Convention centre bidding war runs out

The race to design and build Christchurch's new convention centre is down to one after another bidder pulled out this week, according to documents obtained by The Press.

Five groups, out of 23 initial responses, were asked to submit proposals for the $284 million precinct - one of the Government's key blueprint anchor projects - to the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU).

The CCDU was unable to confirm how many groups were still being considered but a letter obtained by The Press showed one consortium pulled out, citing a lack of information.

Southrim Group, described by the Companies Office as a passive investment company, confirmed in the letter to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) it was pulling out. The March 10 letter, written by chief executive Garry Woods and supplied to The Press by a third party, confirmed Southrim had been one of two remaining bidders.

It also said the Crown had confirmed it would proceed with the project with only one bidder.

Last year, Ngai Tahu Property, Fletcher Building and Naylor Love-Hutchinson Builders and Populous, a global design and planning consultancy, confirmed they were among the five shortlisted groups. They would not reveal their partners.

Others understood to be in the five groups included New Zealand infrastructure investor Morrison and Co, and Australia-based infrastructure business Plenary Group.

The Press understands Plenary is the only bidder left.

Plenary corporate affairs director Kelvyn Lavelle said it was public knowledge the firm was a bidder, but he did not know whether it was the last remaining.

Woods did not want to comment when contacted, saying the matter was private and could affect the firm's business rapport with Cera.

Ngai Tahu Property, one the five preferred groups, confirmed it had withdrawn from the process without bidding for "sound commercial reasons".

"It's been a pretty competitive process to date," chief executive Tony Sewell said.

Last month, a Cera spokesman said since the initial 23 responses were received to design, build, finance, maintain and run the precinct "the parameters of the tender have been adjusted" and the functions would now be tendered separately.

CCDU director Warwick Isaacs said a business case was finalised in September and had been before the Cabinet. "We are confident the procurement process for the convention centre precinct meets all of the requirements and will deliver the best outcome for the city."

The Press