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Friday, May 13, 2011

Aftershocks seal the fate of more buildings

Aftershocks seal the fate of more buildings

Tour of the CBD reveals more damage

Last updated 13:22 13/05/2011
More than 1000 quake-hit buildings are expected to be demolished in Christchurch, including up to 900 in the central city.

On a tour behind the inner city cordons this morning Cera interim deconstruction manager Warwick Isaacs said about 900 building were expected to be demolish in the central city, with another 300 commercial buildings in the suburbs.

Already about 100 buildings have come down but most have been in suburban shopping areas, such as Lyttelton, with relatively few demolitions in the central city ''red zone''.

Work in the inner-city was expected to ramp up in the next few weeks, starting with Cashel Mall, which authorities are aiming to have open before Cup and Show week in November.

This morning, media were taken on tour of the red zone which remains a ghost town of leaning buildings and rubble-strewn streets.

While some diggers were at work, such as the CTV building site, many stood idle and only a handful of sections appeared to be clear.

At other sites, such as the AMI building on Latimer Square, cranes were allowing businesses access to recover files.

Many buildings have also shed more masonry in aftershocks in the past two months, potentially tipping some over into eventual demolition.

Isaacs said continually subsiding ground meant some buildings, such as Trade Union Centre Canterbury on Armagh St, that were once thought salvageable were looking increasing precarious.

Question marks also remained over how to bring down some multi-storey buildings that were holding up the recovery, such as the Grand Chancellor and Copthorne Hotel on Durham St.

Distraught man denies cordon breach

Distraught man denies cordon breach

Last updated 13:42 13/05/2011
A Christchurch man says he now has "no past and no future'' after being arrested for breaching a cordon to rescue possessions from his house as it was being demolished.

Police say a digger was already at work when David Jerrold Theobald went into his property to get his gear.

It is understood a demolition worker injured his foot on a spike during the incident, and Theobald was taken out of the building in the bucket of a digger.

Today, the 43-year-old made a dramatic appearance before Judge Christopher Somerville to enter a not guilty plea to the charge of breaching the emergency cordon. It was his second Christchurch District Court appearance, held inside Christchurch Men's Prison.

Judge Somerville said he favoured a further remand in custody because Theobald remained so angry and had made threats.

Duty solicitor Phillip Allan suggested a further remand for a week for Theobald so that an application could be made for his release on bail.

The judge spoke to Theobald very carefully, calling him by his first name, but the response was an immediate outburst.

Theobald said he had "crossed the line to get my stuff when the building was being demolished".

"I'm very angry, and I'll be angry for the rest of my life. I have no past and no future now."

When the judge spoke about what an appropriate penalty would be for a cordon-breach charge, Theobald replied: "I have already had the appropriate penalty over the last fortnight."

He then walked in to a corner of the courtroom where he faced into the wall but called out that he wanted to plead not guilty and call evidence.

Prison officers told him to stop swearing.

A forensic psychiatric report has concluded Theobald was not unwell with any mental health disorder.

He was remanded in custody for another court appearance on May 20.

Call for memorial walkway in city

Call for memorial walkway in city

Last updated 05:00 14/05/2011
Christchurch needs a memorial walkway through the central city to give people emotional closure after the earthquake, counsellors say.

New Zealand Association of Counsellors chairwoman Marie Mayer said staff over recent months had spoken to hundreds of Christchurch people who were mourning the loss of loved ones and their city.

Officials were failing to deal with the emotional needs of people as well as the need for physical safety, she said.

"History can teach us that the true rebuilding of a city after a natural disaster arises from the spirit of its people and citizens," Mayer said.

"The present focus on recreating infrastructure and buildings in Christchurch ignores a very important human need."

People from all walks of life were experiencing deep emotional responses to the devastation their city had endured, Mayer said.

"One way to address this fundamental need for all citizens to grieve is to open up a safe walkway throughout the central city to enable citizens to quietly and respectfully reflect on their city's destruction," she said.

"This can enable people to express their emotions healthily and provide an opportunity for them to place flowers or small objects in significant areas."

