Knowing your geo-hazards could mean your property isn’t fated to restricted development consents due to unfavorable zoning

Many home owners missed their opportunity to submit an appeal against the Christchurch City Council (CCC) District Plan and challenge their property's zoning.

It’s so important to understand your property’s geo-hazards resulting from the Canterbury earthquake sequence, and how they are classified in the CCC District Plan “Instability Management Area”. CERA risk profiles have been used to apply ‘potential hazard’ zoning over all properties in the Port Hills area. But had a ‘site specific’ investigation been undertaken, many properties might not have been zoned this way. 

Many of the hazards in your local area can be addressed in a realistic and cost effective way. Engaging with an experienced geotechnical team will help you identify the geo-hazards of your property, provide you with a quantifiable level of risk, and most importantly help you meet legislative requirements for consent approval.

Now is the time to think about your property’s future

Under the Resource Management Act, the CCC has revised their District Plan – which upon approval will be in place for the next 10 years. The revision identifies rockfall management and cliff collapse hazard zones in an effort to reduce residential exposure to natural hazards. As a result, many living in the Port Hill suburbs now find their properties located in instability management areas.

Placing owners at a clear disadvantage, the likely impact imposed is consent restrictions, reduced property value and saleability due to unfavourable hazard zoning. 

Where to from here?

Justifiably, following the Canterbury earthquake sequence there’s a heightened awareness of potential hazards including boulder roll, cliff collapse and mass land movement – so it’s important to understand your own level of risk.

If your property is on a cliff, rockfall or mass movement hazard zone 1 or 2, then certain development activities will be prohibited, or rely on a Chartered Geotechnical Engineers site assessment to progress.

However, sound geotechnical advice will help you to demonstrate that the hazards have been correctly identified and mitigated.  

A geo-hazard assessment will classify your property as high or low risk.

High risk examples

 20150609 Has your Port Hill property been zoned correctly tunnel high risk 2

Low risk examples

20150609 Has your Port Hill property been zoned correctly tunnel low risk 2

You can challenge the status quo

Just because your property has been unfavourably zoned, don’t give up. 

Most geo-hazards in the Port Hills can be addressed. For instance, rockfall hazards can be removed and cliffs stabilised. The more information you have, the more opportunity there is to address potential issues, before they cause bigger problems. And now that the appeal process is closed, undertaking a ‘site-specific’ investigation is the only way to ensure your property is zoned correctly and to safeguard your property’s true value.

Geo-hazard reports detail the level of risk posed to the properties, propose risk reduction strategies and make recommendations regarding re-zoning. These reports and our collaboration with CCC experts can support favourable zoning decisions by the hearings panel.

A closer look at how our expertise can support your submission

Recently we worked with a group of home owners in Lyttelton to provide geotechnical advice and factual evidence to support submissions against the revision of the CCC District Plan.

Following the earthquakes, rockfall had been a major hazard in this area, but not specifically on these home owners’ sites. CERA zoned the properties ‘green’, with no risk of rockfall hazards. They were later surprised to discover the CCC’s draft district plan mapped their properties inside rockfall hazard management areas.

A detailed geological mapping exercise on the hillside above the houses produced a panoramic view of the hazard zone. This reviewed the topography of the local area that heavily influences boulder roll direction and run-out distance. The fieldwork was supported with a hazard characterisation report that included an opinion of risk, and where the boundary of the rockfall hazard management zone should be moved to. This report was submitted to the CCC experts to explain why re-zoning of these properties should be considered.

Prior to the hearings, property owners were notified that the CCC geotechnical expert had agreed with our findings and removed their properties from the rockfall hazard management zone. This reduced consent restrictions for future development works, protecting the value of their land.

How we can help

We’ve worked on several projects in the Port Hills area to help property owners protect the value of their assets. We’ve completed numerous, site specific geo-hazard reports that have been submitted to the CCC involving the review of several properties in the suburbs of Lyttelton and Hillsborough that were zoned as rockfall hazard management areas.

Our process includes researching existing information on site and carrying out a detailed site walkover. Our people understand the local ground conditions and can detail potential mitigation strategies that are realistic and cost-effective.

We help our clients understand their properties’ level of risk. And if an identified hazard also affects your neighbours, we’ll work closely with all parties to deliver the right and most cost effective solution appropriate to the situation.

 If you missed the deadline to submit an appeal related to your property’s zoning, you can still protect its value.

Investigating your options is pretty easy, and we’d like to help. 

Click here for more about our geotechnical services and our people that can help.

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