29 Jul 2015

Still few clues on convention centre cost

6:11 am on 29 July 2015

The mystery surrounding the size and cost of the Christchurch Convention Centre has deepened, with the release of new figures to Radio New Zealand.

They show $77 million has already been spent or is about to be paid for land the anchor project will sit on and a further $15 million on a business plan and design work.

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

All of this on a project that still has no finalised budget or a start date for construction to begin.

Labour Canterbury Earthquake Recovery spokesperson Ruth Dyson said news such a large amount of taxpayers' money had already been spent was surprising, given the small amount of information taxpayers had on the project.

"This is getting up to $100 million and we still don't know if we'll actually get a convention centre or not, who's going to own it, who's going to run it. Gerry Brownlee has really let this project get completely out of control."

She said one of the biggest mysteries was how much the final bill for the project would be.

Conservation spokesperson Ruth Dyson.

Labour Canterbury Earthquake Recovery spokesperson Ruth Dyson Photo: LABOUR PARTY

"The prime minister went to a nationwide tourism conference and said to the whole conference the Christchurch Convention Centre budget has blown out and I don't know if it will proceed or not.

"Gerry Brownlee then said there's no budget blow-out. We still don't know which one of those was telling the truth."

Christchurch and Canterbury Convention Bureau Manager Caroline Blanchfield said she would like to know when construction of the convention centre would start.

Ms Blanchfield said they were still trying to make other arrangements for a conference that had been booked for late 2018, but that had to be canceled when a finish date for the project was pushed out even further.

She said another large conference could also be lost, unless the government provides a firm timeframe for completing the project.

"I have a conference that want to come here in 2021 and that's 1500 people," she said. "They're now saying, 'can you give us a firm date because we need to book somewhere, and we will go to another country'."

Ms Blanchfield said it was not the only conference keen to make a booking.

"We've got pent-up demand. I know of four conferences of 1500 people that want to come to Christchurch and bring their business here. They come from overseas, they stay in hotels, they go out for dinner, they shop and they spend time in the region."

Gerry Brownlee

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said he should be in a position to announce a start date later in the year, once negotiations with consortium Plenary Conventions were completed.

He said details such as what would happen to the large tracts of land the government had purchased around the convention centre were still being finalised.

"It will be done in phases.

"So there will be some early ground works, then full construction, then probably a second or third stage of construction where the ancillary buildings, very large buildings, the hotels, and commercial and perhaps some residential get put on the site as well."

Mr Brownlee said the amount the government and its private partners ended up spending on the project could be more, or even less, than the $500 million price tag he has been quoted on in the past.

"We had a figure that we've worked to, because you have to in public sector accounting have a number out there that reflects the fact that you are going to spend on something.

"Where it ends up of course is a different matter. I think people should relax.

"The intention is to build an inter-generational asset for the people of Christchurch."

Mr Brownlee said while the $15 million that has been spent on planning seemed like a lot of money, it was not when you looked at the overall cost of the project.

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