New era for New Brighton?

FUTURE PERFECT: Artist impressions of Labour’s plan for New Brighton.
FUTURE PERFECT: Artist impressions of Labour’s plan for New Brighton.

It's been billed as a solution to save a devastated Christchurch seaside suburb, but residents fear political gestures may not be enough for ''forgotten'' New Brighton.

Labour leader David Cunliffe announced yesterday that the New Brighton Community Revitalisation Project would kickstart the party's KiwiBuild programme, beginning with existing government and council land assets.

The plan, announced at the party's national conference at Wigram, would see New Brighton rebuilt as a ''vibrant and modern'' seaside settlement.

REVITALISED: Labour leader David Cunliffe has promised to make the rebuild of New Brighton a priority if his party is elected.
REVITALISED: Labour leader David Cunliffe has promised to make the rebuild of New Brighton a priority if his party is elected.

It was part of a larger Labour plan. If elected, the party aimed to build 10,000 homes in Canterbury over four years as part of its KiwiBuild policy.

Cunliffe said the party would work with the community, local businesses and the Christchurch City Council to fast-track the rebuilding of the suburb into a ''vibrant and modern beachside community''.

''Through KiwiBuild we will ensure there are affordable houses in New Brighton,'' he said.

''A revamp of the retail precinct will free up space for 200 new homes, with further development creating potential for up to 500 dwellings.''

New Brighton resident Sue Davidson said the prospect was exciting, especially for a suburb that had been ''forgotten about'' for a long time.

New Brighton businesses had suffered from a lack of people living close to shops. Encouraging people to come back would ''make things happen''.

She said New Brighton would ''never be Sumner'' but it was filled with people who were hard-working and loved living by the beach. ''We don't want anything fancy or posh - just something that fits in with the place."

Phil Jones has lived in New Brighton for about 40 years and said it was ''a great place to live anyway'', but the scheme would ''get the heart back into the community'', he said.

''So many houses have been lost around here [and] they need to get the mall sorted out,'' the real estate agent said. ''It's a great place to bring up a family, so if they could get some affordable housing, that would be good. National has given up on the place.''

Derek Smith and his wife bought a house in New Brighton three years ago. He said the ''key'' to Labour's plan was homes that were built well and looked good, so the area did not turn into a slum.

Smith expected the announcement was a vote grab, but thought it would work - as long as Labour followed through. ''New Brighton certainly needs a lift, maybe this is it.''

Fendalton, Merivale and Sumner were on the National agenda, not Burwood or New Brighton.

''And Bexley - that's been swept under the carpet.''

Newly elected Burwood-Pegasus councillor David East said much of what Cunliffe announced was already under way. The New Brighton Business and Land Owners' Association had been working with urban designers and architects to make the suburb's retail sector more attractive.

East applauded the housing initiative, though the time frame was longer than he would have liked.

''I'm also mindful there is a by-election coming up so [the announcement] is probably designed to give some impetus to that.''

New Brighton Business and Landowners Association manager Paul Zaanen said it was good news that people were paying attention to the suburb.

''For David Cunliffe to have even brought us up means we are heading in the right direction.'' 

He said there was a demand for housing that had been under-appreciated and it was changing the demographic of the place.

''You are not forced to live here, it's a choice - rents have gone up quite drastically and it's just not affordable for some people to live here.''

Zaanen said there was good progress being made on the suburb's master plan that was encouraging business owners to stump up with cash to see it come to fruition.

''It always seemed that New Brighton was going to be such a hard fix after the earthquakes but actually it's not that hard. 

''There is a big appetite to do it.''

The Press