The Government today reaffirmed its commitment to driving the unparalleled $30 billion rebuild of post-earthquake Christchurch, despite Prime Minister John Key admitting that 2013 will be a "another challenging year".
During his statement to Parliament this afternoon, Mr Key said the Government's "final priority" lay in helping the nation's second biggest city get back on its feet.
The Government has already promised a $13 billion contribution to the rebuild and Mr Key vowed today: "The Government remains absolutely committed to standing beside the people of Canterbury."
As the second anniversary of the deadly February 22 quake looms, the focus has already shifted from demolition to construction.
A total of 930 total or partial demolitions have already been completed in the central city, Mr Key said, along with more than 30,000 house repairs.
"This year will be the first big year of pouring concrete in the central city," he told the House.
"This year we will continue to lead and drive momentum in that rebuild - which is now estimated to have a total cost of $30 billion. This makes it without doubt the largest economic undertaking in New Zealand's history."
As the rebuild gathers momentum, the demand for workers and materials in Christchurch will be "huge", he said, requiring innovative schemes from businesses and the Government to encourage people into the city.
"We do not intend to micro-manage that process, but we can help it," said Mr Key, citing the example of the new Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub, which links local employers with people looking for work.
The Government has committed an extra $28 million to maintain the expanded training pipeline for tradespeople for the rebuild.
Over the "next few weeks", the Government intents to go to market for the first phase of the convention centre precinct - one of the key anchor projects which should act as a "catalyst to reinvigorate" the new-look CBD, Mr Key said.
In the first half of this year, the Government will also deliver its full and comprehensive official response to the Canterbury Earthquakes Royal Commission report and the remaining 119 recommendations still to be dealt with.
Mr Key said it would likely involve introducing legislation that establishes a mandatory national timeframe and process for dealing with the estimated 15,000 to 25,000 quake-prone buildings in New Zealand.
Although the global economic environment would remain "unsettled and uncertain" and Government finances would be "tight", Mr Key said the country was "on the right track", with the Canterbury rebuild at the forefront.
- APNZBy Kurt Bayer @KurtBayerAPNZ Email Kurt