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The Christchurch Rebuild – Gaining Momentum

The Christchurch Rebuild – Gaining Momentum

Speech to Canterbury Employer’s
Chamber of Commerce


It’s great to be here in Christchurch today.

Thank you to everybody attending today, and thanks to the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event.

One of the National-led Government’s four main priorities this term is to support the rebuilding of this, our second-biggest city, and to stand beside the people of Canterbury.

From the first earthquake in September 2010, the Government has totally backed Christchurch and the wider region to respond, to recover and to rebuild.

A lot of that backing is financial. The Government’s total contribution to the rebuild is now expected to be around $15 billion, of which $7.3 billion is from EQC net of reinsurance proceeds.

At the moment, we are paying an estimated $9 million every working day in rebuild invoices.

And this rebuilding programme is driving the regional economy.

The ANZ bank releases a regular Regional Trends report, and February’s edition measured Canterbury economic growth at 5.6 per cent last calendar year.

In almost every measure, the region is moving ahead – retail sales, employment, house and section sales, dwelling approvals and so on.

The activity driving the economy can be seen all over the city.

Driving the huge task of rebuilding is the Minister of Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, his Associate Amy Adams, other Ministers, and the people working in various Crown agencies – particularly CERA and EQC.

We are also working collaboratively with the region’s other agencies and institutions, including the local authorities, and I would especially here like to acknowledge the work being done by the Mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel.

I would also like to acknowledge, as I did in my speech here last September, the leadership role played by the business community in the aftermath of the earthquakes.

The business community showed great resilience and flexibility during what was a difficult period in continuing to operate and employ people.

There’s no such thing as plain sailing, of course, when dealing with a disaster of the size and scale of the Canterbury earthquakes.

When the story of Christchurch and the earthquakes is told, there will be many voices in it.

Some will tell of the grief they suffered with the loss of loved ones, or the destruction of their house or land or business.

Some will have picked up their lives, rebuilt and moved forward.

Some will talk of on-going frustration with the process of rebuilding and delays in getting things done.

I want to say to you that all the voices in this city are legitimate.

That’s a reflection of the scale of this event, which has been New Zealand’s most costly natural disaster, and the number of people involved, who have all had their own, unique experience of this disaster.

I understand where people are coming from.

Some issues are taking time to resolve.

Complexities have arisen that no-one saw coming – I’m going to talk about just one example today, around multi-unit dwellings.

And the rebuild is such a big job. It’s worth remembering that Christchurch and the surrounding area was – at the time of the earthquakes – home to one in ten New Zealanders.

We are working through these challenges, as are the Councils and private sector.

But we are also mindful of ensuring that the rebuild takes place in a timely manner and delivers people the kind of city they are looking for.

Rebuild progress

Today I want to update you on the rebuild progress across a number of areas, and announce an initiative to help shape the future use of part of the city.

I am a regular visitor to Christchurch, and every time I am here, I’m struck by the changes I see as progress is made.

It is clear that the rebuild in the central city is gaining momentum.

Demolitions are nearing completion - and buildings are going up.

After this event I will visit the central city to open a new commercial development in the retail precinct, on the corner of Manchester, High and Lichfield Streets.

The three-storey Strange’s Building is worth $13 million and its completion further underscores the commercial property sector’s confidence in Christchurch.

There are now more than 200 private-sector buildings – both commercial and residential - either under way or consented within the four avenues.

I invite people to take a look at the interactive map of the central city on the Christchurch Central Development Unit website. This is a great way to see how the central city is being populated by both anchor projects and private sector projects.

Today I will also visit the Isaac Theatre Royal to see progress on the $40 million restoration of this building, which is expected to open at the end of October.

The Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust put $3 million into the project and Lotteries has given $8.1 million. It will be a welcome addition to the city’s community facilities.

Moving on to the anchor projects, a number are due to start construction this year.

In January I turned the first sod on the $300 million Justice and Emergency Services precinct.

Other anchor project work is progressing, including on Hagley Oval, the Avon River Precinct, and the development of the North and East Frames for housing and recreational use.

And we’re on track to move 1700 staff of about 20 Government departments and agencies back into the central city in 2016.

Residential red zone

I want to move now to the future use of the residential red zone.

This is an area around four times the size of Hagley Park, so it is a very significant part of the city.

In total, more than 7300 flat land properties in Christchurch and Kaiapoi were zoned red due to the degree of land damage caused by the earthquakes.

Over half of the homes on these properties have now been removed, and the vast majority of former homeowners have accepted the Crown’s offer.

While the land is severely damaged, that doesn’t mean we can’t devise new ways to use it.

We want to hear from the people of Christchurch and Kaiapoi what they want to see happen to this land – whether that is parks, playing fields, cycleways or any other innovative ideas.

So today I can announce that a community participation process will be designed so the public has a say on the future use of the land.

Before the future use can be decided, ownership issues and infrastructure issues need to be sorted out.

