Bring students to town - Parker

OLIVIA CARVILLE
Last updated 05:00 26/11/2012
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker

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Christchurch will be little more than a "glossy rest-home" if the Government does not rethink its blueprint for the city, Mayor Bob Parker says.

In a strong stand against the Government's central-city plans, Parker told The Press he felt duty bound to speak out after growing "increasingly concerned" over wasted opportunities in the rebuild - particularly the lack of incentive for young people to stay.

Parker has called for an urgent forum with the Government, education leaders and the council to discuss bringing students back to the central city and preventing Christchurch from becoming a "sleepy hollow".

Current plans were not bold enough. The community's vision for the future had been "compromised away" in the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) blueprint, he said.

Combining the ageing population and the unprecedented number of young people leaving Christchurch, in about 20 years more than half of the city would be over the age of 65, Parker said.

"We are on a direct path at the moment to become New Zealand's most modern and attractive new rebuilt resthome."

One possible solution to the "age group crisis" was to relocate the University of Canterbury back inside the four avenues.

Despite the university's reluctance to shift, this was the most "grievously undercooked" opportunity in the rebuild.

Parker said he was speaking out now after seeing the young "creative energy" around re-opened businesses in High and St Asaph streets.

Many of his friends' children were also relocating to Wellington, Auckland and Sydney because Christchurch no longer catered for their needs.

Parker said he was not criticising the CCDU blueprint per se. The Government had delivered a safe and modern plan.

However, it had "diluted" the community-built design that was developed through the council's Share an Idea campaign.

"Share an Idea [has] all been overshadowed; first of all by the glamour of the CCDU plan but later by the arguments of who is going to sell what, you can't keep the Town Hall, you can keep the Town Hall," he said.

"We promised ourselves that we would rebuild something to honour the people we lost and that it would be the most beautiful city on earth."

Parker said it wasn't too late to build that dream city, but: "We have to be bold to get there."

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told The Press he would talk to the mayor about his concerns.

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Brownlee said every Western country in the world was facing an ageing population.

He said the "answer" to the demographic issue did not lie in the "structures you create . . . I think it's much more about the atmosphere you create".

TOP CONCERNS

More than half Christchurch's population predicted to hit retirement age in about two decades.

The increasing numbers of young people bleeding out of the city since the earthquakes.

There is nothing in the Government blueprint that will address the city's demographic problems or attract young people into Christchurch.

The blueprint is only recreating the same city rather than grasping the opportunity to rebuild something better.

The Government has not been bold enough in its plans.

The blueprint diluted the community's dream that was developed through the Share an Idea campaign.

- The Press

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