Canterbury construction $4 billion and rising


Metro Sports Facility

Construction spending in Christchurch has hit more than $4 billion thanks to large builds like the planned new Metro Sports Facility.

A million dollars is being spent on construction in Canterbury every two hours – and spending is still rising.

While residential building work has decreased for the first time in three years, commercial and public construction is ramping up, according to Statistics New Zealand.

More than $4.3 billion has been spent on building work in the region in the past year. The dollars going into non-residential construction have jumped 14.6  per cent in the last quarter, after increasing steadily over the past year as the rebuild ramps up.

Neil Kelly, building figures manager for Statistics New Zealand, said while many houses had already been replaced or repaired, commercial construction was still gathering speed.

“You only have to count the cranes. There’s a lot of big stuff going on and those big projects are boosting the numbers.”

Its figures translated to $83 million a week going into Canterbury’s construction industry, or nearly $12m a day.

They came from  its work in place survey, which measures the value of new residential and non-residential building, as well as alterations big enough to need consent. It does not include internal refurbishments or minor renovations, or non-building construction such as roads and other infrastructure.

Leighs Construction managing director Anthony Leighs said the commercial market was the busiest it had been in the post-quake environment.

“What we’re seeing in there’s probably the highest level of activity in the market at the moment than there’s ever been… from the total number of buildings being built across the city.”

Leighs believed the momentum would “remain very solid” for two to three more years.

The company’s “top of the pops projects” at the moment were “massive”, including the BNZ and ANZ centres, and the Burwood Hospital rebuild.

Hawkins Construction South Island regional manager Steve Taw agreed, saying the rebuild was “likely to continue at this current rate for at least another 12 months”.

He said the projects the company were working on were likely to be adding to the “ever increasing spend in the Christchurch commercial construction market”, but it was planned and not unexpected.

“It is pleasing to see confidence in our central city increasing with a number of projects in full swing.”

Ian Smith, head of project management company Building Intelligence Group in Christchurch, said while the central city skyline was full of private developers’ cranes, internal work on those buildings and the public sector spend was yet to come.

Rather than peaking , the rebuild would plateau as big projects such as they city’s new central library, Metro sports centre and convention centre got underway.

“There’s going to be quite a lot of money spent on all those buildings.”

Smith said while there were “hot spots” in construction such as the need for structural steel, the market would supply enough materials and labour in most areas.

“By and large the market has responded so far, and met demand.”


  • The Press

More funds for anchor project

sports-03The Government is pledging additional money to Christchurch’s metro sports facility but will not reveal how much.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee announced Tuesday Cabinet had agreed to increase Crown contribution to the major anchor project, above the $70.3 million planned in the 2013 cost sharing agreement with the Christchurch City Council.

The council committed $147m to the project.

“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,” Brownlee said.

While the design of the facility was still to take place, the agreed funding package meant it would include:

– An indoor aquatic hall with a 79m, 10-lane competition pool and spectator seating for 1000 people

– A 10m diving tower and warm water pool

– A learn-to-swim pool

– A leisure water area, with outdoor hot pools and two hydroslides

– Nine indoor courts for sports such as netball, basketball, futsal, floor ball, and other indoor sports, including retractable seating for 2500 spectators and function/VIP areas

– Sport New Zealand’s high performance area, which will include facilities for athletes and space for administration

– A large gym/weights facility, with up to five group fitness/multi-purpose rooms and sports health consulting rooms and facilities

– Four studio spaces for movement activity like dance

– A Sports House for administration of different sports

– A café, childcare facility and car parking for 500 vehicles (with the ability to expand in the future)

Previous plans for the facility included a 50-metre competition pool, and an complex with eight indoor courts and 2800 seats.

Sport Canterbury chief executive Julyan Falloonsaid it was great to finally have details of the project.

“We’ve been waiting for so long. It’s a great day for us,” he said.

The sports community could now plan transitional facilities and future competitions and events with more certainty.

“Now it’s about urgency to get the thing built and utilised,” Falloon said.

Netball Mainland chief executive Brigit Hearn said she was “extremely excited”.

“It’s fabulous news. It’s the end of the tunnel for us – now we can move forward and plan ahead.”

Netball Mainland had advocated for 12 courts but Hearn said getting nine courts was “certainly an improvement from where we’re at at the moment”.

The metro sport facility was initially planned to be built by early 2016 but the Government earlier this year pushed the completion date to 2020.

It is understood the business case was rejected when it finally reached the Beehive in May because costs had blown out.

Brownlee said Tuesday the intention was to open the facility to the public in 2019 and the remainder in 2020.

