Interest in convention centre mainly local

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 23/10/2012

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International investors appear to be cool about putting their money into Christchurch's new convention centre.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit is seeking expressions of interest for the blueprint anchor project but says local responses far outnumber overseas ones.

About 125 parties have registered their interest for a development unit presentation on the project today.

Unit investment manager James Hay said the local bias was "remarkable".

The unit had so far engaged with 300 potential investors, developers and occupiers.

Sixty per cent were local, 30 per cent national and 10 per cent from overseas, mainly Australia and China.

The development unit originally planned to court international investors in the fourth quarter of this year, Hay said, but that sales strategy had now been refined.

"We've been busy enough talking to people without having to go out," he said.

"Also, when you go overseas you don't want to have to go out and cold call, per se. You want to have specific engagement around specific proposals."

The unit has not released costings on the precinct but it and another core project, the metro sports centre, have a combined estimated bill of $342 million.

The unit was open to ideas on the project from potential investors who had shown interest but asked for flexibility, Hay said.

"If done right, this precinct will be something that fires the city centre," he said.

The convention centre precinct includes an adjoining hotel, a shopping arcade and links to the city library and performing arts centre, but the unit and its project partner, the city council, had no set plan.

"In a conventional way, a city might ask for someone to come in and do the hotel and someone to do the convention centre," Hay said.

"We're actually saying to market, do you want the opportunity to actually master-plan this whole thing yourselves, and what would you do?"

The council has so far committed $220.7m to the convention centre project and has asked the Government to put in $70m.

It was too early to say what the private-public funding split for the project would be, Hay said.

The unit wanted more than 50 per cent of the funding for the central-city rebuild to come from private hands, he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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