Our Strategic Direction | Te Aronga Rautaki

We can only be successful in achieving progress if we work closely with mana whenua, central and other local government agencies, businesses, industry sectors and community and volunteer groups to manage natural resources.

Our vision and purpose

Taking action together to shape a thriving and resilient Canterbury, now and for future generations.

Toitū te marae o Tāne, toitū te marae o Tangaroa, toitū te iwi.

Our transformational opportunities
  • Accelerate regeneration of the natural environment.
  • Facilitated diversification of land use.
  • Build community engagement and action.
  • Champion sage, multi-modal transport choices.
  • Lead climate change resilience.
Our enduring priorities
  • Decisive action for healthy fresh water, land and coastal ecosystems.
  • Fostering relationships to underpin regional leadership for our communities.
  • Sustainable and healthy living and working environments.
  • Helping communities be well prepared for changes in the natural environment.
Our values
We adhere to a strong set of values that underpin the way we work towards our desired outcomes. They are:
  • People first | Manaakitanga – people, customers and staff come first
  • Collaboration | Whanaungatanga – together works best
  • Stewardship | Kaitiakitanga – good decisions today for tomorrow
  • Integrity | Pononga – trust in us and our information
  • Can do | Māiatanga – be brave and make it happen.
Our operating principles
We will make good decisions by
  • Listening to the people to serve communities
  • Displaying confident and caring democratic leadership
  • Working collaboratively with partners
  • Being guided by our values
  • Taking into account cultural, social, economic and environmental wellbeing
  • Being evidence-based and future-focused
  • Enabling innovation
  • Ensuring change is both managed and manageable.
We will efficiently deliver through our portfolios of work

We have six broad portfolios. In each of these, there are programmes of work, and within those there are projects.

Regional Leadership

Maintaining effective relationships; providing evidence-based policy; supporting well-informed decision makers and community; and providing a robust, adaptive, and cost-effective regulatory process that underpins the sustainable management of Canterbury’s natural resources.

There are six strategic programmes in this portfolio:

Our Regional Leadership activity acts as an ‘enabler’ for all our other work. It supports Environment Canterbury to take a leadership role, while recognising that we are not alone in the delivery of action necessary to achieve our community outcomes.

How are we doing?

Giving access to environmental reporting - As well as being of interest to many people, our state of the environment monitoring data enables us to evaluate the effectiveness of our regional strategies and resource management plans, and to track the progress of our region’s sustainable development.

We are providing reporting on environmental incident responses to deal with environmental risks before they turn into incidents and cause damage.

Monitoring of consents - During 2017/8 over 7,000 inspections were carried out, for 5,754 consents across the region. The majority of inspections were for water consents, reflecting our priorities and those of the community.

Governance and Engagement

Through this programme, we support the day-to-day running of the Council, providing support to our Councillors, ensuring meetings are held and that we comply with relevant legislation such as the Local Electoral Act(external link) and the Local Government Act(external link) (LGA).

We provide a wide range of information about the work of the Council to our community through a number of channels, including this website. We have a Significance and Engagement Policy that outlines our approach to engagement with the community on specific issues.

We have a small team working in schools and with youth, and we support the region’s Enviroschools(external link) work.

Strategy and Direction

We provide strategic leadership for the organisation, including the management of our programmes and monitoring and reporting on progress.

We maintain strong relationships with central government through information sharing, Ministers’ visits, participating in inter-agency forums and making formal submissions on proposed legislation. This requires understanding of the strategic direction that central government is taking and ensuring our strategies can deliver on that as well as Canterbury’s aspirations.

There are many pieces of legislation, agreements, guidelines, MOUs, partnerships and diverse views that must be taken into account to produce an agreed and achievable strategy for Environment Canterbury. Our Long-Term Plan sets outs out our current strategic priorities.

Ngāi Tahu and Regional Relationships

A fundamental part of our work is about maintaining strong relationships with the 10 Papatipu Rūnanga and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu (known as our Tuia relationship: working together ‘standing shoulder to shoulder’). Through our Tuia work programme and the strength of this relationship, values of importance to Ngāi Tahu are better recognised in our work.