Counsellors were urging officials to start the walk immediately, before all the rubble was cleared away. "To close off the city as it is now and to only open it up again as a hollowed-out shell is tantamount to holding a funeral without a body," she said.

Christchurch woman Melanie Mayell was in a Cathedral Square restaurant when the February quake struck and saw the spire of Christ Church Cathedral fall.

She wanted to revisit the site as the whole experience still felt surreal.

In the rush to demolish and rebuild, the need for people to see their city being transformed was being lost.

"It feels like we are not allowed to grieve properly and have our own emotional experience with it," she said.

"It's completely wrong to lock us out."

Mayell said the cordon should have been opened up much earlier to allow people to see parts of the city before they were changed forever.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) interim chief executive John Ombler, said community wellbeing was a priority.

However, safety must be paramount when considering access to the central city.

"Cera understands the people of Christchurch and beyond need to understand what happened in the central city, but it remains too dangerous to open up the current red zone to the public," he said.

A team was working with a range of social agencies on areas such as health, education, housing and counselling to provide support for individuals, families and their communities.

Since February 22, access to the city centre had been improving, Ombler said.

"Just this week, new video has also been released of the central-city area that was taken by Terralink last month, and it essentially takes people on a virtual journey through the city."

- The Press

Orion chief refused company car

Orion chief refused company car

Last updated 13:50 12/05/2011
Roger Sutton was appointed head of the Canterbury lines company Orion in 2003.

Aged just 38 at the time, Sutton was commercial general manager at Orion, and won the top job from 38 other applicants.

The son of an Anglican clergyman from Hamilton, he was uncomfortable discussing his salary, believed then to be about $400,000.

In an interview at the time, Sutton said: "I'm not at all comfortable about the money thing. I accept my salary is going to make it into the papers once a year. I went into it with my eyes open."

He certainly had left-wing credentials.

He was a trustee on Community Energy Action, an Orion-backed initiative aimed at keeping low-income households warm, and admitted the electricity reforms haven't been kind to those at the bottom.

He was also well connected within Labour circles. Then Energy Minister Pete Hodgson actively sought Sutton's opinion on electricity issues and Wellington sources said he was well regarded within the corridors of power.

He is also well connected in Christchurch. He is married to former television journalist Jo Malcolm, sister of television star Robyn Malcom.

Sutton was hailed by an electricity insider at the time as an original thinker who was always pleasant to deal with and, crucially, who did what he said.

"He's the sort of person I would be happy to buy a used car off. I can't think of anyone who would have anything bad to say about him."

Sutton has turned down the obligatory company car, preferring to bike. "You don't have to get out of any suit. You bike home, you feel like you have left all of the issues, apart from the reading, behind."

Casino cleaning up, sets reopening date

Casino cleaning up, sets reopening date

Last updated 05:00 13/05/2011
The Christchurch Casino will reopen on May 26.

Chief executive Brett Anderson said all employees had been told of the move, including those who opted for redundancy. "The focus is getting people back into work," he said.

Last month the company gave workers a choice of a four-week redundancy payout or unpaid leave.

The casino has been shut since the February 22 quake because it was in the inner-city cordon and at risk from unstable neighbouring buildings. The cordon was lifted last week and the casino cleanup effort has begun.

Anderson said the damage was "more cosmetic than anything else" and there were no structural problems.

It was not clear how many of the casino's 538 pre-quake workers would be re-employed, he said.

Service & Food Workers' Union representative Len Richards said efforts to get a better redundancy package for unionised casino workers would continue. "For them to class it as a redundancy payout is just a joke. It's just a four-week payout," he said.

Richards said the union would seek a collective agreement that would include improved redundancy terms.

Anderson said the casino would not budge on the four-week payout term.

Union calls to lobby the Government for assistance were misplaced as the casino did not qualify for financial support, he said. He dismissed union suggestions the casino was under the influence of part-owner SkyCity.

"They can suggest what they like. Christchurch Casino is a standalone entity," he said. "We make our decisions based on what's best for Christchurch Casino and no other casino."

New law 'likely' to fragment city plans

New law 'likely' to fragment city plans

Last updated 05:00 13/05/2011
A far-reaching law rushed through Parliament after Christchurch's earthquake might overrule years of planning work to control the city's growth over the next 30 years.

