Editorial: Many exciting plans for Christchurch but money remains the issue

Continuing to extend the tram line through central Christchurch will bring life to newly developing city precincts.

Continuing to extend the tram line through central Christchurch will bring life to newly developing city precincts.

The earthquakes have brought huge physical, psychological and societal changes to Christchurch. While many people are still having to deal with hardships, there is a flip side to all this disruption, one in which bright ideas and innovation continue to shine.

Submissions on the Christchurch City Council's draft 2016-17 annual plan illustrate the vision and creativity of those determined to build a vibrant new city, one unique enough to attract people from around the world keen to experience Christchurch as part of their "must-see" list.

A quirkiness that has sprouted out of necessity - the Re:Start container mall, the eccentric Gap Filler projects, the eye-catching murals painted on bare walls - has already given the recovering city a certain profile internationally. Now entrepreneurs are looking to build further on such successes.

Among the latest ideas to surface through the plan process are an extension to the city's tram line into new city precincts and the beautifying of the Heathcote River near The Tannery in Woolston. Both the river and the tram line are important conduits for future development.

The tram has been a popular and successful tourist venture over the past decade or so. The service was hugely missed during the 33 months it was shut down following the February 22, 2011 earthquake. The decline in business experienced by New Regent St shop owners recently, when emergency safety work on building facades stopped trams from running along the heritage street, highlighted the importance of the tram to the central city's fortunes.

The tramway's operators and developers Patrick Fontein​ and Paul Naylor have submitted to the council that the tram line should be extended into the innovation precinct, past the Dux running down Poplar St. That proposal had already been included in the precinct master plan, developed in 2013.

Tramway operations manager for tourism group Welcome Aboard, John Smith says recent extensions to the line have successfully tied together anchor projects and retail areas. Completing this move into the precinct, at a rough cost of $3 million, would give the area "a significant point of difference". 

The city council's head of urban regeneration, Carolyn Ingles, however, says there are other priorities for this money at present.

Meanwhile in Woolston, The Tannery developer Alasdair Cassels wants to spend $400,000 of his own money on an "ornate art nouveau-style bridge with Maori design aspects" and a wharf large enough to berth a historic river boat and launch waka and kayaks.

In a submission to the draft plan, Cassels says he hopes the council can find another $50,000 to support the plan, in terms of dealing with consenting and the landscaping of the river banks.

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Ideas are great. But when it comes to money there will always be plenty of competition for dollars. Cassels is prepared to stump up most of the cost for the river improvement plans but in the case of the tram extension, the funding is reliant on the council, meaning it will have to take its place in the queue.

It is wonderful to have visionaries in the city but there is only so much money. We need to remain realistic about who is going to pay the bill.

 - Stuff


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