River park's bill could run to $100m

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 08:04 26/01/2013

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Christchurch's new river park could cost as much as $100 million - with $3m alone set to be spent on the design plans.

The park is the first of the major anchor projects in the Government's recovery blueprint to get under way and while several sources have indicated to The Press the cost is likely to run to between $90m and $100m, there is still no official word.

The Government has refused requests to release that information and has also kept quiet on how much of the cost it expects ratepayers to bear, even though the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) hopes to have the first section completed by the end of this year.

A CCDU spokeswoman said this week that up to $3m had been budgeted for the concept design fee, but she would not provide further details of the project's costs.

"As the Crown is currently negotiating with landowners and the private sector, we are unable to release further financial details at this stage. To do so could potentially prejudice our ability to get the best price for taxpayers and would give undue advantage," she said.

The Government expects the Christchurch City Council to foot some costs, but the council has allotted only $6.4m for the project.

It is not clear whether the Government wants any more. The CCDU spokeswoman said talks on cost-sharing arrangements for the anchor projects were under way and it was "reasonable to share the load between central and local government".

The CCDU was looking for contributions from philanthropic sources, she said.

Mayor Bob Parker said the council had been transparent about how much it was prepared to contribute to the river park and had made its position clear.

"It's all in our annual plan and everyone can see how much we, as a community, have decided we can put into that project."

The issue of how much the anchor projects were going to cost was of huge interest to the community. It was important the Government gave that information as soon as it reasonably could, he said.

"We have to be respectful of the process that they are going through, but ultimately it would be to everyone's benefit to have a clear understanding of the costs and scale of these proposals."

Labour's acting earthquake recovery spokeswoman, Ruth Dyson, said the Government needed to be more transparent about the costs of the anchor projects and how they were going to be funded.

"Ratepayers and taxpayers have the right to know what the bill is and over what period of time it is going to be spent," she said.

The concept design plans for the river park will not be subject to public consultation, but the CCDU spokeswoman said there would be opportunities for residents to be involved in the progress of the river park over the next two to three years.

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The Government has been reluctant to put a price tag on any of the anchor projects in the CBD, but it is expected the convention centre alone will cost at least $220m while the new covered rugby stadium is likely to cost more than $300m.

THE STORY SO FAR

Project management firm Opus and British design company BDP have been appointed by the Christchurch Central Development Unit to take the lead on the river park. They started work on the concept design this month and have been given 65 days to complete it. The river park will be about three kilometres long and about 60 metres wide and will follow the Avon from Christchurch Hospital to Fitzgerald Ave. The first section of the park – a portion of land in the north frame between Madras and Manchester streets running north-south and Cambridge Tce and Kilmore St running east-west – is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The entire precinct is expected to take about three years to complete.

- The Press

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