So we have a lot of discussion about parts of the LURP (Land Use Recovery Plan) in Christchurch, some of which is fairly unpopular on the ground. However, much of what was implemented was already long planned, and was pushed through with implicit support from the Mayor and other local politicians, who are now speaking with forked tongues in certain respects.
The Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy has been around for decades and it has its own website at http://www.greaterchristchurch.org.nz/. Here you can read in a lot of the detail about the UDS and how it came about. There was a statement in there that I can’t find exactly at the moment, but it has basically put in projections for population growth and then said that 60% of this was expected to occur within Christchurch City limits and that this required intensification. What has happened as a result of the LURP is that the Government’s earthquake recovery powers have been used to speed up the process of implementing the UDS. This was actively courted and sought with the full knowledge of the Mayor and other Councillors, the UDS having been in the meantime updated in 2016.
Likewise we have the development of the Northern Arterial motorway which has been widely lambasted, well that was part of the agreed expectation of the UDS for more effective transport links through Greater Christchurch as is the Southern Motorway. I guess we can agree there are questions about the lack of public transport provision and whether rail passenger services should have been provided for. But no one can really dispute the need for transport corridor improvements as a result of the UDS because some of the population growth is expected to occur outside Christchurch City and part of that will be in the Greater Christchurch part of Waimakariri District.
So the bigger issue is that the UDS is in full force and it probably can’t be stopped or reversed. Furthermore there can’t be an expectation of reversing the changes to the District Plan that have been put through in support of the UDS. I think the real questions are about how to intensify, or how to develop improved transport links, rather than stopping them from happening. So the initial response to the Northern Arterial has been the DEMP, which has been fiercely opposed by St Albans residents. As a result new provisions are being looked at to make greater allowance for public transport and other measures, which is a good move. However the Mayor of Christchurch’s statement that the Northern Arterial was unnecessary, was really a lot of nonsense. Perhaps the implementation of improved transport links in the form of the Northern Arterial is an important issue, but I read her statement as criticising the provision of improved transport links to the north, per se, in that it would make it easier for people to commute into the city, by whatever means, and therefore give people more options to live outside the City than she would like them to have.
From this it’s only a short step to impute that the Christchurch Mayor would not exactly be keen on a rail passenger service to Rangiora and I think that is highly likely to be the case. Indeed, as we already know, the push from CCC politicians is to take control of the bus network, thereby fragmenting the public transport system of Greater Christchurch. But what we really need is a Greater Christchurch UDS public transport strategy to get behind rail development, and we also need Central Government to revise its policy to shift the emphasis from a Rolleston rail service to a Rangiora service. That makes a whole lot of sense, anyway, since there has been a lot of interest already in Rangiora passenger rail services, and not a whole lot in Rolleston.
The Joint Public Transport Committee therefore needs to shift its focus from being a political vehicle for the Mayor of Christchurch’s campaign to fragment the public transport system of Greater Christchurch, to working on the rail proposals. At the moment we have a Regional Public Transport Plan that is largely about Christchurch City because that is what dominates the work of the JPTC. So there is no explicit mention of rail in the plan, and that is the first thing that needs to be changed, as well as provision for better bus services in Waimakariri District. This is being addressed in the proposed changes to the Northern Arterial DEMP but the JPTC should have been taking the lead in that instead of being a follower to political imperatives.
This is why the work of the Chat Club and Axel Wilke’s campaign for Ecan councillorship is so much of an interest for me. Once the local government elections are over, I think we all need to step up our efforts to campaign for a better public transport system. A lot of that will obviously depend on who is elected. Watch this space.