Archives for posts with tag: central city

Every Wednesday, The Press runs an opinion column from their “At Home” editor, David Killick. These are very popular, w weekly grab-bag of assorted ideas about the rebuild of the city. I don’t usually read them, but this week’s one was about inner city living. As someone who lives in the inner city, I thought I should read it. I didn’t get too far before something stuck out like a sore thumb:

The Cera-CCDU Blueprint, drawn up in just 100 days in 2011, was initially hailed as bold and visionary.

Um. The CCDU Blueprint was launched in 2012. Now, this might seem like splitting hairs, but I am a little shocked that someone who’s primary role is to comment about the rebuild doesn’t know when the single most important document informing the rebuild came out. It could just be a simple mistake. I’m also a little bewildered that none of the subs picked it up. (For those who were wondering, the Blueprint was released to the public on July 30th, 2012.)

As to the rest of the content – well, I live in the CBD already, and made a very conscious choice to do so. There are a couple of things that concern me about this piece, but I’ll limit myself to these two:

One concern remains – while cafes, restaurants, and bars do add life, Christchurch does not need a return of out-of-control drunken youths creating mayhem in the inner city. Tougher laws and policing, plus a strong dose of self- control, are called for.

David, I’m not sure if you have been into the inner city on a Friday or Saturday night lately, but “out of control drunken youths” as you call them are already back. Both the St Asaph St and Victoria St bar areas are overflowing with drunk people late at night – though many of them aren’t exactly “youths” any more. It’s not pretty, and it’s not sustainable, but hand-wringing and moralising about it is not the most effective way to resolve it.

Lively music and entertainment are to be welcomed, though, and if you don’t like them, don’t live there.

I like live music. I’ve been in bands, and DJ’d around the place for a decade now. I work in a live music venue. So I like live music AND I live here – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working to reduce the impact of late night noise pollution. If we are going to rebuild mixed-used residential with cafes and bars, then we could do smarter things to reduce their noise impact on their surrounds. If you’re going to custom build a venue, maybe it could be subterranean? Or if the apartments are properly sound insulated, then sound might not be such a problem.

Having lived above bars and music venues for much of the last decade, I can say that it isn’t the music that drives you nuts, it is the emptying of the bottle bins that happens once the bar is closed. There are ways to mitigate this. I think this is a very reductionist argument – if we want 20,000, or even 50,000 people living within the four aves, then we’re going to need to be more welcoming than just writing off whole swathes of the population who don’t like live music or the idea of “drunken out of control youths”. It’s going to need to cater for all sorts, and be designed in a way that brings them together, rather than crudely classifying them.


Last week, there was a bit of a brouhaha about a tradie who sent an offensive email to a cyclist who he almost hit. The whole thing went viral, and pretty quickly led to the company getting the employee to apologise for the remark. The incident happened on the corner of St Asaph and Manchester St, which is about 100 metres from where I live. This brought the whole thing pretty close to home for me. Traffic is a nightmare in town at the moment, including works on St Asaph. I tend to avoid riding my bike down there, as what was a two lane road with space for carparks on both the left and right hand side of the road, is now reduced to one lane, with the kerb on the left and cyclone fencing on the right, meaning there is no where for a cyclist to try and get away.

Unfortunately, this happened in the week in which the City Council announced that the proposed cycleway network may be delayed for three years, which could push its completion out to 8 years away. There are reasons for this, but I think it is disappointing, as I fear that repeated delays will result in it being shelved permanently. The big issue is that the insurance companies who are paying for the repair of the horizontal infrastructure – roads and the things under them – refuse to pay for “betterment”. Therefore the roads have to be put back in the way they were pre-quake. So once all the roadworks have been completed – remember that the people of Christchurch have already suffered through 3 years of this, with at least the same amount of time to go – only then will the council be able to start with the extensive works which some of the cycleways will require. After 6 years of intense disprution, can you imagine how well any proposal to dig up the roads again might fare? Especially in the minds of motorists, who will feel that they are going to suffer for the benefit of just a few cyclists.

The council and the government need to find a way to get the cycleways introduced into the current schedule of roadworks, otherwise we will end up with a situation where they just become too hard and too unpopular. Because we can’t keep having horrible incidents like this one, where a cyclist was killed by a truck on her way to work.

Yesterday, the Herald remembered about Christchurch, and upon waking from its slumber, fired off about a dozen stories about the rebuild. Many of them were from bank economists, and all of them were unrelentingly bullish about the state of the rebuild. In the midst of the cheerleading was an extraordinary piece by Fran O’Sullivan, profiling Don Miskell, the chief architect of the blueprint. It is remarkably revealing of Miskell, and in turn, the government’s, intentions towards the rebuild. He talks about the eastern frame, and how the plan has changed to allow for more residential development.

Already the Blueprint is being tweaked to create some upmarket residential housing within the East Frame, which was originally targeted to allow the central business district to expand as the city grows.

