22 Feb 2017

Chch rebuild: 'It's really going to be amazing'

11:53 am on 22 February 2017

Recovery authorities promise all but one of Christchurch's anchor projects will be under construction this year as the city's rebuild hits its stride.

The Christchurch bus interchange.

The Bus Interchange Photo: Southbase

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee unveiled the blueprint for the central city close to four years ago, in the form of a highly-produced video fly-over.

The projects were supposed to be a magnet for private sector developers. In the years since, they lost patience waiting for the plans to become reality and went ahead with building just outside the CBD - creating what became known as the doughnut.

Last year the government set up a new entity, Otakaro Limited, to kick-start work on anchor projects such as the convention centre, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and central city apartments.

Otakaro chief executive Albert Brantley said the anchor projects were about creating an attractive place for people to live and work.

Where are the anchor projects at?

Mr Brantley was confident the Convention Centre and the Metro Sports Facility would be built in three years. Site works have started on the Convention Centre site.

The lot where a new convention centre will be built in downtown Christchurch.

The lot where the Christchurch Convention Centre will be built. Photo: Frank Film

As for the stadium, there was no date locked in.

Mr Brantley rejected suggestions the convention centre and covered stadium risked becoming white elephants - and that the financial benefits to the city were overblown.

"These are sometimes things that are not huge profit makers, but they are the heart of a city."

"You have to look at the viability of a convention centre, perhaps not as the huge amount of money it makes itself, but the benefit that it drives for all the other businesses in town, hospitality, accommodation."

A wall of the under-construction Justice Precinct.

A kakapo cloak design adorns a wall of the under-construction Justice Precinct. Photo: Rebuild Christchurch

The Christchurch Bus Interchange, on Colombo St, opened in mid-2015.

Fletcher Living announced in December it would start constructing townhouses in the East Frame residential development before Easter. A fund has been set up for temporary projects to go there in the meantime.

The $300 million Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, which will combine police, courts and Corrections, is progressing. Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams said it should be operational in mid-2017.

The Margaret Mahy Family Playground is the big success of the anchor projects. It opened at the end of 2015.

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The Margaret Mahy Family Playground has proved hugely popular. Photo: supplied

The government has shrunk the size of the original South Frame, which includes cycle lanes, laneways and public spaces. Some land for the frame is yet to be acquired.

The Innovation, Retail and Avon River precincts were starting to take shape.

Developer a late convert to blueprint

With 30 new post-earthquake buildings to his name, Christchurch developer Richard Peebles said he was probably responsible for half of the city fringe doughnut.

The restored McKenzie and Willis building at 181 High St is part of the Innovation Precinct.

The old #McKenzieandWillis building is looking stunning. Love watching the progress

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Mr Peebles owns the rebuilt McKenzie and Willis building on High St. The heritage facade was restored thanks to grants.

He remembered the launch of the blueprint well.

At the time, he thought, "'Oh my god, what the hell, they've turned all of my sites into a park', so it was shocking."

"The compulsory acquisition process was hugely unfair, it was take it or leave it."

But Mr Peebles is a late convert to the blueprint.

He is contributing towards filling in the doughnut with projects such as a permanent farmers' market in the heart of the high-profile retail precinct.

"In the beginning it was pure hatred of the blueprint because I'd lost all my buildings and land, but when you see what they're doing with the Avon River precinct and then the Margaret Mahy [Family Playground] ... I know the ... East Frame is slow in starting but if that... park connects on to the laneways and courtyards, it's really going to be amazing."

What about the residential red zone?

While progress was being made in the CBD, there was still no decision on what to do with government land formerly occupied by 9000 residents in the city's east, known as the red zone.

Avon River - Red Zone

The red zone could become a city asset, says former resident Evan Smith. Photo: Frank Film

There were things the government could do while longer-term decisions were fleshed out, said former red-zoner and co-chair of the Avon-Otakaro Network Evan Smith.

"Some transitional projects which could be a transitional and temporary cycle and walkway along the river to re-engage people with the river, re-engage people with the red zone.

"What Christchurch has done really well in the recovery to date is the transitional projects which have tested ideas out, some of them have worked, some of them haven't worked."

The joint government and city council agency, Regenerate Christchurch, charged with consulting on the red zone's future, was a breath of fresh air compared to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), he said.

Public feedback on how Regenerate Christchurch will formulate its plan for the red zone closed yesterday.

It is before Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Gerry Brownlee for final approval.

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