Action plan for Christchurch rebuild panned

ANDREW HOLDEN, SAM SACHDEVA AND JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 13:48 18/04/2012
Brownlee
DEAN KOZANIC
GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government had largely adopted the Christchurch City Council's draft plan for the city centre.
Dalziel
FAIRFAX NZ
LIANNE DALZIEL: The latest announcements were designed to "paper over the cracks" in the exisitng structure.
WARWICK ISAACS
Kirk Hargreaves
WARWICK ISAACS: Currently the general manager of operations for Cera, he will head the new Christchurch Central Development Unit.
Bob Parker
BOB PARKER: Delighted the Government had essentially accepted the community's vision for Christchurch city.

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Labour MP Lianne Dalziel is calling newly-released plans for Christchurch's CBD rebuild "nothing more than a patch-up job".

Minister for Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee announced a new Christchurch Central Development Unit today, saying it would be given 100 days to prepare a "Blueprint for Action".

Read Gerry Brownlee's speech here.

The unit will be headed by Warwick Isaacs, currently the general manager of operations for Cera, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

Brownlee said it was time for action and the city needed a clear direction for the centre's rebuild.

But in a speech to the Employers Chamber of Commerce in Wellington this afternoon, Dalziel lashed out at both the Government and the council.

The latest announcements were designed to "paper over the cracks" in the exisitng structure, she said.

"Without a layer of governance between the Minister and the recovery authority we have decisions being made by Cabinet, implemented by bureaucrats and undermining the last remaining democratic institution in Christchurch - our city council."

The council itself had not responded properly to the shock of the earthquake either, she said.

It had reappointed Tony Marryatt as chief executive "in the face of the demonstrably inadequate response" to both the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes.

However, the mistakes of the council had been compounded by the Government's response of "imposing a growing bureaucracy" which "must not replace the core functions that belong to the council - the only body that can offer democratic participation in decision-making".

"The solutions to all the problems we face in Christchurch can be found in strengthening the council so that it can perform its proper function in collaboration with the citizens of Christchurch, not to usurp its role with a government department without any practical knowledge and experience of urban planning and design."

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However the new body was welcomed by city mayor Bob Parker, who dismissed concerns the council's role would be watered down.

Parker said the new unit would offer a "true partnership" between the council and Government and was the best way to manage the rebuild of the central city.

"We delivered the draft Central City Plan to the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery before Christmas, always understanding that it was the minister's call on how it was going to be implemented. We anticipated an arrangement on the same lines as the development unit," said Parker.

The council had always been open to working closely with the private sector and Government, he said. "We will only succeed if we work as a team."

"Council staff will play a critical role in the CERA project team including the unit's first task, the 100-day preparation of a blue print for the implementation of the central city redevelopment. We will be seconding staff to the new unit to ensure collaboration and cooperation," Parker said.

"The council will also remain as the consent agency for the redevelopment of central Christchurch."

Much of the new unit's focus would be on the private sector, said Parker, leaving the council managing the public domain.

"One of the challenges is to attract significant overseas investment to assist with the rebuild of our city. I look forward to being part of the team involved in this investment promotion and attraction," he said.

Parker also said he had confidence in the ability of Isaacs to head the new unit given his strong local government background.

"He has the leadership skills required for the challenging and exciting role."

Isaacs has an extensive record in local government. He was the chief executive officer of the Timaru District Council for 10 years before coming to Christchurch after the February 22 quake as part of Civil Defence's emergency response team.

COMPULSORY ACQUISITION OF LAND

The unit has been created as part of Cera because of the authority's wide-ranging powers, which include compulsory acquisition of land for major projects.

The blueprint for action, due on the same day that the London Olympics begin, will identify key projects that will define the city's new precincts.

These will include a new convention centre and may also cover central government responsibilities, such as law courts, a new police station and the hospital.

Brownlee said the Government had largely adopted the Christchurch City Council's draft plan for the centre.

Not included in the blueprint will be traffic changes, such as the one-way road system, or light rail for commuters. He said these needed further investigation as part of a city-wide transport strategy.

He said the unit would second staff from Environment Canterbury as well as the city council, but it would collaborate with the city council and it was not a takeover.

The council will remain the consenting authority, but Brownlee made a commitment that building consents for the central city would be approved within 14 days.

Parker told a business leaders' briefing this morning that the unit's ability to develop and implement a plan showed that the Resource Management Act could not deliver the "speed, direction and outcomes that we need".

- © Fairfax NZ News

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