Topic: Another city for Christchurch

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10,000-acre plan for Rolleston Satellite. Source: Chrischurch Press, Friday November 30, 1973

The Government is prepared to spend up to $11m to buy 10,000 acres of land at Rolleston as the site for a satellite city that will provide an outlet for growth which would otherwise congest Christchurch.

This was announced in Christchurch yesterday by the Minister of Works and Development (Mr Watt), after he had outlined the scheme to a meeting of North Canterbury local bodies called by the Christchurch Regional Planning Authority.The Minister said that yesterday about 100 owners of 162 properties in the block affected had received letters of intention to take the land under the procedures of the Public Works Act.

He said that the new town, 16 miles south of the city, would develop to a population of from 50,000 to 80,000, and would be developed as a model. Initially, the new town would be dependant on Christchurch, but it would be "actively promoted" to become separate and independent as soon as possible.

The Minister's announcement came as a bombshell to the meeting of Mayors and Chairmen, and to the Planning Authority. Mr Watt said afterwards that secrecy had been adopted because of the risk from land speculators. "This has been happening elsewhere," he said. "Word has got round of Government intentions, and the speculators have moved in. "There was quite a reasonable reaction from the meeting. The chairman of the Ellesmere County Council (Mr W. E. Walker) appeared to be quite enthusiastic, and the Mayor of Christchurch (Mr N. G. Pickering) also indicated his support."

Of the 10,000 acres, about 9000 acres is in Ellesmere county, immediately south of Rolleston township, while 1000 acres or so is north of the Main South railway line, and in Paparua county. Mr Watt made it clear that land held by two big land development companies for housing development at Rolleston township would be taken over by the Crown.The Minister said that while the councils and the Regional Authority had done an excellent job in providing for the expansion of Christchurch, and uncontrolled growth had been prevented by restraining development to the urban fence, it had been obvious for some time that strong pressures were being exerted beyond the Regional Authority's district. "With few physical barriers to expansion, there is a real risk of haphazard and uncoordinated growth," he said. "Threats to high-quality soils, to the airport, and to communications and services are all apparent.

Chch congestion:

"Unless alternative employment 'centres are created, there is a danger of congestion at the centre ofi Christchurch. For this reason, I have consistently urged the: authority and the councils to set up a wider-based authority to undertake this task.

"When it became clear early this year that they did not intend to act, I felt compelled to make formal recommendation under the Town and Country Planning Act. Your response to my initiative at that time was disappointing, but I understand there is now a wider measure of agreement than before." The Minister said he would be reluctant to gazette the larger planning region, which was badly needed, if he thought some councils were not prepared to support its work, or worse, were determined that it would not work.

Rapid rise:

The Minister of Housing (Mr Fraser) was concerned at the rapid rise in residential land prices in Christchurch. It could not be disputed that people were finding it almost impossible to find sections at a price within their means. Asked if he agreed with the Regional Authority's belief that there was enough urban land inside the urban fence, the Minister said that it was true that 4000 acres remained to be developed, but with a possible growth in the city's population of 125,000 people in a few years, this land would not go far. "A land crisis will occur unless action is taken immediately to ensure a continuing and regulated supply of urban land," he said. "It must be in the right place at a reasonable price. The Government is not prepared to let the situation drift any longer."

No ideal site:

Some might question the choice of Rolleston, he said. There was no ideal site, but Rolleston, after careful consideration, seemed to offer more advantages and fewer difficulties than other sites investigated. The new town would be well located in relation to employment in Christchurch. It would be big enough to offer a wide variety of services and facilities, and offer good local employment opportunities.. There was excellent access. Good farming land would not be greatly affected. The land had not been extensively subdivided and thus could be planned more easily. The new town would be large to encourage a sense of community.

Mr Watt said that he had asked the Regional Authority, the Christchurch City Council, the Waimairi County Council and the Ellesmere and Paparua County Councils for help in setting up a technical committee which would work with the planning division of the Ministry of Works to advise him'on the programme for developing the new town. He 'hoped that this committee would be set up as soon as possible.

Shared effort:

"Both local authorities and private enterprise will share in establishing the new town," he said. "For financial and administrative reasons the project has to be initiated by the Government." Assembling the land under public ownership while detailed planning is being undertaken offers an unique opportunity to show that better and more balanced urban development is possible in New Zealand."

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