Lawyers for Environment Canterbury (ECan), the Christchurch City Council and the Selwyn and Waimakariri district councils this week requested an urgent pre-hearing conference to adjourn 51 Environment Court appeals against ECan's proposed change 1 of the Canterbury regional policy statement.

The policy statement, which was publicly notified in 2007, seeks to control greater Christchurch's growth to 2041 and was developed by the councils and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

Hearings were set to begin next month and last a month. But court documents filed by the councils' and the NZTA's lawyers on Wednesday said recovery strategies and plans developed under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery (CER) Act will be "incorporated into and prevail over" regional and district planning.

The court memorandum said the appeals should be adjourned because the recovery "instruments" mandated in the Act would impact on the long-term planning for greater Christchurch.

"This would avoid a significant expenditure of time and resources by the court and the parties, when there is a separate process under way," it said.

ECan commissioner Peter Skelton, a former Environment Court judge, said: "There's no point in two processes proceeding at the same time. We need to see what happens to plan change 1 under the CER Act before we continue with the court proceedings."

He did not know if appellants would fight the attempted adjournment, which resulted from an Environment Court request in March for a report into the Act's implications.

Under the Act, passed in Parliament under urgency last month, a recovery strategy and central business district recovery plan must be developed and draft documents notified by January 19 next year.

Lincoln University planning and environmental management professor Ali Memon said the new Act and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) would fragment the region's urban development strategy, the long-term plan to manage greater Christchurch's growth.

"It's [Cera] an emergency reconstruction authority and the powers that have been given to it are arguably needed for it to undertake its function," he said. "I hope it won't work in a top-down, command-and-control kind of way and it will work in a collaborative way with other partners, like the city council and regional council."

The Environment Court could not confirm yesterday if the memorandum had been received or when a hearing might be held.

Before the legislation was passed, Canterbury University School of Law senior lecturer John Hopkins called the CER legislation "one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation to grace our statute book in modern times".

- The Press

Hundreds farewell 'city father'

Hundreds farewell 'city father'

Last updated 17:38 13/05/2011
Family and friends gathered to farewell Christchurch identity Maurice Carter at St Marys on Manchester Street where his son David Carter talked about his father.
A crowd of hundreds have farewelled Christchurch property developer and philanthropist Maurice Carter,

Over 300 people gathered at St Mary's Catholic Church on Friday to pay their respects to Carter, who served for 33 years as a Christchurch City councillor, the last six years as deputy mayor.

Father Denis Nolan, who led the service, said the 93-year-old had been described as a "city father" for the work which he had done in the community.

"He had a great involvement with Christchurch: he knew the city well and had a heart for it."

Carter's son, Agriculture Minister David Carter, praised his father's "legendary" work ethic, generosity and humility.

"Despite your achievements, you lived and died a humble man."

Another son, Philip Carter, said he had been "instrumental" in strengthening the council's housing stock during his time on the council.

Obituary - From carpenter to construction magnate

A day's work for Maurice Carter began with a bike ride through the dark from Sumner to the Christchurch Railway Station. It ended with the return bike ride, into a stiff easterly wind, also through the dark. In between, he travelled by train to and from Burnham, where he built army barracks.

From such humble beginnings, the migrant English carpenter became a leading Christchurch construction magnate and property developer, a city and regional councillor who started a political dynasty and a philanthropist whose charitable trust has given millions of dollars to local causes.

Carter died on Monday, aged 93.

Quiet, modest and dedicated to his family, he would have been embarrassed to be depicted as the self-made man who became a father of Christchurch.

The son of a chemist in Bradford, Yorkshire, he completed a carpentry apprenticeship there. In 1936, he joined some mates on their great OE, working on a plantation in Argentina. This sparked a desire to see the world and, in 1938, he came to Christchurch. World War II broke out the following year and Carter joined the army, then switched to the air force.

However, his hopes of serving overseas were dashed when his carpentry skills led to him being "manpowered" by the Department of Defence to work for Williamson Construction on army buildings at Burnham and Weedons.

