Key backs plans to revitalise Brighton, but no funding offer

GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 13:50 23/11/2013
John Key, Bill English and Matthew Doocey
Dean Kozanic

CAMPAIGN TRAIL: PM John Key speaks the at Grace Vineyard Church while supporting National's candidate for the Christchurch East by-election, Matthew Doocey (right).

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The Government's top brass have backed plans to revitalise New Brighton, but kept their chequebooks closed for now at least.

Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister Bill English were publicly briefed on a series of plans to create new business and retail hubs in the eastern suburbs and a proposal for a river park, running from the central city along the Avon River and out to sea.

Both said the concept had merit but there was no talk of any Crown funding. Key said the area had the potential to become one of the region's "powerhouses" if the plans were done right.

The meeting was attended by about 60 business and land owners, local politicians and community group members.

New Brighton Business Owners Association chairman Paul Zaneen, who is spearheading plans to bring back retail activity to the earthquake-ravaged suburb, said the area was in a unique position with its natural features to "make something very special".

Avon-Otakaro Network (AvON) chairman Evan Smith said plans for the river park and other projects needed to have all partners engaged. They included local communities, the city council and the Government. The network aimed to not only attract locals but other New Zealand and international visitors.

Key, who remembered going to New Brighton for Saturday morning shopping during its "heyday", said it was not unusual for suburbs to become trendy. Often, they just needed to redefine themselves.

"I like the idea and you need reasons for people to come to New Brighton . . . this place and the east will become one of the powerhouses of Christchurch over time.

"[The plans] were a very strong proposition for New Brighton to be a powerful community people want to come to."

English agreed, saying the concept was attractive and would benefit other South Island communities who wanted Christchurch to thrive.

He did stop short of promising any Crown money for now but said the city council would eventually be given back more of the key decision- making powers.

"As the new Christchurch gets up and running, you will see a bit less of Government involvement . . . and more of the city council making decisions which will in turn make them incredibly accessible."

English said as plans for the eastern suburbs developed, the decision-making would get more and more local. "There will be a bit less of that coming from Wellington. In the end you are the community who has to own it."

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- The Press

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