The Government has approved a $300 million, 600-home development at a Christchurch racecourse.
Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith said building could start at Riccarton Racecourse after Cabinet removed the land’s reserve status on Monday.
The land, situated around the outside of the race track, will be developed by the Christchurch Racecourse Reserve Trustees and Ngai Tahu Property.
Parliament passed legislation to hasten the development last June.
Smith said freeing up the land would increase the housing supply and provide a financial boost for the Canterbury racing industry.
“The key to improving affordability is increasing supply and this development will do that while helping first home buyers into a new, high-quality homes,” he said.
“This development, alongside those at Awatea, and Colombo and Welles streets, is the final phase of the Government’s housing response to the Canterbury earthquakes.”
Smith said Government interventions in house planning and supply since the earthquakes made Canterbury one of the most affordable regions in the country.
“It provides a model of how we can resolve issues in other centres and a competitive advantage for the Canterbury region in attracting new industry and people.”
Jaw-dropping concepts for an iconic new national stadium have been pitched to Auckland Council, proposing a state-of-the-art arena be submerged into the city’s waterfront. A portfolio of spectacular designs can be revealed from documents delivered to the office of Auckland Mayor Phil Goff last month. The Herald on Sunday has obtained them through the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act [LGOIMA].
Dubbed The Crater, the idea centres on a subterranean multi-events venue, inverting conventional design by building below ground rather than above. Created by Auckland design and marketing figure Phil O’Reilly, three potentials factor in a core concept of a sunken bowl-type arena, as well as renderings of a roofed version. A third concept incorporates new cruise ship terminals that would flank the facility, although O’Reilly said the general idea could also work inland if the waterfront was dumped as a location.
Communications through Goff’s office, released through the LGOIMA, show O’Reilly submitted the artist impressions to the office of the Mayor on March 15, accompanied by a written proposal. O’Reilly said as far as he is aware, the submerged venue would be the first of its kind anywhere in the world and was a chance for Auckland to build an iconic landmark that would be recognised the world over – but in keeping with Auckland’s natural volcanic landscape. “We always do something derivative that is quite cool but not quite up to it. This is an opportunity to do something that is truly unique,” O’Reilly said.
Although not as large in scale, likely between 30,000-50,000 capacity, O’Reilly said a truly cutting-edge design could see the Kiwi venue punch way above its weight and become as recognised as some of the most famous on Earth. “You’ve got to think outside the box. Why not put it into the harbour?” O’Reilly said his ideas have not been formally costed, but conversations with industry experts have him adamant that digging down is cheaper than building up. “From my discussions, because there is no need to build an above-ground structure, there are no architectural issues – or costs associated to that,” he said. “It would be cheaper to significantly cheaper, and Aucklanders would love that.”
The safety of a stadium sunk into open water is also an obvious concern. But O’Reilly was confident rising sea levels as well as natural disasters could be handled. “I would always compare other infrastructure, particularly like Britomart, that’s a great example that has tens of thousands of people going through it each week and is below sea level,” he said. O’Reilly he’d had no word back from Goff’s office beyond an “automatic reply” to his email.
Communications released under LGOIMA show Goff’s office forwarded O’Reilly’s pitch to Council’s venues arm, Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA), whose chief executive Chris Brooks responded, acknowledging receipt. An initial study has been commissioned by RFA to examine whether Eden Park should be replaced by a new stadium somewhere in downtown Auckland. An RFA spokesman said that report, which is being prepared by global accounting and advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, “should be through to the mayor sometime within in the next 5-6 weeks”.
When asked for comment on The Crater, RFA said it won’t be considering any specific stadium designs or concepts until a strategy is settled. “As we have previously announced, RFA has engaged professional advisers to work with it on a pre-feasibility study to determine the viability of establishing a purpose-built National Football Stadium (NFS) located in the central city,” a spokesman said.
“The pre-feasibility will determine the viability of central city locations and business scope for a potential stadium.” Goff has previously said Auckland could not afford a white elephant, adding the 50,000-seat Eden Park was limited to 21 night events and could need another $250 million spent on it over the next 15 years.
