Rebuild city replaces red zone

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 12:06 15/02/2013
Gerry Brownlee addresses media
Stacy Squires

STATE OF PLAY: Gerry Brownlee updates the media and business leaders on rebuild progress.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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The central Christchurch red zone is now "the rebuild zone", with new buildings under way and 16,000 jobs created over the past year.

A total of 325 commercial consents and 77 residential consents have been granted by the Christchurch City Council for the area bounded the four avenues since the February 2011 earthquake. 

There were still 48 full demolitions and 32 partial demolitions to be carried out in the central business district.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee announced the figures in an update today on the city's recovery progress.

He also said:

- 47 commercial property owners have agreed to sell to the Crown for key anchor projects set out in the Central Christchurch Development Unit (CCDU) blueprint for the city.

- The Crown is seeking to buy 350 properties in the central city in total, and negotiations are under way on 215 properties.

- Of the 7207 property owners in the residential red zone, over 6500 have signed a sale and purchase agreement with the Crown.

- There has been a 32 per cent increase in the number of employees in the construction sector in Canterbury between February 2010 and February 2012, from 15,520 to 20,420

- The most recent Household Labour Force Survey showed there were 16,000 new jobs in Christchurch over the past year.

Figures released by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority howed 1668 commercial and residential buildings in the CBD and the suburbs had been approved for partial or complete demolition, and 1419 of those had been completed.

COMPETITION FOR NEW PLAYGROUND

Brownlee said Canterbury children would be able to pitch their plans for a central-city playground in a competition launched today.

The Amazing Place interactive competition challenges children up to year 6 to design a CBD playground, and intermediate and secondary school pupils to design and submit proposals pitching a dream project for the central city.

The project is sponsored by the BNZ.

BNZ retail director Andy Symons said it was fitting that the first major community project linked to the rebuild would be aimed at the city's children.

"Christchurch's children will inherit the new city that is only now beginning to take shape. These children have a vital stake in what this city will look like and how it will work for them and their children,'' he said.

"Challenging Christchurch children to imagine and contribute to the rebuilding of their city, while learning the social and financial implications of their projects, will arm them with important and relevant skills.''

NO MORE 'RED ZONE'

Brownlee said on Wednesday that there were 1098 people working within the city's cordons and he felt it appropriate the area was no longer referred to as the red zone.

He said CBD landowners were ''willing to come to the table and negotiate in good faith'' with the Crown, and agreements had been made on over half the land needed for the convention centre precinct.

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He also spoke about technical category 3 land, and people were working hard to ''create viable options and speed up the delivery of solutions''.

''I know there is still much frustration in TC3, but there is also ample evidence that things are moving in a positive direction on a number of fronts.''

He said property values in TC3 ''haven't slumped'' and sales were happening on regularly.

''I know not everyone is out of the woods yet as insurance settlements are clarified and building options are explored, [but] all land zoning was done with long-term interests at heart,'' he said.

''We simply couldn't have property prices slump and major question marks exist over the long-term quality of so much of Christchurch's housing stock.''

He said there had been ''inpatient queries'' about when the CBD would be rebuilt.

''This is understandable. Even working as we are to streamline processes around tendering, design and other elements of getting major building projects off the ground, there are many, many ducks to get in a row.''

However, ''good progress'' was being made on the CCDU blueprint released last July.

Detailed design work had started on the east frame and the Avon River precinct, and the Crown had started buying land for these projects.

''By August this year we should have land acquisition completed on these two projects, and by then early construction, especially of the Avon River precinct, will be well under way.''

He said those who submitted expressions of interest in building in the convention centre precinct would this month be advised of the outcome.

''Whatever the chosen outcome for procuring this huge project, all land will be in Crown ownership within six months of today and site clearance will have commenced,'' he said.

RED-ZONE CORDON SHRINKS TO ALLOW HOTEL AND STUDENTS TO MOVE IN

Central-city cordons will be reduced by May, Gerry Brownlee says.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister spoke to journalists from around New Zealand and from overseas who are in Christchurch for the second anniversary of the February 2011 quake.

Brownlee told the 40 journalists gathered in Cathedral Square that the New Zealand Army, currently patrolling the cordon, would leave in July. 

The cordon reduction would allow the reopening of the Old Government Building that houses the Heritage Hotel.

The 100-year-old hotel, which had hoped to reopen in March, has set a firm reopening date of May 14.

Heritage general manager Gary Jarvis said the repairs and upgrades to the hotel had cost "millions of dollars".

"We are very very excited about reopening. This will be a huge lift for Christchurch's tourism sector."

The hotel's newer high-rise rooms in the tower next to the Old Government Building would no longer be part of the hotel, he said.

However, the building's owners had yet to decide what would happen to it.

Bookings for the hotel would open about three or four weeks before the official opening.

Students will return to the central city in April.

About 250 students and 40 staff at the Avonmore Tertiary Institute will move into a new building on the corner of Hereford St and Colombo St.

They will be among the first people, aside from construction workers, to move back into the heart of the city.

The new two-storey building will replace Avonmore's temporary premises in Brougham St, Sydenham.

Director Karl Yates said there had been fall in student numbersand educational performance since the quakes.

He hoped a "brand-new home" would boost student morale.

Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton and Christchurch Central Development Unit director Warwick Isaacs are also on today's media tour.

- The Press

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