It is also essential that we have strong relationships with many other agencies: the 10 territorial authorities in the region (Christchurch City Council and the nine District Councils); District Health Boards; government agencies such as Department of Conservation and LINZ; key industry groups; non-government organisations and many community groups throughout the region.

Environment Canterbury provides secretariat and executive support to the Canterbury Mayoral Forum(external link), the Chief Executives Forum, and the Policy, Corporate and Operations Forums.

The Mayoral Forum is the primary mechanism for local government communication, co-ordination and collaboration in Canterbury. It is mandated by the Canterbury Local Authorities’ Triennial Agreement 2019–22(external link).

The Mayoral Forum initiated and continues to provide governance oversight of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy. The Forum also leads regional development and advocacy with central government for Canterbury and its communities.

Long-Term Community Planning

Local authorities work to a rolling 10-year planning cycle (the Long-Term Plan), consulted on and adopted every three years. Within the Long-Term Plan cycle, we develop and consult with the community on Annual Plans that set the budget (and rates) for the coming financial year.

Each year we publish an audited Annual Report which details our income and expenditure and also reports back against the measures and targets outlined in the Long-Term Plan/Annual Plan for the year.

Plans, Consenting and Compliance

This programme of work includes the Regional Policy Statement and its implementation. We work with the territorial authorities on their district plans, for example, combining our expertise with theirs to ensure data and knowledge that we hold is used to best effect.

Regional planning for Land, Water, Air and the Coastal Environment is delivered through our other portfolios, with this programme covering the processing of consents needed for activities under those plans.

Our approach to compliance with the regional rules is awareness, education, support and then enforcement. This requires information and advice to be available in many forms and to reach across industry and individuals, as well as those who can assist the people who need to comply with the rules.

There are over 24,000 resource consents on our database. It is not possible to monitor all of these every year so consents are prioritised for monitoring, and extensive desk-top monitoring also takes place as well as the compulsory provision of data from the consent holder e.g. telemetric water take data.

During a typical year, we may monitor over 5,500 consents for compliance. Our approach is to focus on high-risk consents or consent holders with a poor compliance record. We note compliance on a scale of A–D, where A and B are compliant, and C and D are not. Our response for consent holders with an A or B grade is to work with them to maintain compliance.

For consent holders with a C or D grade, our immediate response is to stop any environmental damage, and then provide advice and assistance to improve compliance. In serious cases, enforcement action, including prosecution, may be warranted.

The planning framework for land and water management across the region is resulting in more complex and large-scale applications for consents (due to the increasing number of rules and limits) and we must continually evolve our pre-application advice processes as a result.

This programme accounts for over 60% of the Regional Leadership portfolio expenditure, with around half of that being the provision of user pays services.

Our Information and Advice

Data and information are central to good policy and decision making. This programme’s focus is on how we use science, data, mātauranga Māori, and citizen science to support the work we do.

From data and information comes a wide range of knowledge to inform our communities about where to swim, the health of our rivers, lakes and streams, the air we breathe, our land and biodiversity, and our coastal environment.
Our water and air quality data are sent through to www.lawa.org.nz(external link) (Land, Air, Water Aotearoa) where it can be viewed alongside all other New Zealand regions’ data.

In addition to the data reporting through LAWA, we make our environmental monitoring data and information readily accessible to the public, including quick access to the frequently requested monitoring data rainfallriver flowsair quality, and coastal wave data through this website.

Our data and information informs communities and decision makers deliberating on regional plans, policies or consents applications and assists central government to set appropriate environmental standards. We are committed to providing open source data that can be used by all to inform decision making and enable innovation.

How is this portfolio funded?

To find out how this portfolio is funded, view the rates tool(external link).

Freshwater Management

Implementing innovative solutions to manage our freshwater resource to support community use (mahinga kai, drinking water and recreation), achieve ecosystem health and sustainable economic development

There are six strategic programmes of work in this portfolio:

Freshwater management is the highest of Environment Canterbury’s strategic priorities. It is also probably the most contentious and complicated issue the region faces.

The work is guided by the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS), a joint strategy developed by the Mayoral Forum(external link). The CWMS provides a collaborative framework for addressing water management issues, empowering and enabling present and future generations to gain the greatest environmentally sustainable social, economic, recreational and cultural benefits from Canterbury’s water resources.

