Prime Minister John Key wasted no time in the first week
of the new Parliamentary term in visiting Christchurch.
Much remains to be done in the earthquake-damaged city and
the Government will be hoping for early progress as the money
keeps pouring in. Business and political editor Dene
Mackenzie reports on what is next for Christchurch and how it
may affect the rest of the South Island.
One day into the new Parliamentary term and Prime Minister
John Key was in Christchurch on Wednesday turning the first
ground on the $300 million Christchurch Justice and Emergency
The project is one of nine of the 16 anchor projects to start
this year, an election year.
National won crucial party votes in Christchurch at the last
election, also taking the former Labour stronghold of
Christchurch Central. Although National did not do
particularly well in the Christchurch East by-election, its
officials will be hoping the nine projects starting this year
will help secure a strong vote in the damaged city.
Mr Key made a point of visiting Christchurch regularly last
year, and political analysts expect that trend to continue
Labour will also make sure its MPs visit regularly as the
party tries to build on its success in the by-election.
University of Otago political scientist Bryce Edwards
believed the rebuild recovery was always going to benefit
National, at some stage. It helped National in 2011 but the
assumption since then was the Christchurch public was less
enamoured with the management of the rebuild, particularly by
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.
''It will be interesting to see if the sheer economics are
large enough to ameliorate those concerns about management.
People soon forget about political mismanagement when they
are finally moving ahead and people have money in their
pocket because the rebuild is going ahead.''
Dr Edwards said MPs and candidates from other South Island
regions would be reluctant to politicise the fact their own
regions were not receiving the same sort of assistance as
''I don't expect Dunedin MPs to complain about Christchurch.
It will be petty to complain about Christchurch receiving
more assistance. Even if there is a solid case of
Christchurch receiving more, it won't fly because people
think this is Canterbury's time.
''There might come a time people can say what about us? But
not at the moment,'' Dr Edwards said.
It was possible the 2011 election result could be revisited,
with Labour electorate candidates doing well but the list
vote swinging towards National, he said.
Some large numbers have been floated for the rebuild, with Mr
Key last year putting the figure at $40 billion from both
private and public funding. The Government's contribution was
increased from an estimated $13 billion to $15 billion.
However, not all has gone to plan. Last year, it was revealed
the consenting process for the Christchurch City Council was
flawed and the Government threatened to take the process
completely away from the council.
But former mayor Sir Bob Parker, called a clown by Earthquake
Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, has gone and new mayor,
Lianne Dalziel, will be a tougher opponent for Mr Brownlee.
Ms Dalziel was a long-serving Labour MP, holding Christchurch
East with a sizeable majority. She and Mr Brownlee clashed in
Parliament over the rebuild and those arguments are not
likely to disappear in the short term. There is no doubt the
rebuild needs to speed up. Otago trades and service companies
have been holding off hiring staff, pinning their hopes on
gaining some work from Christchurch as the rest of the South
Island's regional economies stutter back into life.
Building contractors spoken to by the Otago Daily
Times said one of the main concerns was the number of
projects coming on stream this year. The consenting process
was still under pressure and any streamlining of the process
could cause problems.
A shortage of qualified building workers was contributing to
''It can be all go mobilising the rebuild this year but who
can build it? A shortage of staff will mean prices go up. The
rebuild is a young person's country, so we expect people to
flood in from overseas to work, adding pressure to rental
properties,'' one contractor said.
In Otago, Dunedin continues to try to save Invermay from
being reduced to a service centre as AgResearch plans to take
more than 80 high-skilled jobs and put them in Christchurch
or Palmerston North. This week, the lower North Island,
including Palmerston North, was hit by a 6.3 magnitude
earthquake, making comments from the South regarding keeping
essential services spread out from quake-susceptible areas
resonate. Dunedin has lost its New Zealand Post mail centre,
which transferred to Christchurch with the loss of more than
100 jobs. The Wellington centre was transferred to Palmerston
In the first stage of the new justice and emergency precinct,
more than 20,000cu m of soil will be excavated, mixed with
2500 tonnes of cement and placed back in the ground to
support a heavy duty, 1.2m-thick concrete base.
Once completed, the precinct will be the regional
headquarters for the Ministry of Justice, New Zealand Police,
Department of Corrections, New Zealand Fire Service and St
John. It will also house civic defence and emergency
management teams of the Ministry of Civil Defence and
Emergency Management, Christchurch City Council and
It will house about 1100 workers, accommodate 900 visitors
every weekday and incorporate modern systems like
audio-visual links, sophisticated security monitoring and a
purpose-designed emergency operations centre.
Mr Brownlee said the sod-turning in Christchurch on Wednesday
was another milestone achievement. It was the first of nine
which would start this year.
