As the year draws to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the agencies and organisations that have contributed to greater Christchurch’s regeneration during 2019.
If you are a regular reader, you will know of my ongoing admiration and acknowledgement of the private sector’s significant role in Christchurch’s regeneration. You will also know of my advocacy for a cohesive public sector working in partnership with investors, developers, business owners and others.
The Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act 2016 specifies five strategic partners – Christchurch City Council, Environment Canterbury, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Selwyn District Council and Waimakariri District Council. We also work closely with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), ChristchurchNZ and Development Christchurch Ltd (DCL).
Our relationships with these two local public sector agencies have been enhanced further this year by co-locating to enhance our collective performance and create a platform for Christchurch’s future development, beyond the limited lifespan of Regenerate Christchurch and the legislation we operate under.
This ensures the knowledge we have developed is preserved for future use and supports transferring regeneration leadership responsibilities to permanent, locally based agencies.
This transition will build on the progress made so far and ensure Christchurch is well-placed to make the most of future regeneration opportunities.
As we approach the official start of summer, on behalf of the Regenerate Christchurch team, have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year, and all the very best for 2020.
The opening of the Riverside Market on the corner of Lichfield Street and Oxford Terrace is yet another milestone in the regeneration of our city.
The enclosed, seven-days-a-week market is another reason for residents to spend time in the central city, and also provides exposure for local producers to the thousands of tourists who will come here with the Riverside Market in their itineraries.
The commitment of those behind this development is to be applauded, as is the commitment of other private developers and investors in our city. Their confidence in Ōtautahi Christchurch is something for us all to be heartened and inspired by, particularly in an environment where regeneration challenges remain.
Regenerate Christchurch is committed to working in partnership with other public sector agencies and the private sector to ensure the considerable progress that has been made to date is maximised and new opportunities investigated.
Most recently we have been working with the Canterbury Cricket Trust to develop a proposal to use Section 71 of the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act to amend the Christchurch District Plan to permit changes to the use and operation of Hagley Oval.
We must also remember to celebrate the visible progress that has been made and continues to be made, and I encourage you to make the most of what is on offer at the Riverside Market and in the broader central city area.
The recent announcement of the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration’s decision to approve the Regeneration Plan for the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor is a significant milestone for Christchurch.
It is an exciting time for the city as the plan will guide long-term investment and commitment from multiple parties over the coming decades. Its vision of the river connecting us together – with each other, with nature and with new possibilities –reflects the community’s priorities for the area.
The opportunity to create an exemplar of climate change response that will benefit people and countries around the world will further enhance Christchurch’s national and international point of difference; and an 11-kilometre Green Spine will connect the central city to New Brighton with a mix of recreational, commercial and community uses.
Since delivering the Regeneration Plan for the Minister’s decision-making, Regenerate Christchurch has also provided advice to the Crown and Council on leadership and governance of the area.
We have recommended an independent entity to provide strong governance and independence, and we welcome the inclusion of a governance entity in the Christchurch City Council’s Global Settlement Agreement with the Crown.
The Regeneration Plan supports environmental leadership whilst also providing flexibility to accommodate changing community views and technological advancements that might emerge over the course of the coming decades.
It identifies land uses that are best for achieving the vision while anticipating and accommodating the potential for change over time. This, I believe, will prove to be one of its greatest strengths.
Recently, the Christchurch City Council released details of its draft global settlement agreement with the Crown.
Since then, there has been much interest in what the city might get out of the agreement, or be left with, as the Crown and Council advance their objective of increased local leadership and normalised arrangements.
As foreshadowed in June, the agreement also includes Regenerate Christchurch developing and implementing a plan to transition our responsibilities to locally based agencies that will be responsible for delivering long-term regeneration beyond our limited lifespan.
With the Crown and Council’s view that regeneration has become embedded in the everyday work of their agencies, the transition will provide an opportunity for us to strengthen that further to ensure the city is set up to achieve long-term regeneration.
This will happen in parallel with our ongoing work programme which will continue to focus on unlocking impediments to regeneration, which differs from some of the larger-scale, ground-up work we have completed since our establishment in mid-2016.
It is likely this will include utilisation of the powers within the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act 2016, under which we operate. Already, we are assessing a proposal by the Canterbury Cricket Trust to use the Act to make changes to the District Plan to allow more domestic and international cricket matches to be held at Hagley Oval.
This type of work represents the opportunity, while the Act is still in place, to ensure the benefits of the significant private and public investment in our regenerating city are fully maximised.
In a place like Christchurch where, in recent years, there has been an intense focus on planning for the future, stopping to just focus on the ‘here and now’ can be tempting.
While life should never be all work and no play, we need to choose our moments and, when it comes to the local economy, we must not allow any false sense of security to mask the challenges still ahead. With growth slowing and unemployment above the national average, the city is emerging from the recovery to find itself at economic crossroads with the amber lights flashing.
The need for more people living in the central city identified in Regenerate Christchurch’s analysis of central city momentum is one challenge. Another is the need for about 70,000 extra workers to improve productivity and offset the effect of an ageing population over the next 15 years.
ChristchurchNZ is leading the development of the Christchurch 2050 strategy to help the city address these and other challenges. All agencies will need to continue to work together in partnership with the private sector to develop strong connections between urban planning, regeneration and economic development.
Regenerate Christchurch will continue to play its part, led by recently appointed Board Chair, Dr Thérèse Arseneau, who succeeded Sue Sheldon when her fixed term ended in June.
I am looking forward to working with Thérèse and the wider board to not only build on the progress made under Sue’s leadership, but ensure the Christchurch 2050 strategy is supported by Regenerate Christchurch’s unique role in the regeneration ecosystem.