“As we work through the facility’s design and construction we will be looking closely at what opportunities there are to shorten those timeframes,” he said.

The Government had already purchased most of the land required to develop the facility on a central Christchurch site spanning over 70,000 square metres between Moorhouse Ave, Stewart St, St Asaph St and Antigua St.

The business case for the facility was “strong”, with more than two million visits to the facility a year expected once it opened, Brownlee said.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel welcomed the announcement.

“The earthquakes have had a massive impact on the region’s sporting facilities and I’m confident this new centre will reignite sport and recreation participation rates, and be another good reason to live in the central city,” she said.



Christchurch Soldiers On!

1431085048320Construction activity in Christchurch may well have plateaued, but rumours of the demise of the earthquake-induced construction boom have been greatly exaggerated, says Hugh De Lacy. You can’t drop $40 billion in insurance and government money on a region of fewer than half a million people without creating a construction boom, even if initially most of the money is spent on urgent demolition and repairs. Once those two phases were completed, new construction would continue to drive the regional economy for years to come.

That would seem to be the wisdom derived from Canterbury’s recovery from the earthquakes of 2010-2011, and rumours that the reconstruction phase has run its course and there’s a rapid wind-down in effect simply can’t be substantiated. The fact is that while most of the demolition of buildings, and the repair and reconstruction of infrastructure are well advanced, and despite Fletcher Earthquake Recovery (EQR) winding up its $4 billion residential repairs programme at the end of this year, construction is still booming in Christchurch and throughout the Canterbury region.

That’s not to say there isn’t a shakedown under way, and that a lot of smaller companies are dropping out of the game, especially in the painting and decorating niches of the building construction sector. But according to John Ombler, acting chief executive of the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), there’s still growth in overall rebuild construction.

“The forecasts tell us that we can expect peak activity in construction through to about 2017, before an easing expected in 2018,” Ombler told Contractor. There are, however, variations in the level of activity of the various construction sectors.

“For example, EQC’s [the Earthquake Commission’s] Canterbury home repair programme is largely complete [but] at the same time there is still considerable repair and rebuild happening, and a huge amount of public sector work still in the pipeline.” This includes schools, tertiary institutions, health facilities like Christchurch hospital, the Metro Sports Facility and the East Frame residential neighbourhood. “We have just seen the opening of Christchurch’s new $53 million Bus Interchange, and work on the Justice and Emergency Precinct is well progressed.” Ombler said that overall building consent figures are on “a steady upward trend that we have seen every year since 2012”.

He noted that SCIRT, the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team of leading contractors charged with the rebuild of the city horizontal infrastructure, is 70 percent of the way through its work programme. “Indicators such as economic growth and employment continue to show Canterbury leading the performance of major centres in New Zealand,” Ombler says. That may well be the case overall, but at the lower end of the food chain there are persistent reports of smaller entities falling over or copping out.

Paul Robertson, the principal of mid-sized construction and earthworks company Civil and Land, based in Amberley, North Canterbury, reckons there’s a slump in the work available for companies like his, which has a permanent workforce of about 20.He cites the case of the Hurunui District Council, the northernmost of the three districts and the city affected by the quakes, tendering out a five to 10 year road maintenance contract. “I’ve never seen so many contractors apply for it: you usually only get two or three, but 12 main contractors have applied for this one – which just shows there’s no confidence in the rebuild because contractors are now looking for work in the longer term,” Robertson said.

However, he did cite meeting health and safety (H&S) and compliance measures as a major burden for smaller firms. Fletcher EQR’s arrival on the local residential scene turned it upside down with its insistence on big-company H&S and compliance standards, and its assigning work to only those contractors and subcontractors who had passed through its induction process. Even in things like traffic management, small companies are struggling to get employees formally qualified to put out traffic cones, just so they’re entitled to tick the appropriate boxes on the paperwork. “Everything is bits of paper today, and if you don’t pull your bits of paper out you don’t get started,” Robertson says.

But while painters and decorators might be abandoning Christchurch for the fairer fields of Auckland residential construction, they’re not flooding car yards with second-hand ex-leased utes at Christchurch Airport as one rumour has it. David Crawford, chief executive of the Motor Industry Association of New Zealand, was quite upbeat when contacted by Contractor.

Sales figures of light commercials are still “staggering” nationwide, having gone up 25 percent in 2013, 19 percent in 2014, and 14 percent in the year to date. Crawford says luxury vehicle sales, the lead indicator of demand changes for new vehicles – which forewarned of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis by slumping 12 months before it, and afterwards began to recover about 10 months before the rest of the market – were still going strong, up “very slightly” this year compared to last.

