28 Jul 2015

$75m spent on Chch centre but still no details

6:16 pm on 28 July 2015

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) has spent more than $75 million on Christchurch's convention centre, even though the construction start date and the project's total cost remain unknown.

A concept image for the Convention Centre Precinct on CCDU's website.

A concept image for the Convention Centre Precinct on the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU)'s website. Photo: CCDU

Information provided to Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act showed that buying up the central city land needed for the project had cost the Crown $61m, as of the end of May.

National MP, Gerry Brownlee.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

It said a further $15.6m was expected to be spent on land acquisition in the near future, pushing the total amount up to just shy of $77m, including demolition costs.

CERA has spent almost $15m on planning, including market sounding, design work, ongoing development of the business plan for the operation of the convention centre, and commercial negotiations.

The project's preferred operator and developers were announced almost a year ago and there has been no more information about the convention centre since.

Crown may contribute further funding

When the city's recovery blueprint was released, the Crown earmarked $284m of taxpayers' money to the project but the total cost has not been finalised and the Crown's contribution may increase.

The convention centre is among the city's anchor projects and was due to be completed in 2017, but the timeframe has now been pushed out to the end of 2018.

Last month, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told a Parliamentary select committee that it was "highly unlikely" the project would be finished in time for a medical conference booked for November 2018.

In response to supplementary questions from Labour MP Ruth Dyson, Mr Brownlee said it was "possible that additional funding" for the centre would be required.

"But the final budget can not yet be confirmed as design development and negotiations are still underway," he said.

He said construction was expected to begin next year with early construction works - including site preparation and contamination removal - getting underway this year.

Mr Brownlee was unable to provide clarity about when the project's details would be known.

"It is expected that final decisions on design will be made by 2016. It is not yet clear when decisions on ownership will be made."

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