Setting goals seen as crucial to city's future

Little or no unemployment in two years and a top class sports facility in 10 years.

These are examples of the "milestones" a large business group is suggesting for the Canterbury recovery.

It is aiming to stimulate public debate about how Canterbury can develop over the next 20 years and what the community desires for the region.

Its view is that Canterbury people can enjoy personal and commercial prosperity, and the city and region can be a better place to live and work after the earthquakes, if the region builds on its strengths.

The Canterbury Business Leaders Group is asking people to think about their goals for the next two, five and 10 years for the city, and goals they would have for themselves and the organisations to which they belong over similar time frames.

The group is this week publishing its proposed "2-5-10" milestones and inviting Cantabrians to respond through a website.

The group of business leaders includes Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder, Ballantyne's department store director Richard Ballantyne, Canterbury University vice-chancellor Rod Carr, Ngai Tahu Holdings chief executive Greg Campbell, and Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend.

Elder, the group's chairman, said the milestones they were putting forward this week were not the last word. They hoped locals would engage in the debate.

"We want people to say, `I don't like some of yours, I've got much better ones than that'. Wonderful!"

The group would like to see the city start talking about the future "because we think the future can be so bright; there is room for everybody's 2-5-10s".

Elder said one of the debates might be over whether a new stadium should have a roof.

The way to decide that was to first decide whether the region wanted a provincial stadium with, say, 28,000 seats that could host provincial sports matches and the odd test match, or whether it wanted something bigger – a 35,000-seat world-class stadium for top events.

If one required a roof and the other did not, then so be it, rather than arguing over the cost of a roof.

The group's 2-5-10 objectives combine social, community, arts and business goals.

One of the group's two-year goals was for the city to commit to dedicated cycleways throughout the city.

In five years, one of the objectives was for the city to have a new convention centre hosting events for 2500 people and a 35,000-seat sports and events stadium.

Elder said the group had worked with the city council's development arm, the Canterbury Development Corporation, and with the council itself, as well as with government departments and earthquake agency Cera to test their objectives.

The group believes economic growth in Canterbury could double in 20 years by building on the region's strengths, which they call "the four pillars" – agriculture and water resources; high-technology manufacturing; education and research bodies; and tourism and being the entry point to the South Island.

By developing those parts of the economy the region could afford its social, community and cultural goals, the group said.

"This is not a poor region. It's not going to be a poor region," Elder said.

Doubling economic growth in 20 years would mean Canterbury's average wage could jump by a quarter.

"The 2-5-10s we in Canterbury can aspire to can be fantastic because we are a wealthy region that can afford to meet all our 2, 5, 10s."

Elder said it would be disappointing if Canterbury enjoyed a rebuild boom for five years, but it was just "a blip".

Developing a clear direction and strategy for the longer term would keep the growth going, he said.

The Press