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Apology over tampering claims as solution to consents fiasco inches closer

photo not Stuff

Councillor David East has offered an apology to council staff for questioning their integrity and accusing them of tampering with Christchurch's district plan.

East backed down over his claim officials had removed a clause that would have helped residents in coastal areas rebuild and repair earthquake-damaged homes.

His apology came as councillors unanimously backed a proposal to change the district plan that will make such repairs easier, a move East described as a "momentous decision".

Now ratified by council, the proposed alteration will be sent to Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods to put to the public before deciding whether to sign it off – a move that could be made before Christmas.

A change to the plan would bring much-needed clarity to people in New Brighton, Southshore and Redcliffs who have endured needless resource consent battles and years of uncertainty about whether they can build new homes.

Coastal councillor David East has apologised to council staff for accusations of tampering with Christchurch's district plan.

Addressing his fellow councillors on Thursday, East offered a "personal apology" to people in his ward who have suffered "undue and unnecessary stress" because of the poorly-worded original policy.

He apologised for suggesting at a press conference in early September that staff had deliberately omitted a section of the district plan, saying the comments may have been seen as an "unjustified criticism that reflected negatively on the competency and integrity" of them or the council itself.

"I knew that prior to embarking on this campaign that I would be criticised for my actions.

"However, first and foremost … I am accountable to the public for my actions and the manner in which I carry out my responsibilities in representing them."

East thanked community representatives for pursuing "accountability and justice" for residents and helping "right what they consider was a serious wrongdoing".

The amendments to the district plan will allow the building of homes on residentially-zoned land where the risk from flooding is predominantly from long-term sea level rise.

Almost 1500 sites sit within this coastal area, including 74 empty sites where people can build.

The current plan urges avoiding new development, but changes to the legislation would allow it, provided it still involves the necessary mitigation against flooding.

(photo The end is in sight for residents of coastal Christchurch who have faced a long and frustrating battle to rebuild and repair earthquake-damaged homes.

Another amendment means people wanting to rebuild properties demolished after the earthquakes can do so without the need for resource consents, provided they meet certain requirements.

Thanking staff for their efforts to draft changes so quickly, mayor Lianne Dalziel said: "The proposal that we have prepared provides clarity over what building activity can occur in flood-prone coastal areas of the city and should bring an end to the confusion over the planning rules and how they apply.

"There will still be limitations on what can be built in these locations due to the potential impact of hazards, but this change will provide greater clarity to people."

Lynda Burdekin, who has had a lengthy battle to rebuild her Southshore home, believes the proposal offers "hope and optimism" for residents.

Cr Yani Johanson said the issue had highlighted the need for flexibility in decision-making after major events such as the earthquakes. The collaborative efforts between the council and the community in recent months were a "model" when discussing planning matters in the future.

Cr Sara Templeton cautioned that more restrictive building rules could be brought in as coastal hazards are re-examined in future incarnations of the district plan as the impacts of climate disruption and sea level rise become clearer.

"Let us enable those few who have struggled to rebuild their homes and their lives following the earthquakes to do so, and let's get on with the incredibly important work of engaging with our communities on how we adapt to our changing environment."

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