The Christchurch City Council recently announced the development of an action plan to increase the pace of regeneration in Christchurch’s city centre.
The stimulus was an assessment by Regenerate Christchurch of progress in the central city and five key recommendations regarding leadership, growth, people, activation and implementation. The council’s action plan was also informed by ChristchurchNZ’s most recent economic update.
Significant progress has been made in rebuilding the central city – largely driven by private sector investment and development. What is clear in the report on our analysis, which is available on our website, is that further increasing central city regeneration will require a range of measures.
As construction-led activity begins to tail off, without more workers, residents, shoppers and visitors in the central city, Christchurch will be economically vulnerable. So, what can we, as a city, do?
The council’s action plan is being designed to align activity planned by public sector agencies with private sector-led activities. We also need to collectively, as a city, focus on making ‘best for city’ decisions and compete harder to attract people here.
The city has an opportunity to absorb growth in a way that no other major city in New Zealand can. We can also offer facilities, infrastructure and lifestyle that other cities cannot.
Having the space to support the growth of New Zealand’s businesses and the national economy, is a very powerful value proposition for Christchurch, one that we must collectively pursue and promote on behalf of our city.
When we released our vision for Cathedral Square two months ago, we highlighted the significant investment already being made in the area by the private and public sectors.
Since then, that investment has become even more evident.
Nexus Point’s Spark building on the south side of the Square is now out of the ground and the adjacent site of Redson Corporation’s new Aotea Gifts building is being prepared. On the north side of the Square, the Convention Centre is really starting to take shape and the new central library (Tūranga) is due to open in October. There is also site maintenance underway around the Anglican Cathedral.
Another development since we released our vision has been the announcement that Justin Murray is the independent Chair of the joint venture company that will oversee the reinstatement of the Cathedral. We said in June that, coupled with the Cathedral’s reinstatement, the regeneration of the square would need to be delivered in stages as funding and other developments allow; but returning it to its original purpose as a gathering place for local people and visitors must be front and centre.
ChristchurchNZ’s Explore Christchurch campaign to help stimulate economic activity in the central business district during the winter months, which is traditionally a quieter time for the city, is an excellent example of how we can make that happen – and not just in Cathedral Square. It also highlights that there is a role for all of us to play in the regeneration of our city.
There can be no doubt that the rest of New Zealand has learnt much from the experiences of communities in the South Island during the past seven years.
Until now, this has largely been related to seismic activity. But a significant climate change-related project in the Southshore and South New Brighton area is also likely to attract national interest.
The potential impact of climate change is a significant concern for coastal communities and it is important they have the opportunity to contribute to and influence their community’s response.
That is why we are utilising local expertise, knowledge and networks to develop a regeneration strategy for Southshore and South New Brighton that will identify and evaluate short, medium and long-term options for adapting to the effects of climate change, and consider the future use of red zone land in the area.
Our engagement with the Southshore and South New Brighton communities – in partnership with the Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury and Ngāi Tahu – is based on a plan developed by community members and agency staff. It prioritises face-to-face communication, which is why we have opened a community engagement hub at 82 Estuary Road where people can find out what’s going on and how they can be involved.
The climate change element of the regeneration strategy work is particularly complex and the conversation about possible options for adaptation will have implications beyond these areas. Coastal communities around the country will be watching with interest.
After five weeks, our Red Zone Futures exhibition has ended and we are now assessing the feedback provided by everyone who visited the Cashel Mall site, engaged with our travelling exhibition and commented via the online exhibition.
This information, as well as the findings of qualitative research carried out during the exhibition period, will inform our development of the draft Regeneration Plan for the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor.
As the exhibition entered its final weeks, another of our projects reached a significant milestone. The release of our vision for Cathedral Square followed 18 months of design work, technical reports and engagement with Cathedral Square property owners, business groups, heritage groups, Ngāi Tūāhuriri, the public and other key stakeholders.
We have appreciated the significant interest in our thinking for the square. But it’s not just about new things. To be regenerated, the square must return to its original purpose as a gathering place for local people and visitors. It needs to be a strong symbol of the vibrant future of the city centre.