How are we doing?

We report the progress of Canterbury’s 3,800 farms as they work towards meeting nitrogen loss limits, and ensure they are operating at good management practice through the Farm Environment Plan Audit Programme.

Mahinga kai values are protected, by improving awareness and practices on farm.

Environment Canterbury works with the community to improve and protect water quality to help ensure we have clean and plentiful fresh water now and for generations to come.

CWMS (Canterbury Water Management Strategy) Facilitation

The CWMS sets targets for Canterbury water management out to 2040. The ten local zone committees – joint committees of Environment Canterbury and the local authority that covers each zone – are established under the Local Government Act(external link).

Their focus is the development and implementation of water management programmes to achieve these targets for their respective water catchment areas. Environment Canterbury facilitates these joint committees and the Canterbury Water Regional Committee.

The ten zone committees (largely based on river catchments) are tasked with developing Zone Implementation Programmes which make recommendations for implementing the CWMS targets in each zone. The zone committees have representatives appointed from across the community.

Each committee presents an annual report to the Council.

The Regional Committee focuses on regional issues of biodiversity protection and enhancement, water storage, distribution and efficiency, and recreation and amenity use.

Environmental Monitoring and Progress Reporting

When we are dealing with issues that in many cases have taken decades to cause, and that we know will take as long to fix, it is easy to look at the short term and think very little is changing. Environmental monitoring and progress reporting is key to knowing if the small incremental changes are adding up to a better environmental outcome.

We gather data and report on water quality, water quantity, ecosystem health and water use, amongst other things. We have ground water and surface water scientists as well as in-field officers who gather data and report against national standards. Our data is also fed through to www.lawa.org.nz(external link) where trend data and national data is also housed.

Water levels and river flows are monitored at 150+ river and lake sites in Canterbury, from the Clarence River/Waiau Toa in the north to the Waitaki River in the south. Water quality is measured at 140 State of the Environment sites and data is also collected from many other sites for short-term investigations.

Over summer we also monitored 90+ recreational sites (from November to the beginning of March) to provide information for swimming and other water activities. This data can be viewed on www.lawa.org.nz(external link).

Macroinvertebrates and habitat data is collected from approximately 160 sites throughout Canterbury to provide indicators for ecosystem health.

Resource Management Act Water Framework 

The Land and Water Regional Plan (LWRP)

The LWRP establishes the policies and rules for the region's necessary step-change in water management: environmental restoration via biodiversity programmes, more reliable water through infrastructure (such as water storage and irrigation schemes), and improved land and water management within collaboratively developed limits.

The LWRP provides clear direction on the rules for how land and water are to be managed in both urban and rural areas. Since it was notified in 2012 there have been a number of plan changes in response to changing needs.

Catchment-specific chapters

A number of ‘sub-regional’ catchment-specific changes to the LWRP have been progressed to address the specific needs of different districts. These are developed using recommendations from the local water zone committee, allowing for local views to be heard and a local agreement reached.

These sub-regional changes are known as Plan Changes (or PCs), for example, PC3 is the South Coastal Canterbury sub-regional catchment plan.

More information on the local plan changes can be found on the Canterbury Land Water Regional Plan page. There are future plan changes scheduled, as approved by Council on 13 December 2018 (item 8.2 of the agenda).

Zone and Regional Delivery

The work in each of the ten water zones is supported by a zone team to deliver actions on-the-ground. These zone teams have a mix of skills and backgrounds to work across the range of water management challenges in the zone. They are instrumental in facilitating the on-the-ground changes in water and land management which protect and improve water quality and ecosystem health.

With a considerable proportion of the planning framework in place, we are now seeing a growing demand for advice on how to meet the new regulations. For example, officers work with the rural community to get to grips with these new regulations with a specific focus on farming at Good Management Practice and our ‘consent to farm’ work.

On the ground work includes the development of a range of waterway enhancement projects which include biodiversity protection and enhancement, cultural land management advice, working with water users’ groups, post-quake initiatives in North Canterbury and stream care groups in the urban centres.

Zone teams also maintain local relationships with the community, industry organisations and the local territorial authorities. The teams have biodiversity and biosecurity officers, consent monitoring officers, and land management advisors, for example, to work on the ground with local knowledge critical for their particular catchment.  

