Christchurch a 'glossy rest home'?

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 10/12/2012

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Christchurch young people say they have few incentives to stay in the city and agree the Government must move quickly if it hopes to change their minds.

A Press street poll of 20 young people aged 16 to 26 found most agreed with Mayor Bob Parker's recent comments that Christchurch will become little more than a "glossy rest home" if the Government does not rethink its blueprint for the central city.

Parker is concerned the city will turn into a "sleepy hollow" because of the combination of young people leaving and the aging baby boomer population.

He said there were "wasted opportunities" in the blueprint - in particular, bringing students back into the central city.

Young people polled by The Press said they had noticed an exodus of youth from the city since last February's earthquake. Many were considering, or had considered, leaving themselves.

Only three thought Christchurch was a great place for young people to live.

Those who stayed did so mainly for work, studies or family. Two said they stayed to be part of creating a new city.

Young men tended to have a more positive outlook than young women. Seven women said they were considering leaving within the next two years - for work opportunities elsewhere and a general lack of "vibe" in the city.

All agreed the Government and Christchurch City Council should include young people more in decision-making for the rebuild.

When asked what they would do if they were in charge, the most repeated idea was creating a space in the central city specifically designed for young people, including shops, entertainment and nightclubs. Other ideas included a youth hub, free bus services, fixed rent prices and more public art.

All of those spoken to said having the University of Canterbury in the central city was a great idea in theory, but thought moving it from Ilam would be too hard.

Parker said the ideas mooted by those polled were "all brilliant [and] achievable".

"We need this conversation, we need creativity," he said.

The youth council idea in particular, something coined before the quakes, was "bang on".

If the university could not move, it needed to be "hard-wired" to the central city in other ways.

A light rail to cover the seven kilometres between the university and the central city would be cheaper than the trams project. A free bus was another option.

"At least make the precincts where young people and students want to live, in the central city. The generation we grew up in is gone forever.

"We need to ask, who is this city for? It's actually for the generations ahead of us."

 

CITY HUB WILL STEM EXODUS

A vibrant nightlife, a shopping and cafe hub, free buses, cheap rent, public art and a hang-out area in the rebuilt CBD.

Those were just some of the ideas put forward by 20 young people, aged about 20, polled by The Press on what they thought of Christchurch, what would make it better, and if they agreed with Mayor Bob Parker's comments that the city was in danger of becoming a "Sleepy Hollow".

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While most agreed young people were leaving the city in droves, this had been happening before the earthquakes and there was still time for creative thinking to curb the tide.

Law graduate Jonathan Nicolle, 23, said it was difficult seeing half his friends leave Christchurch.

He agreed suggestions from Share an Idea were not encapsulated in the Christchurch Central Development Unit blueprint.

But Parker's comments did not help.

"It's comments like that which encourage people to leave.

"The ones that are sticking around like myself, it's not necessarily the stuff in the central city we are attracted to, it's the mountains over there, the sea over there. Maybe it's stuff like that he [Parker] could focus on."

Whether he would stay in Christchurch long term depended on the city developing in a "new, interesting way".

Moving the university to the city would not be feasible, but a light rail between there and town could be a good option, he said.

Devon Francis, 16, is already thinking about leaving Christchurch when she finishes high school.

She said the main problem was that everything was too spread out. Instead, there needed to be shopping and cafes in the same place within the CBD, she said.

Her sister, Jordan, 22, a design graduate, said most of her friends had also moved to Wellington, Auckland and Australia because there were "more opportunities".

She said she now found Christchurch "boring".

Danish 16-year-old Peter Tranelund, on a visa exchange at Linwood College, said he found Christchurch young people smoked "a lot of weed", which he put down to post-quake boredom.

"I've only been here for four months and I'm bored," he said.

Tranelund was thinking of moving to Wellington in February. "I'm a skater, and many skaters like the earthquake because they got new opportunities to skate. But not many people skate here."

