Govt to move staff back into Christchurch

The Government will on Friday unveil plans to move 18 government departments and agencies into four new buildings in Cashel and Hereford Sts in Christchurch.

The move will bring public servants back into central Christchurch, seen as crucial to attracting new retail outlets into the central business district.

They will house Social Development, Business, Innovation and Employment, Conservation, Education, Housing, Health, Statistics, ACC, Transport, Internal Affairs, te Puni Kokiri, the Commerce Commission, Pacific Affairs, Human Rights, Creative NZ and EECA.

Two other agencies - Trade and Enterprise and Callaghan Innovation - would move elsewhere, into the innovation precinct.

The ground floors of the new buildings are expected to house retail outlets and eateries with open plan offices above them.

Earlier reports said 1700 office workers would go into the leased buildings.

In answer to written questions to Labour's Maryan Street State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman said no pre-existing lease arrangements had been broken as part of the Christchurch Integrated Government Accommodation (CIGA) business case. 

The final cost was yet to be set as commercial negotiations were still underway.

Independent advice was that the terms negotiated were ''within prudent comparability to market transactions''.

Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson said it was great that departments were moving back into the CBD.

''We want the CBD populated and these  buildings will probably be flash and nice to work in.''

But she was concerned that a number of departments took long term rentals when they were forced to move out after the earthquakes, and Labour had advised against it at the time.

''I can't imagine that they are going to be able to break those rentals without incurring cost.''

She also questioned whether the new inner lease arrangements would also cost more.

But a government spokesman said that through ''flexible management and coordination of the leases the Government has avoided breaking any leases''.

It is understood the government aims to phase relocations and shuffle departments between the city and suburbs to ensure no costs from breaking leases.

The Press reported in April that two of the office buildings will form Lichfield Holdings' $100 million Cashel Square development in the City Mall. The first, facing Hereford St, is due to be finished by August next year, and the other will be ready by the second half of 2016. 

The other offices will be in Devonia Holdings' planned $30m glass-fronted building on the former National Bank site at 164 Hereford St, and in a $70m tiered building on the former Grand Chancellor hotel site owned by the hotel chain at 141 Cashel St. Both are due for completion by mid-2016.

The Press