Archives for category: Cera

It depresses me to be writing this piece again. I thought we had put all of this to bed last year. Unfortunately, after the council suggested that the project was on hold, the opinion pages of the Press were once again filled will ill-informed pieces calling for the Town Hall to be pulled down. Then, some sanity. Former Arts Editor Chris Moore wrote this piece in last Friday’s art section, which summed up much of what I had been meaning to say.

There’s a widely held misbelief that the cost of retaining the town hall will prevent the construction of a series of glittering arts palaces custom-made for individual organisations. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch … The sense of entitlement accompanying proposals for the arts precinct is mind-boggling. Some individuals and groups should remember that tooth fairies do not exist.

Richard Dawkins fills the Town Hall for a lecture on evolution in 2010

Gerry’s opposition to the building is well known. We don’t know reasons for his stance; he may just hate brutalism, or internationally recognised architecture, or culture in general. The most likely reason is that he wants to knock down the Town Hall and take the insurance money, then spend it on the Performing Arts Precinct (PAP). Spending money on PAP gives him another opportunity to leave a lasting memory of his magnificence; the CCC voting to save the Town Hall means that he can’t.

The PAP is weirdly considered to be a replacement for the Town Hall; it’s not. The Town Hall does play host to a lot of arts and cultural events, such as the orchestra, choirs, theatre and the like. But it is much more than that. It was often used for conferences, with the air bridge that linked it to the Convention Centre. It hosted speaking events; I remember seeing Robert Fisk speak in the Limes Room as part of the Writer’s Festival a few years back. It had a multitude of rooms, of a variety of sizes, that could be used by a whole range of people for whatever they might think of doing. The PAP doesn’t do that.

What we’re seeing with the PAP is a bunch of very specialised cultural organisations within Christchurch seeing the dollar signs in Gerry’s eyes and putting their hand up for a bit of it. They think that if they play their part, and whinge about how awful the Town Hall was, then when the money starts flowing, it will come their way. It ain’t gonna work like that. There is a chance that if the CCC does knock down the Town Hall, they may just use the money to pay down debt. No one gets a building.

The bizarre thing about this saga is how it has been reduced to a few voices from the arts community siding with Gerry against the Council and heritage advocates. If Gerry does win, and the Town Hall is knocked down for the benefit of a handful of commercial arts organisations, what does the council do without a Town Hall? I mean, we, as a city, are still going to have a Town Hall, right? They will have to find the money somewhere to build a new one. And no, an auditorium in a convention centre run by a casino doesn’t count. We are on the verge of losing the icon of our city – the Cathedral – and the symbol of our civic and cultural lives. The people who came before us in Christchurch had the foresight to leave us with two fantastic buildings, and yet we are on the cusp of watching the last of our cultural history disappear because we left a philistine the keys to the bulldozer.

This is the CPIT War Memorial Hall at approximately 2:30pm yesterday.


July 9th, 2:30pm

July 9th, 2:30pm

And here it is again at 11am this morning:

July 10th, 11am

July 10th, 11am

This building was of no immediate risk. It had been there since the quakes, not causing any harm. There was no need for the Section 38 powers to be invoked to demolish it. It is well beyond the time for these powers to be used.  That the demolition was done overnight shows that the people responsible knew that this was something to be ashamed, hence doing their dirty work under the cover of darkness. It’s a disgrace.

Jim Anderton writes in the Herald in a very strong column about saving the Cathedral:

The picture of the ‘ruin’ that has been put on television and on the front page of the Christchurch Press on dozens if not hundreds of occasions is a totally false perspective of the damage that the Cathedral has suffered.

Some of the most experienced and knowledgeable seismic and structural engineers both in New Zealand and, internationally, agree that the Cathedral has not been terminally damaged and can be both made safe for repair and totally restored to the highest building code justifiably required for public buildings. No similar building in any other part of the world that I have experienced, would remotely be a candidate for demolition.


Jim Anderton with Anna Crighton at the Cathedral last week

Jim Anderton with Anna Crighton at the Cathedral last week


I recommend reading it yourself. Labour’s policy announced last week was not one taken lightly; we recognise the significance of the Cathedral and the ownership of the Anglican Church. All that we have said is that if it is to be demolished, then it should not be under the provisions of the Section 38 powers. These powers were given to the government so that they could demolish buildings for public safety without going through an RMA process. More than 3 and a half years later, it is clear that the building provides no immediate hazard to the public. If the Church wants to demolish it, then they should have to go through the process of having it removed from the register of historic buildings. To do this would require a process under the RMA, in which all sides could present their cases.

