Govt convention centre deal on cards

LOIS CAIRNS AND MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 21/06/2013
Old Christchurch Convention Centre site
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ

GONE: The site of the old Christchurch Convention Centre on Kilmore St.

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The Government has struck a deal with the city council that will see a new convention centre built in Christchurch without the need for any ratepayer funding, The Press understands.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is refusing to comment on the deal but says an announcement will be made soon.

The council had budgeted $151.2 million for a new convention centre but it is expected that money will now go towards helping plug the funding shortfall on other anchor projects planned for the central city.

The Government has been pushing the council to pick up a bigger share of the anchor projects' costs, suggesting on many occasions that it could raise more money for them by selling assets, but the council has resisted, sticking to the $787.4m it already has on its books for the facilities.

A cost-sharing agreement between the Government and the council has been under negotiation for several months. It will not only shape who pays for, owns and manages the city's new civic facilities, but also how the $2 billion cost of repairing the city's damaged horizontal infrastructure - roads and underground pipes - will be split.

An extraordinary meeting of the council was held in private yesterday so councillors could give their approval to the deal.

It is understood that the Cabinet will sign off on the deal, brokered by senior council and government executives, on Monday.

A public announcement is expected next Thursday, when Prime Minister John Key is scheduled to visit Christchurch.

It was crucial for the council to sign off on the deal yesterday as next week it must formally adopt its three-year plan, which sets out its work programme and financial strategy until July 2016.

The draft plan, released in February, proposed an average rates rise in the coming financial year of 6.67 per cent, made up of a 4.74 per cent rise to cover standard services and projects and a 1.93 per cent special earthquake charge, but a report prepared for next week's budget meetings suggests that figure could drop slightly.

Council staff have reviewed the financial forecasts for 2013-14 and now believe the council will receive $11m more in development contributions than forecast, which will help offset some of its debt-servicing costs.

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- The Press

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