“Inner-city residential is one of the big changes we are looking to make happen,” says Miskell. “Empty nesters like myself would be able to take advantage of the opportunity to walk to work, enjoy hospitality and cultural events.”

Great. So the frame – which was initially designed to mop up excess land so that developers who had large inner city property portfolios didn’t lose too much money – is now revealed to be an upmarket retirement village for well-paid government puppets, sucking on the taxpayer teat. Let’s not forget that this is the man CERA put in charge of designing the blueprint, and he seems to want to create a city for wealthy retirees. I’ll admit that I don’t have his design expertise, but it would be good if someone could point me to the chapter in the manual where it says that the key to making an inner city vibrant and liveable is to bring in old, white, scared people.

How do I know that they are scared? Well, Miskell tells us himself:

A lot of it seems like common sense, but it is about avoiding dead ends, such as Latimer Square which is 80m wide and not well lit. There used to be a bit of antisocial behaviour occurring in the middle – drug dealing and so on. With the East Frame you can read the looks on people’s faces as to whether they are supposed to be there or not. It will be easy to get on the phone and report as there will be no nooks and crannies.

Miskell can tell just by looking at someone whether they belong in his future city or not. Let that sink in for a bit. The head designer of New Zealand’s largest ever infrastructure project is going to judge people just by looking at them. If he doesn’t like the look of you, peering out from the balcony of his $1.5 million dollar apartment, he’ll call the authorities and dob you in. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing anything. He can tell. Just by looking at you.

It’s worth reminding people at this point how much the “Frame” is going to cost. The government is using $481 million dollars – taxpayer dollars – to buy up the land that makes the frame. Miskell says that they want 1500 people living in this area. Assuming that these “empty nesters” like himself live two to a dwelling, that is 750 new apartments. That would mean that the land alone for each of these apartments would be costing the taxpayer $641,300. The best part of 2/3rd of a million dollars to put paranoid boomers into the central city, where they can strangle all the life out of the central city via an anonymous 0800 tip-line. Is this what anyone signed up for?

In what will likely be quite a controversial move for car-dependent Christchurch, the council are proposing that new residential development be required to provide fewer carparks:

In an attempt to make it easier for landowners to redevelop post-earthquake the council is tossing up whether it should reduce the parking requirements in the District Plan for residential units.

Currently, every residential unit is supposed to provide two car parks but Christchurch City Council staff think by reducing that requirement they could cut development costs.

They have also suggested reducing the number of car parks that new commercial and retail developments need to provide as a way of encouraging people to walk or cycle.

I live in a central city apartment with no car parking. This is fine, as neither me nor my partner owns a car. We both walk to work, the shops, art galleries, cafes and the like. I use one of my bikes if I have to get somewhere further afield. But I realize that some people will need to have a car. Fortunately, there are plenty of places in the CBD at the moment where one can rent a carpark. If we want to make the central city a more attractive place to live – and the results of Share an Idea would suggest we do – then reducing the amount of space dedicated to carparks is a great place to start.

An opinion piece in this morning’s Press advocates for retention of the Christ Church Cathedral. It comes from British writer and heritage adviser Richard Terry, and again highlights the folly of the position taken by the Bishop and others;

Christ Church Cathedral speaks directly to us with an irreplaceable authority. It gives a voice to the remarkable historical and cultural movements that gave birth to its city and to Canterbury province. To lose this unique and singular voice would be a great loss, felt ever more acutely in the long term, which would prove detrimental to Christchurch. It should be spared from total demolition.

My personal preference would be to see the Cathedral rebuilt on the current site, using the wooden frame that was initially proposed by George Gilbert Scott, then revived by Sir Miles Warren. This ticks all the boxes – sympathetic to the heritage of the building, a very reasonable cost, and seismic stability. The Cathedral is the symbol of Christchurch, and if we don’t rebuild it, I think that says something very symbolic – and very sad – about the recovery as a whole.

And now it’s time for our weekly update from property developers saying that things aren’t exactly rosy:

A lack of tenants to fill pricey new office buildings is a “total disaster” for the central city, a property developer says. Property developers warn buildings with “A-grade” rentals in the central business district cannot compete for tenants against cheaper, already-completed developments elsewhere. The warning comes as some developers and investors take their plans and money elsewhere in the face of high construction costs, reluctant tenants and uncertainty over car parking.

This is just the latest grumbling in the growing discontent about the (lack of) commercial development in the CBD.

Long-time Triangle Centre landlord Michael Ogilvie-Lee recently dropped his concept for a $100 million office and shopping centre between Colombo, High and Cashel streets. Others to have abandoned major plans include the McFarlane Group, which sold land between Gloucester and Armagh streets; the Goodman Group, which had approval for a $350m precinct at the Bridge of Remembrance, but did not buy the land; and Anthony Leighs, who had plans for five City Mall buildings but instead sold his land to the Government.

