Ngai Tahu shelves plans for cultural centre in Christchurch's Victoria Square

An artist's impression of the Te Puna Ahurea cultural centre from the Christchurch blueprint.
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An artist's impression of the Te Puna Ahurea cultural centre from the Christchurch blueprint.

Ngai Tahu has abandoned plans for a cultural centre in Victoria Square, one of the anchor projects in the Christchurch blueprint.

The iwi said it was focusing on earthquake recovery "at whanau level". Social projects, such as a recent Addington housing relocation scheme, were a higher priority.

"For this reason we have shifted away from plans for a central CBD cultural facility and are not pursuing funding for such a project at this time," Ngai Tahu chief executive Arihia Bennett said.

Charlie Gates

Remember those flashy anchor projects Cera announced for Christchurch in 2012? See what they look like now.

The withdrawal comes three weeks after it was reported the iwi was considering pulling out of the convention centre development.

The cultural centre was one 17 anchor projects unveiled as part of the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan [the blueprint] in 2012 and intended as a welcome point for visitors to the city. Ngai Tahu was to take the lead on its development.

The blueprint envisioned a "world class cultural centre . . . proposed for the central city as a focal point for cultural celebration and diversity".

"[It] will reflect and celebrate Ngāi Tahu and Māori culture, and acknowledge Christchurch's place in, and connections with, the Pacific."

A spokesman for the Greater Christchurch Group said no public money had been committed to the centre. There was no requirement on Ngai Tahu to deliver the centre as part of the blueprint.

Group director Kelvan Smith said Ngai Tahu had had discussions with the Crown about the cultural centre.

"We support its decision-making on how best to apply its resources in the recovery and regeneration."

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Christchurch city councillor Paul Lonsdale, whose Hagley-Ferrymead ward includes the site, said the news was "a shame".

"There's been quite a relationship built with Ngai Tahu here in the city and it would have been good to see that being reflected in this project."

Plans for the cultural centre have followed an uncertain path since being announced in 2012. Few details were available at the time, and Ngai Tahu chairman Mark Solomon described it as "a concept Ngai Tahu is interested in supporting".

In 2014, Bennett said the centre was "currently a topic for conceptual discussion in the Ngai Tahu and wider community" and had no timeframe.

Later that year, it emerged the iwi was considering a plan that would see the centre shift to Cathedral Square and become part of an $80-million "living cathedral" concept. That idea involved a floating timber canopy connecting Christ Church Cathedral and the cultural centre.

The cultural centre is the second anchor project to be abandoned, after the Government scrapped the Breathe residential demonstration project in December. 

 - Stuff

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