Thousands of city workers 'will not return'

Last updated 11:13 25/09/2012

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Many of the 6000 businesses that occupied Christchurch's central business district before the earthquakes are unlikely to return, new research from Canterbury University suggests.

Professor Simon Kemp says a different mix of businesses are likely to occupy Christchurch's new compact CBD as commercial areas outside the central city, such as Riccarton, Addington and Sydenham, develop and grow.

Before the quakes, about 6000 businesses, employing more than 50,000 people, were located within the four avenues.

Many of the businesses were forced to relocate after the February 2011 quake because of the extent of the damage to the CBD, and others simply stopped trading.

Kemp said that while the quakes drove many businesses to the suburbs, some would have gone anyway.

''We would not expect all the relocated businesses to return to the CBD and, indeed, it might be better both for many of the businesses themselves and for the Christchurch community as a whole if they did not.''

A research team overseen by Kemp asked 209 businesses that had relocated whether they were satisfied with their new locations and whether they intended to return to the central city.

The results found small businesses were least likely to return (42 per cent), while bigger businesses were most likely to return (55 per cent).

''Types of business not so likely to return include many retailers, those offering financial services, and businesses that are concerned with making or repairing things,'' Kemp said.

Law firms were among those most likely to return because they wanted to be near the courts.

The findings echo the results of research by Lincoln University in association with commercial realtor CBRE.

That research, released in February, found the number of businesses wanting to return to the CBD had dropped by a third over the space of six months.

The researchers calculated the rebuilt Christchurch CBD might need only half the office space it had before the quakes.

Kemp said most of the businesses that had relocated had gone to the west of the city - Riccarton or Addington, or a little further out.

They had tended to stay as close as possible to the city centre rather than move to the outskirts of Christchurch, he said.

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- The Press

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