New unit to prepare blueprint for Christchurch

1:31 pm on 19 April 2012

The Government is establishing a new unit that will have 100 days to prepare a blueprint to rebuild Christchurch's CBD.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee made the announcement on Wednesday at a media conference in Christchurch with the mayor, Bob Parker.


The new Christchurch Central Development Unit will be headed by Warwick Isaacs, the general manager of operations for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA).

He says no arrangements have been made for community-wide consultation on the final plan for the central city and the final blueprint will be decided by the Earthquake Recovery Minister once he receives it.

Mr Isaacs says the new unit may drop or change parts of the city council's draft plan, such as a maximum height of seven storeys for new buildings.

The 100-day timeframe to develop a blueprint for how the plan will implemented is ambitious but achievable, he says, with planners from the council and the authority confident the tight timeframe can be met.

Mr Isaacs says it is time to push on to get the plan finalised and reassure people that progress is being made.

The new unit's first task will be preparation of a blueprint for the implementation of the Central City Plan.

It is to to identify locations for what are being called strategic city blocks and anchor projects, such as a new convention centre, which are designed to attract further investment to the CBD.

It also has to come up with a way to streamline the consent process with the aim of finalising consents within 14 days. The city council will retain control over consents.

The draft Central City Plan was drawn up after consultation with the public and interested parties and handed to the Government for approval just before Christmas.

Unit has powers to act quickly - Brownlee

Mr Brownlee says the plan for the rebuild has been handed to a government unit because it has the special powers needed to bring in changes quickly.

He says the council has the standard powers that all local authorities have, but the earthquake authority has unique powers relating to the rebuild, which allow it to do things more quickly.

Mr Brownlee says the removal of one-way streets and the building of light rail, which are mentioned in the draft plan, will not be adopted at this stage.

"The blueprint will be based on the plan. We wish to keep the integrity of the plan that has been so well considered by people in Christchurch.

"But like any good plan which needs to be rolled out over a number of years it needs to be flexible to meet changing needs inside the city."

Mayor backs the model

Mr Parker says the new model is the best way of delivering the promise of the draft plan.

The blueprint the new unit comes up with will be open for public consultation before it is adopted.

The head of the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, Peter Townsend, says the council was never going to be in a position to be able to lead the CBD rebuild.

He says the authority's special powers will ensure projects are completed in a timely fashion.

The Labour Party says the newly announced unit is another layer of bureaucracy for the city.

The party's earthquake recovery spokesperson, Lianne Dalziel, says the unit is proof that the model the Government chose from the outset to oversee the rebuild of the city has failed.