Archives for posts with tag: Blueprint

This week, Christchurch will find out about the governance arrangements and the transfer of power from CERA to someone else. It’s meant to happen on Thursday:

Prime Minister John Key is expected to outline new power arrangements for the control of Canterbury’s quake recovery in a speech to city business people on Thursday. This will likely set the framework for how the Government hopes to run the recovery past April next year.

The first people to know about these proposed changes for how the city will run aren’t going to be the people who live here. Nope. It’s going to be the business people. Yeah, sure, this is just a lunch, and a safe place for Key to announce the changes. But it is so symbolic of the way this recovery is being handled, and in whose interests. If National cared about the people of the city, they could have held a joint announcement alongside the Mayor at the Council building. Or better yet, they could have gone to New Brighton and stood in front of the people who have been most affected by both the quakes, and the government’s handling of the aftermath.

But no, it will be done in front of a bland group of rich white men, who have been the biggest supporters of the government’s direction. I’m not surprised, but that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed as well.

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Image of one of the new car-parking megastructures planned for Christchurch’s CBD (image source: CRUDE)

In a move that has been welcomed by the frequently ignored property developer class, the Finance Minister is expected to outline plans for a new focus on housing for cars in the Christchurch CBD as he delivers his 7th budget tomorrow. The plan will finally address the dire need for more carparks in the central city, a housing crisis which the government has repeatedly denied was an issue.

While the details have yet to be announced, Rebuilding Christchurch understands that the initiative, known as the Central Road Users and Developers Entity (CRUDE), will be focused on the East Frame. Stage One will see all remaining buildings in the government-owned East Frame demolished and replaced with car parking. Stage Two will involve a state-of-the-art, 4,500-berth facility built for the protection and security of cars. Stage Three of CRUDE will involve the repurposing of “people parks”, such as Latimer Square and the Margaret Mahy Playground, into parks for cars.

After years of being ignored, central city property developers are delighted with CRUDE. “We’re finally being listened to”, says developer Tony Trough. “We’ve been telling the government for years: you can’t have a successful city without cars. Just look at some of the great cities of the world: Los Angeles, Swindon, Los Angeles, Birmingham. They all have spectacular spaghetti junctions. With CRUDE, Christchurch finally has a chance to compete on the world stage.” Trough went on to say that the rights of cars have been ignored in the rebuild. “On any given day, there will be more cars in the CBD than people. Yet what are we doing for those cars? Nothing. They have no voice. Unless you have a late-model European car like I do, which tells you to put your seatbelt on. But apart from that, they’re silent.”

People living in the quake-damaged Eastern suburbs of the city who spoke with Rebuilding Christchurch on the condition of anonymity were supportive of the idea. Shoshanna, not her real name, lives with her 3 daughters, 2 sons, husband, de-facto partner, de facto partner’s ex, de facto partner’s ex’s nephew, de facto partner’s ex’s nephew’s wife and twin daughters, a wolfhound, two cats, a guinea pig and Jason Gunn in a 3-bedroom house in the suburb of Dallington. “After the quake, my whanau had nothing. No water, no power, no place to go. So I just opened the doors and let them all come here. It was a tight fit, so some of us had to sleep in the garage. Of course, that meant that the car had to go out on the street. We just never thought about the car. It’s been out there on the street for the best part of five years now. It can’t go on. So I’m grateful that the government is finally doing something [to house the cars].”

Rebuilding Christchurch understands that CRUDE will be partially funded by a series of toll-gates for pedestrians along the perimeter of the Four Avenues. Developer Trough thinks this is only fair. “For too long, people have just been walking along the streets without paying anything at all. They walk into shops, they walk up to the windows, but they don’t pay for anything. Foot traffic is welcome, but it needs to start paying its way, like real traffic does.” When asked about cyclists, Trough was less charitable. “Everyone knows you can’t ride a bike to go shopping. It’s political correctness gone stark raving mad. There is no place for them in this city.”

Given some of the recent bad publicity about the delays to key anchor projects, the government is very keen to see CRUDE up and running as soon as possible. Stage One is expected to be complete by the time the Finance Minister has finished delivering his speech; construction companies are working double-over-time to have Stage Two completed by Queen’s Birthday, when the Queen herself is expected to open the building by ceremonially driving her Bentley through a cavalcade of homeless people. Stage Three has no concrete completion date, as the repurposing of “people parks” is an ongoing project which the government is looking to roll out across the country.

