PM not revealing cost of Christchurch rebuild land

2:37 pm on 31 July 2012

Prime Minister John Key will not reveal how much it will cost to buy the land in Christchurch needed to complete the blueprint for the rebuilding of central city.

The plan was unveiled on Monday for a more compact, greener central city, and facilities including a convention centre, covered stadium that could seat up to 35,000 people and precincts for arts, health and justice sectors.

An artist's impression of the rebuilt Christchurch city.

An artist's impression of the rebuilt Christchurch city. Photo: Christchurch Central Development Unit

The Government will acquire the land needed for major facilities from 840 property owners and the buyouts cannot be appealed.

Mr Key is declining to say how much he expects it will cost the Government, citing commercial sensitivity.

Finance Minister Bill English says the Government will be fair and even-handed in acquiring land, but it wants to get on with the redevelopment.

Mr English says the Government is still looking at how much the land acquisitions will cost.

But he says whatever the upfront costs, there are likely to be considerable recoveries from on-selling land, a process he says has worked well with properties in the red zone.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told Morning Report many property owners were at the launch of the city plan and have a real interest in the scheme going ahead.

"Most of the land in the affected area has very low value and it won't have any value until there is a plan to put things back into that part of Christchurch that creates that value.

"So it's a bit of 'chicken and egg' there, and that's why negotiation is the best way to proceed."

While most land was likely to be bought following negotiation, he says, some could be compulsorily acquired under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Act.

Mr Brownlee says he hopes the development alongside the Avon River will become the heart of the project, and he hopes work there could begin quite soon.

Mr Key says while he personally supports a covered stadium in Christchurch, it is not for the Government to say what should be built, and Cantabrians will have their say.

While the Canterbury Rugby Union had wanted a covered stadium, the Christchurch City Council had voted for a smaller scale, uncovered stadium.

'Liveable' city praised

Under the plan, the significantly compacted CBD will be bounded by green spaces on its eastern and southern sides to help stop urban sprawl.

Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend says the central city was too large, and the new design will cut out the urban sprawl.

"I think we've got the opportunity to create the most liveable and most beautiful and most iconic city in Australasia, "Mr Townsend says.

Deputy mayor Ngaire Button says the blueprint has largely stayed true to the council's own plan for the city.

However she says there are a few bones of contention and a lot of the finer details are still to be revealed.

Leaders urged to focus on suburbs

Reverend Mike Coleman of the Christchurch Wider Communities Action Network says the blueprint is a good one for the central city, but there is no plan for the suburbs.

"They've been waiting 100 weeks now, nearly two years, and 28,000 of the most damaged homes have not been touched - that's why people are so upset here."

Maria Thackwell, one of the organisers of a rally outside the blueprint launch venue, told Morning Report she is glad there will be progress in the central business district but there should be equal focus on people living in damaged suburbs.

"They're very frustrated that the message from insurers and from EQC and CERA is that it's going to take five to eight years."

Ms Thackwell says some people she speaks to have cracks in the walls of their house and electricity bills of $800 a month.

Christchurch Central Development Unit director Warwick Isaacs says housing and residential parts of the city have not been forgotten, and work will continue.

Developer to lose properties

Property developer and investor Richard Peebles says he will lose nine of the 12 properties he has already begun restoring because they are needed for the new plan.

Mr Peebles told Nine to Noon he is flabbergasted at the breadth of the project and the amount of land it will take.

He says a restored Christchurch will need people coming back into town, but the plan does not have enough offices or car parking to make this likely. "I want to be really positive, but I'm struggling a bit," he says.

Restaurateur Michael Turner is uncertain whether so much money should be spent when there are so many people living in damaged houses.