And Dion Jones, general manager of Turners Auctions, the country’s biggest motor vehicle auction house, said repossessions and arrears in the light commercial sector were “as low as they’ve ever been”. This was despite companies “discounting the pants” off new vehicles to encourage buyers to ante up the extra couple of thousand dollars for a new vehicle rather than a used one.

So the shape of the Christchurch rebuild may be changing, and there may be challenges for small companies to adapt to the paperwork requirements of H&S and other forms of compliance, but the volume of work remains high. Brian Warren, chief executive of Christchurch’s Isaac Construction, summed it up by saying there may have been a drop-off in demand, “but it’s not as if it’s come to the top of a steep curve and dropped off the other side in a steep curve either. “That said, we certainly noticed a drop-off at the beginning of this calendar year. It’s come back a little bit now, but certainly it’s less than it was 12 months ago.”

That most telling barometer of economic activity, employment, bears Warren’s assessment out: Canterbury added 11,900 new jobs in the latest March year, though this was down from a peak of 34,000 added in the year to the end of last September, with most of those increases coming in the construction and food services industries.


  • Charles Fairbairn

Town Hall contract signed

1436384954063The Christchurch Town Hall has been largely stripped back to its concrete frame, but the bones of the place still evoke strong memories.

Those special memories were shared yesterday as the contract was signed to restore the earthquake-damaged building over the next three years: designs sketched on a kitchen table, children graduating and people queuing to visit on opening day.

The Christchurch Town Hall will be restored and strengthened over the next three years at a cost of $127.5 million. The main auditorium has been partially stripped out in preparation for the revamp.

The contract was signed in the heritage building’s foyer with restoration and strengthening work costing $127.5 million, largely funded by $68.9 million in insurance money.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel remembered visiting the building on opening day in 1972.

“I remember thinking this [foyer space] was so big,” she said.

“The queue went for miles. We all came in and we marveled at this incredible building.

“This place has been where we come together as a city to celebrate. This adds up financially and emotionally for the benefit of the city as a whole. Roll on 2018 and the opening day.”

Original architect Sir Miles Warren remembered designing the building on his kitchen table in Church Bay over the Christmas holidays in 1965.

“That was the beginning of a wonderful building process,” he said.

“It really was the most important commission that Warren and Mahoney ever received in competition. We became a national practice rather than just Christchurch architects in the process.”

Council rebuild manager David Adamson thought of family moments.

“All my children graduated through this place,” he said.

Regional Manager Steve Taw had memories of soft rock.

“I remember the last time I came here was for a concert. It was George Thorogood and the Destroyers.”

Council chief executive Karleen Edwards said the restoration would improve the Town Hall.

“We all have memories of coming here. We all have a special memory about this place. The city has missed having the Town Hall.

“There is a real opportunity to make this place better than it was.”

The building has been largely stripped back in preparation for the restoration. Carpets have been taken up, the floor of the auditorium has been stripped out and fixtures have been removed and stored. The process has revealed the full extent of how much the floor of the main auditorium warped in the Canterbury earthquakes.

The concrete floor of the auditorium bulges like the top of a sphere. The difference in height between the centre of the bulge and the edge of the floor is about 50 centimeters. Despite this, the walls and structure of the building have remained relatively intact.

The ground beneath the Town Hall will be fixed with more than 1000 jet grout piles, creating an eight-metre deep concrete grid beneath the building. A new concrete slab for the whole Town Hall complex will be poured on top of the new piles.

The Limes Room, which has moved towards the Avon River and risen at one end, will be suspended on scaffolding while new columns are built underneath to make it level again.


  • Stacy Squires
  • The Press

Christchurch bus interchange opens

1430718037742Christchurch City opened its new Bus Interchange Monday 25th at 8am. The old bus exchange was severely damage during the earthquake of 2011

University students, school pupils and tradesmen were among the dozens of people catching a bus for the first time at Christchurch’s new bus interchange.

A technical glitch delayed its official opening, but buses started running out of the new $53 million facility this week.

The Lichfield St facility was set to open last week but a software issue meant authorities doubted its reliability.

The interchange will be the first Government-led rebuild anchor projegct to be completed when the second stage, which includes retail areas, a covered bike-lock area and access to the remainder of the bus bays, is finished in about two and a half months.

bus-interchange-ground-floor-planTradesmen worked on completion of the second stage area on the Tuam St side as Cantabrians hopped on and off buses to mark the opening of the first stage of the project. Half of the 16 bus bays are now in use.

Christchurch resident Natasha Hawkins was catching the 28 line to Lyttelton.