If the building is to come down, then so be it. But it should only be through a robust process, not the abuse of extraordinary powers.

(I stole the blog post title from this Decemberist song)



Here’s a surprise: the convention centre industry that will directly benefit from the government using taxpayer and ratepayer money to build a convention centre are “optimistic” about convention centres. It makes us a “serious destination” – which I suppose means that until we get one, the rest of the country will just be laughing at us and our lack of convention centre. Bloody amateurs.

Further details for the much-awaited convention centre are coming in July, Christchurch & Canterbury Convention Bureau manager, Caroline Blanchfield says. That is according to a Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) statement she received.

The CERA statement reads: “The convention centre precinct development is running to schedule, CERA is currently evaluating the proposal to select the preferred consortia and preferred operator. The announcement of the preferred consortia for developing and building the convention centre, and the preferred operator . . . will happen in July.”

I’ve written about the Convention Centre project a number of times – click through on the Convention Centre tag and you’ll bring up a stack of posts. A brief summary:

  • The convention centre was initially going to take up a whole block, bounded by Gloucester and Armagh St, Colombo St and the River
  • This block contains the old central library, which initial estimates for repair were put at $9 million
  • The old central library would have to be demolished to make way for the convention centre, and a new library would be built about 100 metres down the road for a cost estimated at around $90 million
  • The council can’t afford to spend $90 million on a library, so might have to the education of our city up for sponsorship
  • the market” suggested that a 2,000 seat convention centre was too big for the city, and the project should be scaled back
  • despite a competitive tender process that has gone on for what seems like an eternity, it was understood that there was only one company interested in building the damn thing



As we know from the Sky City / pokies deal, this government seems convinced by the merits of convention centres, and isn’t particularly concerned with evidence. So this is probably in vain, but here is an article from the US (via Eric Crampton) about the highly competitive convention centre industry, and how it ends up taking taxpayers and ratepayers for a ride:

And that illustrates the larger problem with convention center subsidies — that they tend to generate meager public returns and generous private ones.

So by all means, let us celebrate the beautiful new convention facilities we have built on Mount Vernon Square. At the same time, let us resolve not to dedicate any more public funds to a convention center arms race that no city can win.


You may have seen a story in the Press this morning about the number of Comms staff at CERA. This isn’t the first time there has been a story about the number of people working in communications there, but it is the first time we’ve got an idea of what proportion of the organisation is actually involved in this. As you can see from the graph below, it is by far and away the most heavily skewed towards comms people:

Percentage comms staff of Government Departments

Percentage comms staff of Government Departments

The best part of the story was the last line:

A spokesman for Brownlee said the issue was an operational matter and needed to be directed to Cera. Sutton declined to comment.

How … ironic.

Screenshot 2014-06-13 12.08.37

The thing is, we’ve been through a lot here. The last thing we need is the government department that has been set up to help us leading us up the garden path. More vibrant than ever? Only if you ignore all of Christchurch’s history up to 2011. People don’t want to be lied to and patronised. People want to know what is going on in this place. Businesses need to know what is happening in the CBD, and when they can’t find out, they leave and go to Addington or Victoria St.

The problem for CERA is that it is a new department that has been set up in the Minister’s image. The line between the government and government department has been blurred, like when CERA went on a social media crusade for the National party last year. The slick graphics and speeches are all well and good, but Christchurch wants actions, not words.

The Press reports that the demolition of Centennial Pool will begin next week, so that the construction can begin on the playground that was included in the Blueprint. I think this is a very, very bad decision. I don’t have a problem with the construction of a playground – it is probably one of the only things in the blueprint that has actually been held open for true, genuine consultation with the public. I just don’t think they need to take out the pool to build it.

Centennial Pool (from the Press)

The demolition of Centennial, as well as the previous demolition of QEII, means that there are now no public pools to the east of Colombo St. With the plan for the “Metro Sports Facility”, it looks like the money for what was QEII will be put towards a new complex in the western corner of the central city. This will mean that the west of the city has indoor pools at Northlands, Jellie Park, Pioneer Stadium and in the CBD, with additional outdoor pools at Halswell and Templeton. The outdoor pools remaining in the South-East – Waltham Lido and Lyttelton – are out of action, requiring quake repairs (they are only open for a couple of months a year anyway, due to Christchurch’s unforgettable summer weather). These pools aren’t just for recreation; they play a key role in teaching our children how to swim and keep safe in the water. It is irresponsible to pull down these facilities without any plan for how, where or when they will be replaced.

