Ways to help make a Christchurch woman's home more "liveable" after five two-storey townhouses started being built close next door will be investigated.

City council head of resource consents John Higgins, his colleague John Gibson, Wigram MP Megan Woods and city councillor Phil Clearwater met with Bolton Ave home owner Kim Mehlhopt yesterday.

It comes after The Star revealed last week JSJ Investments was building the townhouses next door to her home of 15 years - the garage less than 1m away.

Under the District Plan the townhouses are compliant, although Mehlhopt said it will devalue her home, cost her privacy and the street's family appeal.


After a meeting on Wednesday, Woods said the city council would now contact the developer to discuss ways to make Mehlhopt's home more liveable, given the close proximity.

Mehlhopt said it was a productive meeting, and she raised concerns about the district planning rules and the need for consenting to be done in a "more neighbourly way."

"The house is there to stay so they were only talking about mitigation."

Kim Mehlhopt stands in the gap between the garage of the townhouse development, and her home of 15 years. Photo / Martin Hunter
Kim Mehlhopt stands in the gap between the garage of the townhouse development, and her home of 15 years. Photo / Martin Hunter

Mehlhopt previously laid a complaint with WorkSafe about unsafe building practices next door, but WorkSafe said it had no issues with what was witnessed.

JSJ Investments director Nick Johnston said they were considering buying Mehlhopt out.

Mehlhopt said she wanted to wait and see what mitigations could be made first.

Higgins said the situation would also be referred onto the District Plan team, who could consider any changes necessary.

"It is accepted the building is very close to the neighbour."


Mehlhopt's property is zoned residential medium density. It has been that way since the 1990s, but zones in other parts of the city changed in the new District Plan process.

After the earthquakes, the existing District Plans needed to be replaced, which was done through the city council and an independent hearings panel.

In 2014, it was fast tracked by an Order of Council. The order set out the Statement of Expectations.

They asked the new District Plan "reduce significantly" the reliance on the resource consent process, the number, extent, and prescriptiveness of development controls and design standards, and the requirements for notification and written approval.

In the process, the zoning on one side of Somerfield's Studholme St changed to residential suburban density transition, allowing for higher density development.

Multay Developments has got the go ahead to build four, two-storey units at 23 Studholme St, which used to have a three-bedroom bungalow on it.

Residents are fiercely opposed to it because they say it will take away their street's family orientated appeal and privacy.

Originally, Multay Development's application featured three aspects not compliant with the District Plan.

After a hearing earlier this year, it was decided consultation would need to be done with some neighbours as part of the resource consent process because of that.

Higgins said Multay Developments had since amended its plans to fully comply with the District Plan.

Because of that, it no longer required resource consent, so consultation was not needed.

A spokeswoman for Multay Developments director Warren Taylor said he did not want to comment.

Studholme St resident Marty Flanagan said they still wanted to fight the development, but there was only so much they could do.

He said the District Plan gave all the "power" to the developers.

"All of these got snuck through the District Plan change just after the earthquakes and it wasn't really communicated clearly enough."

Cr Clearwater said both situations were "unacceptable."

He said because of the Government's Order in Council, the city council had "virtually no say" in the outcome of the plan and it was "immensely frustrating."

"We wanted to keep notification. We wanted to protect amenity values and keep clear environmental standards. But what we wanted was countered by the Government."

He said the rules disempowered residents, and he wanted the legislation changed so the District Plan could be altered.

"A new Government needs to work with our council so we have a change to that legislation made urgently," he said.

"I think the Government's responsible for what is happening now. I think they need to take responsibility for this. I think it's totally unfair to the people who are affected."

Woods said she would want to look at any changes in the plan that could be made to ensure neighbourhoods remained liveable.

But former Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said Cr Clearwater's comments made him "furious."

"I'm sick to death of when every time things go wrong they're turning around and pointing fingers at the Government," he said.

"The view he's [Cr Clearwater] taken is totally unreasonable and it's a wash the hands attitude."

He said the city council asked for the Order in Council to get the District Plan done, and the current District Plan was not a Government document.

"We provided a process at the request of the city council, a legal process."

He said the city council wanted clear rules around resource consent processes.

"We did not prescribe things that had to be in the District Plan."

Spreydon-Cashmere Community Board chairwoman Karolin Potter said the developments happening in both Studholme St and Bolton Ave were terrible.

"You can't call them houses, they're just future dumps. Huge, blocky, ugly and horrible," she said.

"It's bloody hard when the District Plan allows it to happen."

Potter has asked city council staff to organise a seminar for residents affected by zoning changes, and planners to let people know what the rules were.

"The RMA used to be if in doubt, go to resource consent. But under this Government, it's if in doubt, don't go to resource consent."