Amberley – Christchurch commuter town!

Posted on September 13, 2011 by

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A long-planned housing development in Amberley is about to get underway, which could eventually double the population of the North Canterbury town (presently about 1400 residents).

The new development, dubbed the “Rolleston of North Canterbury” will create 500 to 600 sections, and include a $30 million shopping centre. Like many other residential developments around greater Christchurch, the earthquake has “accelerated” plans. Construction of the first stage is expected to begin in January, with four further stages to come. When complete, it would form a town of similar size to Lincoln or Prebbleton, although both those centres have probably grown considerably since the last census (when they roughly had populations of about 3000 each).

This is a strange development because it is actually outside the greater Christchurch strategy (Amberley is Hurunui District Council territory) yet is clearly aiming to emulate the concept of places like Rolleston and Pegasus of being a Christchurch commuter town. In a way, it is kind of cheeky! However, there is probably little that can be done about it and the need for earthquake housing is only going to hasten its existence (of course, I wonder whether there is actually even any shortage given the boatloads of developments that are about to break ground).

I used to live out  Leithfield Beach way, which isn’t even quite as far as Amberley, and had a heck of a commute everyday. It would be a long commute by Christchurch standards and the congestion once you start to approach the city would really add time. With increased populations out that way (developments already underway or about to get underway in Kaiapoi, Rangiora, Pegasus and Woodend) it will only get much worse, sooner rather than later too, so it will be interesting to see the response. I imagine that response will probably be something along the lines of ‘extend the motorway further north’, which already seems to be on the cards  but hopefully some balance will come through. A while ago Redbus trialled an Amberley to Christchurch bus service, which ultimately failed to attract enough patronage. However, with a doubling of the population, and a likely significant increase in the percentage of residents commuting to Christchurch such a service could be back on the cards, perhaps as an extension of Northern Star services. Should rail ever get back to Rangiora, there could even be extensions to Amberley at certain times or a connecting bus shuttle. In a way, the growth of Amberley probably furthers the case for the reintroduction of commuter rail. That north-south strategic growth corridor just keeps growing! 

Unfortunately, the retail development looks like another sea of carparks (channelling Tower Junction perhaps?). Shame, because such a development could have been done in a way that encouraged a village like community as it is really not very big: more walking, more cycling, but I guess it is easy and cheap to rip a concept straight off the (car) shelf.

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