Light rail studied for Christchurch

17:00, Jun 21 2010

A light-rail network for Christchurch will be investigated as part of a package of measures to revitalise the central city.

Public-private funding deals and putting social housing closer to the city centre and key suburban areas will also be explored if a report is adopted by the Christchurch City Council on Thursday.

The ideas came from a North American study tour last year by Mayor Bob Parker, council chief executive Tony Marryatt and strategy and planning manager Mike Theelen.

The 16-day trip included visits to San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle and Portland and cost ratepayers about $30,000. A light-rail system was mooted by Parker late last year.

Theelen said that despite the high initial costs of rail, the cities visited said a rail network's carrying capacity and durability outweighed bus systems.

He said the council's purchase of the Turner and Growers site and the David Henderson properties was "entirely consistent" with the aim of regenerating the inner city – securing key pieces of land that could be a catalyst for growth.

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Theelen said the trip revealed that success was not achieved "instantly or overnight", with some cities taking 50 years to achieve their aims.

Most projects also needed more than ratepayer money. Contributions from the government and private investors were important.

It would be too simplistic to suggest Christchurch should adopt the North American models entirely, he said.

"We possibly also face a greater hurdle in achieving intensification as there is little real history of this in the New Zealand context to date," he said.

The council will be asked to let Marryatt undertake "detailed investigations" into key topics, including:

Funding, investment and financial tools to speed up central city regeneration.

Different funding methods for regeneration projects, including public-private partnerships.

The scope, opportunity, scale and costs of developing a rail system (including streetcar, light rail and heavy rail).

How the council's social housing programme could be enhanced to support regeneration in the central city and "priority" suburban areas.

The Press