This includes things like road layout, and water, waste water, and stormwater networks. This will be decided by CERA and council engineers in the coming months.

Gerry Brownlee will be working with the Mayors of Christchurch and Waimakariri, Ngāi Tahu, and other relevant agencies and organisations, to design the community participation process.

I would anticipate more details could be announced towards the middle of the year.

Residential insurance

I’d like to talk now about insurance, the progress being made, and some of the challenges.

Following the earthquakes there were just over 450,000 claims on more than 170,000 dwellings in Christchurch.

Behind the scenes, a lot of effort is being made to speed up settlements, find innovative solutions, and get better co-ordination.

Insurance settlements are progressing, and the Government has established the Residential Advisory Service to assist people with claims.

The Government is also looking at ways to resolve claims more quickly, and has a great deal of work under way in this area.

Just over 53,000 home repairs have been completed under the EQC-managed Canterbury Home ome RepairRepair Programme with Fletcher EQR. That means two-thirds of the damaged homes EQC is responsible for have been repaired.

The aim is to finish these “under-cap” repairs - meaning those falling below the $100,000 per-event cap - by the end of the year.

I know that much is also going on to progress over-cap claims quickly.

Some people have the view that the repair of residential properties is not going quickly enough. I completely understand their frustration.

But the fact is that there are some very complex issues government and local agencies, and insurers, are dealing with.

To give you a flavour of the complex issues being confronted, let’s consider just one that EQC, insurance companies and affected residents have been grappling with – multi-unit dwellings.

There are 6500 multi-unit buildings, containing around 18,000 units, in the city.

Each of these units has a separate owner who has their own insurance, or in some cases, no insurance at all.

The first problem EQC found was that no database of such buildings existed, so one had to be collated and shared with insurers.

To fix the buildings, the owners of the individual units have to agree on various aspects of the repairs, and if there are multiple insurance companies involved they all have to agree on the lead company to co-ordinate repairs.

But what do EQC and the insurers do if unit owners don’t agree with aspects of their proposed repairs?

And what do they do if one or more unit owners have no insurance?

All these issues have to be resolved. Little wonder then that EQC has 80 staff working in this area alone.

Housing market & infrastructure

I want to move now to the housing market.

You will all know that the earthquakes had a major impact on the region’s housing.

The best estimate is that some 91 per cent of the city’s dwellings were damaged in the earthquakes, with 10 per cent confirmed as having damage over the $100,000 threshold.

In addition more than 7000 dwellings were lost in the residential red zone.

So, taking into account population movements, including migration as workers come in for the rebuild, it is estimated there is now a housing supply shortfall of 12,000 dwellings.

While new areas are being developed, particularly on the outskirts of the city, there is a need for more to be done. The supply of affordable and social housing also needs to be further addressed.

And there is also demand for more temporary housing for those whose dwellings are getting major repairs done.

Housing New Zealand has a number of projects underway, or planned, to repair existing housing stock and build new accommodation.

It expects to build 700 new houses and complete repairs on 5000 existing state houses by the end of next year. Last week Nick Smith marked the completion of the first thousand of these repairs.

But there is more to do and that’s why I was pleased to see yesterday’s announcement by Nick Smith, Lianne Dalziel, and Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck of a Christchurch Housing Accord.

It’s good to see this collaboration between the Government and the Council as we seek to resolve housing-related issues in the city.

The aims of the accord include boosting temporary and affordable housing supply, improving supply and quality of social housing through a new Council entity with other providers, and removing regulatory barriers to residential development.

The accord also aims to identify surplus government and Council land, including sites at Awatea, Colombo Street and Welles Street, so up to 450 new dwellings can be built.

And it provides for a new $75 million Crown housing development fund.

The intention is to have the accord ratified by the Council following a public consultation process it will run over the next month.

I am sure it will get widespread support.

Finally, I want to touch on the work being done on infrastructure and new educational facilities.

The Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT) is making good progress with its $3 billion rebuild programme, which is due to be completed by the end of 2016.

The SCIRT alliance is 44 per cent of the way through repairs to quake-damaged roads, freshwater, wastewater and storm water networks. That’s good progress.

The Government is also embarking on a big project to repair and build new educational facilities in Christchurch, in both primary and secondary schools, and the tertiary sector.

The $1.1 billion investment we are making over the next decade in compulsory school facilities is already underway, and this year alone 15 schools will enter the capital works programme.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I want to say that this Government is as committed now - as it was on the day of the first earthquake in September 2010 - to rebuilding.

After the February 2011 earthquake, there were dire predictions about a population exodus, and a collapse in property values, with all the resulting effects this would have caused.

However, that has not eventuated. The rebuild is driving the regional economy, and we are entering a phase where more results of our efforts are showing up on the ground every day.

It’s an enormous challenge but I’m determined that we will rebuild Christchurch as a great place to live, work, and raise a family in.

A place we can all be proud of.

Thank you.

Ends

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