in connecting roads at both the Lincoln and Christchurch ends. Such a low density would be impossible to serve with public transport at any realistic frequency.

  • Frank E

    I see the blog is resorting to cheap shots…

    • Please elaborate on what you think are cheap shots. If you are referring to the last comment, please explain how an animation of a car driving along a road identical to many that exist helps explain the project.

  • Peter H

    Pages 51 and 52 of NZTA report 311. Give four options for developing Christchurch, Looks like they planning on option C.
    Could some one please attach page 51 & 52
    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/research/reports/311/docs/311.pdf

  • TheBigWheel

    That’s an interesting report.. I’m still digesting it as there appear to be a number of omissions that aren’t explained, e.g. no analysis of EVs. The final comment on p62 resonates with an underlying issue of urban sprawl.. namely that once you go down that road (no pun intended!) the alternatives are substantially foreclosed.. and we may live to regret that in the post peak cheap oil era.. “the risk-gap between Option C [the one that most closely resembles urban sprawl] and all other options would become even larger if mitigating options, such as mode shifting, were considered”.

  • Dmitry V

    Hello Matt, great post.

    I’ve just been to Christchurch (without a car) and was about to email Auckland Transport Blog about my experiences. But I might as well post it in the comments here. I live in Mt Eden and I do not own a car or bike so rely on PT. Hence it was easy for me to compare the PT system in both cities. Some observations:
    -Outside of Auckland the drivers don’t seem to respect the walkers, I nearly got run over on the zebra crossing (the attitude from the driver was that I should not be in their way) and they get pretty impatient on the turning part when the light goes green for the pedestrians and the car is waiting to turn left.
    -Plenty of cyclists everywhere, they probably get more respect than the pedestrians as they don’t get as in the way.
    -The buses were quite frequent, I don’t know if it was luck or what, but each time I went to catch the bus it was either already there or a maximum of 7 minutes away. And I caught the bus everywhere (Lyttleton, New Brighton, etc.)
    -They have bus boards that actually work and they have this feature where they scroll so you don’t have to wait long to see your bus. The Auckland ones don’t scroll, they just flick over to the next one so you have to imply which is the next bus.
    -They have integrated ticketing. We don’t and it is quite embarrassing.
    -Apparently the max price is $3.20 and a 2hr return ticket is the same price.
    -BONUS: there is a trick when coming back to the airport. Instead of paying the full $7.50 to take you to the airport door, you can pay $3.20 to go to “International Antarctic Centre” instead which is the stop right before the airport. It is only 650m away and plenty of people got off at this stage. It is only $4.30 but seems a bit steep for the distance covered.

    Hope this is useful to somebody.

    Having said all that I did notice sprawly American style developments beginning to happen as I flew in. It is really unfortunate, because the layout, especially of the CBD is going to pay the citizens dividends for years to come especially as it becomes more dense. It seems a disservice to the people that founded Christchurch and had such good intentions and forward thinking to simply go ahead and just fill it with suburbs.

    • Glen K

      The real trick if you’re a regular to Chch is to get yourself a MetroCard. Then it’s only $2.30 around town (incl. airport) or $4.60 max fare for unlimited trips/day. Slightly more if you’re going further out of town – Lincoln/Rolleston/Kaiapoi are $3.30, Rangiora/Woodend or the Ferry to Diamond Hbr $4.20. And yeh, the 10-minute frequency of the Orbiter and 15-minute frequency of the main lines is pretty handy.

  • Jon Reeves

    Christchurch is so ripe for commuter rail I simply cannot believe it is not being planned. All it needs now is a CDB station – et voila! Auckland´s SA/SD cars could be moved there in 2 or 3 years and it would be a great network to use.

    One problem to halt this common sense. The National Party in Government!

    • Agree the government would never go for it. After Brownlee took over the Christchurch rebuild plans, the first thing he did was dump the light rail scheme. But the problem as I see it is lack of understanding by local government that a rail network needs to be built up from small beginnings. All the ideas they have for rail-based proposals are for multi-billion dollar schemes to take Christchurch from “no rail” to “full rail like Auckland” from day 1. They need to start with a modest upgrade of the current network, using ex-Auckland trains and a new 600m branch line into the CBD transport terminal. There needs to be more lobbying for this. Get a basic system up and running, watch the patronage grow, then justify more expensive upgrades later.

  • Perhaps I should mention that I’m not opposed to these towns growing, in fact quite the opposite, I like the idea of having a handful of satellite towns

    • Matt I would agree except there is nothing to suggest that these will be satellites towns, but undifferentiated sprawl. That’s what Auckland did and it’s a big mistake. There is the room and even the beginnings of small towns that could be both lovely commuter dormitories and places with their own identities and centres. But they must have containment, ie green between them, they must have a centre that is not spilt by a motorway. Isn’t England a model for Christchurch at some level? There are plenty of fantastic and completely viable satellite towns across Southern England that offer a perfect model for Rolleston, and of course the urban Design structures of these can be emulated, if not the 15thC thatched cottages.

      But NZTA have no idea about the subtleties of land use because they only think they are following whats happening not shaping it. But they are more than any other force in the nation.

      • Yes I completely agree, satellites are good, but not if they are so large and sprawling they just become part of the main urban area like is shown in the video.

        • JohnP

          The video’s misleading. Wouldn’t happen this century. Prebbleton pretty much does become part of the main urban area, but that’s only like 1,000 people anyway with not much growth available inside the urban limits.

