Launch of the Central Christchurch Development Unit

  • Gerry Brownlee
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery

Good morning everyone.

First let me introduce who is here this morning for this announcement.

I would like to very warmly welcome Mayor Bob Parker.

Also with me are CERA Chief Executive Roger Sutton and CERA Operations Manager Warwick Isaacs.

The reason we’re here today is because the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act required the Christchurch City Council to prepare a draft CBD plan, which was presented to me as Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery on the 21st of December 2011.

I’d like to take this opportunity to recognise Bob’s work leading the council through the massive consultation phase and development of the draft plan.

He deserves great credit for so swiftly engaging in such an extensive and democratic exercise, which has produced a very good result.

I also want to acknowledge the thousands of Canterbury people who gave their time, ideas and commitment to the plan.

That plan is the basis for the way forward because it has such widespread community support.

When you have a good idea, which the draft plan is, you need a vehicle that can deliver the required result in the most cohesive and efficient manner.

In the draft Central City Plan it states: “Business as usual will not achieve the aspirations of the community or implement such an ambitious programme in a timely manner that supports private sector investment.”

It further states: “The Council is open to establishing formal and informal partnerships to facilitate the coordination of activities across groups and maximise the effectiveness of its financial contribution.”

In considering approval of the plan I’ve also considered how to give it life.

To that end I’ve asked Roger Sutton at CERA to exercise his powers under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act to establish a unit inside CERA with the initial task of developing a blueprint for delivery of the plan.

The new unit is to work collaboratively with the Christchurch City Council and draw on the expertise of council staff.

Today we are here to announce the establishment of that new unit within CERA – to be known as the Christchurch Central Development Unit.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit will be responsible for the implementation of the Central City Plan that was prepared by the Christchurch City Council.

Warwick Isaacs will be the new Director of the unit.

As you all know, Warwick has been Roger’s General Manager Operations, and he is responsible for the CBD cordon and security, the deconstruction of buildings and the Cashel Mall Restart project.

He’s a can-do guy and has been integral to the progress we’ve made so far, so I’m very pleased to be able to announce his appointment today.

Warwick has more knowledge now of the Christchurch central city and the status of the buildings that remain than anyone.

He has worked tirelessly since the earthquake on the managed deconstruction and delivered that part of the recovery on time.

He has extensive local government experience and an excellent working relationship with Christchurch City Council.

A new stage in recovery

The announcement today marks the beginning of a new stage in the recovery of Christchurch after the February 2011 earthquake.

We know that the full recovery of Christchurch will take many years, but international experience suggests we have a three year window of opportunity to get the rebuild and recovery framework underway, and to establish momentum and confidence.

It is also very obvious that strong and clear leadership is required to get that momentum and build confidence.

The scale of the development of central Christchurch, and the scale of reinvestment, requires us to put in place extraordinary functions so that construction can take place in a coordinated manner.

This is the central role of the new unit: to facilitate, coordinate and direct the development of the central city.

To do this Warwick and his team will prepare a redevelopment blueprint within 100 days.

That blueprint will identify the location of anchor projects such as public buildings and strategic city blocks.

It will also identify how to streamline consent processes, as well as look at what land amalgamation is required to support these anchor projects and other developments.

This process will create certainty and will create significant value for development and investment.

The new unit will also undertake development and investment promotion and attraction.

And finally it will schedule and coordinate construction.

The Central City Plan

Our ability to establish this new unit and to enter this new phase of Christchurch’s recovery is due to the development of the Central City Plan by Christchurch City Council.

Volume 1 of the Central City Plan dealt with the vision for the city, its precincts, its distinctiveness, its heritage and its green spaces.

Volume 2 of the Plan was focused on changes to the District Plan to realise the vision in Volume 1.

We have decided to accept Volume 1 in the main, but to put Volume 2 aside for a period, because it is premature to approve or review that volume while Warwick and his team prepare the blueprint for implementation.

Warwick’s team will prepare the blueprint and assess anchor projects in consultation with strategic partners such as the region’s councils, Ngai Tahu and other government departments.

The blueprint will be based on the plan, but like any good plan which needs to be rolled out over a number of years, it needs to be sufficiently flexible to meet changing needs.

Two final points I’ll make about how we’re approaching Volume 1 of the plan are around transport and financing.

We have decided to put the transport aspects of Volume 1 to one side for the time being.

Some transport proposals in the draft plan – such as one-way to two-way street conversions – will require more detailed assessment to ensure there aren’t negative implications for the wider transport network.

