The year of the rebuild

By Roger Sutton


For Canterbury, 2013 is the year of the rebuild.  

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) aims to build the confidence in the city’s redevelopment across the local, national and international markets. We want people to see tangible progress as the demolition phase comes to an end and the rebuild phase ramps up.

To do this we will be working closely with our recovery partners including Ngai Tahu, local government, government departments, non-government organisations and the wider community.

By the end of 2012, all residential property owners had a decision on whether their property was zoned green or red and if they would receive an offer from the government to purchase their house and land.

Residential red zones were identified when the land was so badly damaged by the earthquakes it is unlikely it can be rebuilt on for a prolonged period, or affected by cliff collapse or rock roll where they face an immediate or unacceptable risk to life, where other engineering solutions were not practicable. In total, 7,857 properties were deemed red.

The majority of flat land property owners had until 31 March to make a decision about whether or not they would accept the offer. In total 6,666 property owners in that group have accepted the offer, with only 124 expiring. With an overall acceptance rate of around 98 percent, the majority of people in the residential red zone have found a way to move on from the damage these earthquakes have done to their land and homes.

Outside the residential red zone, of the approximately 180,000 homes in greater Christchurch, about 28,000 are classed as green technical category 3. Technical categories describe how the land is expected to perform in future earthquakes and also describe the foundation systems most likely to be required for homes in those areas. Of the TC3 group 10,000 are likely to require a rebuild or significant foundation repairs.

The residential area however, is just one facet of the Canterbury recovery and goes hand-in-hand with the necessity to rebuild a strong, vibrant and economically successful CBD.

Immediately following the February 2011 earthquake, the cordon set up around the central business district extended to 92 hectares. Today, this had reduced to just 38 hectares.

In July 2012, CERAs Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) launched the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan that outlines a number of anchor projects for the CBD. It takes the very best urban design abilities and uses them to highlight the very best parts of our city’s foundations.

This green and open CBD will be a pedestrian friendly city. It will have a keen focus on the Avon River with transport corridors for cyclists and pedestrians to utilise and to link the various sections of the CBD together easily. Its arts, sports and retail facilities will be rebuilt and improved to make the most of the blank canvas the devastation of the earthquakes gave us.

This year will see us have all land needed to start work on the Avon River precinct, the bus exchange and the metro sports facility. We are also making excellent progress in securing the land area for the north and east frames. This is going to be the home for one of the most exciting developments of all – the Amazing Place playground.

In addition to progress being made on these key government-led projects, the Canterbury private sector is also bouncing back.

In total, the building work underway in Canterbury in September 2012 was worth $603 million, up 46 percent on the value of work underway in September 2010. Over $3.9 billion worth of building consents were issued in Canterbury between September 2010 and December 2012.

In the final quarter of 2012, 170,000 cubic metres of ready-mixed concrete was produced in Canterbury, the equivalent of 68 Olympic sized swimming pools, an 82 percent increase on the three months to December 2010.

Just focusing on that construction sector we’ve seen a 32 percent increase in the number of employees in Canterbury between February 2010 and February 2012, from 15,520 to 20,420.

Of course it’s not just the building sector where people are finding jobs – the most recent Household Labour Force Survey revealed 16,000 new jobs in Christchurch during the past year.

Christchurch city is most definitely rising. This is a very exciting time to be involved in the redevelopment and resurgence of this strong and resilient community.

Roger Sutton is the chief executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA).

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