Residential Plan Draws Upon Opus' Findings

What will it take for the central city of Christchurch to be a successful place to live?

Developing a vibrant central city is a critical but challenging component of Christchurch’s vision for recovery from the 2010/2011 earthquakes. To help the city, the natural hazards team at Opus Research has been developing a robust, timely and local evidence base to guide rebuild and recovery decisions. Findings from Opus' Central City Living Study continue to inform Christchurch City Council, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority’s (CERA), health, transport, and housing authorities, as well as private sector developers and consultants, and inform public discussion in the media.

One debate has been whether people would want an urban lifestyle not traditionally offered in Christchurch. Such uncertainty poses a major risk to the recovery with developers unwilling to invest without evidence of demand, and authorities needing to know which projects would best support a vibrant central city (such as public space and amenities). We asked potential residents what it would take for them have a good quality of life if they were to move to the central city at different stages in the rebuild.  Developed by Opus' urban and behavioural psychology experts, the study used sophisticated multimedia Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) methods to generate responses to simulated neighbourhood amenity and housing options. Rather than simply capturing unrealistic ‘wishlists’ the method allows the researchers to test real life trade-offs.

A cover from Christchurch City Council's 'A Liveable City' Document

Those individuals willing to move into an incomplete central city can play a vital role in the recovery, not least by providing a local market for the emerging commercial sector. Most findings were in line with researchers’ knowledge about urban environments, but some results proved surprising, such as the one-fifth of respondents with school-aged children who were prepared to move into the central city early in the rebuild. Throughout the project, Opus engaged widely. The study itself provided a forum to discuss and debate how to rebuild the central city and providing opportunities for everyday activities.

CERA’s 2015 residential chapter,  A Liveable City (♦ Link), sets out initiatives to stimulate the residential recovery in the central city through changes to planning regulations and processes. It is positive to see a number of our key findings represented in the chapter. These include recognition that recovery of the commercial and residential sectors can help each other, the need to support an urban lifestyle through managing land use and transport, and the importance of encouraging early residential rebuild projects. We will continue to observe impacts of initiatives introduced to better understand their effectiveness at aiding recovery.

Contact: Vivienne Ivory, Opus Research

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Last updated 20 Jan 2016