It is vital that all transport options are considered in relation to greater Christchurch, and this will be done.

While it would be nice to have, the commuter rail service included in the draft plan needs greater consideration and would need to fit into a wider city transport plan.

Also, today’s announcement is not a commitment to financing all the projects presented in the Central City Plan.

Assessment of the project priorities and how they will be funded is something the council has just got under way through its Draft Annual Plan process, and will be the subject of further discussion in development of the blueprint.

I’m very pleased that key Council staff, with their experience and skills, will play a critical role in the Development Unit’s team.

I have talked with Mayor Parker, and CERA has spoken to Council senior management, about the involvement of Council in the development of the blueprint.

Council staff will be available to be seconded into the new unit to ensure a high level of collaboration and coordination.

CERA will develop a consultation plan that ensures the community stay connected to the Central City Plan as it is turned into a blueprint for action.

It is important to note that Council remains the consent agency for the re-development of central Christchurch.

The need for the Christchurch Central Development Unit

To date approximately 30 per cent, or 600, of the commercial buildings in central Christchurch have had to be been demolished out of a total of 1936 buildings.

The buildings that remain are scattered across a large area in the four avenues with nearly 3000 different land-owners.

The challenge for the redevelopment of the city is to build demand for commercial, residential and retail space while planning for that redevelopment to occur in a coordinated way that lives up to the vision in the Central City Plan.

We believe the key to creating demand, and for a coordinated redevelopment of central Christchurch, is providing clarity and certainty about anchor projects.

Those anchor projects will define the precincts described in the Central City Plan, and if undertaken appropriately they will stimulate demand and increase investor confidence in the rebuild.

Those anchor projects can act as catalysts for the surrounding areas and provide opportunities for the smaller hospitality businesses that provide cities with life and vitality.

A good example of an anchor project and the importance of a well-sequenced and coordinated rebuild, is the location and development of a Convention Centre.

Hotel developers have indicated that they will look to invest once the location and timeline for development of a Convention Centre is finalised.

We have an incredible opportunity to develop a hotel precinct supported by a world class convention centre that together can act as the cornerstone for rebuilding the central city hospitality and tourism industry.

Once these hospitality and tourism businesses are back in the CBD, other anchor projects and precincts will be able to leverage this development.

This will increase demand for office space and improve the opportunities for health sector and tertiary education developments.

To achieve these benefits from an anchor project the Christchurch Central Development Unit will need to:

  • identify location options;
  • prepare design and development concepts;
  • look at land amalgamation options;
  • coordinate with other government departments who can invest in the development;
  • and promote and attract the development to potential investors in New Zealand and overseas.

These anchor projects are crucial to the rebuild of central Christchurch.

They are exciting opportunities that will build the confidence of the people of Christchurch in their city centre and the confidence of land-owners and investors.

To grasp these opportunities we need to ensure that we use all of our powers and resources.

Many of the developments will depend on the investment of other government agencies as funders and future tenants.

Also, the development of the new Christchurch Stadium at Addington used the powers of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act, and we were able to build an incredible new facility in less than 100 days.

It shows that we can use that legislation for the CBD to ensure that the right planning processes are in place for the recovery of the city.

It is for all these reasons that we believe CERA and the Christchurch Central Development Unit is best placed to lead the re-development of the CBD.

Before I ask Warwick to speak, I want to close by recognising the importance of the Central City Plan to providing the pathway forward.

Mayor Parker, his councillors and council staff worked closely with the community to develop the plan and I believe it has widespread and strong community support.

People support the idea of the precincts and the concepts for the rebuild of central Christchurch.

They like the concepts of:

  • a green city;
  • a distinctive city;
  • a bustling vibrant city that supports Canterbury arts and sports;
  • and a city that supports the economic and business growth of the region.

These ideas are so good and so widely supported that we need to put in place the best leadership and teams to deliver on them.

In that vein I expect Warwick and his team to work as partners with Council on delivering on the plan and to consult with Council and the community to retain support for the Central City Plan.

The announcement we are making today and the need for new, collaborative working arrangements was envisaged in the Central City Plan, and Bob will speak to that shortly.

Let me say, I envisage the Mayor playing a very important role in the Development Unit’s work.

Bob is a great ambassador for the city and is without question a superb communicator.

A very important part of the unit’s work will be projecting Christchurch’s vision to investors here and offshore, and I’m confident Bob will play a big role in making that a success.

Thank you.