Eden concept 'essential' for city

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 14/08/2014
 Ray Sleeman, left, and David Simmons
TOURISM PUSH: Ray Sleeman, left, and David Simmons are backing an Eden-like project.

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Ideas like Eden NZ will need significant government funding to move from the drawing board to the real world, advocates say.

Eden NZ is one of many ideas suggested for the unoccupied red zone land in the eastern suburbs, now owned by the Government. Community consultation experts say the cost and viability of some ideas is affecting potential support.

Lincoln University tourism professor David Simmons and tourism business owner Ray Sleeman put forward the idea for public consultation through the EVO::SPACE website after 18 months developing it behind the scenes.

The idea is modelled on The Eden Project UK - a 15-hectare sustainability and plant project in Cornwall attracting over 1 million visitors a year.

Eden NZ would follow a mountain-to-sea theme, using land in the Avon Loop. While the Cornwall Eden focused on plants, the Christchurch project would focus on water and how it shaped the land. It would include retail elements, interactive displays and community functions.

Simmons was not sure how much land would be required, what it would cost or how many tourists it would attract annually. The answers to these questions, he said, depended on a business plan which would cost $650,000, including research to show cost-benefit analysis, tourist numbers, community support and a price tag for the final product.

"We don't know what the cost envelope is, therefore we don't know where the money will come from. It won't happen without government support," Simmons said.

Despite the lack of firm figures, he said something like Eden would be "essential" for Christchurch as a tourist destination.

"Christchurch has really lost its destination status and it's now more of a gateway," he said.

If the idea went ahead, he promised it would be done right and would not end up a "white elephant".

"It's about getting it right, and getting the right people to run it," he said.

The concept would likely come with a price tag in the hundreds of millions, Simmons said.

He and Sleeman regard Eden as similar to Te Papa in Wellington - a standalone attraction bringing people to the city specifically to see it.

EVO::SPACE organiser Evan Smith said he did not know whether the Eden NZ proposal was realistic. If the public was supportive of the idea, research could begin.

"Affordability and an inability to see how a project might be funded is obviously influencing some people's comments and level of support for some proposals," he said.

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About 1000 people have registered to give feedback on EVO::SPACE ideas like Eden NZ, water parks and other initiatives for the vacant red zone land.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority consultation, already underway in Waimakariri, has not been scheduled for Christchurch yet.

- The Press

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