11 May 2015

New 'anchor project' deadlines questioned

6:16 am on 11 May 2015

Deadlines for some 'anchor' projects in Christchurch have been pushed out, sparking calls for the Government to front up over the reasons behind the delays.

The Metro Sports Facility will take two years longer to complete and a new Convention Centre will be finished 18 months later than planned.

A concept image for the Convention Centre Precinct on CCDU's website.

A concept image for the Convention Centre Precinct on CCDU's website. Photo: CCDU

A third project, the Margaret Mahy playground, will not be finished until the end of this year, having earlier been promised for mid year.

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Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the three projects would cost about $1 billion between them and it was important to get them right.

"The last thing we want is for ratepayers now, and ratepayers in the future, to be saddled with assets that don't work.

"So we're trying as best as possible to anticipate all of the future requirements, as well as today's requirements, and I don't think it is a bad thing to take time over that massive expenditure involved."

Mr Brownlee dismissed suggestions that the delays would increase investor uncertainty.

"I am looking at the skyline of Christchurch and seeing the cranes and looking at the building activity, looking at the consenting applications...and I don't think you can say that we've got any degree of investor fear in Christchurch at all."

Deferrals questioned

However, Labour MP for Wigram Megan Woods called for the minister to front up with more details.

"For some of these, such as the Metro Sports Centre, there will be a huge amount of frustration for people that were counting on using that, but really it comes back to the minister telling us why it is they are deferring this expenditure."

It was now clear the Government was not going to make surplus in this year's budget, she said.

She questioned whether that had had an impact on the deferral of the projects.

"We have already seen in previous budgets money being taken out of Canterbury's recovery - what I want to know is why is this expenditure being deferred and how much of it is pressure on the Government's books."

Green Party List MP Eugenie Sage said the delay was an opportunity to have a rethink about such "big ticket" projects.

The public were never consulted on the anchor projects, she said.

"We need to see, in the public domain, the business cases. We haven't seen one for the Convention Centre or for the Metro Sports Centre. If they're not stacking up - they shouldn't be built."

The anchor projects were putting huge pressure on the Christchurch City Council to sell assets, she said.

She wanted to see the Government and the council renegotiate its cost sharing agreement and take out big ticket items like the convention centre from its ten year plan.

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