Christchurch rebuild plan 'pretty big wish list'

SAM SACHDEVA
Last updated 05:01 12/08/2011
IAN MCGREGOR

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker talks about his vision for light rail

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The Future

A day in the life of future Christchurch An architect's vision The Press staff look forward The future: By the numbers Christchurch rebuild plan 'pretty big wish list'

A planned $2 billion rebuild of earthquake-hit central Christchurch will take more than 10 years, Mayor Bob Parker says.

However, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee called the plan "a pretty big wish list".

He said residents must "decide how much they are prepared to pay to fund" the plan.

The Christchurch City Council yesterday unveiled its vision for a "city in a garden" after more than three months work on a draft plan for the rebuilding of the central city.

The plan has received widespread praise, but questions remain over funding and the timetable.

Half of the $1.95b rebuilding costs would be funded by the council, while the Government and private investors would be required to foot the rest.

The draft plan proposes a smaller central business district "core", a light-rail network and height restrictions on new developments.

It emphasises green projects, including an Avon River park winding through the city, a network of central-city parks, a "greenway" for cyclists and pedestrians, and a small park in Cathedral Square.

There would be financial incentives for residents and businesses to return to the central city, while developers would be encouraged to build environmentally friendly buildings.

An $8 million earthquake memorial would pay tribute to the city's loss, while a new quake museum and research institute would recognise the role of the natural disaster in the city's transformation.

The new facilities would include an Olympic-size swimming centre and indoor stadium, a convention centre, central library and performance venue.

Parker said the plan was dedicated to those who lost their lives in the February 22 quake. "Today is about remembering the people we've lost ... This plan is for them, and this plan is for the extraordinary, courageous people of Christchurch."

The city had been given a rare chance to revitalise its centre and needed to take advantage of the opportunity, he said. "If we are apart, we will fail, so let us all embrace it together. Be big-hearted, be big-minded, see the big picture and drive this process together."

Parker said about half the budget could come from "reprioritising" existing council budgets, spreading the projects over 10 years and using insurance money from damaged assets.

The Government was likely to provide some funding, while private investment would have to cover much of the remaining costs.

Parker said the council had tried to balance "aspirational details" with a framework that encouraged investment.

"If you don't have a plan that works for 90 per cent of the capital that comes into Christchurch, that can cause issues."

The council had consulted business groups and industry experts in preparing the plan, which included measures to foster investment.

Parker said the plan was a draft, and he promised the council would make changes deemed necessary by the community. "This is not about us saying, `Here it is guys, we're not going to change it, but have a look'. This is genuine consultation where we gather in your ideas on how to change it."

Parker said work could start next year, but the plan was likely to take more than 10 years to complete. The plan included funding for projects to would encourage residents and businesses to stay in the city during rebuilding.

"We don't know how many years it will take ... but we have to sustain our city. We've got to put some bucks into the transition," he said.

Brownlee said residents would need to decide what projects they wanted to keep from "a pretty big wish list".

"It's now up to the people of Christchurch to debate the plan, prioritise its projects and decide how much they are prepared to pay to fund them," he said.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) chief executive Roger Sutton said the central revitalisation was "an extremely important part" of the city's recovery.

"A tremendous amount of work and thinking has gone into this plan and it's now up to the people of Christchurch to have some further input into the final shape of it," he said.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the draft plan had "few surprises".

"It's going to be the detail of the plan that's important, and we'll be looking really closely at that detail to make sure it's supportive of a vibrant downtown Christchurch."

Townsend said the plan needed to provide an "aspirational framework" and should not be too prescriptive.

"If they're going to strictly limit the areas of retail space that you're allowed to occupy or if there's too much restriction on where in the city and how high it can be, I would rather see that done through sensible community consensus."

The plan will be released for public consultation on Tuesday. The consultation period, including a two-week "roadshow" and an international speakers' series, finishes on September 16.

The council will hold hearings on written submissions in October before a final plan is presented to Cera for approval in December.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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