Proposals from prospective operators and design and
development consortiums for the convention centre precinct
were due back to the Central Christchurch Development Unit
team in March for evaluation.
''Roughly three-quarters of the land required for the
convention centre precinct has now been purchased by the
Crown and the intention is to have that area cleared by
August. I am confident the project remains on track to open
in early 2017.''
Dunedin North MP and Labour Party spokesman for revenue and
small business David Clark said the schedule for Mr Key's
visits to Christchurch this year were ''cynically aligned''
with the election.
Several sod-turning ceremonies had been planned for Mr Key
and other ministers throughout the year as the Government
battled a turning tide of opinion from voters as the rebuild
struggled to gain momentum.
''The Government is pushing resources to the bigger cities to
the detriment of New Zealand as a whole. For New Zealand to
succeed, all the regions need to succeed. The Government is
slow to approve infrastructure building in the regions, or
even retaining it.''
''It is highly cynical for the Government to try and
influence voters in the big cities. I expect National is
behind the eight ball already in the regions, and in
Christchurch,'' he said.
The 2014 projects
• The Bus Interchange
• Justice and Emergency Services Precinct
• Retail precinct
• Health precinct
• South Frame public realm
• Performing arts precinct
• North Frame and Margaret Mahy Amazing Place
• Innovation precinct
• Metro sports facility
Projects on the go
A selection of projects announced in Christchurch in
December 19: Christchurch pupils just shy of achieving
NCEA level 2 had the opportunity to gain the credits they
needed to get the qualification through a Ministry of
Education-funded summer school. There were 50 places
available through funding of $25,000.
December 19: Project management company MWH (NZ) was
awarded the contract to manage the minor repairs programme
for 3600 earthquake-damaged Christchurch state houses with
less than $40,000 of damage. The minor repairs contract
involved $100 million of work and would employ about 1000
tradespeople and covered 3600 of the 5000 repairs to be
completed by the end of 2015.
December 17: Prime Minister John Key visited
Christchurch and made announcement at Burwood Hospital
accompanied by three Cabinet ministers. Also attended
official sod-turning for the Hagley Cricket Oval.
December 11: Housing accord work expanded to
Christchurch, Wellington and Tauranga.
December 5: A world-leading project to transform
Christchurch into a smart city of the future and create
opportunities for New Zealand's tech sector was to receive
support from Callaghan Innovation, the Government's high-tech
headquarters for business. The fund was providing $250,000 in
seed funding as well as technical expertise.
November 28: Mr Key visited Christchurch, attending an
announcement on fire stations by the New Zealand Fire Service
and visiting Burwood Hospital with National's Christchurch
East candidate for the by-election, Matthew Doocey.
November 27: A consortium of community social housing
providers officially launched plans for a new $12 million,
44-unit, mixed social housing development in Hornby.
November 27: Mr Key visited Parklands Plunket,
accompanied by Mr Doocey, then went to the New Brighton Surf
Lifesaving Club, and later met local business and
November 21: Housing Minister Nick Smith turned the
first sod marking the start of the construction for Housing
New Zealand's $3.3 million 26 inner city apartments. He
opened a further six community social housing units in St
November 14: Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry
Brownlee and Education Minister Hekia Parata announced more
than 80% of classrooms in greater Christchurch would be
modernised by 2022. The Government was investing more than $1
billion in a 10-year programme restoring and renewing the
schools in greater Christchurch following the
October 31: The Government agreed to provide up to
$260 million to the University of Canterbury to support its
rebuilding programme, following damage sustained from the
October 25: Three new social housing developments in
Christchurch totalling 51 homes and investment of $17.3
million were announced by Dr Smith.
October 17: Mr Key unveiled how the $300 million
Justice and Emergency Precinct being constructed in central
Christchurch would look.
September 10: Mr Key delivered a speech to the
Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce entitled ''Making
Progress: The Christchurch Rebuild''.
June 12: Mr Brownlee warned the Christchurch City
Council its consenting processes must change.
May 22: Justice Minister Judith Collins opened a new
multi-jurisdictional customer service centre and marked the
return of full registry services to the district and High
Courts in central Christchurch.
May 16: Mr Brownlee announced in Budget 2013 a further
$2.1 billion in funding for the Christchurch earthquake
recovery. With the total cost of the recovery increasing to
an estimated $40 billion, the Government's contribution would
increase from about $13 billion to $15 billion. The figure
included more than $900 million in new capital funding from
the Future Investment Fund - set up and funded by the partial
sale of state-owned energy companies - which included the
Christchurch and Burwood Hospitals redevelopment.
March 21: Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye approved a
payment of nearly $31 million for civil defence emergency
response costs related to the earthquakes to be paid to the
Christchurch City Council. The payment brought the total
Government contribution paid to the council to more than $208
million in response to the September 2010 and February, June
and December 2011 earthquakes.