This is a really instructive feature from the weekend’s Press, on the continuing damage that the CCDU buyout is doing to the central city.

Harwood says rubbing salt into the wound, the CCDU is offering to pay only about a fifth of what he reckons the land is worth. It may be a “try on”, an opening low-ball bid. But Harwood says the power to negotiate is all in the CCDU’s hands. “The Green Frame has put a slight on our land because there’s now only one buyer, and the buyer sets the price and the conditions of sale.”

The building that features prominently in the story is Harwood’s, on the corner of Manchester St and Bedford Row. We used to look out on that building from our kitchen window in Cashel St. It was broken down and decrepit then, little more than a temporary home for wayward pigeons. But we could tell it had been a lovely building, and could be a lovely building again. It would be a shame to lose these buildings, especially for the spurious reason of “widening Manchester St so we can put a bus lane in”. Um, hello? Did I miss the part in the “City in a Garden” vision where we are widening streets in the central city for increased traffic volumes?

This story seems to reflect the a change in messaging around the Eastern Frame, which is summed up in this story in the Press:

The eastern frame may have been promoted as Christchurch’s Central Park, but instead looks set to boast “very dense” residential development.

We could argue about the Frame all day, however it’s stated objectives were very clear. Just over a year on, they seem to be changing, and as one of the developers in the story points out, CERA could be sleepwalking into a big legal issue:

Gordon Chamberlain, who owns a Gloucester St site, said the Government on-selling land for development “doesn’t fall within the true meaning of the Public Works Act, which the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act is based on”.

I don’t have a problem with inner city housing – I’ve advocated for it a number of times. However, I can’t support the compulsory acquisition of land from unwilling sellers under the auspices of “creating a green space” only to then see it sold on to developers who want to build executive apartments. This is made all the more perverse when you consider that people like Denis Harwood, mentioned at the top of the first story, are trying to create exactly that, using heritage buildings, and are being prevented from doing so. This is the Kafka-esque situation that we find ourselves in in Christchurch, almost every single day.

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