Up to 20 government departments will cut short leases for temporary accommodation taken after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes and return to the Christchurch central business district en masse in 2016.

Prime Minister John Key announced the commitment to helping repopulate the quake-hit city's traditional urban core in a speech to the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, just days after the third anniversary of the September 4, 2010 quake that heralded more serious quakes in 2011.

The relocation of 1,700 core public servants to four buildings clustered around the city centre's Retail Precinct development would "help support the recovery of the central business district, and offers a long-term solution for government office accommodation in the city."

"It will be a catalyst for more economic activity in the cbd, whether it is retail or associated businesses," said Key. Lease details are under negotiation for some 24,000 square metres of office space after the government sought expressions of interest for construction of public sector office accommodation in the CBD.


Details were confidential at present, Key said.

"But there will be a $5.6 million annual cost over 20 years from having agencies cut short leases taken out on accommodation when the earthquakes forced many to find new premises."

Departments on the move include the New Zealand Transport Agency, ACC, Department of Conservation, Statistics NZ, the Ministries of Social Development, Education, Business, Innovation and Employment, and Health, Housing New Zealand Corporation, and the Department of Internal Affairs, along with a number of smaller agencies.

On the government's recent loss in the High Court in a case challenging compensation offered to landowners in the Christchurch residential red zone whose properties were uninsured or unimproved, Key said "we will continue to work as hard as we can on these issues, to find solutions that are as fair and equitable as they practically can be in the circumstances."