Mike Yardley: City Council-led rebuild would be 'cataclysmic'

Prime Minister John Key speaking at a lunch in Christchurch about the futures of CERA and the City.

Prime Minister John Key speaking at a lunch in Christchurch about the futures of CERA and the City.

OPINION: I'm somewhat staggered that so many people were hoping the Prime Minister's big reveal last Thursday would be to hand back full control of Christchurch to the city council.

How could the Government possibly relinquish control of those unfinished or yet-to-be-started anchor projects, let alone its responsibility for the swath of red zoned land? For the Crown to simply uncouple its claws from the rebuild, walk away and turn it all over to the council would be cataclysmic.

There's no doubt the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) and its Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) has struggled to sustain much street-cred, commonly lampooned as a soulless, phlegmatic government tortoise and a bureaucratic booby-trap on progress. Such characterisations may carry a grain of truth but are grossly overstated.

With Cera, as we've known it, formally being dissolved in April, the Government will retain command of most its powers and responsibilities, while a new collaborative entity, Regenerate Christchurch, will emerge from the carcass of the CCDU.

It is crucial that this new authority revs up the pace of the city's rebuild, which has been fraught with delays, and the establishment of a commercial board to oversee it, is a welcome signal.

I fully concur with John Broughton's letter to The Press last week, recommending Andre Lovatt be head-hunted for the board.

In addition to Lovatt's directorship of the triumphant restoration of the Christchurch Arts Centre, he previously oversaw Singapore's transformative Marina Bay Sands mega-project.

In the interim, the Government must urgently reverse the self-inflicted cracks in confidence to its key projects.

The Avon River project is treading water. It's critical we see the scaled-back designs for the convention centre and metro sports facility finalised and released within a few months with firm timeframes.

Meanwhile, the council has more than enough on its to-do list, where the Crown isn't in the cockpit.

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A classic example is the former Crowne Plaza site. With the Town Hall reinstatement confirmed, what should become of this marquee site?

Currently, it's leased to Life in Vacant Spaces. The council advises me they have "no plans to start the process of determining the future use of the site".  Surely, it's about time?

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So the sneaky have been outfoxed.

Pay and display parking machines now require feeding with a minimum $1 to avoid being spanked with a $40 no-display fine.

It's a stealthy way to fatten the council coffers, in addition to the rates hike. Councillors assure me they're not responsible for the hike, as it was an "operational decision."

 - Stuff

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