Experts differ on whether Christchurch rebuild has peaked

Construction in Christchurch is at its peak.
Dean Kozanic

Construction in Christchurch is at its peak.

More than $100 million a week is being spent in Christchurch as the post-quake rebuild reaches its peak, economists say.

Cranes dominate the skyline, road cones line the streets and about 31,000 construction sector workers are on the job as the fifth anniversary of the September 2010 quake approaches. 

Bank economists believe this is the busiest things will get.

Christchurch's new central library is one of a number of city projects that will see construction ramp up.
Supplied

Christchurch's new central library is one of a number of city projects that will see construction ramp up.

Westpac Bank's rebuild update estimated that with 40 per cent of the investment spent, "reconstruction spending appears to have reached a peak" and the work "would not provide the same sort of boost to growth and employment as it has in recent years".

ASB Bank's latest Cantometer rebuild report also concluded construction was at top speed, saying said the rebuild would now "remain at elevated levels for some time" before winding down. 

Those on the ground in Christchurch disagree that peak rebuild has been reached.

Tony Sewell, head of Ngai Tahu Property and previous chief executive of the Property Council, said he expected construction levels to stay elevated until 2020, or even 2024.

"We are not at the peak yet, there is still a lot more to go. It's clear they [the economists] are wrong.

"There's a raft of things including rebuilding schools, finishing housing, and the insurers aren't out of it yet."

Private developers' projects under way in the central city now include more than $300m worth of office and retail complexes in the retail precinct, the $67m Awly office building on Durham St, the PwC Centre on the Cashel-Cambridge corner, a new office building on the Grand Chancellor site, and a clutch of new buildings in the innovation precinct.

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Most are expected to be completed before the end of 2016 bringing thousands of new office workers and shoppers back into the city centre.

Public construction includes the $300m justice and emergency services precinct, the $85m central library, the $50 new Environment Canterbury building, the $127.5m town hall repair, and the demolition of the Lichfield St and Manchester St car park buildings.

Projects yet to come include the $245m convention centre, the $80 million east and north frame apartment developments, the $217m metro sports centre, and Ngai Tahu's new complex on the old police site.

The Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team is three-quarters of the way through rebuilding the city's underground services and is expected to be finished by next year.

Ernest Duval, co-chairman of Central City Owners Rebuild Entity, forecast the rebuild peak was six to 18 months ahead.

"We're not there yet and when things do peak there will a long tail," he said.

Duval said when delayed projects such as the convention centre and the revamp of Cathedral Square got under way, it would trigger "a second wave" of development, such as new hotels.

"This will keep the momentum going and be a catalyst for some time. There's lots of positives out there."

Hamish Doig, head of commercial real estate firm Colliers in Christchurch, said a "huge amount" of rebuild activity happening.

"I'm excited by what the private sector has done and they have been leading the recovery. We just need more commitment to see the public sector promises delivered."

While most of the big office and retail projects were now "out of the ground", Doig believed the anchor projects would boost confidence and trigger spin-off developments. 

"We've got major things to come. Then things will probably plateau for a while."

Statistics New Zealand figures show Canterbury councils issued consents for more than $1.7 billion of non-residential construction in the past year, up from $1.2b in the previous 12 months.

 - Stuff

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