I was on the plane to Auckland on Saturday, and instead of reading more of my boring book I flicked back through a series of older newspaper articles that I’ve meant to read for a while. One was this piece from the head of Warren and Mahoney, Peter Marshall. He is talking about housing in the eastern frame, and is pretty boosterish about it. He says that we should be building affordable housing – great!

Christchurch has apartments now on the west side between the central city and Hagley Park but they are fairly high end.

“What was missing was an affordable townhouse which is where that is going to be pitched.”

What is affordable?

“$500,000, $600,000, there might even be some less.”

THIS GUY THINKS THAT $600,000 IS AN AFFORDABLE HOUSE. JUST THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A BIT.

Ok.

Are you still digesting that – I’ll give you another moment.

Right.

To put that in context, here are some other numbers:

Whereas the average house price before the quakes had been around $310,000, an average new home including land would now cost between $450,000 and $550,000.

Those figures – from the Salvation Army – come with this additional, understated comment:

“This difference is likely to be the continuing source of housing stress for many households for many years to come.”

If you take the mid-point of that latter bracket – $500,000 – then the average house price has gone up $190,000 in 5 years. That is pretty much 10% a year, each year since the quakes. If people’s wages had been going up 10% a year, I think we’d know about it. They haven’t. Saying that things aren’t as bad as they are in the Auckland housing market is irrelevant; here we had a major disaster, and the government has a duty of care to ensure that the people of Christchurch suffer as little as possible.

Despite repeated warnings of a housing crisis, National refuses to accept that there is anything wrong. And why would they? They are the party of property prices; they returned a stunning result in Christchurch at the last election, and I reckon that is in large part due to many, many people feeling very good about the increasing value of their property portfolio. That this dude can say that $600,000 – twice what the average house cost just five years ago – is an “affordable” home with a straight face shows how totally broken the market is.

No-one is going to provide affordable housing that is actually affordable for the people who need it. In the short term, this will serve the government and it’s allies; the head of the CCDU Warwick Isaacs is about to leave so he can join Stonewood Homes, a builder of cookie-cutter landfill subdivisions in which half the houses failed their inspections. In the long term, Christchurch will become a city that is only affordable for the homogenous, white middle-class that CERA depicts in their advertising, whilst the poor, the working class, the migrants, the students and the people who generally make cities interesting places to live give up on the White Man’s Dream and head for greener pastures.

The council today voted to flog off another $200 million of ratepayer owned assets, bringing the fire sale total to $750m. On top of this, they are talking about rates increases of 33% over the next four years. Less than a year ago, this is what Cr Manji had to say about rates rises:

The Cameron report suggests rate rises could be in order – more income to allow the servicing of more debt. Despite earthquake levies being added by the previous council, Christchurch still has some of the country’s lowest rates.

But Manji says it is clear that further rate hikes are politically unacceptable. “That would be a huge flashpoint. You’ve got to remember what people have been through over the past four years. They’re stretched emotionally more than you could ever imagine.”

However, Manji agrees with Mayor Lianne Dalziel that a sale of council assets – or rather finding strategic partners to take a 25 per cent share in the holding company – makes eminent sense. This alone could knock $400m off that 2019 hump.

A week is a long time in politics. However, I struggle to see how we’ve gone from “rates rises or asset sales to raise $400m” in August 2014 to “rase rises AND even more asset sales to raise $750m” less than a year later. And yet despite the Minister promising a review of the cost sharing event by December during the election campaign, we’ve not heard anything about this, which could ease some of the burden on the council. The ratepayers of Christchurch are being played, both by the council and the government, who are selling off productive assets and running down our social housing stock, whilst refusing to back down over less-than-essential anchor projects such as stadiums, convention centres and sports centres.

So it’s been a long time between posts. That’s a little to do with me having a proper job, and a little to do with post-election exhaustion. I’d like to think I will be writing a bit more regularly in the coming months, but I’m not going to promise anything. However, a few thoughts have been rattling around in my head, so I thought I’d put pen to paper, and words to blog.