She said the facility was “nice and flash”.

University of Canterbury student Claudia Dowling was waiting for the 18 line to university.

She would be using the interchange every week day, and said it would make a big difference to be able to wait inside.

“It’s so cold outside in the morning.”

Canterbury earthquake recovery minister Gerry Brownlee said the facility’s opening was “a great moment for Christchurch” and reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the rebuild.

“The Interchange is stylish and user-friendly, with airport-style passenger lounges that will ensure people can wait for their buses in comfort and protected from the elements. It has also been designed with a real emphasis on safety and sustainability.”

“Having an attractive facility like this is crucial if we want to attract more people to public transport.”

“The Bus Interchange is something the people of Christchurch can use every day and experience how far we have come.”

The opening of the bus interchange meant inner city bus routes would change.  Buses were now designated to use Manchester St with routes changing across the central city.

While all CBD bus routes were affected, those with the biggest changes were the Blue Line, the 17, 28 and 29. Customers using these routes were advised to check route maps.

Environment Canterbury chief executive Bill Bayfield said at the opening it was fantastic to see people enjoying the facility.

“It’s freezing cold outside and now we’re standing in a warm area.

“Our customers have been amazing over the past three years, using the temporary central station and just getting on with it.”

Christchurch Transport Operation Centre spokeswoman Tresca Forester urged drivers in the area to be wary of increased foot traffic on Lichfield and Colombo streets.


  • Stacy Squires
  • The Press

Christchurch retail precinct update

It might have seemed it was never going to happen but the central city retail precinct is signed, sealed and – in 18 months – going to be delivered.

Even his mates don’t get it, says Tim Glasson, relaxing back into the armchair in his tiny, temporary Lincoln Rd office.

Another wave of doubt is washing over when it comes to the rebuild of the central city. People are looking at the current state of the Christchurch CBD and thinking perhaps it will never properly recover.

So when Glasson’s friends bring up the matter, the rich lister – said to be worth a cool $75 million with his many property investments and 20 per cent stake in the Hallenstein Glasson clothing chain – changes the subject.

“I just don’t talk about it. It’s easier. What’s the point? It gets too frustrating.”

Glasson has emerged as one of the small group of local businessmen of a certain age who are busy refashioning the retail core of Christchurch. The other three are Philip Carter, Nick Hunt and Antony Gough.


An atrium in Tim Glasson’s ANZ Centre in central Christchurch. bordered by Colombo St, Hereford St, and High St.

Between them, they are pumping nearly half a billion dollars into a shopping and banking area centred around Ballantynes department store. It is going to be unrecognisably splendid, they say. And the projects are completely nailed down.

Sure, Glasson agrees, there was massive uncertainty until around a year ago. Everything was still sliding about. But now the tenants are lined up, the construction contracts signed.

Where the public sees empty spaces, he already knows the buildings which will fill those spots. It is no longer a question of if, or even when.

Glasson says his own $80m four storey ANZ Centre development – the old Triangle Centre northeast  of Ballantynes – is so hedged around with penalty clauses that its shops and offices have to be open for business by Christmas 2016. By early 2017, people are going to see the retail precinct done.

Well maybe not quite. There is a block of empty land by the Bridge of Remembrance that the Crown has ended up owning. There is a carpark the council is faffing about with rather than rebuilding.

But if the retailers can get a sensible outcome on these last elements of the precinct, they reckon they will have created a central city “mall” to beat anything Riccarton or Northlands has to offer.

It will have the parking and public transport access. It will offer a host of name brand stores like Top Shop and Zara that you won’t find in the suburbs.

And unlike Auckland’s Queen Street or Wellington’s Lambton Quay – strung out along some busy roads – it will be a compact nest of laneways and cafes. A modern metropolitan experience.

In his mind’s eye, it is as good as done, says Glasson. He knows because he, like the other developers, has been signing the cheques.

So why argue with his friends? Give them a year and they will be able to see it too.

It is the first time Glasson, now approaching 70, has sat down to talk about his own part in the rebuild. Like most Christchurch rich listers, Glasson has long been a famously private person.

He is known as a tough and careful operator who took over his father’s clothing warehouse in Lichfield St in the 1960s and though a merger with Hallensteins in 1985, built up a chain of men’s and women’s wear stores across New Zealand and Australia.

While officially now just a shareholder in the listed company, business commentators feel Glasson still pulls the strings. The managing director’s job at Hallenstein Glasson has been something of a revolving door – four different faces in the last eight years or so.

