Major Christchurch projects to be handed to city council

8:07 am on 30 July 2019

The Crown has confirmed it will hand control of several key Christchurch city assets it had been managing after the earthquakes to the local council.


Christchurch. Photo: 123RF

The Global Settlement Agreement between the council and the Crown determines which owns anchor projects, and restores a normal relationship between the government and council.

A cost-sharing agreement split the responsibility of the Christchurch rebuild from the 2011 earthquakes between local and central government.

The 2013 deal saw the government agree to contribute $2.9 billion to rebuild projects, with the council putting forward an additional $1.9b of ratepayer money.

The council this afternoon revealed details of a new draft agreement which had been the subject of its ongoing negotiations with central government for the past six months.

Under it, key assets such as the bus interchange, metro sports facility, the Avon River Precinct, the Margaret Mahy Playground and land for the Performing Arts Precinct would come under the council's purview.

Residential red zone land in the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor, the Port Hills, Brooklands and Southshore would be transferred to the council in stages over the next two years.

The Crown and the council would work together to co-fund development of Cathedral Square.

The draft agreement would also provide the council with the opportunity to purchase unused Crown-owned land.

The statement revealed that central government would retain ownership of the Christchurch Convention Centre due to open next year.

Plans for a new stadium in Christchurch have not been announced, with an investment report into the financial benefits of the arena still under way.

Christchurch City Council strategy and transformation manager Brendan Anstiss played a key role negotiating the agreement and said ratepayers would not have to face any rate spikes to maintain these acquisitions.

He said the global settlement would provide certainty of ownership of assets and clarified who would take responsibility for their upkeep.

"After the earthquakes, the Crown stepped in to help with Christchurch's recovery. Both the Crown and council agree it is now time to normalise the Crown's involvement and for the council to resume full responsibility for managing the city.

"The draft Global Settlement looks at how that will happen and clearly sets out the roles and responsibilities of both the Crown and the council."

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Leeann Watson said the settlement would give businesses and residents much-needed clarity over who owns what anchor projects.

And she said that could deliver economic benefits and boost the city's growth.

"What we're also hoping will happen is that the momentum around some of those remaining anchor projects will accelerate ... people will have more certainty about when those projects will be either started or finished," she said.

However, Ms Watson also welcomed the ongoing government support in relation to the $475 million Convention Centre, which was still 15 months from completion and would remain under Crown ownership.

"We know the projected economic benefits that will bring to the city - around $320m in the first eight years," she said.

"That's a significant contribution that we can expect and the fact the council are not owning that asset means there's no financial burden."

Meanwhile, in the east, red-zoned land in the Avon River Corridor, Port Hills, Brooklands and Southshore, is set to be transferred from government to council progressively over two years.

Ratepayers will fund the area's maintenance beyond 2020. But City councillor Deon Swiggs said work could begin to regenerate the land and embrace "long-term opportunities".

"People that live nearby the red zone ... they're telling us 'let's get on, let's do stuff, let's get on and make this an opportunity for the city.' We've declared this climate change emergency and it's a great place to start planting natives," he said.

Avon-Otakaro Network co-ordinator Evan Smith was pleased the council didn't have to buy the red zone land back.

"I have a very positive take on it. ... I think it's a very enabling settlement that allows us to have a very strong basis to move forward."

The public can give feedback to the council on the draft agreement at a special session on 6 August.

The agreement will then go to the council for approval on 8 August before being finalised by Cabinet.

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