Rebuild 'speeding up' but still slow

IN CHARGE: CERA boss Roger Sutton and Christchurch mayor Bob Parker.
IN CHARGE: CERA boss Roger Sutton and Christchurch mayor Bob Parker.

Earthquake recovery boss Roger Sutton says the rebuild is "getting up to speed" with more than $150 million now being spent every month on putting Christchurch back together.

The city's mayor though was hoping for faster progress and says he is personally disappointed the rebuild is not further ahead.

"Overall I'm comfortable with what they (the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) have done but at a personal level I'm disappointed we have not got further ahead," Mayor Bob Parker said today.

"If you look at us in an international context we are making good progress but it was never going to be fast enough for those of us who are living in the middle of it."

Sutton, who has been chief executive of Cera now for just over two years, admits there is still a long way to go, particularly in the core of the central businsess district (CBD) where there is little evidence of a rebuild being under way.

Speaking at the Christchurch City Council's monthly earthquake forum today, Sutton said the Stronger Christchurch Rebuild Team (Scirt) and Fletchers EQR were both now spending roughly $50 milllion every month on fixing quake damage, while private insurers were spending even more than that.

"Their rate of spending now is four or five times what it was a year ago so those rates of spending are really starting to increase. We are starting to see real progress ... but that doesn't mean there aren't large sections of the community that feel it is still too slow," Sutton said.

Comparing the progress in Christchurch to other cities around the world that had suffered major disasters, such as New Orleans in the United States, Sutton said Christchurch was doing "significantly better".

However, he acknwledged there was "real impatience and frustration" over the lack of progress on fixing homes with complex repairs and at the lack of investment in the core of the new CBD.

"The trade-off there is we would much prefer grand developments of scale rather than lots of little pepper-pot things that weren't designed to work together effectively. Because we want those land owners to work together on those bigger plans, it simply takes time," Sutton said. "We've signalled very clearly that if they can't work together, we will step in."

Commenting on the progress around the anchor projects, Sutton said there would be an announcement within the next few weeks around their timing and when significant milestones would be reached.

Parker told The Press he hoped that announcement would give developers the certainty they needed to progress with their own projects as the lack of building activity within the core of the CBD was a concern, although understandable given the cordons in the CBD had only just come down.

"Hopefully we're on the cusp of seeing that part of the rebuild swing into life now," Parker said. "It feels like it has taken forever ... but I think it is beginning to happen.

The Press