In partnership with the firm’s chair Warren Bell, Glasson also controls a large property investment portfolio that includes the $180m Deloitte Centre in Auckland’s Queen St and a private cemetery in Silverdale, north of Auckland.

Ah, Glasson protests, he is not here to talk about his other business interests. But yes, he admits, he has tried to retire a few times without success. And now here he is, because of the earthquakes, with another big job on his hands.

Glasson owned three small buildings in the prequake central city – the Hallensteins and Glassons shops off Cashel St, plus the historic Stewart Dawson building further down High St. About $25m worth.

His initial expectation was that he would collect the insurance and rebuild. “I was going to wait until the city got rationalised and decide what was the most appropriate thing to do.”

Glasson says at first it looked as if action would be fast. In 2011, with the ground still shaking, Christchurch City Council began drafting its central city masterplan.

But the Government decided the result was not ambitious enough and so created the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU), which in July 2012 came out with the precinct-orientated Blueprint.
For the retail zone, the Blueprint called for a compact few blocks of shops with office space above. Cashel St rather than Colombo St would become the main shopping axis.

And to enforce an integrated approach, the CCDU said developers had to submit their proposals as an Outline Development Plan (ODP) which covered at least 7500 square metres.

It was a risky move. Effectively it divided the prime commercial space in the city, several hundred mostly individually-owned properties, into just six half-block chunks. This meant either building owners were going to have to get together with their neighbours to agree a joint development scheme, or else they would have to sell, hand the properties over to someone else with the cash and commitment to rebuild a corner of the retail precinct as a single project.

The CCDU suggested it had the emergency powers to force matters with compulsory purchases if needed. It also said international money was sure to be lining up to take advantage of the opportunity the retail precinct presented. But both these things proved optimistic.

Glasson scoffs at the idea that out-of-town investors were ever going to rebuild Christchurch’s commercial heart.

retail-precinct-night-aerial-artists-impression-december-2014-650pxHe says the earthquakes hit as the world was coming out of the global financial crisis. And if they wanted, foreign property firms could head to Shanghai for a 11 per cent return.

Christchurch was a speck on the map with soaring construction costs and an unclear future – the exact opposite of the kind of low risk/high margin opportunities that corporate investors have in mind.

This is why the retail precinct has ended up a project being carried forward by a particular generation – those with the experience and personal wealth to underwrite $100m scale deals. Plus the willingness to accept their ventures can only pay off over the very long term.

Glasson bursts into laughter when asked if he has attempted to calculate his own expected return. “No, I haven’t bothered trying to work that out. You could play with the figures forever. It’s got to be a gut feel as much as anything.”

In fact at the start Glasson found himself sitting it out on the sidelines. He was watching others trying to accumulate the blocks of land needed for an ODP.

Philip Carter had decided to go for the properties around The Crossing, the building he owned east of Ballantynes. The Glassons shop was part of that block so Glasson agreed to sell it to help make Carter’s project work.

Then Wellington-based investor Michael Ogilvie-Lee proposed rebuilding the Triangle Centre as a $100m glass wrapped building. And he needed Glasson’s Hallensteins shop to complete that ODP footprint.

Again, Glasson says he was happy to step back, sell out, wait until eventually something else came along that was worth him re-investing in.

Yet Ogilvie-Lee changed his mind. He was having issues with his Wellington property investments. After a phone call, the transaction was reversed. Glasson ended up buying back his own property, along with the entire Triangle Centre project.

It sounds a bit casual. But Glasson says it boils down to the usual business equation of local knowledge, personal relationships and gut instinct – even if it was a deal with a few more noughts than usual. “I’ve known Michael a long time. We’ve had to work together because our buildings are right beside each other. We shared a common access way. He let me use his car park. He’s an ex-retailer, so we talked about that sometimes.”

Because Glasson was involved in the Re:Start Mall project, he was also hearing the inside gossip of how Carter, Hunt and Gough were developing a logic for the retail precinct. It was becoming clearer how the Triangle Centre could fit into that whole.

Glasson says Ogilvie-Lee had half-signed ANZ as the building’s anchor tenant. It was happy to stay on and take the naming rights. Then he succeeded in signing engineering consultancy Beca to another one and a half floors for its 300 staff.

With Hallenstein Glasson’s board agreeing to take much of the ground floor with a couple of flagships stores, the development was finalised late last year. The Triangle Centre became the ANZ Centre.

The construction contract could be let. Right now, as he says, there is only a hole in the ground. They are digging the foundations and making room for the 96 space basement car park. But any uncertainty is history.

“We’re aiming to pass it over for fit-out in October 2016, so the shops will be open by November next year. And then I expect the offices will fill up over the Christmas holidays.”

