Christchurch's $240 million convention centre set to be complete by early 2020
First it was 2017, then 2018, then 2019, and now 2020.
Christchurch's new convention centre has a building contractor and a new completion date, three years later than the city was first promised.
The Government announced on Thursday that CPB Contractors, owned by Australian giant CIMIC Group, will build the $240-million complex.
"CPB has committed to finishing in the first quarter of 2020," Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner said. "The Government will be closely monitoring its progress."
Completion was previously planned for late 2019, after being pushed out several times from an original date of early 2017. Wagner said work would begin "soon".
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The centre design went out for tender earlier this year with an estimated cost of $285m. The Crown is meeting the full cost of the project and has already spent about $85m on land and planning.
Labour Canterbury issues spokeswoman Megan Woods said it was vital the Government answer the "big unknowns" – who would own, run and pay for the convention centre.
"We need to have some big picture thinking about how this is going to work for the sort of future we want for Christchurch. We need certainty for businesses."
Neighbouring landowner Rob Farrell, co-owner of two Oxford Tce buildings, said while they were keen to see the convention centre finished, they understood the project's size and complexity made delays inevitable.
"If they can pull it off when they say, I tip my hat to them," he said.
The complex will feature a 1400-delegate auditorium that can be divided in two, a banquet hall, 14 meeting rooms and an exhibition hall for up to 200 stalls.
CPB Contractors has already worked on projects across New Zealand including the Christchurch Hospital redevelopment, the Transmission Gully roading project in Wellington, and major motorway improvement work in Auckland.
The news was welcomed by the promotional and travel industries.
The manger of ChristchurchNZ's convention bureau, Caroline Blanchfield, said they were already working with several parties interested in coming to the venue.
Conventions and Incentives New Zealand chief executive Sue Sullivan said that with major conferences planning three to eight years ahead, they could now "confidently go out and book Christchurch for 2020 and beyond".
Sullivan said there was "growing international demand for this style of premium facility" and the design was a compelling proposition. "We have seen strong interest in Christchurch at recent trade events in Auckland and Sydney."
Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said the convention centre would "allow us to again participate in and host a wide range of special interest groups from around the country and the world in our city".
Wagner said the complex would help bring back visitors, increase private sector investment, open up business networks and opportunities, and create new jobs.
Before the old conference centre was damaged in the February 2011 earthquake, Christchurch had 24 per cent of New Zealand's conference market and 42 per cent of the conferences that came from Australia.
A government survey last year revealed international conference visitors stayed an average of six nights, spending an estimated $334 per night, double the average spend of international visitors. Multi-day conventions generated over a million visitor nights in New Zealand last year.
CONVENTION CENTRE TIMELINE
July 2012 – Convention centre revealed in central city recovery blueprint as major rebuild project to catalyse hotel investment.
July 2013 - Construction expected to start by mid-2013 and be finished by early 2017.
October 2013 - Convention centre likely to eventually be privately owned, Crown says.
March 2014 – One group remains in the design and construction tender process.
August 2014 – A consortium made up of Christchurch's Carter Group, Ngai Tahu Property and international Plenary Group are announced as the Crown's preferred developers. Accor is chosen as the preferred operator.
May 2015 – Construction completion date pushed out from 2017 to the end of 2018.
October 2015 – The first international post-quake convention, scheduled for late 2018, pulls out of Christchurch.
April 2016 – Government says an announcement on the convention centre is "very close".
June 2016 – Chosen consortium gone and hotel plans dropped. Crown announces it will develop the convention centre itself. Likely completion in 2019.
October 2016 - Land remediation begins.
August 2017 - Construction contractor CPB announced. Completion date now first quarter 2020.