Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Govt shows sympathy for quake-affected businesses

The earthquake-damaged Christchurch CBD. Photo / NZ Herald
The earthquake-damaged Christchurch CBD. Photo / NZ Herald

The Government says it has "sympathy" with frustrated Christchurch businesspeople anxious to return to their earthquake-devastated central business district almost two years after they were forced out.

The CBD has been red-zoned and off limits to everyone but emergency services, demolition experts and rebuild workers since the killer February 22, 2011 quake.

Almost 1000 buildings have been fully, or partially, demolished and the cordon has continued to shrink as businesses return to the city's former economic heart.

Frustration has grown over how long it's taken to return to the CBD, which Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee today says he fully understands.

"I sympathise with business owners and staff who are tired of operating out of temporary quarters," he said.

"The anxiety of businesspeople and staff for certainty is completely understandable."

But he said business owners should be heartened by the $145 million of consents issued over the past 10 months for construction projects inside the 'four avenues' area.

"This is a great vote of confidence from landowners that the Christchurch CBD has a healthy future, and I know those developing buildings will be equally anxious to give tenants a chance to move in," Mr Brownlee said.

"We are at the beginning of a massive CBD build programme, and we are working hard along with the Christchurch City Council to ensure consenting for new premises is fast tracked."

He said 2013 will be "the first big year of pouring concrete" as post-quake Christchurch shifts from demolition to construction.

Mr Brownlee says he's asked the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) to make a special effort to keep leasing agents fully abreast of timelines for completions of buildings and anchor projects so their clients can adequately plan their return to the CBD.

He also says substantial progress will be made this year on a number of priority projects in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan - the Avon River Precinct; the Frames; the Convention Centre Precinct; and the Metro Sports Facility.

Construction work on the Avon River Precinct and the North and East Frames should start in the next few months, Mr Brownlee said.

The CCDU has settled its first land acquisition, signed two further agreements, received signed sale and purchase documents from 16 landowners, and has reached agreement in principal with a further 19 parties.

"Negotiations are underway on 177 other properties, some of them well advanced, so altogether CCDU has made progress on 215 CBD sites, starting with those of highest priority," said the minister.

CCDU is "well advanced" through the planning process for the Convention Centre Precinct and will have all the land cleared by year's end, while clearance of land required for the Metro Sports Facility will also begin this year, paving the way for construction in 2014.

"Over the next 12 months CCDU will continue tendering for design and construction contracts, finalising plans for anchor projects and putting in the hard foundation work essential for construction to commence and be completed over the next five years," Mr Brownlee said.

Meanwhile, greater Christchurch residents are being urged to have their say on a draft document about tansport in the city.

The draft transport chapter of the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, launched last November, focuses on how people travel into and around the city, and how the streets will look as the city centre is redeveloped following the earthquakes.

It prioritises streets for buses, cyclists, private vehicles and pedestrians as a way of improving travel across the city. Under the draft, Cathedral Square would become largely pedestrian only, and the overall speed limits within the new CBD core would be reduced to a maximum of 30km/h.

Members of the public have until 5pm on February 1 to make a submission to the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU).

For more information visit www.ccdu.govt.nz

- APNZ

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