October 19, 2023

Portlink Games

Portlink Games

Recently, the Christchurch City Council (CCC) indicated that it was recommending that the Portlink resource consent should be publicly notified.  Is there a win for anyone in the continuing Portlink Games?

If you are unaware of the issues associated with the Portlink Industrial Park in Woolson, we recommend reading Portlink Problems and More Portlink Problems to get a quick background to this article. If you want more detail, read the CCC s95 Notification Recommendation report or the developer’s amended resource consent application.

In September 2023, the CCC indicated to the developer that it was recommending to the consent Hearings Commissioner that the resource consent should be publicly notified due to the “more than minor” effects of the proposed development on visual amenity, ecology, the function of open spaces and combined residential amenity.  The result was that the developer immediately requested a hold on the consent process while it considered a response.  Public notification is something that developers loathe – it is time-consuming and expensive.

Portlink Games

Click to enlarge. This is the Outline Development Plan showing the 30m of landscaping setback on the north and west.

Now the developer has come back with an amended application in which it is offering to:

  • Reduce the south-west bund to a “gentle batter slope”
  • Accept the 11m building height restriction (but is still arguing that containers are not buildings)
  • Reduce the height of containers stored in the Outline Development Plan (ODP) Greenspace to 5.8m – 2-high
  • Move the acoustic fence to the rear of the northern bund and stain it a “recessive colour”
  • Plant only the top and rear of the northern bund, allowing its northern face to become “rank grass” to assist with lizard habitat
  • Enter into discussions about a “noise management plan”

This is how the game of resource management is played by developers – do whatever makes it look as if you have reduced any environmental effects of your project to “less than minor” even if, in the real world, the effect is not minor or will never get to that level.

Height of containers The applicant has appeared to agree to abide by the current 11m building height restriction but further on in the application, it indicates that containers will be stacked 4-high, which is 11.6m. In all probability, the intention is to ignore the 11m limit, trust that the Council will not enforce it and stack containers 4-high, or higher.  In fact, the applicant continues to argue that stored containers should not be buildings for the purpose of the height restriction.

Portlink Games

Click to enlarge. A cross-section of the ODP provided by the developer which we have annotated.

The 5.8m height restriction offered for containers in the ODP Greenspace appears to be a reasonable compromise gesture until you consider that the District Plan has always quite clearly indicated that there should be nothing placed in this landscape area except plants.  The landscape area was deliberately created to provide adequate screening of any industrial activity and enhance the river margin’s ecology. The developer has intentionally intruded into this space by filling it, sealing it with asphalt and fencing it for industrial commercial use contrary to the District Plan. Having had the original resource consent application for a 4-high stack in this ODP area deemed to have visual effects “more than minor”, the developer now has the audacity to offer to only stack containers 2-high when under the District Plan it is very clear that there should be no containers, sealing, fence or commercial activity in this area at all…just plants.

Lizards    A significant population of the endangered Southern grass skink used to inhabit much of the area that the Portlink Industrial Park now covers.  The development has decimated the previously unrecognised skink population and now only residual, fragmented populations remain on the northern grass riverbank where a bund (a raised wall of soil) has been created. This creates an issue: is establishing lizard habitat (rank long grass) to be prioritised over planting dense native vegetation to screen the development and improve the river margin ecology? The bund created by the developer is a barrier to public use of the river esplanade reserve and is not particularly good for growing trees on either. In its amended application, the developer has leant heavily towards the lizards by indicating that it will not plant the north face of the bund leaving this to become “rank grass” for lizard habitat.  If this offer is accepted, this will be a win for the lizards and the developer as it will reduce the cost of planting.  It is an overall loss to the environment, however.  The herpetologists believe it is unlikely that the skink population will recover, no matter the revegetation treatment.

Not improving the ecology of the river margin  Totally missing from the developer’s application is any suggestion of their acceptance of the objectives implicit in the 30m landscape setback from the river which include:

  • Maintaining or enhancing habitat for terrestrial and aquatic animals and plants
  • Encouraging the establishment, retention and maintenance of significant appropriate riparian vegetation
  • Contributing to the open space character and amenity values of the surrounding area.

The amended application reduces the depth of planting to a pathetic 5m or so instead of the 15m or more that was originally envisaged by the ODP in the District Plan.

Further, the developer has also continued to state that the 30m setback should commence from somewhere near the middle of the river instead of the actual bank from where the 20m esplanade reserve is measured.  This is a somewhat complicated issue that we will expand upon in a separate article.


An artist’s impression of the fence. It has not been shown stained a “recessive colour” nor has the inevitable graffiti been shown.

The graffiti fence  The developer has always intended to place a 2.4m high wooden ‘acoustic’ fence on the top of the northern bund to reduce noise from the operation of the container storage.  In the amended application, the intention is to move this fence backward to the rear edge of the top of the bund and to stain the fence a “recessive colour”.  Nowhere in the application does the developer indicate how it will prevent graffiti and graffiti will certainly happen. All residents and visitors to Christchurch passing down Ferry Road will enjoy the delights of an exceptional 936 square metres of the best art that spray cans can produce. The original application presumed that native tree and shrub planting would hide the fence within three to five years.  The amended application removing the planting on the northern face of the bund means that the majority of the planting will be behind the fence leaving it largely exposed to view.  Most shrubs planted in front of the fence will be trodden to death by the artists, deliberately or accidentally, so the chances that these plants will “soften” the visual effect of the fence, let alone screen it within three years as claimed by the developer, is next to nil.

Noise  This is a major concern of local residents for whom the boom, bang and grind of containers being stacked at height is a day-long reminder of the earthquakes. The developer is offering little real noise reduction from what is currently happening although they are prepared to entertain a noise management plan, something that if it were to have any effect on noise levels, would require continuous monitoring and enforcement of its provisions.  Who will do that? The main plank in the noise reduction offering is the continuity of a 4-high wall of containers on the north side of the area. As mentioned above, that cuts across the acceptance of an 11m height limit.

What happens next?  The decision as to whether the CCC will continue to recommend public notification of this resource consent to the Hearings Commissioner is the next step in what has become a long process. Let us hope it does so. That way the community voice is heard when the resource consent is considered during the final round of the Portlink Games.