Key backs covered stadium

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 09:01 31/07/2012
Daniel Tobin

Prime Minister John Key took part in a tree planting ceremony on the banks of the Avon River to symbolise the beginning of the rebuild of the Christchurch central city

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A covered stadium is "the right step" for Christchurch, says Prime Minister John Key.

Speaking at a ceremonial tree-planting in pouring rain this morning, Key said a covered stadium had "a bigger price tag" but should be considered in the context of a $30 billion rebuild.

"This is such a massive rebuild, I would have thought that is the right step to take," he said.

Under the blueprint for the city released yesterday, a covered 35,000-seat stadium is proposed for the former Turners & Growers site in Tuam St.

Key said Christchurch was a great city for sport. "But the reality is Christchurch weather is sometimes wet and often cold."

He said Cantabrians would have their say on a new stadium.

"But if Christchurch can't support it you'd pretty much say, other than Auckland, no-one could support it."

Key remained mum on the expected cost of acquiring land for the anchor projects outlined in the blueprint.

More than 840 properties are affected by the Christchurch Central Development Unit blueprint's anchor programme, many of which the Government will have to buy or compulsorily acquire.

Key said commercial sensitivity meant the expected price tag could not be revealed.

Yesterday, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee declined to comment on the cost, although Key said he had a "broad sense" of the total bill.

"We've got a sense of what that cost will be,'' he said.

''We're not going to go and detail that [now] for obvious commercial reasons, but the Government's made it clear it's got a vision and it's backing that vision."

Some of the initial cost would be offset when land within the "frame" was made available for sale under its new designation, he said.

"There's an initial purchase phase and we'll be working with those landowners to try to do that on a consensual basis, [and] beyond that there'll also be a sales process."

Land acquisition was a necessity, he said.

"It's really the only option if you want to get an integrated, co-ordinated 21st-century city, otherwise you would require organic growth and it would be very hotchpotch; certainly not the result we want for Christchurch,'' he said.

"We'll work very fairly with people. We're certainly not trying to rip anyone off, but on the other side of the coin we've got to get going ... The land's not worth a lot in its current state."

Tree-planting symbolises 'rebirth'

A planting ceremony on the banks of the Avon River in the red zone today symbolised the "rebirth" of the city, Key said.

Brownlee, Ngai Tahu chairman Mark Solomon, Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button and Cera chief executive Roger Sutton were also present at the native-tree planting in Victoria Square.

Discovery 1 and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti pupils, displaced from the central city, also pitched in.

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Key said the planting of the trees was a "sign of life" that the city would again come alive.

"I think it's a rebirth of the new plan for Christchurch ... It's an important step,'' he said.

"The planting of the trees is the first of many steps that will need to be taken as we put the city back together again."

Solomon said the children planting the trees were a symbol of the rebuild of Christchurch.

"The children are the future," he said.

"In time, these trees will grow tall and strong and you will one day bring your children here, tell them how you helped the prime minister of New Zealand plant this tree, and share the korero of how we rebuilt our city."

Blueprint vision

Key labelled the central-city blueprint "a vision for Christchurch".

"It's been a very tough time for the people of Christchurch, but they've held on to hope and hopefully this plan rewards them with a vision for Christchurch,'' he said.

"Cantabrians have had an opportunity to have their say and their say has been fed very much into this plan."

Private investor interest was already high, he said.

"I think the issue will be there'll be so many people interested in taking part,'' he said.

''While it's not exactly a blank canvas it's pretty close to that, so you've got the opportunity to put together a very livable city."

Brownlee said the blueprint heeded the key messages put forward by Cantabrians in last year's Share an Idea programme. "This plan keeps faith with all of those requirements as well as adding in some locations for some very sharp, new civic facilities."

Announcements on the redevelopment of Christchurch Hospital, a technology hub and education facilities would come later in the year, he said.

- The Press

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