The days were long and wearying, but a meeting at Burnham Army Camp soon made them seem shorter but sweeter. His eye rested on a member of a concert party visiting Burnham to entertain the troops. She was well- known pianist and music teacher Merle Cunningham. After a brief courtship, they married in 1942 and settled in Sumner. They had five children.

Carter launched his own business after the war. He called it the Carter Group, although it began as a one-man band, with help from his wife, who drove a former ambulance carrying materials to building sites.

He specialised in house building and was soon able to take on an apprentice. He was a firm believer in the apprenticeship system and was renowned for his training of apprentices.

Demand for houses was strong after the war and Carter had to battle shortages of materials and labour. He restricted operations to home building in the 1950s and his company grew steadily. At its peak, he employed 100 workers and built 100 houses a year. He bought a farm at Coalgate and moved his family there briefly, before returning to the city.

The building boom, which continued into the 1960s, produced thousands of new houses. It established the residential suburbs of Bryndwr and Burnside.

Private companies built 60 per cent of new houses there, with the Carter Group prominent among them. The company then diversified into property development, the construction of shopping blocks and hotels, and hotel management. It built up a portfolio of commercial buildings and undertook some of the largest developments in central Christchurch.

Even into his 80s, Carter played a leading role in his company, jogging each day before going into the office. When age wearied his knees, he reverted to cycling.

Carter and his wife established the Maurice R Carter Charitable Trust in the 1960s. They vested in the trust a block of shops they had developed in Bryndwr. Rents from the shops funded annual grants to Christchurch charitable causes.

Carter was a Christchurch City councillor from 1956 to 1989. For the last six of those years, he was deputy mayor to his friend, Sir Hamish Hay. He sat on the Christchurch Drainage Board for 27 years, nine as chairman. He was the council representative on the Regional Planning Authority and the Canterbury United Council. These led him to a seat on the Canterbury Regional Council, when it was established in 1989.

He once listed his greatest sources of satisfaction in local government as progress in urban renewal, the expansion of pensioner housing, extension of the sewerage network and the development of Christchurch International Airport.

He rejected the criticism sometimes raised that he used his council position to promote his company's interests. The company operated mostly in the former Waimairi District, beyond city council control.

He avoided conflicts of interest. Had there been any, they would have been detected by local body audits, he said.

Following him as Christchurch City councillors were son Philip, through the 1990s, and grandson Tim, who was elected last year. Son David is an MP and Minister of Agriculture.

Carter and his wife were quiet benefactors to the local arts, education, health and the Catholic Church. They were keen travellers and Carter enjoyed golf. Merle's death in 2008 was a bitter blow.

- The Press

Aussie TV stars show support for Chch

Last updated 10:05 13/05/2011
Popular television stars have shown their support for Christchurch, wearing red and black Bands 4 Hope at Australia's Logie awards.

Actors from comedy-drama series Packed to the Rafters were spotted wearing the red and black Cantabrian wristbands as they posed in gowns and suits at the Australian television industry awards on May 1.

They included Kiwi-born actresses Rebecca Gibney and Camille Keenan.

Gibney plays the show's lead female character, Julie Rafter, while Keenan joined the cast this year as Bree Jennings.

Up-and-coming Keenan has been a "huge supporter" of the Bands 4 Hope appeal and urged her fellow actors to purchase a band.

"Christchurch still needs our help, and this is a great way to both donate and sustain awareness for the cause," the Wellington-raised actor said.

The TelstraClear funded appeal has raised over $550,000 for the Christchurch Mayoral Earthquake Fund and hopes to raise at least $1 million.

Bands 4 Hope can be purchased for a donation of $5 or more from online or from New Zealand PostShops.

Many high-profile people have been seen wearing the bands, including Prince William and Prime Minister John Key.

Chch businesses fear high-rises

Chch businesses fear high-rises

Last updated 10:49 14/05/2011
Commercial tenants forced out of Christchurch's central business district (CBD) by earthquakes want to get back within two years but do not want to be in office space higher than three levels, a survey has found.

The survey found 76 percent of central city tenants would consider returning and would want to be back within two years.

The Colliers International survey also showed an overwhelming majority did not want to go into high-rise buildings and would go no higher than three levels.

