The building of 800 homes on spare Riccarton Racecourse land has moved a step forward but is not a done deal.

The project is seeking exemplar status, a process that’s been set up after the Christchurch earthquakes to fast-track innovative projects.

This one promises to secure the future of the South Island racing industry by creating income from reserve land next to the racecourse and build a new suburb in Christchurch where people of all ages and incomes mix.

Christchurch City Council’s strategy and finance committee allowed the Champions’ Mile project to progress another step at a meeting this week.

The “unique” 33 hectares of land is only supposed to be rented or leased for purposes that support the keeping of the racecourse, offering prize money or encouraging the breeding of horses.

Ngai Tahu Property and the Christchurch Racecourse Reserve Trustees want to build a vibrant, sustainable community where “connected” people of different ages and socio-economic groups live.

It reads like a perfect community to meet the pressures of the time similar to those once built by English industrialists but the council must consider if it’s worthy of fast-tracking.

Documents discussing Champions’ Mile refer to it as a “master-planned community”.

The promoters say the development is not social engineering. It’s just trying to avoid “the concentration of single tenure, mono-cultural communities”.

The council’s advisers want more detail and say there are currently no guarantees of a more diverse or affordable range of housing products than a traditional subdivision would provide.

They see further potential to harness the site’s setting, particularly adjacent to the racecourse’s perimeter where higher density homes could command premium values.

The plan envisages 15 per cent of homes being rentals and has shared equity purchasing models. It will also use new methods to deal with developers to reduce building costs.

“A critical factor is ensuring that the house design will be indiscernible to anyone walking through the neighbourhoods.

“This means that no one can identify which house is tenanted by entry point or market tenants. This will ensure the development of a balanced community, across a range of socio-economic characteristics.”

The development comes at an interesting time in the social housing market.

The model of building hundreds of state-owned houses together, as occurred from the 1950s, is discredited and the government is looking for the private sector to step up.

Ngai Tahu has a record of business success and is a big player in the South Island.

In this development a household can put up $10,000 of equity and get a mortgage. A housing partnership retains the remaining equity share and when circumstances change the household can purchase all or some of the equity share.


  • exemplar approval by council, December 2014
  • submission of resource consent application, February 2016
  • resource consent decision, April 2016
  • engineering design and approval, April/May 2016
  • tendering and award of earthworks and civil contract, May 2016
  • first titles issued, March 2017
  • commencement of first homes, March 2017
  • completion of first home, July 2017
By Pam Graham