Convention centre will cost $500 million

01:32, Aug 08 2014
Convention Centre
ANCHOR PROJECT: An artist's impression of the new Convention Centre, which will be designed and built by Plenary Conventions, Ngai Tahu Property and Carter Group.

Taxpayers will contribute $284 million to the Christchurch Convention Centre due to open in 2017.

It was revealed yesterday that Christchurch's Carter Group and Ngai Tahu Property would join forces with a global development firm to design and build the $500m convention centre.

No information had previously been made public about the Convention Centre Precinct for almost a year.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday revealed that Carter Group - headed by Christchurch rich-lister Philip Carter - Ngai Tahu Property and Plenary Conventions NZ had been chosen as the preferred development consortium.

Global hotel group Accor had been selected as the preferred operator.

The Crown would contribute $284m to the precinct and the private sector development partners would contribute a further $200m-plus.


Key said the precinct would span most of the area between Victoria Sq and Cathedral Sq and include a 2000-seat conference facility, hotels, residential development, hospitality and retail outlets.

Convention guests spend more than other visitors and the precinct would provide economic benefits for the city and region, he said.

"That is why we've so firmly backed and supported an appropriate, modern convention facility for Christchurch."

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee had no concerns about conflict of interest in the tender process to choose the preferred Convention Centre developer. 

Woods Bagot, which worked with Plenary on the Melbourne Convention Centre, architects Warren and Mahoney and Boffa Miskell were among the firms behind the initial design of the Convention Centre. 

Boffa Miskell's former director Don Miskell now works for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority as the general manager of planning and design.

All three firms were also part of the Blueprint 100, the consortium that delivered the central city blueprint in 2012. 

Brownlee yesterday said the process had been ''exhaustive'' and did not believe there was any conflict of interest. 

"I acknowledge the process up to now has been quite lengthy, with only minimal information publicly available.

"There is a very good reason for this - we needed to ensure we followed a thorough, fair and considered approach to find the best possible development consortium and operator.'' 

In March a letter obtained by The Press showed the race to design and build the Convention Centre was down to one after another bidder pulled out. 

One of the remaining bidders said it was pulling out because of lack of information and concerns about the fairness of the tender process. 

Plenary Group executive director Paul Crowe told The Press that major public infrastructure projects always had a rigorous tender process. 

''And this project was no different,'' he said.

Crowe said the convention centre was "an irresistible challenge".

"This is a project that has the potential to change the story for Christchurch following the devastating earthquakes."

Plenary Group had delivered more than $14 billion in public infrastructure projects in Australia, where the company was founded, and in Canada and the United States.

Carter said the tender process had been "pretty rigorous".

Carter owned a substantial amount of land on the western side of Cathedral Sq that was targeted for the Convention Centre Precinct and subsequently bought by the Crown.

He had been involved in the process since late 2011, he said.

Ngai Tahu Property chief executive Tony Sewell said the company had previously partnered with Carter Group on "some business interests" but the convention centre would be their biggest joint project.

The next step was a master planning and development phase, Brownlee said.

"This is a major project on a scale that may surprise some people."

Christchurch & Canterbury Convention Bureau manager Caroline Blanchfield said the announcement meant the bureau could start "actively pursuing large international conferences" for Christchurch.

"We already have significant interest in events wanting to book at least three years out."

Construction is expected to begin in 2015 and the centre is due to open in 2017.

The Press