In March last year, rich-lister and Vodafone Warriors owner Eric Watson pledged to invest in a new stadium for downtown Auckland, believing there were “benefits for Auckland”. Watson also revealed he had already approached other potential investors. Talking to the Herald on Sunday, Watson welcomed O’Reilly’s crater concept, as he eagerly awaits the upcoming PwC report. “I understand the PwC Feasibility Study is not far off but in the meantime it’s great to see options for how a waterfront stadium could work,” Watson said. He said he would support a location that “stacks up financially and is ‘the best option’ in terms of a range of factors”.
That included transport and parking options, commercial opportunities, multi-use options of the venue and “visual appearance”. “Ultimately the location and design that ticks as many boxes and meet as many needs as possible will ultimately be the best option for the city. It will be interesting to see what the PwC Feasibility Study recommends.”
Finance Minister Steven Joyce will lift infrastructure spending by $4 billion more in the May Budget than previously indicated and an extra $7b in the following three Budgets. Of the $4b extra in next month’s Budget $812 million will go towards repairing State Highway 1 north and south of Kaikoura, which was damaged in the November earthquake.
Details of how the rest will be spent will have to wait until May 25, Joyce said in a formal pre-Budget speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce today. However, he announced a new debt target for the Government, to reduce net debt to between 10 per cent and 15 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. The current target is to reduce net debt to about 20 per cent of GDP by 2020; it is expected to settle at 24.3 per cent by the end of June.
On the issues of tax cuts, Joyce said the Government remained committed to reducing the tax burden “and in particular the impact of marginal tax rates on lower and middle income earners, when we have the room to do so.” Joyce also hinted at greater use of public-private partnerships (PPPs). Joyce said that the boost to capital expenditure would represent the biggest addition to the Government’s capital spending in decades.
“To put that into context, the net new capital allocated in the last four Budgets was $4.8 billion, of which $4.1 billion was funded through the proceeds of the mixed ownership model programme.” In between Budget 2016, the Government was forecasting just $3.6b in new capital spending between Budget 2017 and Budget 2020, which would now be $11b in new capital spending.
“If you add the Government’s budgeted new capital investment together with the investment made through baselines and through the National Land Transport Fund, the total is around $23 billion over the next four years, or an average of nearly $6 billion per year.” And we want to extend that further, with greater use of public-private partnerships, and joint ventures between central and local government and private investors.”
Joyce said New Zealand’s stronger economic performance flowed through to the Government books. For the first eight months of the current financial year, tax revenue was nearly 4 per cent ahead of predictions in Budget 2016. “Our surplus in the eight months to February was $1.4 billion. That’s more than $900 million more than was predicted in the [December] half-year update. “A growing and more resilient economy allows us to meet some of the pressing needs that the Government is faced with from time to time.”
But he said one of the biggest risks to the New Zealand economy were the “more insular” economic policies being pushed overseas and by the government’s political opponents domestically. “Many politicians, even those in New Zealand, want to be more protective on trade, slash immigration, reduce foreign investment, institute radical new environmental regulation, centralise wage bargaining, blow up our R&D [research and development] incentive system or stop much needed roading being built, and increase taxes. “That’s the opposite of a recipe for growth. That’s a recipe for stalling growth.”
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.
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.
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 construction boom is seeing an unprecedented number of cranes rise across New Zealand’s cities, according to research released today. The Q2 2017 RLB Crane Index revealed a record 132 cranes towering over New Zealand’s cities, with Auckland alone accounting for 72.
“In Auckland, in particular, strong economic growth driven by high inward migration and increasing tourist numbers, along with solid housing activity, manufacturing and consumer spending, has seen the rock star economy continuing to drive the construction industry, where demand is stretching the current supply,” said Chris Haines, Rider Levett Bucknall’s Auckland Director.
“Auckland continues to dominate New Zealand skies with 72 long-term cranes, 55 per cent of all cranes observed across the seven key centres,” Haines said. “The current index highlights a 13 per cent increase in the number of cranes within the Auckland region since the last count in Q4 2016. Twenty-three new cranes have been erected and 15 have been removed from projects that are nearing completion.” Construction work put in place increased by 20 per cent in the 2016 calendar year, making it the fifth consecutive year of growth.