By Alex Tarrant
Landowners in central Christchurch will know by the end of next week whether the government wants to purchase their land as part of its plan to redevelop the city's central business district (CBD).
And if they don't sell willingly, the government will use its power under earthquake recovery legislation to force them to sell at market value at the date of purchase.
Prime Minister John Key and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee unveiled the government's redevelopment plan for the Christchurch CBD on Monday evening, following 100 days of planning and consultation by the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU).
The central city would be divided into precincts of health, arts and entertainment, retail, and the justice and emergency sectors, they said.
That meant the rebuild would be anchored around civic amenities such as a new sports stadium, a metro sports centre and convention centre, as well as public amenities such as the hospital, courts and education facilities.
Key said the government would fund construction of the public facilities, while the Christchurch City Council and the private sector would need to decide between themselves how to pay for the civic projects like the convention centre. There was no mention of expected costs in press releases issued to the media before the announcement.
The government would set up a facilitation service to encourage private investment into the new CBD called Invest Christchurch, Key said.
Invest Christchurch's immediate focus would be on the local and national investor, business and development communities, with an international investment marketing campaign set to be launched in the fourth quarter this year, Brownlee said.
Christchurch’s CBD would be smaller and bordered by a unique green frame on its eastern boundary, which will connect through to green spaces in the north and south, and linked by a walkway and cycleway to Hagley Park, Key said.
Brownlee said the city's new form would take shape within a large L-shaped green space.
"The low density open space eastern frame will run from Kilmore Street to Saint Asaph Street, encapsulating an entire block-width of land between Madras and Manchester Streets. It’s expected new urban living apartments will be developed along the edge of this space," he said.
“This innovation is the most significant change from the draft Recovery Plan, and is likely to enhance the economic value of the area and promote denser central city development,” he said.
The southern part of the frame, from Madras Street to Hagley Avenue, encapsulating the entire block-width of land between Tuam and Saint Asaph Streets would develop into a campus-style area, with a walkway and cycleway.
"Sited between the hospital and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) site, this area will be ideally suited to the health, innovation and education sectors," Brownlee said.
“I anticipate a light, airy, college-campus style feel for the home of numerous innovative Christchurch companies and public sector agencies,” he said.
At the southern end of the frame area and close to another anchor project – the hospital and health precinct – would be a new metro sports facility.
"This aquatic and indoor arena will be capable of playing host to national and international events. It will offer high-performance training and sports medicine facilities alongside retail and entertainment activity complementary to sport," Brownlee said.
"An important key to the city’s commercial regeneration will be a new convention centre, which will cater for up to 2,000 people and complement other large centres proposed in Auckland and Queenstown. The centre will be a catalyst to hotel investment and will connect the Square to the Avon River Precinct, which will ensure visitors enjoy the uniquely green beauty the central city has to offer," he said.
With the design of the new central Christchurch area set out in the Recovery Plan it was now time to start discussions about the transfer of land ownership for projects, Brownlee said.
"Commercial sensitivities meant it was not possible for CERA’s Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) to start direct negotiations with land owners during its 100-day work programme," Brownlee said.
“Now that the locations and scope of the anchor projects and precincts have been confirmed, it is clear some large parcels of land are required for very different uses than their present ones,” he said.
While the Crown had the power to compulsorily acquire land under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011, the strong preference was for negotiations to now begin with the relevant parties in order to conclude purchases by the Crown on mutually agreed terms.
"However the tight timelines required if Christchurch’s recovery is to be secured will mean the first steps of compulsory purchase will also start this year, but these will not preclude the ability to negotiate and reach agreement in the first instance," Brownlee said.
"The Government will also seek to facilitate land transfers and purchases for private sector investors in the CBD where it considers those projects will materially advance the recovery and other options are unlikely to succeed or be achievable within the time needed to commit those investments," he said.
Land required for the anchor projects, including the open space frame, would be designated by the end of next week in the Christchurch City Council’s City Plan as a result of the direction in the Recovery Plan.
"One of the effects of the designation is that present owners will no longer be able to alter the way the land is used without the consent of the Minister as the requiring authority. Designations are used throughout New Zealand for roads, schools, and many other public works," Brownlee said.
"Prices for all land acquisitions in the central city (other than for central city red zone residential areas declared earlier this year) will be based on market values at the date the land is acquired. This reflects the highly variable nature of inner city land and improvements. Offers for land and improvements will therefore not be based on rateable valuations," he said.