Today I spent part of the morning down at a organic composting workshop at Agropolis. I’ve mentioned Agropolis before, but if you don’t know about it, it is the “urban farm” project, with raised planter beds and composting boxes on a clear site where the Poplar Lanes used to be (Agropolis is actually on the foot print of one of my old flats). This project, started by a bunch of predominately young, idealistic creative types, is the most innovative thing going on in the “innovation project”. As the Press reported this morning, the Innovation Project is the latest thread of the Blueprint plan to start unraveling.

The poster child for the Innovation Precinct was EPIC. This is the building on the corner of Tuam and Manchester that is home to a number of small to medium start-up businesses:

A key tenant of the central-city innovation precinct has “given up” and pulled out of the project, saying delays and overpriced land make the project infeasible. EPIC (Enterprise Precinct Innovation Centre) co-founder Colin Anderson says the group has scuttled plans for an inner-city innovation “village” to house more than 50 small businesses. EPIC is now looking at land outside the blueprint.

I’ve been hearing rumours of EPIC leaving the area controlled by CERA for months. Part of this was due to dealing with MoBIE, who are apparently even harder to deal with than the CCDU, if you can believe that. But the final straw was the land price in the city, which Gerry still seems to think is a success.

One of the things that was of concern to Christchurch immediately after the earthquake was the potential value of CBD land. People were talking about completely abandoning it. What the CCDU has done through the acquisition programme and through the blueprint . . . they’ve managed to preserve those [land] values and in any disaster situation that’s quite an achievement.

Congratulations Gerry. You’ve managed to preserve the land value in a disaster situation. Your prize is a seat on the rebuild bus that travels around the CBD, where baffled, forlorn tourists can look out upon acre after acre of bare land. Land that has been left bare, because no-one can afford to build on it. Because developers have chosen to build outside of your area of control, so they don’t have to deal with the rules and regulations you’ve placed upon them. The arts organisations that are meant to be the tenants of the Arts Precinct can’t afford to be in the city, despite the government buying the land and significant charitable donations. The most significant innovation in the innovation precinct is a volunteer-run community garden which is only as secure as their 30-day lease allows.

The din of alarm bells at CERA should be deafening. The Blueprint is an unaffordable, unattainable, unnecessary restriction that is stifling the recovery of Christchurch. The Minister needs to put his pride to one side, and accept that it is time to reevaluate the rebuild, before it is too late.