Rebuilding Christchurch can be a catalyst for the future

Beca's Craig Price sees reward in the challenges of rebuilding Christchurch. Photo / Supplied
Beca's Craig Price sees reward in the challenges of rebuilding Christchurch. Photo / Supplied

Beca's Craig Price is enthused by the challenge of getting Christchurch back on its feet. "Christchurch was suffering decay before the earthquakes," Price says. "I am excited at the opportunity for Christchurch to rebuild itself particularly as a 'green city'. For the right people this is not a hard sell."

As Beca's regional manager for the South Island, Price has staff in Christchurch and Dunedin. He also has a "Christchurch North office" - suitably marked so - at Beca's HQ in Auckland.

Many of the leading infrastructure, engineering and design consultancies are operating on a "fly in-fly out" basis to Christchurch, advising clients from the Government to local councils and private sector investors on new structures that will be put in place as a 21st century CBD rises from the dust of the New Zealand's biggest-ever demolition yard.

But Beca's decision to designate part of its Auckland HQ as "Christchurch North" is relatively novel.

Beca's prime business is delivering infrastructure (transportation, water and wastes, and power), industrial and buildings projects. It says the range of projects undertaken by its Christchurch office has spanned the South Island and included major roading projects, commercial developments and national power systems. Recent major projects include the Christchurch Southern Motorway, Christchurch International Airport and the University of Canterbury Innovation Centre. The office also contributes to significant national and international projects.

Price indicates the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan (the blueprint) is promising. "We're very happy with the central city recovery plan and its emphasis on green cities."

For a mid-career manager like Price it is also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in a project that really matters, not just to Christchurch but to the overall economic health of New Zealand. "It's great to be in a career with a leadership role - from a business perspective it is not to be missed."

"Beca has about 250 people working in Christchurch," says Price. "Before the earthquakes we had 175 here."

Some staff have been seconded to work for Scirt (Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team). Beca has been involved in assessing building structures in the post-quakes environment, But the most exciting part is preparing for the rebuild - particularly the opportunity for involvement in the major anchor projects for the CBD and the avalanche of commercial building that lies ahead.

Price - who is a director of the NZ Green Building Council - sees a particular upside from the opportunity to build state-of-the-art green buildings. Cera's office is housed in a five-star green building - HSBC House.

One of the big issues will be getting the right people in place for the rebuild.

Price is not so concerned (these days) at the potential for capital flight from Christchurch. He believes the Government has done a good job to keep the insurance industry confident in Christchurch as a long-term bet, noting the insured losses were immense because 80 per cent of the city's economic losses were insured, compared to less than 20 per cent of the economic losses suffered in Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

He believes investors will be excited at the opportunity to be part of an historic rebuild. Eighty per cent of the funding will be private - and there will be opportunities for PPPs. "Christchurch can be a catalyst or model for the future."

Price has challenged young graduates in Auckland to concentrate their minds on what's needed in Christchurch. The size of the task is so huge that competitors are collaborating, "In 10-15 years we will look at our new city with pride," says Price.

- NZ Herald

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