29 Jun 2016

Christchurch Convention Centre on track to open in 2019 - Brownlee

7:18 pm on 29 June 2016

The government is looking for new contractors to take on the long-delayed Christchurch Convention Centre.

The convention centre was supposed to be a centrepiece in Christchurch's earthquake rebuild, but progress on its construction has been slow.

Initial indications were that work would start on the centre in 2014, with an aim of completing it by early 2017.

The Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Gerry Brownlee, said today that after months of design and planning work the government was on course to open the convention centre in late 2019.

The government had completed early design and master planning stages with Plenary Conventions New Zealand, but other contractors would now be sought, he said.

An artist's impression of what the new Christchurch Convention Centre would look like.

An artist's impression of what the new Christchurch Convention Centre would look like. Photo: Woods Bagot / Warren and Mahoney

Mr Brownlee said the decision not to proceed with Plenary was mutually agreed.

He said work on the Convention Centre Precinct site would begin immediately, starting with the rerouting of telecommunications and other enabling earth works.

Within the next two weeks, preparations would also begin to close a section of Gloucester Street from Colombo Street to Oxford Terrace.

Cost of project still unclear

The goverment has also released a new indicative design for the Christchurch Convention Centre and the Convention Centre Precinct.

Mr Brownlee said engagement with early works contractors would begin immediately, to allow substantial earthworks to start in October.

"The government remains absolutely committed to a precinct that is world-class and offers quality accommodation, hospitality and retail to support the convention facilities," Mr Brownlee said.

He said the government had committed funding for the project but would not be disclosing those figures as it sought the best deal possible with contractors.

The government has allocated $284 million to the centre's development, but last year Prime Minister John Key indicated the total cost could rise.

Labour MP Megan Woods during caucas run April 2015.

Megan Woods Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Labour Party Canterbury spokesperson Megan Woods said the convention centre was a failure and the government needed to explain why the contractor walked away.

As one of the city's major anchor projects, the complex was meant to help bring private investment, life and activity back to the city but now that was up in the air, she said.

New Crown company to lead project

Otakaro Limited, the new Crown-owned company tasked with delivering the central city anchor projects, said it would be taking the lead on the convention centre project.

It said it would take responsibility for taking the design plan developed to date with Plenary Conventions New Zealand, finalising the design, preparation of the precinct site and construction of the convention centre.

Otakaro chief executive Albert Brantley said he was confident the project team would select and work with the right partners to complete the work and build a high quality facility.

Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said having a firm timeline for the centre was great news for Christchurch and the central city recovery.

The airport had been calling for a timeline for several months.

Plenary Conventions NZ (PCNZ) director Paul Crowe said the company's early design and master planning for the convention centre precinct had been accepted by the Crown.

However, he said the Crown and Plenary have now agreed to cease working together.

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