1 May 2015

Convention centre criticism mounts

7:04 am on 1 May 2015

Criticism of Christchurch's planned convention centre is mounting, but the city's recovery authority is staying tight-lipped about major funding and ownership details.

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

The Government has allocated $284 million to the centre's development, but earlier this year the Prime Minister indicated the total cost could rise.

The convention centre and its surrounding precinct will span two prime city blocks, bounded by the Victoria and Cathedral Squares and the Avon River, a location which has attracted criticism from the outset.

Christchurch designer Barnaby Bennett said the area would feel empty when no conventions were on.

He is among those critical of the lack of public input and detail available about the project, including what the Government's funding will provide.

"That's an extraordinary amount of money to put into a project that's probably going to cost the ratepayer annually," he said.

"And to make that incredibly large statement, both financially and spatially, without any consultation with the people of Christchurch is rude and disrespectful, I think."

In August, the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) announced their preferred developers - international firm Plenary Group, Christchurch's Carter Group and Ngai Tahu Property - who have formed a company called Plenary Conventions New Zealand.

Since then, there has been silence.

City councillor Paul Lonsdale said he understood why some information was commercially sensitive but said the public had waited long enough.

Mr Lonsdale said the council had yet to be told who would ultimately own the centre but said the public could be liable if the project was a financial flop.

Landscape architect Di Lucas disagreed with the location and said people attending conventions would likely stay in their hotels and eat and shop within the precinct.

"I'm concerned that it will seem a big takeover of the central city and that locals will not go there."

Last month, the CCDU faced questions about the project at a parliamentary select committee but was unable to say whether the Crown, or its private sector partners, would own the buildings and land.

Labour MP Ruth Dyson said the business and tourism community was growing frustrated with the lack of information.

"The details that I think we're entitled to have as ratepayers and taxpayers have been basically kept from us."

Plenary Conventions spokesman Paul Crowe provided a written update about the project.

"Given where we are in the process where design development is still active, unfortunately we are not in a position to discuss any of the detail."

A CCDU spokeswoman said further information was expected to be available in the third quarter of this year.