Regional Water Infrastructure Support

The Regional Committee oversees the work programme for a regionally integrated network of storage and distribution infrastructure to ensure that Canterbury’s water infrastructure is aligned to all CWMS target areas.

The on-going work programme includes a general focus on maintaining or increasing reliability of water supply to enable efficient water use and a high standard of nutrient management; advancing infrastructure integration for takes and associated storage from alpine rivers; and accelerating uptake of approaches that increase on-farm and distribution efficiency.

The work programme also includes implementation of augmentation concepts (Managed Aquifer Recharge, Targeted Stream Augmentation and Near River Recharge) and exploration of the potential for replacing groundwater supply with stored alpine river supply in the OTOP Zone.

Te Waihora Restoration

Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is co-governed by Environment Canterbury, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Selwyn District Council, Christchurch City Council and the Department of Conservation. More information can be found on tewaihora.org(external link).

A significant project is Whakaora Te Ahuriri, which will develop a constructed wetland at the currently drained and degraded Ahuriri Lagoon. Ahuriri is a site of great significance for Ngāi Tahu and has a long history as a mahinga kai resource for Ngāi Tahu whānau.

The wetland will improve water quality and biodiversity and mahinga kai values. Ahuriri has a mātauranga Māori monitoring programme to gauge the changing value of the site for iwi, and an applied research component to measure improvements in water quality. As a demonstration site, it will show what can be achieved with constructed wetlands for nutrient ‘stripping’, meaning intensive monitoring and demonstrating results to landowners in the catchment.

How is this portfolio funded?

To find out how this portfolio is funded, view the rates tool(external link).

Visit our water hub for more information about the state of our water.

Visit Land, Air, Water Aotearoa(external link) (LAWA) 

Biodiversity and Biosecurity

Creating a step-change in effort in the regeneration of freshwater, marine and terrestrial biodiversity

There are four strategic programmes of work in this portfolio:

More information is contained in the Canterbury Biodiversity Strategy, under the work in our ten water zones, and under pest management.

Canterbury’s landscapes and waterways are home to some of New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna. Some of these indigenous species thrive here – and some are under threat and need to be protected.

There are a large number of agencies and individuals that work to protect our indigenous biodiversity, such as territorial authorities, the Department of Conservation, Forest & Bird, and local trusts, landowners and volunteer groups. Environment Canterbury works alongside them to help enable this to happen. We also have responsibilities as a landowner ourselves.

It is not part of our remit to protect the species themselves, our role is to protect the habitats and ecosystems to enable these species to thrive.

Indigenous biodiversity explained

Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is essentially the variety/diversity of all living organisms – aquatic animals, plants, birds, fungi and so on. When we talk about indigenous biodiversity we are referring specifically to those organisms that are native to New Zealand, and the ecosystems (water or land) that they live in.

Our work is in the protection or kaitiakitanga/stewardship of what is uniquely ‘kiwi’ in nature through the management of the habitats and ecosystems.

Integral to our stated priority to bring about a step-change in effort to halt the decline and restore the natural character of degraded indigenous habitats and ecosystems, is our biosecurity work ie reducing the harm from introduced plants, animals and diseases.

How are we doing?

Biodiversity is improving through biodiversity projects which protect and restore indigenous biodiversity.

We assist landowners to maintain or lower rabbit levels and reduce spread.

Our pest management programme targets threats like wilding pines and Nassella tussock to minimise advert effects on our environment and production values.

Regional Biodiversity

Our work in this space focuses on identifying, protecting, and restoring biodiversity through a variety of on-the-ground activities such as fencing fresh water habitats, planting native plants along riparian margins, predator control, and investment in weed control in areas of high biodiversity value.

Each of the ten Canterbury Water Management Strategy water zone committees across the region, have agreed to a five-year work programme that includes the identification of zone priorities for biodiversity investment.

To see a ‘step-change’ though requires a new approach to how we collaborate with all the other agencies who look after Canterbury’s biodiversity.