Political science graduate Georgia McNamara, 24, said there needed to be a "dedicated area" for young people "with a lot to do".

"Right now it is quite dispersed - Victoria St, Madras St - there's nowhere to go where they know they will meet people they know," she said.

Most of her friends had moved to Melbourne and were paying rent equivalent to those in Christchurch.

She planned to work in Christchurch for the next six months then move to Wellington after a trip to the United States.

Psychology student Bridget McNamara, 21, moved to Auckland because there was more to do, more young people and better job opportunities.

Jono Moran, 26, owner of Infinite Definite fashion store, said he supported the idea of moving the university back to the city "rather than in the wops in Riccarton".

A central-city university created "a lot more buzz", he said.

He was staying put because it was an interesting place to be at this time.

"There's heaps more opportunity here to do cool stuff. I'd say it's more exciting than Auckland or Wellington where there's already 100 people doing it."

The council also needed to make it easier and more affordable for young and interesting businesses to get off the ground, he said.

Videographer Laura Gebbie, 25, said there needed to be a "hub" for young people.

Work and family were keeping her in Christchurch, "otherwise I'd be out of here".

Musician Shade Sanders, 22, said more venues for concerts needed to be included in the CBD rebuild plan.

"There's already a more creative atmosphere after the earthquakes . . . it would just be awesome for everyone, for those who live in Christchurch and those who don't." Broadcasting student Adam Prest, 19, said young people needed to have a place to "have a good time".

"The young people are sorely missing their Strip, their bars. How many bars are there in Christchurch? Three now?"

He had just finished high school and a lot of friends had moved to other cities to study.

"I'm staying here because of studies, otherwise I would have moved."

Auckland business student Avi Prasad, 20, said many of his friends left Christchurch because they were "not being heard". In Auckland and Wellington the youth voice was represented on youth councils and youth parliament, and Otago had "an amazing youth community".

"Christchurch has this old mindset of 50 years ago, which it needs to modernise," he said.

Astronomy student Chris Irving, 24, of Gisborne, and English honours student Nicole Howard, 23, originally from Wellington, said they agreed with Parker's comments.

The best thing that could be done was rent-fixing, because young people had to compete with families for accommodation, they said.

Dion Toma, 25, of Invercargill, said he wanted to move to Christchurch and was looking for work here.

He said Invercargill had a great student vibe and the mayor should "get on to" creating free bus services in the CBD.

Hagley Community College student Tia Ebert, 16, said she was considering moving after high school and the Government needed to involve youth in decision-making for the rebuild.

Administrator Rosa Ward, 20, and private driver John Benit, 21, driver, had decided to move to Auckland in February because there were more music gigs and they simply wanted a "change of scene".

University student Ngahuia Harney, 20, said there needed to be a place specifically for youth to hang out in, such as a youth centre.

She still loved Christchurch because her friends and family were here, but the Government should "definitely" be listening more to the youth for the rebuild.

High school graduate Aimee Shaw, 18, wanted more cafes and places to shop, rather than malls, and said a youth hub was a good idea. Base wood-fire pizza owner Andy Thomson, 23, said the university should be back in the city centre.

"Any other major city in the world, usually the uni is in the city centre. It will mean a lot more cafes and bars will be brought back in because there is more foot traffic. Summer is fine with tourists, but in the winter it would be good to have the students in," he said.

TOP IDEA

A winning idea to make the city a more exciting place to live in will be selected at a function tonight.

The Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology Foundation has gathered more than 500 submissions from young people under the age of 25 in its Big Idea project to transform the southeast corner of the city.

CPIT Foundation chairman Carl Pascoe said the best idea would be selected at a function tonight. The winning idea will receive $5000 and the CPIT Foundation will make the idea a reality.

Pascoe said the most of those who submitted ideas wanted the city's social scene improved, with calls for community arts centres, entertainment zones, theme parks and youth gardens.

- The Press

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