Speech to New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development (NZCID) Building Nations Symposium

Posted 20 Aug 2015 by GovtBeehive Popular
Posted in CERA/Govt

Gerry Brownlee | Canterbury Earthquake Recovery

Good afternoon.

Thank you Jim for that warm welcome and for the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development’s hosting of this event.

Your invitation to address the Building Nations Symposium 2015 is both welcome and opportune.

Can I start by acknowledging Stephen Selwood, Mayor Lianne Dalziel and other local body representatives here today from around the region. 

Central to this year’s symposium are the themes of Integrated and Regional Development; both relevant and timely topics given we have reached a critical transition point in the Canterbury Rebuild.

Together with local government, we are focused on establishing long-term planning frameworks that reflect common agreement on the strategic outcomes we want to achieve here in Canterbury.

We are now almost five years on from the start of 13,000 earthquakes spread over a two year period, which changed the make-up of Christchurch and the region forever.

67 of those quakes were of magnitude 5 or greater, so this was not a sequence of two or three major quakes and a whole lot of minor aftershocks.

It was a sequence of greater length and intensity than any earthquake event in our history. 

The fiscal jolt Canterbury caused this country was huge.

The estimated cost of the rebuild is upward of $40 billion, or around 20 per cent of New Zealand’s gross domestic product.

By contrast, Hurricane Katrina cost 1.2 per cent of the United States’ gross domestic product, and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan cost an estimated 3-5 per cent of gross domestic product.

That being the case, the fact that none of the dire predictions made in the early days of the quakes has played out makes our story all the more remarkable.

Since day one of the earthquakes, the National-led government has stood beside the people of Canterbury.

Our vision is that greater Christchurch will be rebuilt as a place we can all be proud of – a great place to live in, work in and raise a family in.

While it has been a significant task – physically, psychologically and fiscally – I am proud of what we’ve achieved to date.

Measuring the success of the rebuild of Christchurch can be done in many ways.

For some it is a personal measure – their home is rebuilt or fixed, and their lives are back on track.

For others, it’s the progress within the central city – in the repair of the roads and underground pipes, or the opening of impressive new buildings – that defines how far we have come.

By the end of June this year, 96 per cent of the central Christchurch infrastructure repairs were complete, with full completion to be achieved in the coming months.

Building consents in greater Christchurch rose by approximately 20 per cent in the year to December 2014.

Canterbury’s economy also continues to gather momentum.

The region remains one of the country’s top performers, having posted 16 consecutive quarters of positive economic growth. 

Canterbury also boasts the lowest unemployment rate in New Zealand at just 3.1 per cent (compared to 6.1 per cent nationally).

Over the last two years, nearly 30,000 extra jobs have been created in the region.

And the population of Greater Christchurch has now recovered to above where it was before the 2010 earthquake.

So the grim picture painted early on by some, of an empty city with a declining population, has defiantly not come to pass.

But beyond this data is a bigger picture.

The earthquakes provided a unique opportunity to build a new and vibrant city that would capture the best in modern urban design.

In July 2012 we released a blueprint of what Christchurch’s CBD would look like, and the private and public sector infrastructure that would draw people to live and work in the city again.

This vision is now steadily taking shape as that blueprint comes to fruition.

Before I comment on some specific projects which are part of the plan, I must express disappointment at the NZCID view on recovery, rebuild and future planning for the city.

Many of you as members are involved here, whether it is in the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCRIT), worth $3 billion; the Christchurch Home Repair Programme (CHRP), a $2.71 billion programme; the Lyttelton Port, which has more than $1 billion worth of work currently programmed; or any number of other significant projects.

All of these projects represent a significant amount of work and commitment to the plan.

Additionally, the value of all private residential and commercial claims settled is now over $15 billion. 

Since September 2010, the total value of building consents issued in greater Christchurch is $11.7 billion for mainly private sector investments.  

And you need not look too far to see substantial Government investment in key Anchor Projects.

Take the Health Precinct for example.

The $650 million investment in the Acute Services Building and the Burwood Hospital developments represent the most significant public hospital projects ever in New Zealand.

Additionally, construction of the $300 million Justice and Emergency Services Precinct is progressing well and completion is expected by December 2016.

The planned and systematic approach we’ve taken is considered by international experts to be in many respects peerless.

So the NZCID description that Christchurch is on track to be a bland city and a “fantastic opportunity lost” is, as I say, disappointing.

Now I’d like to update you on three landmark projects in Christchurch – the Metro Sports Facility, the Convention Centre and the East Frame Residential Project.

While there has been plenty of local debate about these projects, the Government’s commitment to delivering these facilities for the people of Christchurch has never wavered.

As they are considerable investments, it’s important to get them right.

In the case of the Sports Centre and Convention Centre, the last thing we want for ratepayers now, and in the future, is to be saddled with assets that don’t work.

