The Christchurch rebuild got a welcome boost yesterday with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee’s announcement of a new business unit inside the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to focus on rebuilding the CBD.
“The Christchurch Central Development Unit will provide clear leadership for the rebuild of the city and work in a positive partnership with Christchurch City Council, which remains the consenting authority,” Mr Brownlee said.
The unit will be led by Warwick Isaacs, who is presently CERA’s operations manager responsible for CBD access, building deconstruction, and the Cashel Mall restart. “This is a great day for Canterbury as it’s another tangible milestone in the recovery process,” Mr Brownlee said.
“It marks a shift in focus from demolition to building the new, vibrant, distinctive and green central city the people of Christchurch told their council they wanted.” . . .
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The new unit’s first task will be preparation of a blueprint for the implementation of the Central City Plan inside the next 100 days. The blueprint will give property owners, developers and business sectors a lead on how the city will look and how they can be involved.
“This blueprint will be vital to achieving a coherent roll-out of a number of anchor projects such as public buildings and strategic city blocks, and will provide important guidance to the market.
“It will also identify how to streamline consents and look at what, if any, land amalgamation is required to support anchor projects and developments.
“An example of an important anchor project is the city’s new convention centre. Delivering certainty about that project will begin the process of reviving the city’s hospitality and tourism sector.
“Hotel developments are unlikely to proceed until the location of the convention centre is resolved.
“Reviving the central city’s hospitality and tourism sector will attract other businesses in and encourage service sector, retail and hospitality development.
“The blueprint will deliver the sort of market intelligence the commercial property and business sectors need to invest with confidence. This is all about getting momentum in the rebuild,” Mr Brownlee said.
The news has been welcomed by the Property Council, business leaders and the Insurance Council.
The assurance that consents will be processed within 14 days is especially welcome.
Prominent businessman Bruce Irvine, chairman of Christchurch City Holdings, the investment arm of the Christchurch City Council, said what was needed was an organisation that had more powers than councils did and that was what Cera had.
“It will enable a more effective execution of the plan that the council has come up with. I’m very supportive.”
The unit would consist of up to 25 staff, with some seconded from the council and Environment Canterbury. The team would identify the most important projects to “pave the way forward”.
The unit would also determine how to streamline the consents process with an aim of processing all resource consents within 14 days. It would attract overseas investment, he said. “Private sector capital is very important, because that’s the majority of the money that will be spent inside the central city.”
If those of us outside the city have been thinking that it’s time for action, people in Christchurch must have been feeling even more frustrated.
Yesterday’s announcement is a much-needed sign of progress.
Dare we hope that the determination on how to streamline the consent process might be something from which other councils could learn?
The Minister’s full speech is here.