But it’s ok! Gerry says … relax. Apparently, a number of high-profile developers voting with their wallets and pulling hundreds of millions of dollars out of projects isn’t anything to worry about.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told The Press he had no concerns about the future of the CBD … “You have to be careful that the experience of one or two people doesn’t become the general view of all investors.”

If a developer who is building a top-level site, which is adjacent to the Council – and a stone’s throw from CERA, the Arts Centre and the Art Gallery – can’t find tenants, then Gerry should be worried. Instead, he’s got his head in the sand, willfully ignoring all the evidence that is dream of a castle is collapsing around him.

Johnny Moore’s Press column this morning was particularly forthright. It centres on the Ministry nightclub, but could be describing any number of compulsory acquisitions in the central city.

If you want tales of injustice you don’t need to look far in this city. It bloody stinks that someone can have their rights trampled over like that. I think there is something fundamentally wrong with that equation. By building a successful business over many years and making a go of it, Bruce has a right – an ethical right – to be allowed to continue.

They should have let him stay. They could have built their bus station around his building and there would have been nobody to disturb except for a few bus drivers sneaking a ciggie on a break. But they came and took his land off him so that they could create some artificial perfect city.

The CCDU announced that they need the land that the Ministry sits on so they can build a bus depot. I don’t agree with their planning choices, but that’s what they want. Then, 18 months on, they say that they want hospitality venues on the site. They are effectively buying up the site, sterilising it, and building their little sanitised version of a city. As Johnny says, it’s bullshit.

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.

Martin van Beynen has a very good column about the pointlessness of the central city tram:

There is very little that is normal about immaculately restored vehicles from early last century plying a route through a broken-down city and offering a service to mostly non-existent people. The sort of normality the tram represents is gone, brutally. I’m not even considering the cost of the resumption, which will be close to $2m.

While he also gets into bagging the Cardboard Cathedral, I haven’t been in yet, so don’t really have an opinion on that. But I do agree with him on the Cathedral, and now that we’re done with the Town Hall, we might be able to focus on that. I think a good compromise between the Greater Christchurch Building Trust and the Anglican Church might be the wooden restoration proposed by Sir Miles Warren, which incorporated the original timber framing proposal.

As the title says, just a few quick thoughts on this. I’ve scribbled some stuff down on paper, and ruminated over the whole thing while I couldn’t sleep last night, but don’t have the time to do a full blog on this right now. However …

I asked the Press reporter Rachel Young, who was first with the story yesterday, about the meaning of “major fixture”. This is the most serious of the limitations which the environment court placed on the project. Canterbury Cricket asked for 20 major fixture days, but we’re only given 13. Rachel responded to my tweet to say that a “major fixture” is any match with more than 2,000 spectators. That means that they are only allowed to have more than 2,000 people on 13 days per year, and only more than 12,000 for two days in every 3 years.

I’m going to make some assumptions here, and they could be wrong, but just go with it for a bit. Let’s assume New Zealand gets two international tours. For augments sake, Sri Lanka and Australia. The first is 3 test / 5 ODI / 2 T20, and the second is 3 test / 3 ODI / 3 T20. Christchurch gets Sri Lanka for a test and an ODI, and Australia for an ODI and a T20 later in the summer. That’s 8 days of the 13 “major fixture” days taken up right there.

That leaves 5 “major fixture” days for the Canterbury Wizards* domestic season, which if it stays in the same format as last year, consists of 10 first-class (4 day), 10 one-dayers, 10 T20 (assuming that Canterbury remain awful at cricket and don’t make any finals). Half of those games are at home, which means probably around 10 home one-dayer and T20 games. 5 of them could be at Hagley, where as the other 5 could be at Rangiora or Lincoln (which Canterbury Cricket argued we’re not good enough – one of the reasons why they “need” Hagley Oval).

In the last paragraph, I didn’t include the four-day games, as I think it is safe to assume that they are unlikely to attract more than 2,000 people. However, they would end up in a somewhat farcical situation where they would have to limit entry to the ground for these games, lest they go over the 2,000 person limit. It’s not inconceivable that they might get more than a few thousand people on a sunny Saturday afternoon who’d want to wander down to the park and see what’s going on – would they turn them away, or would they let them in and risk being found in breech of their resource consent? Bringing cricket back into the city was meant to turn around falling crowds, so getting 2,000 people, when we have ~500,000 people within an hour of town (0.4%) isn’t out of the question. 

Part of the reason for this development was to grow or rebuild cricket in Canterbury. Seems somewhat ironic that if they succeeded in doing that with Hagley Oval, they would be unable to enjoy that success.


* I don’t mean to ignore the Canterbury Magicians, but it seems that everyone else has, but with only precious few days up for use, it’s unlikely that women’s cricket would get a look in