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.
If you visited somewhere outside Christchurch during the holiday period and found several tower cranes and a number of mobile cranes operating in close proximity, it is likely that you considered it to be an area where there was a lot of investment and development happening.
It is also likely that people from outside Christchurch who visited our city and saw just that, had a similar impression – the impact of which cannot be underestimated.
Dynamic cities attract highly skilled people whose efforts have a ripple effect, creating new jobs and driving economic development. Christchurch is well-positioned to accommodate stronger growth and must compete harder to attract a greater share.
This year, Regenerate Christchurch is focussed on identifying and addressing impediments to regeneration in the short, medium and long term.
This will build on our central city momentum work, which has already led to the development and implementation of the central city revitalisation action plan by both the public and private sectors.
All cities have a constant need to regenerate in some shape or form.
The fact that Christchurch’s regeneration phase follows a period of recovery means an ongoing long-term commitment will be essential. Progress can sometimes be obscured from view by familiarity and it is critical that we, as a community, acknowledge and celebrate it. However, there is still plenty to be done.
Since 2011, plenty has been said about the opportunity Christchurch has to redefine itself. But, as in most cities, conversations about vision can sometimes be overtaken by more vocal demands for immediate action and visible progress. As we near the end of 2018, a year in which there have been significant visible signs of progress, the focus must continue to shift from recovery to the longer-term, ongoing and more complex process of regeneration.
While individual agencies deliver value through their individual work programmes, it is the outcomes from the collective regeneration initiatives of the wider public and private sectors that generate the most value. Two examples this year have been the completion and opening of Tūranga, the new central library, and the EntX cinema complex. In just a few months’ time, the Christchurch Town Hall will re-open and, this time next year, the opening of Te Pae (the new convention centre) will be months away.
But it is also important to remember that regeneration is not about new buildings and facilities. Attracting more people to Christchurch as visitors and new residents must be one of the city’s core objectives. Unlike Auckland and Wellington, Christchurch has the capacity to grow without the space and infrastructure constraints the northern cities are currently grappling with.
However, it will not be a case of ‘build it and they will come’. Christchurch must demonstrate how it is uniquely placed to support the country’s growth and its relevance to New Zealand’s future success. That will be a task for all of us in 2019.
A significant milestone in planning the future of the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor has been reached, with public notification of the Draft Regeneration Plan which provides guidance on future development of the area.
The draft plan, and details of where hard copies can be seen, are on our website. The deadline for written comments is 5pm on Wednesday 19 December. Another regeneration advancement in recent weeks has been the Christchurch City Council’s development of its Central City Action Plan, which builds on Regenerate Christchurch’s earlier assessment and advice on increasing regeneration momentum in the central city.
The Council’s action plan acknowledges the influence cohesive leadership will have on its success and reflects Regenerate Christchurch’s call to action, particularly for the public sector, to ensure regeneration decisions are made on a “best-for-city” basis.
This will not necessarily come easy – largely due to the fact that there is not necessarily a shared understanding of what “best-for-city” actually means. Nevertheless, it will not be optional and a genuine commitment will be required.
There are always competing demands. Never more so than in a city setting itself up for future success in what could still be described as a challenging environment. Addressing these demands in a manner that considers what will deliver the most benefit to as much of the community as possible, is my idea of a “best-for-city” approach. What’s yours?
On a wet Friday in mid-October, a significant milestone in the regeneration of Cathedral Square was reached. The doors to Tūranga – the new central library – were opened to the public.
At nearly 10,000 square metres, it is the largest public library in the South Island. But its significance for the local community amounts to more than just floorspace. The city has not had a central library since 2011. In that time, technologies have continued to advance and the modern library environment is very different from what it was in the past, where people of all ages were required to be seen and not heard.
One thing that has not changed, however, is the role of libraries – particularly central libraries – in a community. At a library, we all have the same level of access to information. At a library, everyone is equal. The value of that equity cannot be underestimated. Nor can the impact Tūranga will have on the vibrancy of Christchurch’s central city, particularly Cathedral Square.
This milestone in the city’s regeneration includes the significant philanthropic support for Tūranga. Through the recently-established Christchurch Foundation, $2.5 million has been gifted by TSB, Spark and Southbase to support the library’s operational overheads.
The momentum being created by the combination of philanthropic support, private sector investment and public sector commitment will ensure the Square becomes an example-of-progress as much as a work-in-progress. It also demonstrates how all sectors working together on a best-for-city approach could work outside Cathedral Square.
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.