In rebuilding Christchurch, the city has a rare chance to build in a sustainable, creative and people-centred way. We can create a city that is so much more than a simple re-construction of buildings and transport links. Christchurch could be a city that leads New Zealand in the way its residents live, work and play; with a vibrant and liveable inner city that attracts investment, vistors and new businesses. Unfortunately, we are not making the most of this opportunity.
We’re still waiting for the Government’s much-vaunted convention centre on the block formerly occupied by Farmers and the Central Library. Projected costs for this anchor project exceed $280 million. $15 million has been spent on consultants but the public has yet to see a business case. We need to know whether the convention centre stacks up commercially; whether it will consistently deliver substantial extra tourist dollars or simply compete with Auckland and Queenstown for a slice of a limited business tourism market.
Will the returns will justify the public investment or is National foisting an ugly and expensive white elephant on a critical site in the central city?
Christchurch used to bring in tourists for quite different reasons – its beautiful neo-gothic stone buildings, city gardens, and the rivers. Visitors came for the Cathedral, the Arts Centre, the Art Gallery, the Canterbury Museum and the Botanic Gardens. Some of the city’s greatest assets and attractions were and are in the environment and its cultural life. Government spending on the anchor projects needs to recognise this.
We need much more openness from Government and more public input on what’s proposed for the the convention centre. Is the secrecy because National is involved in another shabby back-room deal with a major corporate as it did with the Sky City convention centre in Auckland ?
Now that the Greens and Labour have negotiated more local input for Christchurch in the regeneration process, the Government and new Crown company Otakaro Ltd needs to involve and consult the public on the anchor projects.
This column first appeared in Canterbury Rebuild magazine