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Christchurch Three Years On: Biggest project in Housing NZ’s history

Canterbury is challenging Housing New Zealand, with one of the biggest projects in the organisation’s history.

The state agency has embarked upon a $1.2 billion programme to rebuild and redevelop its social housing stock in the region.

Pre-quake, Housing New Zealand owned 6127 properties in Canterbury including community group housing, elderly people’s housing, leased and general tenanted dwellings.  

Its portfolio was spread across Christchurch in most suburbs and in some parts of Waimakariri and North Canterbury.  

When the residential red zones were announced in June 2011 it affected 215 of its properties – 188 in Christchurch and 27 in Kaiapoi. More than two-thirds of its properties were on TC2 or TC3 land, mainly in the eastern suburbs.

MWH New Zealand is the lead project management company to manage repair of 3600 properties, with minor earthquake damage in Canterbury.

Chief executive Glen Sowry says the minor repair programme involves repairing individual properties that have sustained approximately $40,000 earthquake damage.  

About 12 contractors will be engaged and will employ an estimated 1000 tradespeople.  

New buildings will be different from the traditional state housing model. They will be designed to blend in with local communities and will include all the modern features of sustainability, insulation and technology.

Housing New Zealand’s general manager Canterbury redevelopment, Paul Commons, believes the region will be at the forefront of social housing, benefiting from international trends and making an innovative contribution to the future.

“We have to make pragmatic, commercial decisions like any other major player in the reconstruction of Canterbury,” he says.  

“We are aligned with other government departments and agencies involved in the rebuild, and our contractors know and understand what is required, the tight timeframes and the associated challenges. At the end of 2015, we will not only have met our targets, we will be on track for implementing the longer-term redevelopment project.

“Our mission is to provide safe, warm houses for our tenants for as long as they are required. The earthquakes have given us an opportunity to redefine our stock in Canterbury and to bring our properties up to a high standard, refresh them, rebuild them and create a better environment than before,” Mr Commons says.

Housing Minister Nick Smith and Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee recently announced plans for development of 275 affordable houses on an 11ha site at Hornby on the outskirts of Christchurch.

The initiative also seeks private investment.

An invitation to participate has been sent to developers, iwi and community housing groups to respond on how they could provide a mix of housing on the site pending a short list of participants.

A preferred participant is expected to be identified in May, with the new housing available after 2015. 

The first state-private sector mixed tenure Housing NZ development in New Zealand is already under way in Christchurch at 399 Manchester St in the central city.

Auckland building company Legacy is carrying out the $3.3 million development.

The arrangement involves Legacy buying the site from Housing NZ and then building 26 units. Housing NZ will then purchase 11 of the units and the remaining 15 will be offered to private investors.

The venture is scheduled for completion by the end of 2014 and is intended to be the first of several around the country.

Meanwhile, Housing NZ has released a 200-page technical report on types of foundations, engineering decisions and re-levelling solutions. More than 100 representatives from geotechnical and structural engineering companies, re-levelling firms, insurers and members of the construction sector were briefed on the results of the trials that were conducted over 12 months last year.

The report will be used by the Ministry of Business and BRANZ to clarify and improve construction guidelines. Nineteen sites were identified for the trials. The aim was to find solutions for houses on TC2 and TC3 land that had concrete ring and concrete floor foundations. The partners in the trials were Housing New Zealand, Southern Response and Arrow International. The full report is available on the Housing NZ website. 


The recovery and redevelopment strategy involves:

  • building up to 700 new houses by December 2015;
  • repairing up to 5000 quake-damaged houses by December 2015; and
  • a 10-year strategy to redevelop Housing New Zealand’s properties on existing and new sites.


Read: the rest of the Christchurch Three Years On feature stories here