For example, improvements in our unique braided river habitats and native biodiversity require regionwide collaboration through mapping and localised activities such as weed and predator control, trials of ‘safe breeding islands’, fencing of spring fed streams and wetlands, monitoring programmes, developing new management techniques, interpretive signs, workshops, and community initiatives.

Part of our work is to invest in capability building and coordinating a network of environmental groups.

These groups are important partners in the region’s biodiversity and biosecurity.
Landowner commitment and action is another essential component of success in our biodiversity programme.

Many landowners already undertake essential habitat restoration and rehabilitation work on their land and we will continue to support that work.

Braided Rivers and Wetlands

These are two separate programmes introduced in the 2018-28 Long-Term Plan. Braided rivers and wetlands are among Canterbury’s most valuable and most threatened natural environments. New programmes have been set up to separate these so that resources can be applied to defining, mapping and protection of both.


Our biosecurity work goes hand-in-hand with biodiversity outcomes and is guided by the Canterbury Regional Pest Management Plan which commenced in July 2018. The emphasis in the new plan is on maintaining efforts to prevent existing pests from proliferating, while also increasing the focus on stopping new pests entering the region and becoming established.

This direction places more responsibility on individual landowners to manage pests on their properties themselves, with Environment Canterbury’s efforts focusing more on preventing pest spread to neighbouring properties.

Examples of pests in the region include wallabies, rabbits, giant willow herb (Epilobium hirsutum), wilding pines, and lake snow (Lindavia).

How is this portfolio funded?

To find out how this portfolio is funded, view the rates tool(external link).

More information on biodiversity and biosecurity can be found on our pest management page.

Find out more about our unique ecosystem.

Climate Change, Hazards, Risk and Resilience

Ensuring our communities have an improved understanding of, and resilience to, natural hazard risk including climate change

There are seven strategic programmes in this portfolio:

While it is not possible to keep everyone safe from all hazards, it is possible to mitigate the risks through being well-informed, well-prepared and resilient. Being prepared will help minimise losses and recovery times so that communities are safer, our environment is protected and our economy can continue to operate, protecting jobs and livelihoods. This portfolio covers a number of areas of activity relating to hazards, risk and resilience.

Climate Change Integration

This programme brings together the work being done by Environment Canterbury with regards to adaptation to climate change and makes it more visible. We work with many external agencies, providing information/data and using their data and knowledge, to inform our current and future programmes.

Coastal Environment and Hazards

While tsunamis might be the extreme coastal hazard, there are other, slower-acting hazards that impact our region, such as sea level rises due to climate change and coastal erosion from storms and weather events.

We work with agencies such as NIWA to collect information on Canterbury’s waves and sea levels, and monitoring shoreline changes through our long-term state of the coastal environment monitoring programme (which now has over 40 years of historical information on many parts of the Canterbury coast).

The economic benefits of Canterbury’s two commercial ports, as well as from regional tourism, may be impacted by coastal hazards, not to mention the potential impact on coastal homes and lifestyle.

A key part of our role is to provide information to territorial authorities for decision-making around commercial and residential development of coastal areas.

Contaminated Land, Hazardous Substances and Waste

We provide consents advice and compliance support for hazardous waste issues such as asbestos, tyre dumping, or chemical disposal. We also cover the identification of potentially contaminated land, for example where a previous land use may have involved chemicals that may still be present in the land.

Ongoing work includes the rural waste minimisation project and the waste data reporting, investigations and monitoring of potentially hazardous waste.

Environment Canterbury works closely with the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) and regional council counterparts on the development of National Environmental Standards, for example, for end-of-life tyres.

Other examples of work in this area are working with the industry to develop options for the disposal of coal tar in roading waste, and to promote best practice for managing asbestos in soil to align with national guidance and Worksafe protocols.

Emergency Management

Environment Canterbury is home to the region’s Civil Defence Emergency Management(external link) (CDEM) Group that provides the ongoing training of response teams across all functions (welfare, communications, logistics, for example), as well as taking control in the event of a regional emergency.

The Canterbury CDEM Group operates out of the shared Justice and Emergency Services building in Christchurch (the Justice Precinct). Within the precinct, the team operates the multi-agency and multi-response level Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) and Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC).

The Group works with the ‘Canterbury 10’ EOC Support Team, consisting of staff from all the Canterbury Councils who can deploy at short notice to other Canterbury Councils’ EOCs when needed to help during an emergency.