The best of the rebuild 2014:

The deconstruction of the Pallet Pavilion

In the same way it went up, the Pallet Pavilion came down in an orderly fashion, with assistance of hundreds of volunteers. After hosting scores of events over two summers, Gap Filler knew that the pavilion had done it’s time, and as proactively as they put it up, they pulled it down again. The pallets, veggie bins, plants, and pretty much anything else was put back into use. Even in it’s deconstruction, the Pallet Pavilion set a great example for the projects going on around the city.

Food Trucks

One day, as I left my house for work, there was a taco truck across the road. Literally straight across the road, sitting along in the wasteland of rubble and weeds where McKenzie and Willis used to be. I know that food trucks are very “on trend” at the moment, but here in Christchurch, they are more than just an excuse to sell overpriced burritos to hipsters; they’re a necessary part of the hospitality ecosystem. When cheap rentals are hard to find, and you don’t know where the demand is going to be in a still sparsely populated CBD, a semi-movable truck is the perfect solution. This year saw the rise of the food truck in Christchurch, from Loco’s on St Asaph St, to the Food Collective at the Commons, to the launch of food truck Fridays in the Square, where at least a dozen trucks converge, and bring plenty of energy back to a dead space.

New bars and eateries

In addition to the food trucks, we’ve seen the addition of plenty of more permanent, more serious establishments. While many of the bars will rise and fall, hopefully the eateries will stay around for a bit longer. Johnny Moore’s BrickFarm and the St Asaph St Coriander’s are both excellent, and will surely see a good return on the risk they took to open in the centre of the city.

WORD festival

For a brief period in late August, the centre city was buzzing again. Authors, poets, cynics, journalists, musicians and hangers-on all descended on poor, broken Christchurch for a short period, and made it feel a live again. The programme was so well put together that picking out highlights is almost redundant. But even more important than the people who spoke was the – and I’d like to find a better word, but I can’t – vibe of the event. While it might have only been temporary, it was a reminder of what the city could be at it’s best – and why we should keep struggling on.

The demise of Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton was always the happy face of a bad organisation; now he’s the creepy face of a bad organisation. With him gone, we can stop pretending that CERA are our benevolent overlords, just doing what’s best for the city, and see them are the reactive, unimaginative, bureaucratic brakes on the recovery that they really are.

Free Theatre

The gymnasium at the Arts Centre opened up cautiously mid-year. Free Theatre have been experimenting with the space, with plays and other events. More importantly than that, it shows the success of the forward thinking repair model that the Arts Centre have put in to place. The site is a hive of activity, with dozens of tradespeople going about their business everyday. Parts of the centre will be opened in stages. It shows that heritage buildings can be repaired, and that it can work financially. Other organisations could learn much from this.

The Cricket Oval

Grassy banks, beautiful setting, done on the cheap and in record time. What’s not to like?

The worst of the rebuild in 2014

The Cricket Oval

I’ll probably write more about the rights and wrongs of the oval another time, so will limit myself to this: the fact that the government could utilise it’s emergency powers to get this built in such a short time, for a small amount of money, and using public land, shows just how little they care about those people in vulnerable housing situations since the quake for whom they have done less than nothing to alleviate their suffering. They jumped through legal hoops to get this built, whilst at the same time, forced the Quake Outcasts to take them through the court system just to try get a fair payout for the land which they compulsorily acquired. There is no better symbol for the inequity of the rebuild than the Hagley Cricket Oval.

Council Asset Sales

The City Council’s debt position is quite magical: somehow, it is both So Serious that we must consider selling off profitable assets, but yet Not Serious Enough that we should reconsider any of the monumental anchor projects which the government is forcing on the ratepayers. Whoever the government tasked with softening up the Mayor and the Press has done a great job, so this looks like a done deal now, despite any reasonable objections.

Victoria Square re-development

Nothing shows the ineptitude of the CCDU better than their proposed Victoria Square redevelopment. Take one of the few bits of the central city that isn’t broken, and then propose a way to fix it. I sit down at Vic Sq for lunch, and there are often dozens of others doing the same. Yup, some of the pavers look a bit dated. But when you consider that most of the rest of the city is either gravel or chain-link fences, it’s pretty good. That the idiots at the CCDU would not only consider doing this, but also spend $7m from what we are told is a very tight budget into it shows how totally out of touch they are. It’s a case of the egos at the CCDU wanting to exercise their power over the council – and we’re the ones who have to pay for it.

