Front page of the Press this morning is a story about the government wanting to put more people in the CBD of Christchurch:
The Government wants 20,000 residents living in Christchurch’s inner city – and is formulating a plan to achieve it.
Thing is, before the quakes the council had a goal of 30,000 people living in the CBD – though the reality was that there were around 7000-8000 (though no one quite knows how many). The usual measure for the “central city” is the Four Aves – so most of these people live / lived in two strips; between Salisbury St and Bealey Ave in the North, and Barbadoes and Fitzgerald to the East.
While I applaud this happening, I think it’s pretty silly that the Government’s target of 20,000 is actually less ‘aspirational’ than the council’s pre-quake target. I personally think that we should be aiming to have far more people living in the CBD – 100,000? 250,000? The redesign of the Christchurch CBD is our chance to re-shape the way New Zealanders live in the 21st century; we cannot continue to expand endlessly across the plains, lest we find ourselves in a situation like Auckland has. 100,000 people living within the four aves would not be a particularly remarkable density on an international level – but New Zealand is so tied to an unsustainable “1/4 acre dream” that I doubt that this will ever be considered. At least not now. Maybe when it’s too late.
This is a comprehensive, scathing post from Puddleglum that anyone who gives half a fuck about Christchurch should read. It is the third part of a series of long posts on Christchurch, which looks at the frame. As I’ve argued, it documents how the Frame and the associated land deals in the CBD are nothing more than a concentration of wealth into the hands of the developers who already hold most of the cards. There are many eminently quotable quotes:
Even the “most popular projects” only barely have support from half the residents, which itself is quite remarkable.
As has been made abundantly clear, however, the ‘anchor projects’ – especially the Frame and the Stadium – were not proposed primarily for their supposed amenity benefits. Their main raison d’être has always been as land soaks: the need to take central city land out of circulation.
And some conclusions that I whole-heatedly endorse:
In simple economic terms, the government has engineered greater wealth concentration in Christchurch. Fewer hands now control more of the economic levers in the city and region. And – as a horse goes with a carriage and love supposedly goes with marriage – along with greater economic power goes greater political control over Christchurch’s destiny.
As I mentioned, it’s a very long post, but that’s because it is comprehensively researched. I really can’t recommend it enough.
The Press, Saturday July 20th:
A fundraising auction is being held for the Christchurch Art Gallery tonight … under the artistic direction of internationally renowned artist Michael Parekowhai
The Press, Monday July 22nd:
Wealthy Cantabrians have donated more than $100,000 towards a symbol of hope for the city … Money raised at the event will find the purchase of the Michael Parekowhai sculpture On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer
The headline on this morning’s story was “A symbol for a bullish city”; maybe “bullshit” was autocorrected.
Today, demolition workers were clearing the upper levels of the 10-storey, 142-room hotel including throwing television sets out of the open space that was once the wall of one of the rooms within the complex.
On the one hand, this sounds like amazing fun. Throw a TV out of the 8th floor of a hotel, without getting in trouble. In fact, you get paid for it. It’s your job. Go on. Throw another.
On the other hand, this is the obscene waste that is the rebuild. TVs – possibly, probably still working, are being hiffed out of windows, where they will presumably be swept up off the ground and sent to a landfill. Would it have been that hard to walk them to the lift, and send them away in one piece? Even if middle-class New Zealand has moved onto LCD and plasma TVs, I’m sure that a home could be found for them. If a home couldn’t be found, then we could at least take them apart, salvage the various elements in them, and send the recyclable bits to the appropriate places.
But no. Let’s just throw shit out windows. Let’s bowl over whole suburbs rather than uplift salvageable houses and shift them somewhere. The environmental cost of this quake is almost unfathomable, and it’s not even really being talked about.
In an opinion piece in the Press this morning, Roger Sutton says that the removal of the CBD cordon fences is a “turning point” for the city.
The removal of the rebuild zone cordons from Christchurch’s central city is a real turning point in the recovery of our city.
He’s right, it definitely is progress. But I can’t be the only one who feels like we’ve have countless turning points already? I worry that we’ve had so many turning points, no-ones actually sure which direction we’re going in.
