Is the sun setting on the rebuild?

LOIS CAIRNS AND JOHN MCCRONE
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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The Rebuild

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For many, the rebuild of Christchurch is progressing at a painfully slow rate. So what is holding things up? 

INSURANCE

Unresolved insurance claims are arguably the biggest impediment to Christchurch's rebuild.

Insurance companies in the Christchurch market have been rated among the world's slowest to respond to disaster.

Across the city thousands of people are stuck in a spirit-crushing limbo-land, unable to get on with repairing or rebuilding their homes because they have yet to reach agreement with either the Earthquake Commission (EQC) or their insurer over the extent of the damage and the size of the payout.

Recently released Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) data revealed that of the 4731 Cantabrians needing insurer-led rebuilds, more than 4000 were still waiting for their new home.

Of insurer-led repairs (costing more than $100,000), just 769 homes have been completed out of the 7079.

Owners of many quake-damaged commercial buildings too have still to settle with their insurers. Most need a payout before they can even consider investing in new property. About 25 per cent of commercial claims have yet to be resolved.

It is insurance that is also holding up the rebuild of many of Christchurch's civic and community facilities as the city council struggles to reach agreement with its insurer, Civic Assurance, over the scope of damage and the size of payout.

TOO MANY UNKNOWNS

In the central city, private-sector investment has largely stalled because of uncertainty over the actual detail of the anchor projects the Government outlined in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan (CCRP).

A cautionary air replaced the wave of enthusiasm for these ambitious projects as investors waited to find out how the Government and the city council proposed to pay for them.

The CCRP was strong in lofty ambition but weak on detail, creating a conundrum for developers. Should they push ahead with their own projects on the basis of what had been promised or should they wait until there was firm evidence those promises were going to be delivered? Most have opted to take the latter route.

Until late last year there was no clear transport plan or understanding of how the roading network and parking provisions would work. Few developers have been prepared to rush in and put up new buildings without a full understanding.

CUMBERSOME PROCESSES

It may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) created a rod for its own back when it decided to allow only large-scale commercial development in the retail precinct around Ballantynes.

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It hoped that by insisting developers submit outline development plans covering at least 7500 square metres, or about a whole block – even if they did not own all that land – it would encourage large investors to step in with comprehensive designs.

That may have played into the hands of property owners such as Antony Gough, who, through family holdings, could quickly assemble a whole block, but it has created a mess on other sites where owners have been reluctant to hand over control.

The retail precinct has faltered and three years on from the February quake we are only just beginning to see signs of new retail development.

POLITICAL TENSIONS

Throwing a new government department into the mix in Christchurch has created new political tensions and led to an, at times, uneasy division of responsibilities. Rather than working hand-in-hand, the Christchurch City Council and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) have often seemed to be pulling in different directions.

The council has been reluctant to cede any power to a Wellington-led bureaucracy and has been determined to chart its own course, as much as possible, even when clearly it has been overwhelmed by the sheer scale.

The election of a new council was supposed to herald the start of a better working relationship with Cera, but there are signs lingering tensions remain.

TIGHT FINANCES

The quakes have put a drain on central and local government's finances.

They have been pouring money into the rebuild but neither have an unending supply and are conscious how they could impact on ratepayers and taxpayers.

- The Press

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