The Convention Centre

A completely unjustified waste of public money and public land. A massive public subsidy being given to a handful of cosy developers, who have been pushing for this since before the Blueprint even came out. If this gets anywhere near completion, it will just go to show how docile and complicit the shattered population of the city has become.

Needless demolitions

As we move into 2015, we are still watching as historic buildings are being pulled down across the city. One high profile example was the Majestic Theatre. It was demolished this year, to make for road widening. The block that it was on, bordered by Lichfield, Madras, Bedford Row and Manchester St, now has no buildings on it, and no plans for any buildings to go on it. That sums up the ambitions of the men behind the bulldozers; knock it down, don’t worry if there’s nothing planned to replace it.

Empty new builds

The rise and rise of the glass facades along the Victoria St / Durham St corridor is one of the brightest spots of development in the city. Each week it seems like the soil on a new site gets broken. But if you’re going down there to marvel at the new buildings, stop and take a look at how many of the completed sites are tenanted. You’ll notice that much of the space is yet to be leased. Whole floors, even whole buildings are sitting there, untenanted. The Potemkin Offices of Victoria St may look like progress, but this highly speculative development is yet to even peak.

The Middle Class Rebuild

In the last year, there have been a number of projects which have been celebrated as the “best thing to happen since the quakes”. The cricket oval and the Isaac Theatre Royal are two examples that spring to mind. These are good things, no doubt. But they also speak volumes about who the rebuild is serving. Cricket and opera are two of the most rich, white people pursuits on the face of the planet. Everyone living in Christchurch has had a rough time in the last few years, including the rich white people. If they feel like it’s time to put the rebuild behind them, to enjoy the cricket and the ballet, that’s great. But there’s a danger in forgetting that as the north and west of the city move into a post-rebuild phase, some parts of the city have barely been touched. If you go out to New Brighton, you’d be forgiven for thinking the quakes were 4 weeks ago, not 4 years ago. As we approach the anniversary, prepare for the government to tell us that we’re moving on, that the hard work has been done. Prepare for many, many people to agree with them. But also spare a thought for the people who rarely have a voice, the mute underclass of National’s burgeoning have-nots.

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.

 

via Porcupine Farm

 

While the big news with regard to the rebuild has been the scaling back of the Arts Precinct, this is just one part of a wider narrative that sees the grand plan unravelling. Since I wrote my column in the Herald at the weekend, we’ve had the news that Antony Gough’s Terrace Project is taking a wee break, that the Arts Precinct is being scaled back, and that the CCDU is paring back it’s land acquisition. These stories illustrate the point that I made on Sunday; that the rebuild is happening outside of CERA’s control, and that the Blueprint hasn’t worked in the way it was meant to.

The Arts Precinct announcement has been a long time coming. The original plan depended on the Town Hall complex being knocked down, so that the money from it’s insurance payout could be use for this new precinct. Once the council had resolved to restore the Town Hall – which was in August of las year – the rest of the project was always going to have to be scaled back. It is just a shame that CERA’s thinking wasn’t made public earlier, as it could have helped inform the debate around the Majestic Theatre. A restored Majestic could have* brought a beautiful building with a strong cultural history back into the discussion about the wider arts community’s needs. Instead, the demolition proceeds regardless.

There was an interesting comment in the NBR piece on the precinct:

However, the arts precinct has other hurdles to surmount – the Court Theatre, Symphony Orchestra and the Music Centre are pivotal tenants and they have indicated they cannot afford high rentals required in new buildings.

I’m not sure where this leaves the project. If the three key tenants of the project have indicated that they can’t afford the rent for a new building, then what is the plan? If we (the council / the government / both) are going to have to subsidise the rent for these tenants, isn’t that a discussion we should be having? It may be that the arts fall victim to Brownlee’s land-grab, which has pushed the land prices in the central city to a point where they can’t afford to be based in it.

At this point – almost two years after the plan was released – I think it would be a good idea for the involved parties – particularly the CCDU and the cash-strapped Council – to have a bit of a stocktake of where the Blueprint has got us. Best-practice planning means that things aren’t set in stone; strong leadership means making the tough calls about changing direction, rather than just ploughing on regardless. It is not too late to reconsider some of the anchor projects in the plan.