Across town on the fifth floor of a new office block in Victoria St, Philip Carter is wrestling with technology. He has just had a wireless display installed in the boardroom and a virtual fly-through of his $140m The Crossing project should play when he taps the icon on his iPad. However the damn thing keeps logging off.

retail-precinct-artists-impression-december-2014-650pxLike Glasson, Carter is worried that once again a negative perception is developing around the central city’s rebuild. There is talk of investors bailing, anchor projects slipping, areas like Cathedral Square being left an eyesore.

Carter agrees there are problems. However so far as the commercial core is concerned – the shops, offices and civic facilities like the bus station and justice precinct clustered around Cashel Mall – the public should be reassured that the big money is locked in.

It took a while, but the button marked go has been pushed.

“If you stand in Cashel Mall now, it’s a bit of a mini-Dubai. There are cranes around the Bus Exchange, cranes where the Grand Chancellor was, cranes where Tim Glasson is, cranes around The Crossing, cranes around Nick Hunt’s buildings. It’s all starting to come out of the ground.”

After another few stabs at the iPad, Carter gets his virtual tour of the Crossing project running. Shiny images of what Christchurch people will be able to walk around by Christmas 2016 begin to play.
Carter explains the thinking behind its design. He says he sent one of his sons, Andrew, overseas to gather the inspiration. There were conversations with other retailers and the CCDU.

Out of that has emerged a vision of the central city rebuilt as if it were an integrated mall – but with more interesting shops and also open plan. A properly urban shopping centre and not a bland air-conditioned enclosure.

Carter says The Crossing will have two levels holding about 60 shops and cafes, with extra floors of offices at the corners. It will be broken up by an atrium and laneways so it feels always like a mix or being inside and outside.

And careful attention has been paid to how his development connects with everything around it. One entrance aligns with the Bus Exchange across Lichfield St, another laneway feeds towards Glasson’s ANZ centre, while the air bridge across to Ballantynes remains.

With all the other developers doing the same, Carter says there will be four blocks of new shops that flow down to Gough’s The Terrace on the banks of the Avon. The central city will have a completely new ambience.

But it relies on getting the car parking right. Carter says the reality is the rebuilt central city can only compete if it also has the accessibility of a suburban mall. Like it or not, success will be spelt out by the very numbers the centre brings in.

So Carter admits that it wasn’t until May 2014, when the council finally agreed to sell him the quake-damaged Crossing public car park, allowing him to increase the number of car parking spaces from 200 to 630, that his plans actually clicked into place.

“That was the circuit-breaker.” That is when he could complete the land purchases – buying 8000 sq m on top of the 2000 sq m he already owned – and start planning the detailed design.

Now it is happening. It looks a bombsite at the moment, but Carter says The Crossing will also open by Christmas 2016. The central city will have a retail precinct that is miles ahead of anywhere else in terms of its attractiveness and ease of use.

Carter does mourn a missed opportunity or two. He says an obvious omission from the “mall in the city” story is a cinema multiplex.

Given central city building costs, it couldn’t pay for itself as a development. Well, possibly it might have worked as extra storeys on top of the new Bus Exchange, he says, but that is history now.

More seriously, there is the question of what is going to happen to what has become known as the south west retail block down by the Bridge of Remembrance – the large site currently occupied by Re:Start Mall.

Originally that was going to be the prime shopping development under a $350m ODP put forward by Australasian property giant, the Goodman Group, with Westpac Bank as the anchor tenant.
This was the outside money that the CCDU promised. But the Goodman proposal got bogged down because local landowners refused to be bought out and the CCDU proved shy about using its compulsory purchase powers to force through any sales.

However it then ended up with much of the land being in Crown ownership anyway after a succession of other deals fell through and eventually all those involved walked away.

The failure of the south west block was why the retail precinct felt stalled – along with the fact that the office blocks were springing up all along Victoria St and Cambridge Tce, the wrong side of where the Blueprint wanted them to be.

Carter now looks at this large empty site and sees it as the other natural half to his mall concept. Especially if the council could be persuaded to integrate its remaining damaged car park, the Lichfield St multi-storey beside Ballantynes, into a coherent development.

“The CBD has to have the scale to fight the suburban malls. They have been the problem for many years. And with that as the other half of a new mall in the city, the CBD’s case would be so compelling.”
Carter’s hope is that as The Crossing, the ANZ Centre, and Hunt’s and Gough’s developments take shape, as tenants and funders recognise the possibility that has been created, this next obvious step is sure to follow.

