Central city group in Christchurch needs cash and ideas

Shoppers are returning to central Christchurch as popular retailers reopen.
STACY SQUIRES/FAIRFAX NZ

Shoppers are returning to central Christchurch as popular retailers reopen.

A group representing private enterprise in central Christchurch says it is more needed than ever as it looks for ways to survive.

Before the earthquakes, the Central City Business Association had 500 members and received $150,000 annually in city council funds towards activities including promotion, marketing, events, security, and advocacy. When the central city was closed, membership dwindled to almost nothing.

The association now has 200 members including retailers, tourist and hospitality operators, landowners, professional firms, arts organisations, and education groups. The council cut its contribution to $100,000 for the 2014-15 year and under its draft annual plan, not yet finalised, would reduce it again to $60,000 from this year.

Tourism is a growing part of the central Christchurch economy.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Tourism is a growing part of the central Christchurch economy.

Chairman Brendan Chase said with the city at a turning point the group needed new ideas and money to survive. Pre-quake financial reserves were almost exhausted, he said.

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"We can't operate on $60,000 a year. We think with all the new buildings opening and businesses coming back, it's an appropriate time to readdress how things work."

The association will run a summit in a fortnight's time to decide what to do next. Council and rebuild organisations Otakaro, Regenerate and Development Christchurch have been asked to attend.

The rebuild of the retail precinct underway.
JOSEPH JOHNSON/FAIRFAX NZ

The rebuild of the retail precinct underway.

Association manager Lisa Goodman said they wanted to be more self-sustaining. They had looked at overseas models of how central city groups operated.

"Obviously we'll be talking to council about the funding. But we want to move to more sustainable revenue streams. We're at a bit of a crossroads, we need to establish priorities."

Membership is free, and Goodman said they could consider charging "but we're very mindful that a lot of our members are just getting up on their feet in the city centre, so that might not be feasible".

Activity in New Regent St.
GRANT MATTHEW/FAIRFAX NZ

Activity in New Regent St.

There had "never been a more important time for a private sector advocacy body", she said. "There's a lot the business community can do for the central city."

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Chase said as new buildings boosted the central city rates take and businesses moved in and paid rent, the CBD's economic power was shifting to private interests.

"As more opens the population is rising, our voice is becoming stronger and we are being heard more and our numbers are growing.

"I think a collective private sector voice is very important in this rebuild environment. We can give council and government feedback before issues become issues."

 - Stuff

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