What is it with this government and convention centres? The international convention market is dying. The Nats are already doing a bargain with the cancer in the heart of Auckland called SkyCity to build one there that won’t be worth its cost to build. Now, they want to build another convention centre in Christchurch to compete for that dying market. It’s just one thing that’s wrong with Gerrymania.
There’s the mad $500m covered stadium. Christchurch has just built a $30m stadium (that was meant cost $20m). They can’t fill it – a quarter-final home game for the Crusaders had 5,000 of the 21,000 seats empty. So why build a 35,000 seat stadium for $500m (before inevitable cost blow-outs)? Stadiums lose money. Big expensive, unneeded stadiums lose lots of money. Just ask Dunedin.
You could build 2,000 homes or more on existing land for the cost this silly stadium.
Then, there’s the transport plan. Or, rather, the lack of one. The only gesture towards transport is replacing the destroyed bus interchange with a new, bigger one that – while hopefully having the advantage that buses going in won’t have to try to cross buses going out on a busy road – while actually be further from the new CBD. The opportunity to remake a truly modern city with smart transport was missed. Sure, it’s pretty and compact and merely being built of modern materials with modern design practices will make it better to live in but if you more or less ignore how people will move in or out of it, then you miss the crucial ingredient in making it really liveable.
The ‘frame’, the green space is nice but lets be honest about its purpose. The Christchurch CBD already had too much retail space before the earthquakes. With 10% of the population gone, the CBD doesn’t need to be rebuilt as big. That should mean big reductions in the value of the land (which could, in turn, lead to building of apartments and low rise retail, creating a vibrant environment). Instead, the taxpayer is going to buy out all the surplus land at present value – protecting the value for both the landlords who get bought out and those who remain. And the only one who pays is the taxpayer. Funny that nothing so generous was done for red-zoners. I guess that’s because they’re not Gerry’s corporate mates.
I also thought the glitzy launch full of boozing bigwigs was completely inappropriate. They were acting like they had solved Christchurch when there is no plan for the future of the suburbs and even the CBD plan has no work programme behind it. It stank of elitism. For the first time ever, I’m recommending watching Close Up for Mike Coleman’s comments to Sainsbury on the rebuild plan. He is utterly scathing. The strongest language I’ve ever heard from a man of the cloth: “All Gerry Brownlee does is deny there’s a housing crisis, an insurance crisis, there’s an EQC crisis, that there’s real estate problems. There seems to be no disaster at all, apart from the things that he wants to see. And that’s champagne in settings like this, at big functions like this.