Labour: Taxpayers pick up Christchurch Convention Centre bill

Gerry Brownlee has quashed claims that the latest deal collapse is a failure. Photo / Greg Bowker
Gerry Brownlee has quashed claims that the latest deal collapse is a failure. Photo / Greg Bowker

Christchurch's proposed Convention Centre has been a thorn in the city's side for years, and even the man behind the contentious project, Christchurch Regeneration Minister Gerry Brownlee, admits there's been a lot of public angst about the whole situation.

After years of negotiations, news that Crown-owned organisation Otakaro Limited will take up the mantel for the anchor project has been heralded by many as a step forward, with progress finally set to get underway.

Others are not so easily convinced.

Labour's Canterbury spokesperson Megan Woods says the Government's deal has fallen through with private company Plenary Conventions New Zealand, leaving the tax-payer to pick up the million-dollar bill again.

But Minister Brownlee has quashed claims that the latest deal collapse is a failure, instead re-branding it as a natural parting of the ways as the Government moves forward, albeit slowly, with building plans.

In the past five years the Government has spent almost $20 million on the non-existent centre, without breaking any ground on the empty site. The bill for the non-existent project grows ever larger, with the amount spent on professional services and advice jumping by $3 million in just the past month.

It doesn't include the $60 million the Government spent initially buying the land.

Gerry Brownlee's had to defend the elaborate cost, saying the number is comparable to the amount spent on the preliminary work of similar projects, where up to 20 per cent of the project's cost can be spent on preliminaries.

Meanwhile, as the bills rack up, developers are getting restless and investors losing patience, instead putting their capital into other city centre or suburban plans which offer a much more concrete future.

For those in tourism the wait is getting old and surely embarrassing as the Convention Centre Bureau is forced to keep passing on international event offers for fear the building won't be ready.

The Government has now released 2019 as the newly revised date it believes the doors will finally open, but there's no guarantee that one of the city's most debated anchor projects will be ready in time for any conferences booked between 2018 and 2019.

So after years of planning, plotting, avoiding and then talking about the elusive Convention Centre, are the people of Christchurch any closer to a finite answer of what they're tax dollars will buy?

- Newstalk ZB

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