The CDEM Group Office contributed to the South Island Alpine Fault Response Framework. This provides the framework the Ministry of CDEM and all South Island CDEM Groups will use to manage the first seven days of a response to an Alpine Fault earthquake.

Flood Protection and Control Works

Flood protection is a large part of the work programme of Environment Canterbury.

Millions of dollars are spent annually on maintenance of assets across the region to deliver flood protection and control works, including protection and maintenance of the existing $609 million (2017) in flood protection assets, primarily a network of stopbanks.

This infrastructure protects billions of dollars of assets and human lives from the risk of flooding.

An example is the $40 million Waimakariri Flood Protection work, protecting an estimated $8 billion in assets. Another example is the $1.3 million ‘Breakbank’ project near Rangiora.

Our flood advisory service provides warnings to key agencies when agreed trigger levels are exceeded. Police, Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM), the media, KiwiRail, the New Zealand Transport Agency, adjacent landowners and territorial authorities all receive flood warnings in accordance with established flood protocols.

Natural Hazards

Cantabrians are well aware of the potential for natural hazards in our region. The large 2010/11 and 2016 earthquakes, extreme weather events and rural fires are some of our recent experiences.

So that decision makers and communities have the best available information to manage natural hazard risk, we collect data on natural hazard events and the drivers of, and processes contributing to, natural hazards.

For example, investigations and risk assessments of flood, geologic and coastal hazards and provision of up-to-date information to decision makers and other regional stakeholders.

Much of our work is with the territorial authorities, such as the development of up-to-date tsunami evacuation zones for Christchurch and Banks Peninsula using the latest tsunami research, with Christchurch City Council.

Navigation and Recreational Boating Safety

Environment Canterbury is responsible for the operation of the Harbourmaster’s Office. The region has two large commercial ports (Whakaraupō/Lyttelton and Timaru) and several harbours including Akaroa and Kaikōura where vessel activity is managed by the Harbourmaster.

Recreational boating comes under the Harbourmaster’s jurisdiction as does the response to pollution events such as oil spills. Moorings are also managed by the Harbourmaster’s Office. Work in this programme includes proactive awareness and education around boating safety.

The Harbourmaster is able to monitor and communicate reliably with commercial vessels through a dedicated network of land-based vessel monitoring (using marine Automated Identification System, a type of transponder carried by commercial vessels, and increasingly recreational ones too) and communications (marine VHF radio) stations along our coastline.

How is this portfolio funded?

To find out how this portfolio is funded, view the rates tool(external link).

Transport and Urban Development

Enabling a resilient, multi-modal transport system for the efficient movement of people and freight into, out of, and within the Canterbury region.

There are three strategic programmes in this portfolio:

Public Transport

Public transport services form a core part of our regional transport network, and Environment Canterbury is responsible for the planning and administration of public transport services. It is the largest single part of our annual budget, and covers buses, ferries and the Total Mobility schemes for people who are unable to access regular bus services. We maintain consistently high satisfaction from those who take public transport in the region, but our challenge is to get more people to use the services.

The Regional Public Transport Plan(external link) (RPTP),agreed with community input in 2018, has a vision for the future state of public transport in the region, particularly in Greater Christchurch where the Greater Christchurch Public Transport Committee, with representatives from multiple agencies, oversees the public transport service.

The operation of public transport as a whole sits in the hands of a number of agencies: NZTA is a significant funder of public transport, and is also responsible for the state highways which some bus services run on; territorial authorities look after the infrastructure e.g. bus stops and shelters; the bus services themselves are operated by bus companies who are contracted by Environment Canterbury; and Environment Canterbury plan and timetable the routes, run the Metroinfo(external link) call centre and the ticketing system.

Our Total Mobility scheme provides for subsidised door-to-door transport services with approved operators for people with mobility impairments.
Our region’s smaller communities are also a focus for us as their transport needs evolve and grow. We provide for 14 Community Vehicle Trusts across Canterbury.

Each area’s needs are different. For example, in Timaru where distances are relatively short, roading is good and parking isn’t expensive, the public transport offering will be different to Christchurch.

