Owners slam rebuild delays, costs

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 11/04/2013

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A number of central Christchurch property owners have slammed the city's rebuild authority, saying "excessive control" has driven out investment.

A report from a group called the Central Owners Rebuild Entity (CORE) says delays and lack of certainty are killing the rejuvenation of the CBD and the rebuild blueprint needs to be "reviewed and fine-tuned".

CORE has canvassed opinions from about 200 owners, including Poplar Lane developers Lisle Hood and John Webb along with Octagon Live owner Alan Slade, and has presented a report to the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU).

CORE is headed by Christchurch developers Ernest Duval and Dean Marshall. The main points in the report are:

The central city has been locked up for too long, preventing developers and owners making investment decisions.

Without clear completion dates for anchor projects and cordon reductions it is challenging to make plans, seek finance and secure tenants.

Uncertainty is driving investment to areas such as Victoria St, Lincoln Rd, Moorhouse Ave and Riccarton. There is less control and better access in these areas, but in the central city the possibility of compulsory acquisitions was a "handbrake on development".

Some aspects of the CCDU plan and its implementation need to be reviewed and fine-tuned.

Compulsory acquisitions is the most "contentious area" of the blueprint plan and owners feel there are huge discrepancies between what the Government offers for the land and what independent valuers say it is worth.

CCDU project delivery general manager Greg Wilson said staff were in regular contact with owners and welcomed all feedback.

"It is inevitable after such a major disaster that some people will choose to leave the city and take their funds with them. However, what we have seen in Christchurch is that most local investors are sticking with the city in anticipation of the exciting new vision that is now starting to take shape."

He also said the independent valuations carried out for the Crown "reflect the reality" that earthquake damage has had a "substantial impact on property values".

"It is not unusual for valuations to vary and a key purpose of negotiation with property owners is to discuss the differences and to try to reach a common ground."

The report claimed peripheral areas of the city, which were becoming more sought after, would "forever become significant business zones to challenge the primacy of the CBD going forward".

"The increases in land prices, operating costs and construction costs are making development challenging and pushing up rentals for business. There's no cheap space and this town is now an expensive place to do business in," the report said.

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Developer and central city landlord Dean Marshall said the blueprint was "flawed" and was forcing some owners to take their capital elsewhere. "I am really sad to be honest. As someone who wanted to see this city be the best it can be, the way it's ended up just isn't what we had in mind."

The report estimated at least $125 million of investment has left the city for other centres and overseas. However, the actual amount was likely to be far greater, it said.

Last week The Press reported Angus McFarlane, one of Christchurch's longest-standing investors, was pulling millions of dollars out of the city, citing delays and poor handling of the rebuild.

Warwick Isaacs, head of Cera's Christchurch Central Development Unit, will be in The Press newsroom on Friday from noon to answer readers questions on the city's rebuild. Post your questions here now.

- The Press

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