*The Majestic could still be saved, if they ordered an immediate halt to the demo. But they won’t

The Press reports that one of the Government’s key anchor projects, the convention centre, may be downsized:

The Government’s key anchor project – a Christchurch convention centre – could be downsized after “market sounding” suggested a 2000-seat venue was too ambitious.

This is promising news, as it shows that the government’s planned centre is too big for a city this size. It would also have a flow-on effect, if it results in a smaller convention centre being built. The current Blueprint calls for a new library, on a site a block away from the existing library.

As I’ve written about previously, the existing library could be repaired for a fraction of what building a new one would cost. The main reason for building the new library is that the land will be required for the convention centre – however, if a smaller centre was to be built, it could be designed to accommodate the repaired library. This would save the council tens of millions of dollars. With the state that the CCC’s books are currently in, I think that is an option that should be seriously considered.

John Campbell brought his show to Christchurch last night, and I’m not just excited about this because he was filming outside my house. The whole of the show focussed on the city, with a really important lead story on the struggle between the council and the government about the Blueprint. The increasingly impressive Councillor Manji came across as a voice of reason:

Mr Manji believes that it is important to know when to admit something is not working, and to try something else. “I think the strategy has been to put a lot of resource into the central city area; [but] the reality [is that] everyone has left the central city area,” says Mr Manji. “All the commercial organisations have gone outside, new villages and new suburban [areas] sprung up.”

This issue is really starting to heat up. What would be quite useful at this point would be if the opposition parties were to wade in and let us know what they would do, if they were in power after the next election.

The River and the Cathedral.

In the first two parts of this series I argued that the government made a mistake by keeping CERA so close to cabinet and central government, and thus lost the ability to change and adapt in the face of uncertainty. I also contended that since CERA was established in 2011, the wrong structure has been used and the wrong people have been employed. In this third part I will look in depth at one of the government-led projects to illustrate the larger points. Tomorrow, in the second half of this part (part 3.5), I’ll touch on the Cathedral and the recent risk that peace might actually break out on this troubled project.

The Avon River Precinct and the Cathedral are perhaps the two most emblematic projects in the city. They adorn the city logo, and they have since the quake both been badly mismanaged and, sadly, come to represent the worst of the post-quake response -rather than the best that we have seen in other parts of the city.

The River

In the first instance, it annoys me that this project is called a precinct. A river isn’t a precinct; a precinct is an area in a city with walls or a defined edge. A river is a boundary (with many varied edges at different points) not something with arbitrary edges 30 metres from its banks. This isn’t really important, but the plan might be taken more serious if it didn’t abuse language so carelessly.

After the quakes in 2011 the Christchurch City Council was tasked with developing the city plan. They started the Share an Idea campaign, got lots of public (but not much stakeholder) input, and then made their plans. These plans were then rejected by the government, who then developed their own 100-day plan.

As part of this Council staff developed an idea to substantially reconsider and redevelop the Avon River within the 4 avenues. This would change the relationship of the city to the river, and to substantially upgrade its ecological and cultural value as a river. A brilliant idea, and one that CERA to their credit have always strongly supported. They have supported it to the extend that central government is funding the $100 million dollar project, almost as a gift to the city. This is great, and really quite exciting.

CERA included this in the 100-day plan, writing a brief and putting it out for tender. This is where I’d argue that things started to go wrong. Their first mistake was that the brief was never developed with the people that use the river. This is a $100 million dollar urban space project, one of the biggest public space projects in New Zealand history. It is one that will probably define the future feeling of the city – and CERA in all their strange silo’d wisdom decided there was no need for public consultation at all.

In the first part of this series I went into why public consultation is important politically. But it is important to point out on a design level that public input is not just a political imperative, it is how designers really understand what they are supposed to do with a project. No commercial or corporate designers would ever do something this big for their users without working with them first to develop the ideas behind it. It has any number of guises: brief development, user testing, participatory design, collaborative design, public engagement, prototyping, and many others. There are a hundred different ways that the public could have been involved and ideas could have been tested – many of which don’t take much time or money. Instead, we heard from CERA that “they don’t have time to talk to everyone in the city about the River”. Hands are placed firmly on foreheads and the project goes out for tender.