Part of Environment Canterbury’s role is to trial new technology and to look at what is working elsewhere in the world to see what might offer a cost-effective, efficient and enjoyable public transport service that will encourage new passengers. Trialling new innovations is a key tactic in shaping the future of a sustainable, fit-for-purpose public transport system, as articulated in the Regional Public Transport Plan.

Regional Land Transport

Many factors impact the performance of our regional transport system. Factors such as growth and distribution of the population, the median age of the population, freight growth, accessibility and cost of different modes of transport, technology, and the use of private on-demand services such as Uber.

The rate of change that we are seeing is challenging and calls for integrated and adaptive strategies.

In Canterbury, the Regional Transport Committee (a sub-committee of Environment Canterbury) is responsible for overseeing the prioritisation and co-ordination of transport investment in the region. Environment Canterbury convenes and chairs this committee.

In 2018, the Regional Transport Committee completed a review of the Regional Land Transport Plan(external link), as required by statute.

This Plan outlines the priorities for Canterbury’s transport network and the transport investment that will take place around the region to give effect to these priorities. A new plan for 2021-31 will be produced in accordance with the Land Transport Management Act 2003.

Total public expenditure for Canterbury land transport projects is forecast (as at February 2018) to be around $4.7 billion over the ten years from 2015/16 to 2024/25.

The objectives in the Plan focus on safety, access (maintaining and enhancing accessibility and providing transport options, in particular, greater use of active and public transport) and reducing the impacts of transport on the environment. Quarterly outcomes reporting can be found on our website.

The Regional Transport programme also supports the implementation of the transport workstream of the Mayoral Forum’s Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy(external link).

This work is focused on enabling integrated transport planning and investment including a freight mode-shift from road to rail and shipping; network resilience; and improving visitor journeys in the region. This work is funded by NZTA grants and rates.

Work on the desired freight mode-shift is being led in partnership with the South Island Regional Transport Committee Chairs Group (for which we are the secretariat) in recognition of the fact that our transport plan cannot exist in isolation of the rest of the South Island.

Freight mode-shift provides an opportunity to improve road safety and reduce congestion and the negative environmental impacts of road freight, particularly greenhouse gas emissions, across the South Island.

It will also support the projected freight growth of 12–16 billion tonne-kilometres over 30 years and improve resilience (the risks of depending on road transport were highlighted by the North Canterbury earthquake in 2016).

Our work in this programme also focuses on transport resilience, ie working to identify gaps in the resilience of our transport network and address those gaps to help make sure communities can still access the goods and services they need following a disruption to the transport network, including being able to travel to access opportunities.

Other work includes supporting the region-wide project to improve road safety, and ongoing advocacy on central government policy to make sure national direction takes account of Canterbury’s transport-related needs, particularly around the National Policy Statement on Land Transport.

Urban Development

Greater Christchurch is the largest urban area in the region, comprising Christchurch City and the surrounding towns in Selwyn and Waimakariri Districts. Around half a million people, or 80% of the region’s population, live in Greater Christchurch.

The Greater Christchurch Partnership(external link) comprises councils, government agencies and iwi who have been collaborating since 2003 to plan for and manage urban growth and development in Greater Christchurch. The partnership is governed by the Greater Christchurch Partnership Committee, a joint committee established under the Local Government Act 2002.

Environment Canterbury, through the partnership, contributes to the implementation of the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy (UDS). The UDS sets out the vision and goals for Greater Christchurch, and details the key actions required to deliver this future.

The partnership recently commenced a review of the strategic land use planning framework for Greater Christchurch to ensure there is sufficient development capacity to meet the housing and business needs of the growing and changing population. This review gives effect to the National Policy Statement on Urban Development Capacity 2016.

This work supports integrated land use and transport planning, and helps create connected, safe, accessible and liveable urban areas in the region.

Environment Canterbury also works closely with partners in the preparation of regeneration plans and strategies, including those prepared under the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act 2016.

How is this portfolio funded?

To find out how this portfolio is funded, view the rates tool.

Read all transport-related news.

Air Quality

Ensuring the air we breathe supports health and wellbeing. 

There are three strategic programmes of work in this portfolio:

How are we doing?

The air quality in the region continues to improve thanks to the work of individuals and industry to reduce emissions. 