From the Governments point of view, we’re committed to working with the council and other stakeholders to find solutions that work for both taxpayers and ratepayers.

That’s the approach we’ve taken with all investments in Christchurch, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing to take time to achieve this.

Last month I was pleased to announce that Cabinet has agreed funding parameters for the Metro Sports Facility.

I also outlined what we can expect to see in the new facility – an announcement that was met with great excitement across sporting codes.

From indoor courts to swimming pools, the components of this new facility will ensure there is something for everyone, at all levels of sport.

To ensure maintenance of a competitive tendering process, we won’t be revealing the agreed financial cap on the Crown’s commitment to delivery of the facility at this time, other than to say it is greater than the $70.3 million in the 2013 Cost Sharing Agreement between the Government and the Christchurch City Council.

This is an important milestone.

The Government has already purchased most of the land required to develop the facility on a central Christchurch site spanning over 70,000sqm. 

Part of this new funding commitment will see High Performance Sport New Zealand’s training base for elite athletes move from its temporary facility in suburban Burnside to the central city.

This will make the Metro Sports Facility a true hub for Canterbury’s sporting community.

Negotiations toward a development arrangement for the Convention Centre are continuing.

I’m confident that we will reach final agreement on our preferred development partners shortly, and be able to make tangible progress on the project in a similar time frame to the Metro Sports Facility.

Fletcher Residential is on track with its proposal for the development of the $800 million East and North Frame residential precinct.

Construction of the first of the planned 940 townhouses and apartments will begin by the end of the year.

When finished, the new precinct will deliver a mix of housing to encourage people at all stages of life to live in the central city.

Lifting the resident population in the central city will not only add more vibrancy and activity, it will help businesses in the area to flourish.

In the Innovation Precinct, 85 per cent of the space is committed.

Vodafone has started construction of its South Island headquarters and work has also started on the Kathmandu and Wynyard Group premises.

In the Retail Precinct, the Stranges Building is complete with numerous businesses already operating.

Philip Carter of the Carter Group is getting the development of The Crossing retail centre and car park underway.

Tim Glasson has begun construction of the ANZ Centre on the Triangle site and Nick Hunt of Lichfield Holdings will soon open stage one of the BNZ Centre, with stage two works underway.

And on Oxford Terrace, Antony Gough’s Terraces retail and restaurant project is well under way.

Good progress is also being made on other Anchor Projects within the precincts of the city.

I’m also very pleased to have announced just half an hour ago the second and final stage of Christchurch’s new $53 million Bus Interchange is now complete and open to the public.

This marks the physical completion of the first of the Government-led anchor projects in the central city.

It includes an extended airport-style passenger lounge area, and a further eight bus bays bringing the total to 16 bays, as well as a secure bicycle lock-up area for cyclists.

It’s a credit to all those involved, including the contractors working on site, that the building has been completed on schedule and to such a high standard.

Having a high quality facility is crucial to encouraging the use of public transport in the city, and a new central city transport network that includes dedicated bus lanes is also important in that.

Retail areas in the facility are complete and tenants will begin moving in over the coming weeks.

I’d also like to briefly mention some other builds that have been completed or are underway.

In 2014, the Cricket Oval in Hagley Park became the first Anchor Project to be completed and hosted thousands of visitors during the Cricket World Cup in February.

The magnificently restored Isaac Theatre Royal was re-opened in November last year and work has started on the Music Centre within the Performing Arts Precinct.

A portion of the Avon River Precinct is also now complete.

This has involved removal of 10,000 tonnes of liquefied soils, cleaning 15,000 square metres of gravel beds and narrowing and strengthening the natural contours of the river.

A 2.9 kilometre stretch of the river bank has been repopulated with almost 10,000 native plants.

The river restoration works are already paying dividends with fish stocks now above pre-earthquake levels and entire river environment showing promising signs of regeneration.

Looking ahead, the Margaret Mahy Family Playground will open in time for Christmas.

The playground will rank as one of the world’s largest outdoor play areas.

While these are pleasing milestones, they are only some of many tangible signs of the progress.

What we have to remember is that the substantial investment by the taxpayer in the central city is largely about stimulating private sector investment, and subsequent positive development and growth in business activity and jobs.

It is anticipated that every dollar Government invests in the rebuild will be matched by six from private sector investors.

And we are already seeing this trend.

Recent figures from Colliers International show that 22-thousand square metres of office space has been constructed in the city since 2011.

This tells us the forecasts of armchair critics that Christchurch’s CBD would become a doughnut, with development on the fringes only because there was no confidence to build in the centre, were unfounded.

Earlier this year, the Government announced another 350 public servants will relocate into a major new development in central Christchurch.

A new office building will be built on the corner of Hereford Street and Cambridge Terrace – the site of the former central police station – and house staff from the Ministry of Education, Housing New Zealand and the Ministry of Health.

This is in addition to the 1100 staff from 13 government agencies that the Government announced last year would move into three new central city buildings by the end of 2016.

