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New life . . . Planting under way in the Honda Forest in the Red Zone. Photo: Supplied

By Robyn Bristow

The Waimakariri District Council’s innovative approach to earthquake recovery planning has been declared world-leading, with the project taking top honours in an international planning award.

The council’s Draft Waimakariri Residential Red Zone Recovery Plan was recently named overall winner in the 2019 Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP) Awards for Outstanding Planning Achievement in the Commonwealth.

New attraction . . . Locals using the new community BMX track in the Red Zone. Photo: Supplied

The council’s winning project focused on regenerating the district’s worst affected areas in Kaiapoi and The Pines and Kairaki Beach communities following the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, which resulted in nearly 100 hectares of residential land being zoned red and more than 1000 homes demolished.

Extensive community consultation was core to the plan’s development, resulting in strong public interest and participation. People of all generations, cultures and lifestyles voiced their support, while also putting forward new ideas and alternative land use options.

Judges were impressed by the urgency of the response, and praised the council for its “timely recovery and resilience plan that responds to complex land use and technical requirements, the needs of multiple stakeholders, and an exhausted and polarized public in a relatively short time frame”.

They also noted it could be used as an example for other Commonwealth countries dealing with disaster recovery.

It is the second consecutive year New Zealand planners have won at the awards, which acknowledge the crucial role the industry holds in developing sustainable and resilient communities.

The awards attracted entries from throughout the Commonwealth, including Ghana, Canada, Australia, Sierra Leone, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, St Lucia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. Three of the final 10 shortlisted projects were by New Zealand planners.

David Curtis, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Planning Institute (NZPI), says the accolade confirms New Zealand planners are among the best in the world.

“Our planners continue to set the bar – not just nationally, but also on the world stage,” says David.

“The planning profession in New Zealand is held up as best practice, and we are proud to see it continue to receive international recognition.”

Waimakariri Council’s head of strategy and engagement, Simon Markham, says the award reflects not only the technical planning work that took place following the earthquakes, but the efforts made by planners to genuinely collaborate with the community in determining the future pattern of land uses in an area devastated by disaster.

“We are thrilled to be recognised by CAP and that they have acknowledged both the planning that took place but importantly the ongoing regeneration of Waimakariri’s worst affected communities led by the council over recent years.”