Christchurch Convention Centre makes progress

convention centre

Artists impression of the convention centre from Victoria Square

Christchurch’s new convention centre could pull in $400 million in its first eight years, its developer says. Crown development company Otakaro Limited released new information and design images of the project on last week. “We want to create an attractive facility for Christchurch, that draws people towards the centre and its associated cafes and shops,” Otakaro chief executive Albert Brantley said.

The design allows the Christchurch Convention Centre to host events with up to 2000 people. It will include a 1400-delegate auditorium, a 3600-square metre exhibition hall, and 1600sqm of meeting rooms overlooking Victoria Square. “Estimates put the direct economic benefit of the convention centre to the Canterbury region at $300m to $400m in its first eight years of operation,” Brantley said.


The auditorium is designed to seat 1400

Christchurch and Canterbury Convention Bureau (CCCB) manager Caroline Blanchfield said Christchurch had just 9 per cent of the national conference market, and attracted very few conferences from Australia. Before the old conference centre was damaged in the February 2011 earthquake, Christchurch had 24 per cent of New Zealand’s conference market and 42 per cent of the conferences that came from Australia.

Blanchfield said international organisations had approached her about coming to the city, but would not do so without a fully-equipped conference centre. “We have unmet demand for conferencing in Christchurch.” The new centre is due for completion in 2019, and Blanchfield said Christchurch was already bidding for conferences from mid-2020 onwards. “It’s vitally important that it stays on schedule from now on. We don’t want to lose another year’s opportunity,” she said.

The Government originally planned to finish the centre in 2017, and it missed out on its first contract for a conference in 2018 due to fears it would not be finished in time. Blanchfield said international convention delegates spent twice as much as other international visitors, often extended their visit to other parts of the South Island, and were likely to return for holidays.

convention interior

Artists impression if the convention centre interior

Brantley said Woods Bagot architects and Matapopore Charitable Trust designed the building to reflect the South Island landscape. The main entrance, featuring curves reminiscent of Canterbury braided rivers, will open to Oxford Terrace and the Avon River. The Armagh St and Colombo St sides are straighter, holding to the traditional edges of Victoria Square and Cathedral Square, and the restored Lady Isaac building. The plan incorporates hospitality and retail outlets into the Colombo St side of the centre, and space has been set aside for a potential hotel. The Armagh St side will include areas for public use with a view of Victoria Square.

Earthworks on the site are well under way and a main works contractor is expected to be appointed about July. Archaeologists have found “bear grease” hair product, children’s cutlery, and 1840’s pharmaceuticals among other artifacts at the site. “A lot of the stuff we’re finding at the convention centre is relatively early for Christchurch,” Underground Overground Archaeology’s Jessie Garland said. The artifacts were found among cellar walls, a well, and rubbish pits dating back to the mid-19th Century. Garland said archaeological works would not delay earthworks for the convention centre.


  • The Press

Avon River precinct gets a push

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) yesterday called for expressions of interest on the Avon River precinct – a series of parks along the central-city banks of the river.

Cera’s Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) will manage the process.

CCDU director Warwick Isaacs said a shortlist would be drawn up once expressions were received, and candidates would be invited to submit detailed proposals.

Design proposals close on October 5.

Designs should attract people back to the central city, incorporate Victoria Square as the heart and reflect residents’ desire for green, inviting spaces, Isaacs said.

‘‘It’s an area you can at least have some respite from what will be a construction site for some years, but also to deliver something to people of Christchurch, which isn’t just about businesses and buildings. It’s about mother nature coming back to life as well.’’

He said proposals would have to address the need for fast-tracking work and using multiple contractors, and the values of Ngai Tahu would need to be reflected.

‘‘I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some international interest in it. It’s quite ground-breaking to be able to do a whole river plan for what will be a newly rebuilt city,’’ he said.

The design project will begin next month, with construction scheduled to begin this summer.

The project will need to be delivered in stages by 2014.

Isaacs hoped work could begin before Christmas.

‘‘That might be a bit too much to ask for, but certainly I’d expect we’ll be full steam into it probably by February,’’ he said. ‘‘If we push the designers too hard we’ll get a less than best design. It’s a big project that’s going to last 100-plus years, so we want to give them as much time as we can while still getting on with the actual physical work.’’

The CCDU identified the Avon River precinct as a priority project when it released the central-city blueprint in July. One side of the river would have an urban feel, with paving and seating areas, and the other would feature bars and cafes.


  • The Press
  • Marc Greenhill and Michael Wright
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