The vision, which will be delivered in stages as funding and other developments allow, is aspirational in terms of design. But we believe the social regeneration of the square is achievable sooner rather than later and should be prioritised by tidying the place up and making it a place for the people again.
With that in mind, we will work with the city council on the development of a delivery strategy to support the private and public investment being made in the area.
For the past 14 months, identifying and assessing potential land uses in the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor has been a significant part of Regenerate Christchurch’s work to develop a regeneration plan for the area.
The transformational opportunity it represents, as well as the local and national benefits, cannot be underestimated and it has been critical that we ensure our decision-making is informed, consistent and accountable.
While an independent community needs survey, carried out by Nielsen, identified a strong community interest in the corridor’s water quality, research findings on their own do not provide a comprehensive mechanism for testing all ideas.
Therefore, at Regenerate Christchurch, our assessment of potential land use combinations has included considering how these options might support safe, strong, healthy and connected communities, provide increased recreation and leisure activities, restore native habitat, create sustainable economic activity, attract visitors, provide opportunities to learn from the natural environment and address the challenges of climate change.
We have also assessed the potential land use combinations for their feasibility and how they might provide low and no-cost activities for all ages and abilities, and improve connections between central and east Christchurch.
The Red Zone Futures exhibition, which will run for five weeks from 26 May at 99 Cashel Mall – with parallel mobile and online exhibitions – will demonstrate the transformational opportunities within the river corridor. Opportunities that will deliver significant benefits for us here in Christchurch, as well as people around New Zealand and around the world.
In mid-March, our organisation Regenerate Christchurch published some recently taken drone images of the Bexley Wetland and Southshore Spit on social media, and the photos generated a large amount of positive engagement with our online audiences.
The positive feedback we received – and continue to receive – reflects the importance that the areas of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor and the Avon Heathcote estuary holds to so many people. This space is a valuable resource for the community, not just from an ecological point of view, but also for its potential to be an incredible place for bold ideas and innovation to be showcased both for Cantabrians and greater New Zealand.
We’re excited about the potential the area has to become a world-leading living laboratory, where we learn, experiment and research, test, and create new ideas and ways of living, such as how we adapt to sea-level rise and climate change.
Meanwhile, on back-to-back weekends in March, the Children’s Day and Polyfest events were held in the former residential red zones on the corner of New Brighton Road and Locksley Avenue. Both days transformed the ‘Regeneration Area’ into a thriving, bustling carnival-like atmosphere as crowds of happy people enjoyed great music, performances, food, activities and games.
These events, and other transitional uses of the 602-hectare Regeneration Area from Barbadoes Street to the Bexley Wetland, provide a glimpse into how the area can provide immense benefit to Christchurch and New Zealand in the future. There are some very exciting times ahead.
Christchurch’s rebuild is an opportunity to transform our city and leave a legacy for future generations, something which requires public and private organisations to partner together. Exploring these new ways of working together has long-lasting, far-reaching benefits for all of us.
I’m really pleased that Regenerate Christchurch has now signed agreements with both the University of Canterbury and Lincoln University. These will enable new and innovative opportunities for research, teaching and learning, particularly around the environmental and social regeneration, and ecology of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor Regeneration Area – the former red zone.
We’ll share resources and knowledge, and collaborate with two of New Zealand’s most recognised universities to create new learning experiences for local and international students, communities and visitors.
We’d like to establish a world-leading living laboratory, where we learn, experiment and research; testing and creating new ideas and ways of living. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate how to adapt to the challenges and opportunities presented by natural hazards, climate change and a river’s floodplain.
Long-term, we want to see Christchurch recognised as a leader in developing technology for communities to adapt to climate change, and see an increase in science and technology-based jobs in our city.
These partnerships between Regenerate Christchurch and tertiary providers will provide opportunities for staff and students, such as trialling ideas and projects that could also lead to commercial opportunities, involvement in internships, community engagement, research, and investigating the long-term impact of regeneration.
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