Key city investor pulls out

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 01/04/2013

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One of Christchurch's longest-standing investors and property developers is taking millions of dollars out of the city to invest in the United States.

Angus McFarlane, whose family has owned property in the central city for more than 60 years, said a climate of delays and poor handling of the rebuild had driven him offshore.

He is now investing in oil and gas exploration and property development in Texas.

"I like Christchurch, I grew up there, but they're just not doing it right," McFarlane said from Houston.

"I didn't do this lightly, it's a culmination of everything."

The earthquakes had revealed existing mismanagement within the Christchurch City Council, and while the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) had a "terrifically hard job to do, I don't think that's being done correctly either", he said.

Rebuilding and anchor projects should have been left to private owners "who could've pulled Christchurch together a year ago", McFarlane said.

The McFarlane Group's portfolio includes several properties in the east frame and the half-hectare Munns site between Armagh and Gloucester streets, bought for $12 million for office development and now under performing arts precinct designation.

McFarlane has been left unable to either sell or develop the Munns site while paying tens of thousands of dollars in rates "without so much as a rubbish collection".

He estimated the designations had cost him half the value of his properties. "I had the best land and they have taken it off me and there's nothing suitable to buy."

Court action against the Government over the Munns site had been launched, but he did not want to comment on the case.

McFarlane's previous projects have included the Farmers department store and car park, the ANZ Bank building in Cathedral Square, the Oxford Clinic on Oxford Terrace, and several residential subdivisions.

Hamish Doig, managing director of commercial real estate firm Colliers, said there was "a real mixture of feelings" among landlords and delays like the City Mall impasse were causing frustration.

"I think everybody is frustrated. We would all like (the rebuild) to be quicker but we recognise it's a massive task."

Doig said the "vast majority" of investors were parochial and wanted to keep their money in the city, but there was less land available.

Property Council South Island president Glenn Taylor said the rebuild would be driven by local investors "and I'd like to think the CCDU (Christchurch Central Development Unit) and Cera recognise that, and are assisting locals as much as they can".

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- The Press

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