Red tape stymies CBD farm and celebrity eatery

CELEBRITY CHEF: Life in Vacant Spaces wanted to help create a temporary restaurant with Richard Till.
Dean Kozanic/Fairfax NZ

CELEBRITY CHEF: Life in Vacant Spaces wanted to help create a temporary restaurant with Richard Till.

Government bureaucracy scuppered plans for a celebrity restaurant and a farm in the city centre, a regeneration group says.

Life in Vacant Spaces (Livs) wanted to help create a temporary restaurant with celebrity chef Richard Till, a community garden and farm, as well as temporary structures for artists, designers and craftspeople in the Christchurch East Frame.

Livs has cut ties with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) after nine months of negotiations ended in stalemate.

The project obtained 20 of the 21 signatures Cera required for approval, Livs head Jane Gregg said.

She understood concerns had been raised within Cera that Cantabrians might get "too attached" to the temporary installations.

"These [transitional projects] are the thing that has got Christchurch international profile, that brings tourists. It's bewildering."

Getting permission to use Crown-owned land meant going through a "cumbersome, bureaucratic, directive . . . and enormously risk-averse" process.

She was disappointed at Cera's lack of understanding of community aspirations.

Livs had provided multiple sets of information to Cera over nine months on the East Frame project, she said.

"Our sponsors could not, in the end, justify the amount of work required to assist with a community activity."

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Central City Development Unit Director Baden Ewart said Livs' project was partially approved.

"Livs decided not to go ahead with any of their planned temporary uses for the site," Ewart said.

Several community groups and businesses had worked with Cera to access vacant Crown-owned land in the central city.

He said the East Frame had hosted events and projects including the Festival of Transitional Architecture, concerts, Greening the Rubble's Places of Tranquillity, and Christchurch City Council's butterfly garden.

Lincoln University city planning expert Dr Suzanne Vallance earlier this year said communities and small business owners were also struggling to get a foothold in the city's blueprint.

"When one person is holding all the decision-making ability it must slow down recovery, because it has to pass through one point . . . We need a more distributed model of decision-making to facilitate recovery."

 - The Press

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