Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

UK input seen as vital for city's rebuild

Lord Ian Livingston.
Lord Ian Livingston.

The $30 billion rebuild of post-earthquake Christchurch will race ahead if local firms team up with British firms experienced in major construction projects such as the London 2012 Olympics and Heathrow Airport redevelopment, says a UK government minister.

Lord Ian Livingston, UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment, was in Christchurch yesterday to talk up the benefits and opportunities for British businesses working collaboratively with New Zealand companies on the rebuild.

He had lunch with local firms that already invest in Britain before meeting UK companies pitching for work in the post-disaster zone. In the audience were officials from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU), construction firms, accountancy powerhouses, and banks.

Livingston said Christchurch firms needed outside help to ensure the rebuild was not a 30-year project.

"The people of Christchurch have been remarkably resilient and deserve to, as quickly as possible, get the sort of future I think these sorts of partnerships can deliver," he said.

He cited the expertise UK firms had from completing huge infrastructure projects such as the London 2012 Olympics, Heathrow Airport redevelopment and Crossrail, the largest construction project currently in Europe.

All projects were completed on time, to budget, and safely.

"[New Zealand] companies are just not set up to do what is, hopefully, a once-in-a-few-lifetimes, sort of project," he said.

Partnerships formed on large-scale projects in England have seen international firms go on to build infrastructure for the Football World Cup in Brazil and this year's Winter Olympics at Sochi.

And he stressed the partnerships can have longer-lasting benefits than just one-off projects in Christchurch.

Livingstone, the chief executive of the BT Group until last year, also visited the site where Vodafone plans to erect a new $50 million South Island headquarters and innovation hub.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said local companies had the ability to "unlock" economic opportunities and by teaming up with international firms, they could "build scale".

"We lack the scale to do what needs to be done in Christchurch."

Townsend had seen companies outside of New Zealand come in and try to set up companies as opposition to local firms.

"I can't quote one time I've seen that work," he said. "It's the model of collaboration that's the key."


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