But aside from the wider issue of aquatic facilities, who decided that we needed to knock down a pool (a thing that kids like) to build a playground (a thing that kids like)? Surely we could have both. If someone at the CCDU had the brains, or the vision, or both, they could have integrated the pool into the wider playground campus. As Gerry seems obsessed with putting things in little precinct-shaped boxes, let’s call it “the Fun Precinct”. Families could go down to visit the pool for a swimming lesson, then reward the kids with a trip to the giant hippo slide next-door. It would increase the numbers of people using the space during the weekdays, when there shouldn’t be a whole lot of kids around.

It seems to me an example of CERA’s “blank canvas” mentality: wipe the slate clean and start again. Except here, as with most of the central city, the canvas isn’t totally blank, and doesn’t need to be. They could – and should – be thinking smarter, thinking bigger, and thinking about ways to integrate those buildings that are still left standing into their plans, rather than needlessly bulldozing them.

In happier news, it sounds like the CCDU may have seen sense, and might be amenable to fixing the IRD building on Cashel St:

The Press understands that the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) is considering saving the eight-storey former IRD building and its neighbouring Pavilion building. Both Cashel St buildings were bought by the Crown as part of the eastern frame but the CCDU has never confirmed their fate. A CCDU spokesman last week said no final decisions had been made but The Press understands that once the Crown chooses a partner for residential development in the frame, the possibility of refurbishing the buildings would be looked at.

This sounds encouragingly like the Those Left Standing campaign, which I launched at the start of March.

Hopefully that means that Gerry and Co are reading this blog – and if that’s the case, I hope they read my suggestions about Lancaster Park and the Government Life building. Unfortunately, it’s too late for The Majestic. But I don’t really care whose idea it was, as long as the CCDU starts doing more to get the city up and running again.

I can’t remember exactly when I first went to Lancaster Park. I was probably 6 or 7. I remember it being a sunny afternoon, and being fascinated by the TVs that were suspended from the roof of the Canterbury Draught stand (as it was then known.) What an amazing place! It had sport and TVs hanging from the roof!

On another occasion, I remember the closing stages of a one day international, trying to work out how many sixes off no-balls New Zealand would need to win the game. My memories aren’t all cricket related; dad took me on the back of the Honda motorbike to see the Warriors in 1997. We stood in the south-east of the old embankment, not far from the giant inflatable Warrior – who had a patch over the badge on his jersey, as this was the middle of the ARL-Super League war. Dad also rode that bike to see U2 play their Zooropa tour in 1993.

When we were in high school, freed from the parental shackles but with nothing to do, we spent a lot of time at the ground. We went to screeds of Crusaders games, back when they were routinely awful. We’d make the most of the “Take a Kid To Footy” deal, by designating the tallest of our mates as “dad”, who paid $10 to get in, and then it was $5 for each additional “child”. Each of the “kids” would also get a pack of chips and a coke, so it was pretty cheap entertainment for a Friday night. In 1997 we were part of the sell-out crowd that watched as Canterbury beat Jonah Lomu’s Counties to take the NPC title for the first time since the early 80’s.

In the mid-late 90’s, there was a Chris Harris / Chris Cairns testimonial match. They were both still active players, but I think it was held as they had both played 10 seasons for Canterbury. I can’t confirm this at the moment, as “Chris Cairns Testimonial” has become difficult to google for some reason. Anyway, it wasn’t a particularly well attended match. Me and my yobbo mates were in the main stand, just square of mid-on. Rod Latham had come out to bat, and had put on a bit of weight. We shouted out the classic “who ate all the pies” at him. He pulled the next ball in our direction for four, turned and gave us all the fingers.

I was in Dunedin for the first half of the 00’s, so missed one of the most amazing achievements at what was then Jade Stadium. I remember being at a mate’s flat for the England-New Zealand test, watching nervously as Nathan Astle approached 100. Once he got the tonne, we went down to the park to kick a ball around. When we came back an hour later, we saw the score and thought something was wrong. 222? It didn’t make much sense.