With temperatures plummeting, no one can deny that it is now winter – the time of year that can be the most challenging for businesses in Christchurch’s regenerating central city.
For those of us who work in offices in the area, it can be tempting to stay indoors during the cold months. But this year, a lunchtime Winter Circus is being held at two locations in Cashel Mall to entice us away from our desks during weekdays and attract people into the central city on Sundays.
The performances are being held at Hack Circle, on the corner of Cashel Street and High Street, and near the Bridge of Remembrance, on the corner of Cashel Street and Oxford Terrace on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during June and July. The weekday performances feature professional buskers and the weekend shows feature students from the Circotica circus company and school, and other performers.
I commend the Christchurch City Council, Ōtakaro Ltd and ChristchurchNZ for their support for the Winter Circus, which will add to the vitality of the central city and, hopefully, see more people supporting the businesses that have invested in and committed to the central city.
We also need to ensure we do not take our eye off the long view and continue to look for new opportunities to encourage further activity in the central city. This will require a mix of fun public-facing initiatives like the Winter Circus, and other less glamourous initiatives such as ensuring local planning rules are not impeding regeneration by requiring unnecessary hoop jumping and tightrope walking.
Since submitting the draft Regeneration Plan for the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor for consideration by the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Regenerate Christchurch has provided advice to the Crown and Christchurch City Council on leadership and governance of the area.
We have recommended that an independent charitable trust be established to provide strong governance and independence from central and local government, while allowing local community input and influence, to support confidence and certainty in the future of the area.
The trust would be a single point of contact for private sectors and community interests. But to be successful, it would require a clear mandate established through empowering legislation and a skills-based board that would consider how best to engage and include local community leadership, iwi and local institutions.
We have also recommended that ownership of land in the regeneration area belonging to the Crown and Council be transferred to the independent charitable trust.There are examples where regeneration projects have benefitted from special, collaborative governance arrangements – particularly where this is backed by bespoke legislation. A local post-earthquake example is the Arts Centre of Christchurch Trust Act 2015.
Legislation also sets aside Hagley Park as a public reserve. Conversations between the Crown and Council about leadership and governance of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor are already underway. But a real sense of momentum is required to ensure current proposals and expressions of interest in the area do not become lost opportunities.
I was interested to read recently a submission by the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce on the Christchurch City Council’s 2019/2020 Draft Annual Plan, and to note the shared thinking between the Chamber and Regenerate Christchurch on what is needed to ensure Christchurch achieves long-term, sustainable regeneration.
A key element, as noted by the Chamber, is best-for-city decision-making across a public sector that is committed to genuine partnerships with the business sector, to not only support the private investment and leverage the public investment that has been made to date but also encourage further investment. In other words, to demonstrate that Christchurch is open for business.
Nationally, the urban development and planning sectors are talking about this type of collaboration being critical for success. But they are also talking about a need for streamlined tools to expedite planning processes and provide more certainty.
In Christchurch, we already have bespoke legislation available to us that mandates and drives greater collaboration and delivers a capability to streamline processes that other cities and centres can only talk about. It represents a genuine opportunity to address some of the urban planning and development challenges that can create roadblocks.
We do not have long, though, as the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act will expire in two years’ time. But the legislation, in isolation, will not be enough and a firm commitment to genuine collaboration is critical.
We will all have noticed that it’s dark later in the mornings and earlier in the evenings now that autumn is taking hold and the winter months are on the way.
While this can be a positive thing for winter sports enthusiasts and those who like to spend time at the numerous ski areas on Christchurch’s doorstep, it represents the beginning of what we know will be a challenging period for some businesses in the central city.
A lot has been said about the increased activity that has been visible over summer and I share that enthusiasm. I will always be a champion for Christchurch and the commitment our private and public sectors have made to its regeneration. But we, as a community, cannot sit back and think the job is done.
We are already seeing signs that some businesses in the central city have struggled – even during the busier summer season – with a small number of closures recently in the retail and hospitality sectors.
Pre-earthquake, these may have been seen as demonstrations of the risk associated with individual commercial ventures. But, in the current environment, they represent a broader challenge – for which there is no single remedy.
A component of our work this year is identifying opportunities for Christchurch to maximise the return on investment in anchor projects and other private sector developments. For example, what unintended consequences of current planning regulations could easily be addressed to leverage the investment over and above the immediate benefits of a new amenity?
Like the Arts Centre, the Christchurch Town Hall holds many special memories for people and its re-opening is a significant milestone in the city’s recovery.
Completion of the new Spark building, the Aotea Gifts building and Convention Centre are further milestones on the horizon. The activity at the Town Hall from now on will be a significant new element of the city’s regeneration. In just the next couple of months some of the performers taking to the stage include Shapeshifter and the CSO, Marlon Williams, organist Martin Setchell, The Broods, Charley Pride, Norah Jones and The Proclaimers.
Each of these varied performances, and the rest, will bring people into the central city – many of whom will start their evening at one of the inner-city bars and restaurants, or head there afterwards. But it is perhaps later in the year, when the Christchurch Schools’ Music festival returns to the Town Hall, that sentimental thoughts will be their strongest.
The festival, which is in its 80th year, was held at the Town Hall from the early 1970s until 2010. In early November, across three nights, more than 4,000 young singers from more than 100 schools will come together. Anyone who has had an involvement with the festival in some shape or form over the years will appreciate the significance of its return to Kilmore Street.
The Town Hall’s re-opening, like all milestones, is to be celebrated and, on behalf of the Regenerate Christchurch team, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone who has been involved.