New-look for Christchurch rebuild unit

With a restructure imminent at the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU), city leaders have called for major changes within the organisation.

The unit has remained tight-lipped after promising a new-look structure in time for its first anniversary this week.

Changes expected to be detailed today will enable cost-sharing on anchor projects with the Christchurch City Council.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) head Roger Sutton said the review was intended to "refine roles and responsibilities" between Cera and the CCDU.

He scotched suggestions that unit director Warwick Isaacs would be replaced.

"Warwick is part of my management team . . . there's no other plan there going on."

Groups including property investors, developers and business owners have criticised a lack of details and clear time frames from the unit, which was set up to deliver the new central city blueprint a year ago.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker believed the restructuring would be "under the hood stuff" affecting how the unit runs. He wanted a new governance body created above CCDU to allow businesses and residents more input.

"We've got to bring all these groups together. It would be a great thing to have more control as a community. In my view the time for that has arrived."

Parker believed the Government would delay bigger changes to the recovery bodies until local elections "to see what sort of council they will have in three months". He also thought more emphasis on central city housing was needed.

Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend called for an advisory board or panel within the unit to provide more expertise. He wanted the unit run more like a state-owned enterprise than a government department.

"The staff are great but we've got to look at the higher level. There's an overwhelming sense it's been a miss rather than a hit, so far."

The CCDU was strong on construction and planning expertise, but lacked enough understanding of business and capital markets to keep investment in Christchurch, Townsend said.

"Construction is well down the chain. We are not getting the dosh in there. It's a case of follow the money.

"There's money around but they are not looking in the right places."

Parker's comments were echoed by Leeann Watson, general manager of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce.

Watson wanted stronger input from business groups, stronger communication, and more details on the anchor construction projects.

"Whatever shape the CCDU takes, it needs to make sure we don't have further delays. We don't want to get wound up in red tape."

The CCDU has promised full timelines and milestones for buying land for the anchor projects by September 1.

A month ago it released details of how the Crown and city council would split the $4.8 billion cost of new infrastructure and anchor projects such as the green frame, sports stadium, and performing arts precinct.

The Press