Development is a confidence game. The central city’s problem is that it is caught between the moment in mid-2014 when the spending plans of the likes of Carter and Glasson finally gelled and Christmas 2016 when Cashel St will re-open with a bang.

The city feels on hold. And also its successes are mixed. Some parts of the CCDU’s blueprint, like the innovation precinct, are looking to have developed a head of steam now.

The East Frame is also shortly likely to be declared a success with the official announcement that Fletcher Living is to be the builder of some 1200 apartments along Manchester St – although at an expected build rate of 150 a year, that may prove a slow burning project.

But then there are the other Blueprint elements – around Cathedral Square in particular, and also the South Frame with its hope of turning car yards into campus style office development – where the vision is languishing.

Yet many are echoing Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend in saying you can’t spend $10b on commercial buildings and $7b on civic buildings in a city the size of Christchurch without it being transformational in the end.

Jonathan Lyttle, managing director for commercial real estate specialist Savills, says in retrospect the Blueprint’s ODP process that tilted the table to half block-size developments in the retail precinct was a real risk.

It probably created a year’s delay because of the extra time it took to accumulate the land, corral sufficient tenants, figure out the designs. However now it is safe to talk about what it is going to look like.

“We bring people down from Auckland and after they get off the plane, they just see the devastation. But once you get them on the ground, walk what is literally just two blocks and tell them there’s going to be 10,000 people here in three years time, they’re simply blown away,” says Lyttle.

The new city centre is going to have more people working within 300m of The Crossing or the ANZ Centre than there were within the whole four avenues pre-earthquake. It will be humming, says Lyttle.

So while chunks of the blueprint vision may take a few further years to fall into place, with the retail precinct, the basic plan is finalised, the tenants on board, the foundations already being dug.

It is as good as built. There is now just the 18 month gap until it actually is.


  • John McCrone
  • The Press

Rebuild falling behind

Two years ago this month, The Press consulted developers, landowners, local leaders and recovery plans to form a picture of how Christchurch might look in February 2016.


Comparing 2013 schedules with progress made two years later makes for sobering reading. Timelines have changed several times and projects that were supposed to have started by now have stalled or been delayed months, if not years.

For some, the blueprint is to blame. The planning and designing phase has taken longer than expected in some cases and involved land acquisitions and zoning difficulties. Major anchor projects have been continually delayed, causing uncertainty for private developers and investors.

Even the quake memorial, which was supposed to be ready for the fifth anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake in 2016, has been delayed another year.

According to 2013 forecasts, construction of the convention centre should have started by December last year and work on the stadium and the metro sports facility by March this year. But no work has begun on any of the sites – the three major anchor projects have been delayed by several years. The Government has offered little explanation for the delays, despite developers and the community demanding answers this week.

getimage (2)This led to speculation that convention-centre costs were spiralling out of control and that Cabinet had rejected a business case for the metro sports facility.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee scotched those rumours this week. No business case had been rejected for the facility, he said. Budgets were ‘‘always revised’’ on any building project, ‘‘whether it’s a garden shed, a front fence or a convention centre’’.

‘‘I think everyone should relax and recognise that these types of facilities are going to be around for decades and you’ve got one shot at getting them right at the start.’’

Brownlee was ‘‘pretty relaxed’’ at the delays.

‘‘It’s just a matter of getting things right before you start pouring concrete on the ground.’’

Preliminary work – business cases, designs and plans – was ‘‘a good investment’’.

Brownlee said the city needed the convention centre and the metro sports facility and confirmed the projects would go ahead despite delays.

In Christchurch’s CBD, all major demolitions should have been completed more than a year ago but the Manchester St car park, Calendar Girls on Hereford St, the Orion building, and Westende House are still to be pulled down.

The stalling of Anthony Gough’s Terrace development was another blow for the central city’s development. It should have been completed in September this year but is running a year behind schedule. On the bright side, a rash of new buildings will be completed in the nearby retail precinct next year, including The Crossing, Cashel Square, The Terrace and the ANZ Centre.

getimage (3)The performing arts precinct has also stalled. Ground was broken last month for construction a 300-seat concert hall for the centre for music and the arts, but Christchurch art organisations are still waiting for the Government to pull together a deal for the rest of the precinct on a block bounded by Gloucester, Armagh, New Regent and Colombo streets.

The residential red zone was scheduled to be cleared last year. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) has made good progress but has extended the housing demolition deadline to June 2015. The land clearance will not be completed until April 2016.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) is also behind schedule. Land-claim settlements should have been completed at the end of last year but complex types of damage have emerged.

The Christchurch City Council has pushed back the opening of the central city library near Cathedral Square by about 18 months, to early 2018.

