Christchurch's central city might become a wasteland unless the earthquake-affected city limits its westward growth, University of Canterbury lecturer Mark Quigley says.
Speaking today at the Share An Idea community expo at CBS Arena today, Quigley said cities like Los Angeles had already turned their central business district (CBD) into a wasteland through unchecked suburban growth.
"The western side of our city is blowing out - everyone wants to live out there because [there is a perception] they're safer, there's more gravel out there and there wasn't liquefaction," he said.
"If we allow growth to just blast out [west] ... we're going to have increased traffic issues, we're going to have less connectivity with the CBD, we're going to have a bunch of urban sprawl, lots of shopping malls, and a real asymmetric city."
Quigley said a swathe of scientific research was being undertaken to assess the danger from the faults under Christchurch.
But whatever was found, smart engineering would save lives, he said.
Quigley, a geological sciences lecturer who had a huge public profile after September's quake, said despite the central city being built on small, active faults, the city could and should be rebuilt where it is.
"Let's not think for a moment that because our CBD is perhaps not in the geologically most ideal place that we need to reconfigure all of our roads and abandon places that had some liquefaction.
"Those problems can get dealt with; we don't need to be too dramatic about any of that."
Quigley suggested light rail connect the university through the central city to New Brighton and that more people be encouraged to live in the inner-city, particularly in the eastern CBD that is dominated by damaged wooden buildings, parking and light industry.
Thousands of people have flocked to the expo, which was organised by the Christchurch City Council to collect Cantabrians' ideas about the redevelopment of the central city.