Brownlee takes hard-hitting Chch rebuild report on the chin

Canterbury might be the bright spot in the economy, but the rebuild is a long way off. Photo / Geoff Sloan
Canterbury might be the bright spot in the economy, but the rebuild is a long way off. Photo / Geoff Sloan

An in-depth survey of senior leaders in the Christchurch rebuild indicates growing impatience and serious weaknesses in the way major projects are being procured and managed.

The minister in charge of the post-earthquakes rebuild, Gerry Brownlee, released the hard-hitting survey of the city's progress undertaken by the Council for Infrastructure Development, an industry lobby group.

"There will always be a range of views on how to approach what are large and often complex challenges in the rebuild," he said, but was "broadly pleased with how the recovery is progressing."

"We have a number of issues to focus on, including delivery of important anchor projects, and ensuring stakeholders have confidence in how central government is working with local government," Brownlee said.

CID chief executive Stephen Selwood noted positive and improving sentiment in some areas, including the government's early response and ongoing commitment to the rebuild, pride in the city, optimism about the future, the sustained economic performance of the Canterbury region despite the quakes and repairs, and the success of the SCIRT alliance of contractors rebuilding the city's roads and underground infrastructure.

The ability to find insurance was also improving.

"But coordination across central government agencies, Christchurch City Council and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), and programme governance and procurement, were identified as key areas needing improvement," said Selwood.

The report includes quotes from some of the 71 senior stakeholders either interviewed or who responded to an online survey, some of whom believed the rebuild was "stalling".

"To muddle along the way we are is cringe worthy," said one unnamed interviewee. Another observed the "economics of the central city are hard. Everyone is blaming everyone else. The hub will be created over 20 years - it is not a sudden build."

The survey reported significant declines between 2013 and 2014 in "visible evidence of progress", investor confidence, communication, partnerships between the public and private sectors, procurement processes, including for the city's so-called "anchor" projects, and investment analysis.

One stakeholder said "our efforts are being redirected to Auckland and Australia due to greater certainty of process" and views about CERA's performance ranged from praise to accusations of "dragging the chain."

Positive highlights were improved perceptions of the city's social, cultural, environmental and infrastructure and land use plans.

Almost two-thirds of those who took part in the survey believed the region needed to pursue an Auckland-style "super city" regional government structure, with the time being right now to consider future governance arrangements.

Brownlee said the report was "a timely and useful qualitative and quantitative snapshot."
"When I look at where we were a year ago, and think of where we'll be in a year from now, I'm heartened that Christchurch's recovery is happening at a reasonably good pace, and work is being delivered to a high standard," he said.

In a year, the central city anchor projects would have progressed, horizontal infrastructure repairs would be around two-thirds complete, and the Earthquake Commission's home repair programme would be largely complete by the end of this year, with private insurer repairs also picking up pace.

- BusinessDesk

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