Convention centre tipped to cost $220m

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 05:00 01/08/2012

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The cost of a bigger Christchurch convention centre is being estimated at $220 million, though there are no official costings yet.

Rebuild czar Warwick Isaacs says the Christchurch Central Development Unit has only developed the concept of the 2000-person convention centre, which will be located between Cathedral and Victoria squares and the Avon River.

The project will have two adjoining hotels, helping to re-establish convention business that pre-quake was estimated to benefit the Canterbury economy by between $80m and $100m a year.

"So until such time as the design is fully developed the cost won't be known. [We're] very keen on a private-public split of some description," Isaacs said of the concept.

Others within the tourism and accommodation sector who have welcomed the convention centre being one of the top three or four projects on the rebuild timeline put the cost at around $200m to $220m.

With two hotels and restaurant and retail spaces within the centre that could be completed by 2016, the complex running off Cathedral Square will be designed to draw in Cantabrians and central business district workers.

Conventions & Incentives NZ Chief Executive Alan Trotter said that the $200m-plus costing had been made relative to an Auckland convention centre project that had been costed at $350m to cope with up to 3500 at full capacity.

Trotter said that to have a medium-sized Christchurch centre sitting behind a national convention centre to be sited in Auckland was critical not only for Christchurch and the South Island but New Zealand as a whole.

Christchurch's demolished but originally purpose-built convention centre had hosted about 25 per cent of all conventions in New Zealand of 250 people and above.

"When we lost it the offering from New Zealand was quite badly dented, so this announcement is really timely," Trotter said.

"We've been telling the Government for some time there's no point in [a Christchurch centre] going head to head with Auckland. The way the numbers work is fantastic. The really big one is up here [in Auckland], the second biggest one is down there and then of course we've got a smaller facility [for up to 750 people] to go in Queenstown."

Tourism Industry Association regional chairman, hotels, Bruce Garrett, said the close proximity of the planned convention centre to existing hotels and other central facilities was "fantastic".

The development's new hotels would draw in interest from international hotel chains.

"I would imagine the first people off the block are probably going to be the owners of hotels that have come down that have insurance money and are able to build."

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Ibis Christchurch hotel manager Tim Dearsley said the city "absolutely" needed the larger replacement convention centre planned.

"We were missing out on conferences before," he said.

- The Press

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