This is a big project, and so all the best people in NZ submitted for the job – as did many world leading architecture and landscape architecture firms. Just before Christmas 2012 the winners were announced with much fanfare. To no one’s surprise Opus were picked as the consultants for the engineering, but to everyone’s surprise a medium sized and not very well-known British firm BDP were announced as the designers. You can look at their work here.

I’ve heard from 8 sources that they were chosen almost entirely because they put the lowest fee bid in, and one person said this wasn’t the case. Both stories are depressing. In the first some of the top designers in the world and New Zealand were denied a role in a project because someone else said they charge lower fees. When dealing with housing or commercial projects fees are important, as the margins are so tight that the amount the designers charge can be the survival of the project. Not so on big projects like this; the difference in fees between firms will be marginal, but the difference in design quality can be huge. Why not spend an extra million on a project to make sure that the other 99 million is going to be well spent?

This sort of decision making goes back to the point I made in the 2nd article in this series, that the people in charge of the CCDU and CERA don’t understand design and urbanism, and so end up penny pinching at exactly the wrong points. It’s odd because this is the logic that gives people like Marryatt and Sutton such big salaries, and yet for some reason it doesn’t apply to designers. If this wasn’t the lowest fee bid for the project, then god only knows why they’d picked them to lead it over some other project designers. Option A is misplaced values and Option B is incompetence. Take your pick.

As the year goes on a number of developments start to unfold. It is announced that an Art Trail will be built along the river, and SCAPE is given the job of working with the artists on this.

The CCDU announces that a small part of the river park will be build first, this uninspiring part of the river is now finished and is called watermark. CCDU’s blurb says:

“Stemming from over 100,000 community suggestions via the ‘Share an Idea’ campaign, ‘Watermark’ aims to deliver on aspirations for a ‘Green City’ and align with the broad design principles of Te Papa Ōtākaro:

  • promoting a healthy river
  • a fully accessible environment
  • an integrated cultural narrative
  • good economic potential.”

I’ve been in the education system for almost 25 years now and don’t have a clue what the last two points are supposed to mean – must be a project manager thing.
Around October 2013 rustles of discontent start to be heard. 9 months of preliminary design work has been submitted to CERA, and they aren’t happy. It turns out not doing public consultation, under cooking the brief, and giving the project to an overseas firm with little cultural knowledge of Christchurch wasn’t the best idea. At this point alarm bells seemed to have started ringing. The Council staff are brought back into the fold, new designers are engaged to work ‘with’ the British firm, and there is belated effort to consult a slightly broader stake-holder group. There was even a temporary attempt to get some public feedback via the CCDU website.
I was invited to one of these meeting, and I was astounded by the ratio of people that seemed to have been working on the project versus the quality of what was being presented. I was seated at table with a variety of stake-holders and a senior designer from BDP. When I tried to politely point out that the new Margaret Mahy park not only goes over the centennial pool, but also completely erases the Elsie Locke park next to this, and that this was a strange form of cultural erasure (weird because Elsie and Margaret were good friends) the senior designer said he’d only learnt of this 2 days ago. That’s over 9 months into the project. I can only speculate what other cultural assets of the city are being erased through bad management and poor briefing. Luckily the media got wind of this and CERA promptly jumped to attention – as they do when things become about publicity rather than participation.
Originally the entire Avon-Ōtākaro River Area between the 4 avenues, and the entire east frame, was part of this job. I remember thinking at the time this is a huge risk giving that massive job to one firm, especially one from overseas. Now it seems the project is being split up into smaller areas along the river with slightly different groups developing each area, which is much more sensible.

So what can we learn from this project? It confirms my suspicions from the first two parts of this series; that CERA and CCDU are not putting the right people in the right jobs and that stupid (and really expensive) decisions are being made as a result. The saving grace of this is that there is thankfully at least some quality control going on, so this project has been radically overhauled before it was too late. The sad thing is that it was so predictable and in the process the public has been denied a role in what could have been an incredibly meaningful and important part of the healing of the city. This was a chance for the people to collectively develop a new identity for Christchurch, rather than having it done on our behalf as it is presently.