15 Jun 2020

'A deathly silence': New Brighton residents fume over agency's lack of action

12:17 pm on 15 June 2020

A Christchurch residents' group say they are sick of delays in a long promised revamp to their local shopping area, and are calling on the council to dump the regeneration group currently tasked with the job.

No caption

New Brighton Residents' Association spokesperson Brian Donovan surveying the mall. Photo: RNZ / Rachel Graham

Development Christchurch was set up by the Christchurch City Council in 2016 with the aim of pushing the regeneration of the city after the earthquakes.

One of its projects was to take on the New Brighton master plan which had been adopted by the council in 2015 due to concerns about the neglected state of the once popular open air mall.

Five years on some locals say there is still nothing to show of their work.

Council-owned hot pools on Christchurch's Brighton beach front opened on Queen's Birthday, and even without international tourists, have been so popular bookings have been hard to get.

He Puna Taimoana. New Brighton Hot Pools

The hot pools have proved a hit since opening at Queen's Birthday weekend. Photo: Christchurch City Council

The hot pools and a new playground are attracting people to the area, but locals say the shopping area, full of empty lots and closed shops, are an embarrassment.

New Brighton Residents' Association spokesperson Brian Donovan said for the last four years regeneration organisation Development Christchurch Limited, known as DCL, has been working on the regeneration of the suburb, and he said there is little to show for it.

"Nearly five years later and I don't know how many million dollars, what are we looking at? Not much progress. And we can't even get information about what they have achieved and what is in the pipeline, and whether they have actually managed to get something off the ground. Doesn't look like it from where I'm standing.

"We should have a retail sector that is buzzy, that is vibrant, that is really doing stuff," Donovan said. "But we see nothing, there is nothing happening down there at all. It should be the conduit, where people are going to or coming from but they're not."

The suburb is known for the chilly easterly wind which blows off the sea, and the master plan includes plans to change the orientation of the shopping strip, so that it runs parallel to the beach, rather than perpendicular to it.

Donovan said the residents' association hasn't been able to get any information about how the negotiations with building owners went, or what were the roadblocks.

"That's just a crock. You've got to release some information, because they represent the ratepayer because they are paid by the council and we expect some information about what progress has been made, but there's been a deathly silence.

"Four years and I don't know how much money has been spent on whatever they've been doing and we know nothing about it."

Donovan said the hot pools and a new playground both on the foreshore have been overseen by DCL, but he said those projects were already in motion before DCL came on the scene, and describes its role as simply project management.

Nikki Griffin has owned the Bin Inn in New Brighton for 11 years, and said she has seen the council waste money on master plan after master plan.

She said the pools and playground are wonderful for the area, but that when people cross the road to the commercial area they hit 100 metres of empty rundown shops, and there is nothing to drag them down to the main area of shops.

She said the council has been encouraging construction in the central city by letting developers off paying the normal development contribution, saving them tens of thousands of dollars.

She'd like to see that extended.

"Why are they not offering that out in New Brighton? It seems to be one rule for the city and one for the 'burbs. There doesn't seem to be much outside of the four avenues on the council's radar."

Funds a problem - councillor

The city councillor for the area, Coastal Ward councillor James Daniels, said he would have liked to have seen more progress from DCL, but they were limited by a lack of funds to make things happen.

He said the community board now wants the master plan for the area to come back under its control.

"The local community board is going to council to ask them to initiate a regeneration plan which is basically implementing the master plan which has already been drawn up and we want to do that before the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act ends in a year's time. So we've only got 12 months to do this. This is the window, we need to jump through that window."

Daniels said under the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act the council would have more power to make changes to land use.

A decision on whether the masterplan should come back under community board control will go to the next Christchurch City Council meeting.

DCL was due to continue to operate for another year, but there have been reports that the council is looking at winding it up.

The Christchurch City Council's chief executive Dawn Baxendale said they are in the very early stages of developing a transition plan for DCL which will take in to account whether other existing organisations could take over DCL's projects and functions.

DCL was approached for comment on this story.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs