Design timeline on target

Christchurch's central-city blueprint took 100 days to design, but what progress has been made in a year

Time seems to fly when you're rebuilding an earthquake-damaged city.

A year ago today an "aspirational" plan to revive Christchurch's wrecked central business district was delivered to much fanfare.

The swanky black-tie launch party and promotional material cost taxpayers more than $500,000.

Outside, far removed from the free booze and canapes, a vocal protest group braved the wet and cold.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee had demanded the delivery of the tightest of timeframes - just 100 days.

The result was a condensed CBD framed by green space, and featuring precincts, a new sports stadium, convention centre, central library and metro sports facility.

Fast forward 12 months, about 50 per cent of anchor project land has been secured.

Priority projects such as the metro sports facility, convention centre and green frames are higher at between 63 and 71 per cent.

The start of work on the Avon River precinct is the first tangible sign of progress.

However, those months have not been without controversy.

The threat of land acquisitions, the cost and timing of the anchor projects were divisive developments.

Fulfilling the vision is expected to cost about $5 billion - a figure questioned by those battling in the suburbs.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton told The Press he was "really happy" with the year's progress.

He cited Antony Gough's redevelopment of the former Oxford Tce strip as evidence the rebuild was moving forward.

"We had had a reasonable amount of time to come up with the blueprint, but the next stage in many ways is harder. We want to make sure what we do is really good quality."

Much of the work was behind the scenes, Sutton said.

The year felt like it had "flown by". However, almost all the timelines included the blueprint were on target.

Progress on the cultural precinct and deciding the fate of the Town Hall had been "irritating", Sutton said.

He had also expected more action in the retail precinct.

"The landowners there have taken longer to reach agreement between themselves than we would have liked. That continues to be something we're watching carefully."

A number of the remaining land owners have been critical of the acquisition process, especially land valuations, and have indicated they will not sell.

"The last group will be hard to budge . . . We'll have to think carefully about to what extent it is willing buyer, willing seller or whether for some people we end up having to use our compulsory powers," Sutton said.

"Normally we people have different views of value, people don't buy and sell, but in this case we do want to buy and it is going to be tricky for some of these people."

Tangible progress will be seen in the next 12 months.

Gough's Terrace development is scheduled to be completed by Show Weekend next year.

The Isaac Theatre Royal is targeting a mid-2014 reopening.

Construction on at least two anchor projects - the bus exchange and the convention centre - will also begin.

Some views have not changed in the past 12 months.

Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove said yesterday the plan had some "really innovative ideas", but the priorities remained contentious.

"As one woman said famously, ‘I'd love a covered stadium but I'd love a roof over my head first'," he said.


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The Press