The second anniversary of Canterbury’s first big earthquake is just a few days away, Earthquake recovery Minsiter Gerry Brownlee has taken the opportunity to update us on the state of the recovery:
I want to provide you with an overview of the recovery process to date and the significant progress that we are making.
But first, I want to thank the rest of New Zealand for the incredible level of support and assistance that the Canterbury region has received over the last two years. From all ends of the country, New Zealanders came to our aid and continue to support us.
Those of us not directly affected by the quakes can’t really understand what the people of Christchurch and its hinterland have been and are still going through. Nor should we underestimate their resilience.
And we can all be proud of what we have achieved to recover from this adversity. Everyone has had to make sacrifices, to do things differently and to cope with the strain that these events have caused.
The shared experience since then has come to define the lives of this generation of Cantabrians.
Our challenge is that, in five years’ time, the event that by then defines the lives of this generation of Cantabrians is not so much the earthquakes, but being part of the recreation of the magnificent new Christchurch.
Out of the tragedy comes the opportunity to create the best small city in the world, and there are extraordinary opportunities for anyone who wants to be part of it. . .
Some people have left the city and who can blame them when there have been more than 10,000 quakes and aftershocks since September 4 2010 ?
The vast majority have stayed. They and others from outside attracted by the opportunities will make a better city.
. . . I would like to think that the City Red Zone will no longer be “red” meaning danger – it will be “red” because of the high energy activity and building going on there.
We can plan a better and brighter future. The rebuild is gaining momentum. Nearly $1 billion worth of building consents were approved in Canterbury in the first half of 2012, while the amount of ready mixed concrete produced in the Christchurch metropolitan area has more than doubled since March 2011, to 112 thousand cubic metres. Over the same period, the amount of concrete produced in Auckland actually decreased and in Wellington it stayed roughly the same.
As I said at the outset, the challenge I make to you this morning is to ensure in five years’ time, the event that defines the lives of this generation of Cantabrians is no longer the earthquakes, but being part of the recreation of the magnificent new Christchurch.
We have to make it exceptional – we have to have both public and private sectors – focused on creating only the best of facilities.
To be blunt about it, New Zealand has something of a record of doing things a bit half-arsed. . .
He gives examples of Auckland building the harbour bridge without considering the development that would encourage on the North Shore, the eight years it took to build a bridge to the airport which was too small; the Terrace tunnel in Wellington which can’t cope with the traffic and parliament buildings which were never finished then added to by the ‘dysfunctional round building’.
I am determined that this is not how we are going to recreate Christchurch.
The policy has to be that everything we decide to do in Christchurch is going to be the best. What’s more, we need to do it quickly and – to use the jargon – it must be future-proofed. And will benefit New Zealand as a whole. We have the opportunity to now make it happen.
Partly as a result of the shared experience over the last two years, I think that people in Christchurch and Canterbury have a new respect for one another, and an easy-goingness and tolerance that wasn’t always here before. We must hold on to that.
We’ve had our scraps and bitter words, of course. We’ve been under pressure but it’s made us stronger.
Despite misgivings by some, there is now a unity around the future of Christchurch that I doubt any other city, anywhere in New Zealand, has ever had in recent history.
No-one envies the city the quakes but many would like the opportunity to unite to build something better.
The cost of our new city is predicted to be $30 billion dollars, this is roughly predicted to be the size of our region’s entire GDP. But it will leave us a highly productive and exciting place to live. We can’t build all this overnight, but we must not delay.
Our level of investment will create an economic boom. According to the National Bank, Canterbury is already the fastest growing region in New Zealand. We also need to attract private investment and industry.
Money, people and ideas are pouring in. But, we need to develop an economy that is built on a fundamentally strong economic base. A good example is the new Fonterra plant that will open at the epicentre of the September 4 quake – Darfield – at the end of this year. Fonterra is investing $500 million and the plant will process 6.6 million litres of milk a day. This highlights the strength of the agricultural base of the Canterbury region.
