Regulations seen as obstacle to rebuild

SAM SACHDEVA
Last updated 05:00 13/10/2011
JOHN SUCKLING
JOHN SUCKLING: Wanted more consultation with the business community.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Criticism of "inflexible" regulations underpinning the planned rebuild of earthquake-hit central Christchurch will be addressed by the city council, Mayor Bob Parker says.

Councillors yesterday finished hearing the last of more than 450 submitters, who shared their thoughts on the council's draft central-city plan over nine days of hearings.

Parker said the "amazing process" had shown that the community wanted the central city to be a success.

"Everybody recognises the scale of the opportunity and the importance of the opportunity in front of us, and we are determined to get the best outcome for our city."

He said submitters had shown significant levels of support for the council's vision for the city, which had "lifted the mood" of residents after it was released.

Parker said repeated criticism of the plan's proposed regulations was "a big issue" that needed to be dealt with.

"It has given the appearance of being inflexible, too prescriptive and not responding to the real needs of some of the business community as perceived by them."

He said the regulatory problems were likely to be the "engine room" of work when councillors met next week to discuss the submissions.

After councillors decided what changes they wanted to make to the plan, it would go back to staff to be redrafted.

Parker said he was confident the plan would be presented to Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee for approval before Christmas, as planned.

During the day, members of the business community repeated calls for greater involvement in the recovery process.

Real estate industry figure Stephen Collins said the business community felt that it had been left out of the plan's preparation.

"I feel sad that it's got to this stage of the process before you've talked to the business community, who are going to attract investment and build buildings in the city."

He said there was "a lack of trust" within the business community that the plan would achieve what the council wanted it to, and urgent action was needed to restore confidence in the city.

Collins said a panel of investors, developers and tenants should be set up to analyse the plan and make recommendations on how it could be improved.

"This isn't about developers wanting to rule the roost or tenants wanting to rule the roost, it's just the reality of how retail and central cities work," he said.

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Canterbury Business Leaders' Group spokesman Don Elder said the business community wanted to focus on the future, rather than any previous disagreements with the council.

He said there was a gap between the council's "bold" vision for the rebuilt central city and the planning regulations it had proposed to achieve it.

The city was in a "sweet spot of geography and history" and had a unique opportunity to improve its situation, he said.

Central City Property and Business Owners' Group chairman John Suckling said the council deserved a "gold star" for its engagement with the public, but had not done enough to include the business community.

"What is a dream for many of the public is a nightmare for public investors," he said.

- The Press

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