The design phase and land acquisition took longer than expected, the council says. Site clearance is under way and the council expects to get access to it in July.

The Margaret Mahy playground, on the old centennial pool site, is also running a year behind but should be open in time for the Christmas school holidays.

In 2016, Christchurch can expect the Avon River precinct and the south frame to be nearing completion, a year behind schedule.

It is not all doom and gloom. Some projects were completed almost on time and others are well on target.

Last year, the new Stranges building on High St opened only a few months later than planned. The same goes for the Isaac Theatre Royal, which opened six months later than expected.

The new bus interchange on Tuam St should be fully operational next month, as planned, and work on the justice and emergency services precinct is under way.

EQC is on track to complete its home repairs by the end of the year. The massive task of repairing Christchurch’s pipes and roads is on track for completion at the end of 2016.

Cera acting chief executive John Ombler said the Crown’s commitment to the vision of the blueprint had not changed.

‘‘What has changed are delivery times. We still have some business processes to go through, that’s just a fact . . . and we’ve made a commitment to update [the community] as frequently as we can.’’


  • The Press

Wall of remembrance for Christchurch

getimage (3)A 150-metre-long marble wall etched with victims’ names is the centerpiece of the official Christchurch earthquake memorial.

But the tribute will not be ready for the fifth anniversary of the quake in February 2016 as initially planned.

Slovenian architect Grega Vezjak’s memorial design – The Memorial Wall – was picked from six shortlisted entries.

It will include a marble wall on the Oxford Tce side of the Avon River, near the Durham St intersection, with a row of trees and a riverside promenade. Cherry trees to honour the Japanese victims were initially suggested but no decision on the species has been made.

A bridge at the end of the promenade will cross to the north bank of the river where a smaller space will provide a contemplative place for families who lost loved ones in the quakes.

The memorial was initially due to be ready by February 2016. It is now scheduled to be finished in 2017 although the contemplative space will be finished by the earlier date.

It will be built using up to $10 million from the Government and $1m from the mayoral relief fund.

Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) memorial development director Rob Kerr said the winning design was the most complex to build, hence the delay.

‘‘Doing it too quickly means that we lose the value of the [grieving] process.’’

Vezjak said it was ‘‘a great responsibility and honour’’ to design the memorial.

‘‘When I started the competition, I didn’t really know about Christchurch except what was in the news. I did a lot of research at home.


  • Cecile Meier
  • The Press

Christchurch from the air

1430422109708Aerial footage of Christchurch’s central city has been turned into an interactive panorama of the post-earthquake recovery.

Helicam Pro manager Jared Waddams captured the view of Christchurch’s rebuilding CBD in early April and spent three weeks “stitching” the images together to create a website “like a high-definition Google Earth”.

Helicam Pro manager Jared Waddams says drone technology is the way of the future.

Waddams believed drones would eventually become part of everyday life and he completed the Airscapes project to show people what could be done with the technology now.

He received permission to close the airways above central Christchurch for about 15 minutes and take his drone 300 metres above the ground. The normal height allowance for a drone user was only 120m, he said.

The Airscapes website, which went live on Thursday, gives a 360 degree panorama of the Christchurch CBD.

The view is a combination of 37 high resolution images which were taken from a single point.

“You can spend  time just touring the whole city; it’s quite enchanting actually, quite mesmerising,” Waddams said.

He planned to update the images as the city’s post-earthquake rebuild continued.

“We’ve just got such a unique city scape at the moment.”

Go here to view,


  • The Press
  • Photo: Andy Currie

CCDU Acquisitions Update

The Government has reached agreements with owners on fewer than 5 per cent of properties needed for the redesign of central Christchurch and bought just 1 per cent, but believes it is making progress.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee released figures yesterday showing negotiations were under way to buy 177 of the 847 sites needed for the green frame and anchor projects. As well, one site has been bought, two sales agreements completed, 16 sale and purchase documents signed by owners and agreement in principal reached with 19 parties.

‘‘Negotiations are under way on 177 other properties, some of them well advanced, so altogether the CCDU [Christchurch Central Development Unit] has made progress on 215 CBD sites, starting with those of highest priority.’’

When the blueprint for the redesigned city was released last July, the Government indicated it would begin compulsory acquisitions of sites early this year where deals were not done.

Brownlee’s update revealed that clearing land for the convention centre precinct would take until the end of the year, and demolition to make way for the metro sports facility would begin this year, paving the way for construction next year.

The final draft of the city transport plan will be approved after public consultation ends on February 1, and construction of the anchor projects should be finished in five years.

  • The Press
  • Liz Mcdonald
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