Work in post-disaster Christchurch has officially swung from recovery and demolition to rebuild, the Government said today.
Domestic and international media were given a guided bus tour of the ever-shrinking cordoned-off, inner city red zone by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.
Although the frustration of some Cantabrians about the time it was taking to turn around the city was "entirely understandable", Mr Brownlee said attention had turned to the $30 billion rebuild.
More than half of all staff working inside Christchurch's city cordon were now concentrating on repair and construction, Mr Brownlee said.
The inner city cordon has reduced from 387 hectares in February 2011 to just 38 hectares now.
By the middle of the year, the cordons will be gone completely.
Businesses and property owners set to reopen in the CBD, including a high-end apartment hotel and a private training college, today spoke of their excitement at being some of the first to come back to the inner city.
Last year was a time of demolition, while 2013 is the year of the rebuild, Mr Brownlee said.
The minister again highlighted the enormity of the task, while also pointing out what's already been achieved.
Work on key projects included in the central city blueprint released last July was already underway, he said.
The builders of the new convention centre would be selected later this month, with the Crown expected to have secured full ownership of the site by September.
The owners of 47 commercial CBD properties have already agreed to sell to the Crown as the purchase of city land for new developments gathers pace.
Early construction on the Avon River precinct will start in April, while work on a bus interchange is planned to begin early next year.
The rebuild was a "realistic vision", Mr Brownlee said, and Christchurch remained on track to become the "best small city in the world".
Mr Brownlee also announced a new kids competition to help develop a new playground.
Competition packs have been distributed to every Canterbury school and early childhood centre, and schools have already begun registering to take part in the Amazing Place project.
"This is a fantastic way for the next generation to take ownership of a piece of Christchurch's multi-billion dollar redevelopment," Mr Brownlee said.
"The children of greater Christchurch have been through an awful lot, and been exceptionally brave and resilient over the past two years. Having endured so much they deserve a real stake in the new Christchurch - an amazing place they can call their own."
- APNZBy Kurt Bayer @KurtBayerAPNZ Email Kurt