The youngest councillor, Jamie Gough, has gone in to bat for the youth of Christchurch, fighting against alcohol restrictions in the CBD. A valiant effort, but one that he should have nothing to say about due to his family conflict of interest. Just last week, big Uncle Tony, aka Jamie’s uncle Antony Gough, said that this policy would impact negatively on his new bar development.
‘‘The 1am door policy is totally unacceptable to us,’’ said Gough, who owns the portion of Oxford Terrace called The Strip.
He went as far as saying that if this was passed, some of the bar spaces would not be filled, and this threatened the viability of the whole project. So, less than a week later, little Jamie is faithfully defending his family’s economic interests.
The Press story says that Gough “hails from the same family as property magnate and Strip developer Antony Gough”; the story should stop here. A councillor is lobbying for a change in policy that will directly benefit his family interests. There could be no clearer example of a conflict of interest. For the Press to think this sentence somehow clears them from any accusations of a conflict of interest is laughable, but at least they vaguely mentioned the conflict, unlike the last time they covered Tim Carter’s opinion on convention centres, which his father might be building.
He should not be able to vote on this bill, and he should not be able to lobby support for it in the run up to the vote. The rebuild is already cloaked in secrecy and tied up in back-room deals; we do not need to tolerate such blatant conflicts of interest.
(For what it’s worth, I think the restrictions on bars are too restrictive, which I will blog about some other time)
Leading the Press this morning is a warning from property developers that the CBD won’t work for residential apartments. A number of developers are quoted, and the general themes they cite are the risk and cost of building apartments.
Mayor Bob Parker said last week that with many businesses settled elsewhere, apartments would be a “safer bet” for developers than office buildings and could drive central-city regeneration.
So as businesses “settle elsewhere” – i.e. move to Sydenham, Addington, Victoria St, where development isn’t being curtailed by CERA – Parker thought that residential might move into the CBD. Great idea, I’d love that. Except anyone the Press asked said that it isn’t going to happen. So businesses don’t want to be in the CBD, now developers won’t build residential in the CBD. Over the weekend I heard stories about one of the key projects that CERA has championed talking about moving out of the innovation project and into Sydenham. The place is going to be a ghost town unless someone changes things soon. The alarm bell’s in Gerry’s office should be ringing.
Another thing that was interesting from this story:
The Government plans to sell land to developers for 600 apartments in the new eastern frame and hopes the first ones will be finished by early 2016.
So … the CCDU blueprint from a year ago said that CERA would buy up a bunch of properties so they could create a frame, right? Now, a year on, CERA is preparing to sell off the land that they acquired – in some cases, against the property owner’s wishes – so they can build apartments. Why? If CERA knew they were going to on-sell this land a year after they got it, why didn’t they say so? Why did they say it was going to go into a “green frame” land bank? Are the details of how much they paid for these sections, and how much they sell them for going to be made public? I understand commercial sensitivity, but the government has the power to beat-down the price they paid to property owners as they could threaten them with compulsory acquisition if they didn’t sell. CERA needs to very open about this, lest they face criticisms about abusing their extraordinary powers.
If you subscribe to the CERA “Invest Christchurch” newsletter – and you should, it’s free and informative – you may have seen this from the CCDU director Warwick Isaacs. I’m going to quote it at length, because it’s quite extraordinary:
The Rebuild Zone cordon should not be seen as a barrier to development. Quite the opposite. Though our goal is to scale back the area inside the cordon, we’re not in a rush to remove it altogether. This isn’t just about providing a safe and efficient work environment for the demolition process; it’s because we want to provide the right environment for development as well. So to be completely clear on this point: if you’re a land owner, tenant or developer with a genuine need to be inside the cordon, we will endeavour to get you there.
So, the central city cordon isn’t there to keep us safe, it’s there because it’s convenient for developers. They could remove it faster, but they aren’t in a rush. I mean, what’s the hurry? The longer they keep the fences up, the longer it is before nosey citizens can get their prying eyes in their. The longer it is until former residents – like myself – will be able to go in and see the sites where they used to live.
This statement makes it absolutely clear: the cordon isn’t about safety, it’s about development. It’s about ensuring that that development can proceed without scrutiny, without any checks except for the minimal provisions of the emergency legislation. The CCDU and the government could not prostrate themselves any further to developers – and that’s the “right environment” for the rebuild; by developers, for developers.