Sustainable Urban Regeneration in Christchurch Central City
Urban environments have significant implications on the natural environment. They contribute to the adverse effects of stormwater pollutants in oceans and rivers, they produce carbon emissions and excessive waste and they restrict the ability for ecosystems to flourish. As a result, the way cities are being designed is being challenged. Sustainable development is becoming the norm in the development industry, as practitioners and developers use their collective powers and innovative thinking to create urban environments that reshape the relationship between the built and natural world. One way to implement sustainable development is through urban regeneration. Christchurch, a New Zealand city, was a victim of two major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. The inner-city had most of its buildings demolished and began to undertake a large scale urban regeneration project. The Christchurch City Council and local populous wanted to rebuild a new sustainable city. This study aimed to assess the level of sustainable development and planning embedded into the rebuild, nine years on from the earthquakes. This study explored the successes and failures of the rebuild regarding sustainability. There was a large focus on whether sustainable development was difficult to achieve in the regeneration of the city and what the barriers and solutions were for the uptake of sustainable development. Lastly, the study looked to determine whether sustainable development was a feasible option in Christchurch. The researchers triangulated between international literature, a policy review and 15 key informant interviews of local practitioners and academics. Through these qualitative research methods, the study found that there are local barriers that are restricting the uptake of sustainable development. Many of these barriers are outside of the city council’s control; such as property market economics, high-level regulatory frameworks, cost, risk, culture and education. These barriers are interconnected, and together, form overwhelming obstacles. It was found that sustainable development is currently not a feasible option in Christchurch. Furthermore, key informants expressed disappointment with the limited uptake of sustainable development. However, given the barriers Christchurch has faced, the city has done reasonably well at implementing sustainable practices. Such successes were the increase of renewable energy generation, improved transportation networks, stormwater management and sustainable policy. The study further explored the reasons for disappointment in the rebuild, and found that people held many different understandings of the term ‘sustainability’. As a results, people form different standards of sustainability, and this is largely caused by the ambiguity of the term. So how can you expect cities to transition into thriving eco-cities if sustainability means something different to each developer and designer? It is not predicted that the Council has the finances to implement economic incentives as a way of increasing sustainable development. The best way to overcome the local barriers and increase the sustainability of the city is to improve education on sustainable development and implement sustainability indicators. All while attracting people back into the city to enhance the ‘compact city model’ further and improve the economic regeneration of the inner-city. This study found that the local policy is not necessarily restricting sustainable development but it should be updated in the next review to support sustainable development more than it does now.
Advisor: Nel, Etienne
Degree Name: Master of Planning
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: New Zealand; Christchurch; sustainable; regeneration; urban; planning; earthquake; ambiguity
Research Type: Thesis