Blueprint ends real estate pair's rebuild plan

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 28/08/2012
Rob McCormack
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
WORK WASTED: Rob McCormack, of Harcourts Grenadier, at the Madras St site during pile-driving for the firm's proposed new headquarters.

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After battling a strike, arson, aftershocks and insurance hassles, two property owners have accepted that the central Christchurch blueprint has ended their 18-month fight to rebuild.

Rob McCormack and Peter Greene have spent $1 million trying to replace the Madras St headquarters of McCormack's real estate business, Harcourts Grenadier.

McCormack said he was "absolutely gutted" to learn their site was in the blueprint's green frame just as they were finally making progress.

"But I'm philosophical now. I don't have a choice," he said.

"We happen to be in the way of the frame. We don't want to be an obstacle. Some people will have to take some pain, and that's us."

When the Grenadier building was wrecked in the February 2011 earthquake, the pair aimed to have its $8.9m, four-storey replacement up within a year.

It would have been the first office building rebuilt in the central city.

They immediately struck setbacks securing insurance and had to design the building for extra strength.

McCormack estimates he was spending 12 hours a week in meetings and negotiations, on top of his normal business.

Then their specially sourced 11-metre piles were blacklisted by Auckland port workers because they had been unloaded by non-union labour during a strike.

After the piles arrived three months late, the specialist piledriver was torched by arsonists and needed parts from Canada.

Then the blueprint came out and their property was within the frame.

"At first I couldn't absorb it," McCormack said.

"How much bad luck can anyone have - an earthquake, losing your building, not being able to get our piles, some bugger torching it, and then the Government goes and takes your land?"

Now the pair have a new fight on their hands - compensation.

They have met the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) to discuss a payout for their property and are optimistic they will get back the $1m spent on demolition, consents, piling, engineers, architects and project management, plus the $1.8m they estimate their land is worth. McCormack is unhappy they will not be offered back their land later.

"They (Cera) gave us a very, very good hearing. We're not trying to make money; we only want what is fair."

He will be "extremely disappointed" if the negotiations do not result in an acceptable price.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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