That economic base is the primary reason why the Central City will be recreated as the CCDU Blueprint lays out. The business community which drives our economy have embraced that vision of a modern CBD which makes doing business easier. More Canterbury businesses want to be based in the new CBD than were based in the old. The people of Christchurch are equally unified around the Blueprint.
The city centre was dying, the rebuild will breathe new life in to it.
According to research used to inform CCDU’s investment strategy, 74% of Christchurch businesspeople, 56% of Christchurch residents and 52% of New Zealanders support the plan, with most others being neutral.
Nearly 80% of Christchurch businesspeople and 61% of Christchurch residents believe things in Christchurch are now heading in the right direction, higher than the benchmark of the 51% of New Zealanders who believe things in New Zealand are heading in the right direction.
Importantly, to get our plan underway and create jobs, 97% of Christchurch businesspeople plan to keep living in the city, and three-quarters of them believe this is a good time to invest.
But a real city will not feel like a business park. The Blueprint is designed to be a place that people will want to live in. It must have the social and cultural fabric that people enjoy being part of.
Not only will the Avon River Precinct attract local and visitor use, it will support the core commercial, retail and cultural activities and become a destination in its own right with cultural, art and historic references.
I want to make it clear we must all agree that these projects and facilities must be the best to be found in any small city in the world. We should not entertain proposals that fall short of that objective. There are going to be no repeats of the four-lane harbour bridges.
And we need to act quickly to achieve the vision.
Our city’s children who are five today, were barely three in February 2011 and they will not have full access to their central city until they are perhaps 10. One important part of the Frame – in the north-east – will be the new children’s playground. We will build them a playground from where they can view the rebirth of their city, through their childhood years. It will be the best playground in the world. Not a fun park, but a playground.
Later in the month, I will announce with the Minister of Education a competition for the children themselves to help envision what that playground will be like and begin to understand what a great place Christchurch will become.
A child friendly city is a family friendly city, what a good idea to plan for and involve those who will be part of its future.
Our goal should be that within a decade, Christchurch is clearly recognised as the best small city in the world in which to bring up kids, open a business, go to an art gallery, study at university, watch the All Blacks, make money, create jobs, build a home.
My officials, and those in the council, have made strong commitments to make all this happen fast. The longer we take, the more opportunities will be missed.
Last year, Christchurch was unable to host part of the Rugby World Cup 2011 and 2011 Festival. In the home of the Crusaders, we missed out on what will be remembered as the biggest cultural and sporting event that New Zealand has ever held. In 2015, New Zealand will host part of the Cricket World Cup. The people of Christchurch can’t miss out again. We need to all go into bat for Christchurch and ensure that not only do we take part – we take a leading role in that event.
Beyond that, our new Blueprint will give us the facilities to be the leading events destination in New Zealand.
My message to the businesspeople and investors of New Zealand; and to the philanthropists who might want to become involved in our new parks, our new arts centres or our new sports stadia is this: Christchurch is the place to be. Everything we do here will be the best.
We have always been a beautiful city, in the most beautiful part of New Zealand; the best part of New Zealand to bring up a family; and the main support centre for the South Island’s most important industries, past and present, including agriculture, tourism, mining and oil, education, the high-tech industries and logistics.
We have a fabulous new airport, a restored port and are building superior roads, connecting us better than ever before with the rest of the South Island and the world.
If we can’t make something extraordinary about the newly recreated Christchurch off the back of such opportunities and such overwhelming public, political and business support, there is something wrong with us.
And we’ve proven this last two years there is nothing wrong with us. We have proven we are among the best and most resilient people in the world, and we can do things fast.
Other parts of the South Island, and New Zealand are watching, some with apprehension – will the city take too many workers from elsewhere? But there are opportunities which can provide work and retain staff outside the city too.
For example, while the city needs tradespeople to rebuild it can’t cope with an influx of people yet so building companies further afield are looking at opportunities for work that can be done elsewhere, for example constructing buildings which can be transported.
There are still hold-ups and frustrations for people wanting to rebuild homes, community facilities and businesses.
But there is also vision, unity and energy.
The sooner that is realised the better it will be for the city and the country.