Conference Issue 2018


City regenerates after quake devastation

The city of Christchurch, venue for the NZILA Conference for the first time since the city was devastated by the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, is awash with scaffolding and construction activity.

Much of the rebuild is being conducted by Ōtākaro Ltd, a government-owned entity  established in April 2016 to take over some functions of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) when it ended.

Ōtākaro (the Maori name for the Avon River that flows through the city) aims to take Christchurch through its new phase, from recovery to regeneration. The Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act 2016 provides a legal framework to support the regeneration of greater Christchurch over the next five years.

Ōtākaro CEO John Bridgman told the conference many residents thought they had "dodged a bullet" after the 2010 Canterbury quake (known as the Darfield quake) struck NZ's South Island with a moment magnitude of 7.1 at 4.35am on 4 September. There was damage but no deaths.

But the magnitude 6.3 shock, known as the Christchurch earthquake, that occurred nearly six months later on 22 February 2011 "changed Christchurch forever".

Mr Bridgman said the quake's proximity and shallow depth meant it was much more destructive. It killed 185 people and injured more than 6,600.Homes and workplaces were closed, infrastructure and transport affected, and liquefaction occurred.

Whole neighbourhoods were destroyed, with 7,000 homes destroyed and 1,240 CBD buildings damaged. The CBD was closed for 800 days. For residents, the quake and its 14,000+ aftershocks were "highly disruptive".

Mr Bridgman said CERA dealt with the city's recovery and oversaw development of a blueprint, the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan. Ōtākaro's role was to "deliver Crown-funded anchor projects" and balance commercial and regeneration outcomes.

The CBD would be condensed into a stronger core, surrounded by anchor projects, including a metro sports complex, a convention centre, a new stadium/arena, 2km of paved waterfront promenade along the Avon River. An earthquake memorial, honouring the 185 people killed, was finished in 2017.

Ōtākaro was building "competitively priced homes, compared to Auckland" in three "frames" around the city.

The Te Pae convention centre would be "a word-class venue" for up to 2,000 delegates. "We need a facility like this to draw in more visitors," Mr Bridgman said.

Construction was 25% completed and the centre would open in 2020. Bookings had been received for the first three years.

The metro sports complex would include a large aquatic area with a 50m pool and diving pool, and indoor courts. A tender process was in progress for its construction.

A business case was being prepared for a multi-use event arena. It would determine whether the arena would be "a concert hall we can hold a rugby game in or the other way around", Mr Bridgman said.

Ōtākaro was divesting Crown land and receiving "good private sector offers" for sites. By value, Ōtākaro was 60% of the way through divestments.

Mr Bridgman said the rebuild was "the most ambitious project in NZ's history". "Christchurch will never be the same again, but it will be better."

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