The returns on the community’s investment and collective effort can be seen in fewer high pollution days, lower cost of home heating, and greater efficiency in heating. 

In some places, there is still work to do to bring emissions down to the National Environmental Standards for Air Quality (NES-AQ) targets

Continuing a steady approach to implementing the Canterbury Air Regional Plan will help us reach these targets.  


Find out more information on our progress on Airsheds meeting national standards and Improving air quality and home heating subsidies.

Environmental Monitoring and Progress Reporting

We monitor the air quality in eight designated ‘airsheds’ – seven residential and one industrial.  The seven residential are in the seven clean air zones noted in the Canterbury Air Regional Plan.

The airsheds are areas where we have put monitoring equipment due to the higher levels of air pollution. 

We monitor so we can report on progress, and target assistance packages and information to where it is needed. It also means we can give valuable air quality information to the District Health Boards to inform their work in respiratory health, particularly as the regional population ages.

Scientists and air specialists monitor for domestic and non-domestic emissions. Real time reporting.

Cleaner Home Heating

The main source of air pollution in Canterbury continues to be home heating and many people have already made the effort to change their home heating appliances to reduce their emissions.  This can be difficult to afford for some people and we have some subsidies and Healthier Homes Canterbury loans available.

There are ways to heat your home with cleaner burning fuels and our officers in the main airsheds are focused on education around what you are burning and how you burn if you have wood as your source of heat, as well as the permissible types of burner. 

The top priority is that people are warm and dry in their homes as we work towards the set air quality targets. 

Non-Domestic Emissions

Home heating isn’t the only cause of airborne pollution.  Rural burn-offs contribute during summer months, and industry emissions are year-round.  Odours, dust and other issues are responded to via the Incident Response team.  

How is this portfolio funded? 

To find out how this portfolio is funded, view the rates tool(external link)

More information on air quality can be found on our air quality pages.

We will support this by investing in
  • An enduring partnership with Ngāi Tahu
  • Community participation locally and regionally
  • High-performing people for success
  • Knowledge: science, data and mātauranga Māori
  • Securing a diversity of funding sources
  • Opportunities through technology and innovation.

Our roles and responsibilities

Regional Councils are responsible for managing their region’s natural resources – the air, soil, water and how land use affects the environment.

District or City Councils focus on providing services for their ratepayers such as roads, reticulation of water, sewerage, libraries, parks, recreation and town or city planning.

Environment Canterbury has around 630 full-time equivalent staff across Canterbury.

As a regional council, our specific responsibilities include:

  • regional planning, consenting and compliance to manage land use and water quality, soil, air, and the coastal environment
  • hazard management and flood protection
  • biodiversity and pest management
  • public transport services
  • harbour navigation and safety, and marine pollution response
  • regional parks
  • civil defence
  • environmental monitoring and reporting.

Our governance

Local authority Councillors are public officials and operate under the rule of law. The Council’s work is guided by a framework of legislation and national and local policies, plans and strategies.

The Local Electoral Act 2001 governs the conduct of local elections and polls, and the Local Government Act 2002 determines our role and how we must act.

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) charges regional councils with the establishment, implementation and review of objectives, policies and methods to achieve sustainable management of the natural and physical resources of the region. It underpins much of our work.

Under the RMA the government has established National Policy Statements and National Environmental Standards which we must adhere to, and Environment Canterbury has developed a Regional Policy Statement and regional plans for land and water, air and the coastal environment.

Key regional strategies include the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS), the Canterbury Regional Economic Development Strategy and the Canterbury Biodiversity Strategy.

Our Councillors

Our governing body of 14 Councillors focuses on the big picture and on region-wide strategic decisions. Following the local government elections in October 2019, a council of fully-elected members took office. Get to know our Councillors.

Tumu Taiao - Mana Whenua Experts on Council

Our two Tumu Taiao – Mana Whenua Experts on Council – provide advice to Council in the interests of mana whenua.

The Local Government Act 2002 does not allow the Tumu Taiao to have Councillor decision-making powers to vote at Council meetings, but they will support the opportunity for better decision-making outcomes for mana whenua and for Environment Canterbury.

Find out more about our Tumu Taiao.