  • Graeme

    Christchurch has many advantages ove Auckland and Wellington when it comes to Urban planning. On a whole, it is flat. New suburbs are often outlaid in a grid design rather than curved culdesacs. This makes it easier to access public transport and for making short trips on foot. As its outlay is more “hub and spoke” rather than channelled into bottlenecks like Wellington and Auckland, it is far better suited to buses. As it is flat, it does not take long to cycle anywhere. Motorways in Christchurch should be far cheaper to build per kilometer than Transmission Gully, Waterford Connections and Puhoi to Wellsford motorways which under the current cost-benefit ratio system justifies financing the projects.

    It does not surprise me that Rolleston and lincoln are projected to increase in size. Given problems with liquifaction the ground in these areas is more stable. Rolleston is probably going to have a large industrial area on the northern side of the Main highway contributing to the jobs growth in this region. That said, provided the motorway is built with an adjacent cycleway, it should still only be a relatively short cycle to the central city for those with real Cantabrian Legs.

  • Auckland Medic

    Any projected costing data on the above planned motorways?
    Would be good to compare the cost of these motorway to the costs of a potential rapid transit system.

  • Dave Howick

    Is the majority of this land zoned for sprawl not food producing? One of the main things New Zealand had was an ability to feed its population without massive food imports. Interesting how Auckland, Tauranga and Christchurch are all sprawling onto some of the best horticultural land. It is getting more like the movie Soylent Green all the time….

  • JohnP

    Hi guys, I just finished a fairly substantial project looking at Chch’s future growth. As Graeme points out above, a major factor in those southern towns growing is that they are all TC1, i.e. land that has buggerall chance of liquefaction. Attractive when most of Christchurch is TC2 or TC3 (some, or high chance of liquefaction).

    As noted in the attached article (which has a map) Greater Chch now has urban limits set till 2041 http://www.adderleyhead.co.nz/userfiles/docs/greater_christchurch_urban_limits.pdf. Also noted in that article, and I agree with this, is that across the region they’ve set the urban limits quite wide so there is more than enough capacity for growth to 2041 – in fact, there probably would have been even before the earthquakes knocked things back.

    The hatched blue lines on the NZTA map drastically overstate the urban limits of those towns. Rolleston will get a fair whack of growth, Lincoln gets some (I’m pretty sure a lot less than 4,000 new households) and Prebbleton gets very little. However, there’s also a lot of growth in southwest Christchurch, e.g. Halswell.

    Also, SH1/ the motorway doesn’t go “through” Rolleston in the usual sense – the town is built entirely to the south of it, and the town centre will be away from the highway. Although there’s industrial space on the north side.

    • The rail line is north of State Highway 1, the town to the south. Perfect example of severed access to any future Transit oriented village town of charm and value. Is there a green belt on the plan?, or will this just slam into its neighbours like SE Auckland…? if there is the demand.

  • Rob

    Anyone up for an attempt on the NZ Land Speed Record on that 4.5km straight bit of motorway at the southern end? :)

  • JohnP

    “The rail line is north of State Highway 1, the town to the south. Perfect example of severed access to any future Transit oriented village town of charm and value” – sure, although of course there’s no passenger rail even in Chch anyway. Good rail access for the industrial areas though.

    No green belt, but how many rural towns have one of those? Just farmland.

    “will this just slam into its neighbours like SE Auckland…? if there is the demand.” – Doubt it, Rolleston isn’t expanding towards Chch as much of the area in between falls into the airport’s noise contour areas. Even without that, there’s a lot of space between Rolleston and anywhere else, and you’d be looking at decades or a century of “business as usual” growth to get close to other towns. Which seems unlikely.

    • JohnP

      Sorry, was meant to be replying to Patrick.

      • JohnP I know there is no rail service currently, but isn’t this about planning for the future? And in particular not making the mistakes Auckland made… ignoring this possibility is exactly what Auckland did and are now expensively back engineering a solution. Why do we have visionless in charge of planning, only ‘planning’ for what has happened?; it’s like walking backwards, you can be absolutely accurate about what you see but you’re to almost certain to get tripped up.

  • As I said in the other post, Megan Woods will be taking Labour’s responsibility for Christchurch Transport so hopefully that suggests that they will take a stand supporting a more compact city with better PT.

  • Steve D

    NZTA aren’t the only ones cranking out videos – AT’s got one up for the CRL, too:

  • Harry

    This kind of development will ruin rural New Zealand. It is cutting deep into farm land and is encouraging; no, forcing car use. Rolleston, Lincoln and Prebbleton have the potential to become ideal satellite towns. But, as is already starting to happen in some of these places, awfully designed, low density sprawl is beginning to occur. If nothing is done to stop it, this area will join the likes of Dannemora, Rototuna and The Lakes. People really need to accept that not everyone can own a home with an unnecessarily large garden, and that there is nothing wrong with high density (as long as it is only built in the right places).

  • Steve D

    Oh, and more about the piles of money NZTA have – they’ve also got enough to make a video about how cars are alienating us from each other and that makes us inconsiderate jerks or something.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoHalxV0q3o

    How strange that the motorway looks a lot nicer without the cars and with a bunch of people having a good time instead. I think there might be some stealth urbanists working at NZTA’s ad agency.

  • MrV

    The solution is here. All Chch major employment zones, shopping malls and even commuter towns are within a stones throw of a rail line!
    This could be a very cheap installation of commuter rail, with triple tracking in key places to seperate freight from a commuter network.

    http://buswatchnz.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/commuter-rail-for-christchurch-reading.html
    http://buswatchnz.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/christchurch-light-rail-link-could-cost.html

  • You guys have probably already watched this video – but it is exactly what we should be doing in Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland. It’s hard to have the courage to just do the obviously right thing.

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