Mahy park price-tag 'an insult'

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 21/06/2014

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A potential $30 million price-tag on a new central Christchurch playground is a "smack in the face" to earthquake-hit residents still struggling, a community advocate says.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) is looking to raise more than $50m from sponsors and philanthropists to support key anchor projects.

Among those highlighted is the Margaret Mahy Family Playground, which already has a Crown-funded budget of $20m.

A CCDU information handout about the investment opportunities available in the city showed the Government was looking for an additional $10m or more for development of the playground.

The money would go towards features such as "recreational and contemplative spaces and lawns" as well as community gardens and water features.

Canterbury Communities' Earthquake Recovery Network spokeswoman Leanne Curtis said she was "gobsmacked" to learn $30m could be spent on the playground.

"For the people we serve ... to see $30m, and that much energy and investment, going on this one anchor project is just a smack in the face," she said.

Curtis supported new community and recreational facilities, especially for children, but said the cost of the planned playground was "completely unbelievable".

CCDU director Warwick Isaacs said it would be "pure speculation" to say how much money the Government expected to raise in total, but confirmed the Crown's budget for the playground remained at $20m.

This included playground equipment, utilities, landscaping and planting, site remediation and work on Armagh St, a CCDU spokeswoman said.

"Any money offered by sponsors or philanthropists is additional to this," Isaacs said. All anchor projects would be delivered regardless of the amount raised.

The CCDU is hoping to raise more than $24m for a metro sports facility – money that could be spent on pools, an indoor stadium and fitness studios.

The Crown had allocated $70m, which includes land, and the Christchurch City Council had earmarked $147m for the project. Isaacs said the budget for the metro sports facility had not yet been finalised.

Christchurch fundraising expert Graeme Brady said philanthropic investment for these types of projects was "very territorial".

"I suspect there are some Aucklanders who want to invest in philanthropic causes in Christchurch but there has to be a connection and at the moment, I don't think the [CCDU] has found that link," he said.

Christchurch had "an exceptional history" of fundraising but he believed many residents would rather support smaller projects in their community than large-scale central city projects.

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University of Canterbury senior marketing lecturer Ekant Veer said the idea of raising a large amount of money through private donations was "not something we see regularly in New Zealand" but did not mean it could not work.

"There has to be exposure for those who are putting the money up ... whether it's brand equity or just getting their name out there."

- The Press

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