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Christchurch demolition phase draws to an end

Published: 5:43AM Monday September 09, 2013 Source: Fairfax

  • Christchurch cathedral demolition stopped (Source: ONE News)
    Christchurch cathedral demolition stopped - Source: ONE News

Christchurch is 108 buildings away from the end of the demolition phase in the city.

Latest figures from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) show 1503 full or partial demolitions have been carried out since the September 2010 earthquake - 984 in the central city and 519 in the suburbs.

A further 108 partial or full demolition jobs are scheduled but a handful more could be added to the list when owners and insurance companies reach decisions on whether to repair or knock down.

Big jobs left on the books include the 13-storey Victoria Apartments in Armagh St and Cathedral Square's Government Life building, while the fate of the 17-storey Forsyth Barr building is still under negotiation.

Recovery experts agree the rebuild will accelerate over the next 12 months but say anchor projects will be the vital building block.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said private investors and developers were waiting for critical details about the projects to be released before they made long-term commitments to Christchurch. "What we absolutely require is a framework of certainty in which investment decisions can be made in the central city.

"We need to know when the anchor projects are happening, who is doing them and what they will cost because the truth of it is they can't all happen at once."

Mr Townsend said economic analysis reports on all anchor projects were needed to "help set the priority levels for each of them".

Meanwhile, Mr Townsend predicted the next three to six months would see an "acceleration towards [insurance] settlement" and an "avalanche of residential building work coming through".

"I think there will be big demand in the residential sector very soon and that's another vital part of the recovery."

Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) director Warwick Isaacs said there were "plenty of positive signs of progress ramping up".

Close to $235 million worth of building consents were issued in greater Christchurch in July, 43 per cent up from the same month last year, he said.

In the next year or so construction of the bus interchange, health precinct, central library, south frame and performing arts precinct would begin, Mr Isaacs said.

"There is already healthy private sector development in the central city and physical signs of the anchor projects are likely to spur on this commitment by the private sector."

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said it was easy to forget the "size of the disaster we're dealing with" but agreed the rebuild would ramp up in the coming months.

"Everyone thought our economy would collapse and it's holding up. Everyone thought there would be a massive population decline [in Christchurch] but that hasn't happened. Property values were expected to stand still but they've increased . . . On so many measures we've beaten the odds."

Carl Devereux, Christchurch manager of global engineering firm Aurecon, said the city had "cleaned itself up" and the initial recovery phase was well and truly over. Anticipation was building around the timing of the anchor projects and the company had taken on more staff in response.

"And as the Government brings forward its anchor projects - those are big projects - they're going to need a reasonable resource and then that will stimulate some of the commercial developments around those projects."

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