Through the late half of the 00’s, the stadium seemed to be constantly undergoing some sort of refurbishment. First the embankment went, replaced by the Paul Kelly Stand. I took an American mate to a Crusaders game. It was against the Bulls. There weren’t many people, so we wandered around an found a seat on the top tier of the PK Stand. It turned out we were next to the Bulls fans, who shouted abuse in Afrikaans, to their players, to each other, and to us. They waved pre-Apartheid South African flags and sung the old national anthem. We moved at half time. The Crusaders won.

The Deans stand opened at the start of 2010. Despite it only being open for just over a year pre-quake, I still managed to catch a few good games. Sitting in the stands as Brendon McCullum scooped his way to the second ever T20 hundred. Kevin Locke scoring a hat-trick to beat the Roosters, including the match winner on the buzzer which saw him leave the ground in an ambulance. Local boy Ben Sigmund heading home a Marco Rojas corner for a 94th minute winner.

Of course, Lancaster Park wasn’t just the home of sporting memories. It also holds political ones. It was the venue for the first test of the Springbok tour in 1981, on August the 15th.

Our Prime Minister was a student at the University of Canterbury in 1981, but doesn’t seem to remember having a view on the tour. Brownlee would have been in Christchurch at the time too. One wonders whether their desire wipe the slate clean and build a new stadium is part of a wider plan of scrubbing out the inconvenient parts of Christchurch’s history. But the history of sport is about the actions on the field, and only incidentally about the built structures. It’s not about the Deans Stand, the Paul Kelly Stand, the Tui Stand or the Hadlee Stand: it’s about Lancaster Park. When clubs move grounds, they struggle to take the years of history with them – like Arsenal leaving Highbury for the Emirates, or Carisbrook being super-ceded by ForsythBarr. Better facilities, sure. But they’ve discarded multiple sporting life-times worth of built-up legend. To give up on all of that history, when something could easily, and probably more economically, salvaged from the site seems a particularly short-sighted move.


The thing is, this place is still standing. It’s not fallen down, it’s not in anyone’s way. The turf is stuffed. The stands have sunk. We don’t really know what the deal is with the insurance. I’m not convinced that the options for the ground have been exhausted yet. Late last year, Brownlee declared that he wanted Christchurch to be the sporting capital of New Zealand; if he’s true to that, then he should be doing everything he can to preserve the site of our city’s proud sporting heritage.






Crocogerry from Porcupine Farm


The Press reports that the much-touted surplus was in large part due to reduced spend on the Canterbury rebuild:

A surprise $300 million boost to the Government’s trumpeted Budget surplus relies mainly on a cut to the Earthquake Commission’s insurance bill, Treasury forecasts show … Budget documents show the improvement to $372m was given a $200m boost from “lower insurance expenses after an updated valuation of EQC’s insurance liabilities”.

If you look through Keith Ng’s awesome budget visualisation page, you will also observe that money is being pulled out of CERA. So while the Minister is busy denying that the floods in Christchurch have anything to do with the quakes, his government is putting the squeeze on EQC and CERA so that Key can boast about being “back in black”. The council is in a $534 million dollar hole – in part due to the anchor projects that the Crown has forced upon them – but instead of offering a helping hand, the government is pushing them towards it’s ideological obsession, asset sales.

Remember back to the day after the February 22nd quake, when Key said that this was a journey we would walk together? Well, National has hopped into a Crown limo and sped off, without even looking back to see how we’re doing. The message is clear; if you care about the rebuild of this city, about ensuring that people whose lives have been turned upside down through no fault of their own can get the assistance that they need, that they deserve, and that they were promised, then you need to throw out this government on September the 20th.

A couple of quick links from the weekend. Perhaps the most interesting story on the rebuild was Tess McLure’s investigation into EPIC. The original story is here, and I’ve written about it here. Twitter’s Stephen Judd has also contributed here. Obviously, Saturday night was the best time to put out long blogs – but they’re all worth a look, to give you an idea about how the state-led rebuild is panning out almost two years after the blueprint first came out.

Another good recap came from Georgina Stylianou, which gives a good account of the city for those living outside of it:

The retail precinct, which has long been hailed as the flagship recovery project by the Government and private sector, was last week described by Brownlee as “the biggest mess on our plate”.


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