CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand's second city and the economic hub of the South Island, is open for business.
That is the message that the New Zealand government and its earthquake reconstruction agencies have for foreign investors, following the recent announcement of the blueprint for rebuilding Christchurch's central city, which was devastated by earthquakes in September 2010 and February 2011.
The Christchurch Central Recovery Plan is an extraordinary opportunity for private investors, and we are excited by the local, national and international interest that has already been expressed in redevelopment.
This is a US$24bil (RM72bil) construction programme, taking place in a strong first-world economy with a very stable democracy, and will be one of the largest construction investment opportunities ever to be seen in New Zealand.
Ultimately, the private sector will play the biggest role in the redevelopment of Christchurch's central city, and the Government is doing all it can to make it easy to invest here.
Both Prime Minister John Key and Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee have underlined that the welcome mat is being rolled out for domestic and offshore investment in the rebuild of Christchurch.
For private investors, there are exciting opportunities not only to participate in the 17 anchor projects outlined in the Recovery Plan which include major civic facilities like a convention centre, performing arts centre, sports stadium, government offices and a health precinct but also in the development of the office space, retail facilities, hospitality venues and homes that the rebuilt Christchurch will need.
New Zealand the public, the business community, and the political establishment is strongly united behind the Recovery Plan.
Among those who are familiar with the Recovery Plan, 82% of Christchurch businesspeople, 66% of Christchurch residents and 53% of New Zealanders say that they support it. This result is a ringing endorsement, and evidence that the Recovery Plan has succeeded in presenting a vision for Christchurch that all New Zealanders can share in.
The government allocated US$4.5bil to the Christchurch rebuild in 2011 alone, and Minister Brownlee is calling for the first anchor projects to be under way by the end of this year, with all of them largely complete by 2017.
Further, the New Zealand parliament has granted special powers to help secure the private investment that Christchurch needs.
These powers include the ability to compulsorily acquire land, amalgamate property titles and process urban design consents in five working days in order to facilitate recovery.
This is a government that welcomes international investment and, if needed, we are prepared to use the very strong legislative powers to help some of that investment come to light.
Together with the release of the Recovery Plan, we have established the Invest Christchurch investment facilitation service, which exists to help potential investors identify opportunities, access the technical information and seismic data they need, and overcome regulatory roadblocks.
Invest Christchurch is staffed by investment facilitators with backgrounds in finance, investment, property development and government administration. Potential investors who contact the service will have an investment facilitator assigned to them within 24 hours of making contact with the service.
Demand for land in what will be a much more compact central city is heating up quickly, and investors will have to move fast if they are to secure opportunities.
The government has already announced that it will locate close to 1,500 full-time employment (FTEs) in the Justice Precinct, while another 2,500-3,000 public sector FTEs will be spread throughout the rebuilt central business district (CBD). There are already 6,000-8,000 health sector employees working in what will be the new Health Precinct, and more will follow.
Meanwhile, over 50 companies representing over 6,000 FTEs have issued public announcements in support of the rebuild, and many of these are expected to commit to CBD tenancies.
At least 80% of pre-quake tenants are expected to move back to the central city, and the number of inner-city residents is expected to rise from 7,000 before the earthquakes to 21,000.
It is important to emphasise that the seismic and geotechnical outlook in Christchurch is improving, making Christchurch a safe place to invest.
Seismic risk is already below other earthquake-prone cities like Tokyo, Santiago and Wellington, and is falling quickly. World-leading building standards will make the new Christchurch safer and more resilient than most other cities in the world.
As a demonstration of private sector confidence in Christchurch, one need look no further than Fonterra, New Zealand's biggest company, which has chosen to invest US$400mil (RM1.2bil) in constructing the world's largest milk processing facility in the area that was at the epicentre of the September earthquakes.
The purpose of this reconstruction programme is to create a vibrant, prosperous central city that reflects the vision of the people of Christchurch and generates the economic activity that greater Christchurch and the Canterbury region need to recover.
Inflows of private capital are essential. That's why Christchurch is open to business for international investors, and will remain so as the Recovery Plan gathers momentum in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
For further information, and to see the Recovery Plan, please visit the Christchurch Central Development Unit website at http://ccdu.govt.nz.
For any investment-related inquiries, please contact the Invest Christchurch service on +6433520636 or firstname.lastname@example.org
● The writer is director of Christchurch Central Development Unit Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.