Further developments will take shape in the central city over the next few months, as more than 250 buildings are either underway or have been consented. 

And it’s not just plain tilt-slab buildings, as some early critics feared would replace the older buildings; we are seeing a variety of impressive architecture.

We know that having a city that is visually appealing and inviting makes people want to live and work centrally, and entices others to visit.

The new city is designed around a system of courtyards and lanes that are far better matched to Canterbury conditions.

It’s a concept that was first employed by the builders of Canterbury College— or, the Arts Centre, as it is now known.

So the new city layout actually builds on a design concept used, at least in part, by the city’s Victorian founders.

It’s the combination of innovation and tradition like this which attracted accolades from leading international publications like Lonely Planet and the New York time – both having rated Christchurch as already a top international destination despite the earthquakes devastation.

Understandably, various experts predicted dire things for this city immediately after the earthquakes.

Massive population flight, loss of property values and years of high unemployment – the picture was grim.

However, none of these things happened for two reasons. 

First, the Government did what it could to give the lifeblood of any community – its businesses – the opportunity of a breather in which they could take stock and make alternative arrangements.

The $260 million we spent providing wage support to businesses in the weeks following the quakes gave employers the flexibility to keep operating, and hold on to their staff.

Second was the legislation and governance structure we put in place, which allowed us to suspend or amend laws and regulations that might hinder progress.

One of the key strategic projects undertaken by CERA was the development of the Land Use Recovery Plan or LURP.

This was a major milestone in the rebuild process.

Effective from December 2013, the LURP covers those areas of the city outside of Central Christchurch and the towns stretching across greater Christchurch from Lincoln and Rolleston in the south to Kaiapoi and Rangiora in the north.

The Plan was developed in conjunction with Environment Canterbury, Christchurch City Council, Selwyn and Waimakariri District Councils, Ngai Tahu and the New Zealand Transport Agency.

It provides a new and more efficient planning framework for controlling land use and development in an environment radically changed by the earthquakes.

It opens up new opportunities for the construction of 40,000 new homes in both greenfield and intensification areas – supporting and complementing the Central Christchurch Recovery Plan and the transport and infrastructure developments that underpin it.

This is an excellent example of how by working collaboratively, central and local government agencies can deliver agreed strategic outcomes and in this case has provided a framework for the regeneration of greater Christchurch.

This approach is based on reaching common agreement amongst the agencies involved.

It is reviewable and earlier this year, along with its strategic partners; Environment Canterbury undertook a review of the LURP which provided a further opportunity for public and stakeholder input – the type of evolving relationship that is at the heart of successful planning.

It is working well in greater Christchurch and in the future may serve as a useful model for other regions.

It is this type of collaboration that the community can look forward to in the next phase of this recovery.

In May this year, the Prime Minister and I announced that the new Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill will replace the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act when it expires in April 2016.

This transition will build on the solid foundations that have been laid over the past five years by both central and local government.

It will see the phasing out of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and the transfer of its functions to other government agencies and a business unit within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Implementation of the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan will pass to a new organisation similar to an urban development authority, possibly named Regenerate Christchurch.

We are now in the consultative phase of the transition and the Mayor and I are leading discussion on the final shape which will see Local Government assume full control over a number of years. 

There’s been an encouraging response to the Draft Transition Delivery Plan with over 2,500 submissions received.

These submissions are now being analysed and the ideas put forward will play an important part in delivering an organisation that can lead the next phase of reconstruction and regeneration.  

A new Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill will replace the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011, which expires next April.

The fresh legislation will enable a new organisation similar to an urban development authority, to implement the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan.

As has previously been signalled, some functions carried out by CERA will transition to other appropriate Government agencies. 

Some of CERA’s functions will transfer into a business unit within the Department of Prime Minster and Cabinet.

These changes will happen progressively between now and April next year, at which time the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority will officially wind up. 

The new organisation will have primary responsibility for the development within Christchurch’s four avenues and delivery of the Crown’s major projects and precincts in the central city.

We are currently progressing toward setting up an establishment board which will have a specific focus on ensuring there is greater commercial discipline in their delivery.

A crucial part of the board’s work will be seeing the new entity works in tandem with the Christchurch City Council for the good of the city’s future development.

I believe the organisation we are developing will be the vehicle to drive that new focus for the central city redevelopment.

With regeneration our focus, we enter a new chapter in our common story that will lend renewed momentum to the recovery as central government steps back and transfers leadership to local councils and the communities they represent.

This transition will generate enthusiasm at a grass roots level and trigger further domestic and international investment.

In both economic and social terms, that will be good for greater Christchurch and good for New Zealand.

We all have a vested interest in a good outcome for Christchurch and this step-change will provide an opportunity to continue the excitement about Christchurch’s future.

An opportunity to create the best small city in the world.

A city that will meet the needs and expectations of this and future generations.

Thank you.

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