12 Jun 2017

Time right for China-NZ 'banner' project - bank

9:04 am on 12 June 2017

A huge bank based in Beijing says New Zealand is now in a good place to agree to a trailblazing infrastructure project in which China plays a bigger part.

The China Construction Bank gained a banking license to operate a branch in New Zealand in 2014.

The China Construction Bank gained a banking licence to operate a branch in New Zealand in 2014. Photo: AFP

The New Zealand arm of the China Construction Bank's lending has tripled here in a little over a year to more than $1 billion.

Its deputy chief executive, Lloyd Cartwright, said New Zealand was nervous of proposed mass Chinese investment into the Christchurch rebuild after 2011.

But he said it was now ready to take this next step, probably in something like a big road project in Auckland.

"I think we're quite close to that ... 'banner' project [happening] ... that might tip it over the edge in terms of the degree of understanding and trust required.

"It could be one specific project that is awarded to a Chinese construction company ... the labour component could be out of China, there could be some expertise out of China and the supply chain could be more product out of China."

He was aware of talks going on around such moves, and they made complete sense, he said, to break through constraints on infrastructure building including the government's proposed $32bn of spending over the next four years.

A banner project would need to be large, as Chinese builders and financiers were already leading several hotel and apartment projects in Auckland, each worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

China Construction Bank New Zealand has applied for branch status under new Reserve Bank rules, so it can more readily tap into the lending base of its $2.6 trillion parent company.

Mr Cartwright said compared with two years ago when they started up here, the opportunities were even greater than they envisaged, across the board in infrastructure, tourism, utilities and more.

The bank has $100 million of debt financing for the Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway extension, and helped fund the Christchurch Adventure Park, among dozens of projects.