Christchurch City Council has approved a new policy governing the flying of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or "drones" over its properties.
The policy, which will come into effect from August 1, requires any person wishing to fly a drone weighing more than 1.5 kilograms to gain consent before flying over a Council park or reserve.
Drones weighing 1.5 kilograms or less are deemed less of a safety hazard under the policy and may fly over most Council parks and reserves without consent. However, the policy identifies a number of blanket permission-required areas, including over the Botanic Gardens, cemeteries, open-air public pools, playgrounds and some areas with sensitive wildlife.
Councillor Raf Manji, Chair of the Strategy and Finance Committee, said the Council wanted people to enjoy flying their drones in a safe and responsible way, in accordance with Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules.
"Civil Aviation rules apply to everybody who flies a drone, regardless of the drone’s weight or whether it’s flying over your own property or someone else’s. That’s why it’s important to know the rules before you fly any size drone anywhere.
“It’s also important to emphasise that the Council doesn’t decide or enforce the aviation rules around drones – that’s the CAA’s job. However, the Council can decide who it grants consent to with regard to drones and its properties.
"The new policy is a balanced one, in that it allows for drone flights over Council parks and reserves, while still managing public concerns around safety, privacy and noise.
“It also means the majority of recreational lightweight drones being sold over the counter or online won’t need consent to fly over a Council park or reserve, unless the area falls within one of the permission-required sites,” Cr Manji said.
Last year the CAA introduced rules requiring drone flyers to obtain landowners' consent before flying over properties, including those owned by local councils.
The Council currently receives an average of 47 requests per month to fly drones over its properties, which are assessed by staff on a case-by-case basis.
Applicants to the Council must acknowledge they adhere to specific CAA rules, depending on the size and use of the drone. Drones weighing between 15 and 25 kilograms must also be approved by Model Flying New Zealand.
The Council's new policy means that requests to fly drones over Council roads, cycleways, buildings and events must first be referred to the CAA to qualify under its comprehensive certification process. The Council will directly handle those requests related to its parks, reserves and blanket permission-required areas.
Other local councils, including Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Timaru and Waimakiriri, have adopted similar policies.