3 Sep 2015

Christchurch mayor prefers project delays to rate hikes

5:53 am on 3 September 2015

The Christchurch mayor says she is determined to reduce further rates rises, even if it means delaying parts of the rebuild.

Christchurch construction.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The news comes as Cantabrians prepare to mark the fifth anniversary of the 4 September earthquake.

In 2012 the Government unveiled its blueprint for what the new Christchurch would look which included anchor projects such as a new convention centre, a covered rugby stadium and an indoor sports facility.

Now it, along with Christchurch City Council, are still trying to work out how to pay for it all.

The council is raising rates to pay for its share, starting with an 8 percent increase this year.

But mayor Lianne Dalziel said she was committed to reducing increases in future years, even if it meant delaying parts of the rebuild.

"We think that we can do that by pacing ourselves in terms of the horizontal infrastructure work we have to do, the large capital projects we have to do, the mixture of borrowing and releasing capital from our asset base."

Ms Dalziel was confident Christchurch residents would accept some projects taking longer to complete.

"If people see that you've got a proper strategic approach, that you're setting priorities in consultation with them and actually allowing people to have more of a say about what those priorities are."

But while delays have beset projects such as the convention centre, the Metro Sports Facility and the stadium, others are starting to rise from the ground.

Ernest Duval.

Ernest Duval. Photo: Supplied

Developer and spokesperson for central city property owners, Ernest Duval, said within the next 18 months, Christchurch would look very different.

"We're talking about the Justice and Emergency Building, the Bus Interchange, the Ecan Building, we'll see the Crossing almost get completed which will be a very significant addition to the retail sector in the central city, we'll see the Triangle Centre well and truly completed and the completion of Antony Gough's The Terrace."

Mr Duval said a second wave of development would happen once there was more certainty over projects such as the convention centre. He said these buildings were vital because they would set the city apart from other places.

"If you were overseas and a visitor who had never been to Christchurch before said to you, 'tell me about Christchurch, tell me why I should come there?' It would be hard for us as citizens of Christchurch to say well this is what we have because we are still in the process of redefining ourselves as a new version of an older city."

Landscape architect, Neil Challenger.

Neil Challenger, founder of the Greening the Rubble. Photo: Supplied

Landscape architect and founder of the Greening the Rubble initiative, Neil Challenger, said initiatives born out of necessity such as the container mall had shown developers what was possible when you were building a city from scratch.

"You had some small laneways, some little gathering spaces and suddenly lots of those developments are having those because we've realised, gosh it's quite comfortable isn't it and people are emulating that. So it's a terrific opportunity to face the river, to address the climate, to think about the open space matrix, it's terrific."

Mr Challenger, who at the time of the earthquakes called the central city home himself, said the Government's aim of attracting 20000 people to live there, is entirely achievable.

He said this would be an improvement on the city of old where few people lived and where those that did, were older.

"Both those dimensions are going to change. We're going to find more people living there, more young people living there wanting to take advantage of it and to be honest, come four or five or eight years out, I can imagine us in the central city doing the same thing."

For its part the Government said it was still fully committed to the central city rebuild and expected to make an announcement on the convention centre before the end of the year.