Safety was paramount among tenants when considering office space, followed by rental cost and amenities. Car parking and ``green'' considerations ranked lowest, the survey showed.

Hamish Doig, managing director of Colliers International in Christchurch, said the findings were in line with anecdotal feedback his brokers had received from tenants and matched the desire of landlords to rebuild in the CBD.

''We wanted to get an accurate picture of what was the real feeling among landlords and tenants,'' he said in a statement.

''It's vital both groups understand each other so they can work together to help rebuild Christchurch. Their collaboration is crucial to our future.''

Christchurch was unusual because most buildings in the CBD were owned by local landlords, rather than institutions.

''This means they have a very hands-on approach to what's happening.

''They have a real interest in seeing the CBD succeed.''

The survey showed only 3 percent of landlords would sell their sites, with most committed to rebuilding between one and three levels. Only 18 percent considered more than five stories. 

Doig said most tenants viewed their move to the suburbs as temporary. 

Many tenants were paying less than they were in the central city and were in far smaller premises.

When the city was rebuilt, rents were expected to rise to at least $400 a square metre because of the extra costs involved in meeting new building codes and the shortage of tradesmen, he said.

Discussions were already well advanced, particularly over sites which had been cleared in the CBD.

Iwi questions lack of Shag Rock memorial consult

Iwi questions lack of Shag Rock memorial consult

Last updated 05:00 13/05/2011
Ngai Tahu is upset it was not consulted on a proposed memorial on Shag Rock before it was debated by politicians.

The proposed Sumner memorial would feature two plaques – one to remember those from the area who were killed in the February earthquake and the other to mark the work of rescue volunteers.

The proposal was submitted by Hagley-Ferrymead Community Board member David Cox, who said he wanted the damaged rock to be "left as nature has recreated it – no rebuilding it. It's there, it's changed, but it's still there," he said.

Ngai Tahu chairman Mark Solomon said Rapanui [Shag Rock] was a significant cultural marker for the iwi and there needed to be "serious dialogue" with Ngai Tahu.

Cox said: "It's between the iwi and the city council. The council has iwi-related people and they would follow that through."

Most residents he had spoken to supported the idea of recognising those who helped after the quake. "A lot of people, at no small sacrifice to themselves, whose own homes were damaged, were out working long hours to help people whose lives were irrecoverably harmed," he said. The community board has delayed a final decision.

Police target drinking culture

Police target drinking culture

Last updated 05:00 13/05/2011
Only "baby steps" can be taken to change Christchurch's heavy-drinking culture, police say.

A trans-Tasman police operation will target alcohol abuse and seek to educate the public tonight and tomorrow.

Canterbury police operations manager Inspector Craig McKay said extra officers would crack down on drink-drivers and target "the new Strip" in Riccarton and other suburbs.

He said they would enforce liquor bans and visit busy bars and house parties.

Young people would be persuaded to avoid "pre-loading" with alcohol and to look after their mates, he said.

"It seems to be so routine these days. Young guys are pre-loading and drinking so much, and that's where the culture is wrong," he said.

"There's a massive educational part of this weekend along the lines of changing the culture. It's about getting around the idea that you drink to get drunk.

"To be honest, it's baby steps, and we realise that."

The drinking problem in Christchurch had been exacerbated by the earthquakes, he said.

"People are using alcohol as a stress mechanism, which is leading to an increase in alcohol harm that goes back to the home as well."

As suburban bars filled, people were going to parties with hundreds of guests.

"All you need is one fight in the middle of a dozen drunk people and suddenly you've got disorder," he said.

Officers in New Zealand and Australia will conduct the operation at the same time. Police spend $250 million a year dealing with alcohol issues.


On an average day in New Zealand:  
  • 272 people who have been drinking are arrested.
  • 94 are caught drink-driving.
  • 32 breach liquor bans.
  • 44 people or groups have to be taken home or detained because they are drunk.

Progress on supermarkets

Progress on supermarkets

Last updated 15:01 13/05/2011
An earthquake-damaged Christchurch supermarket appears to have escaped the wrecking ball.

Progressive Enterprises said yesterday that Countdown Ferrymead, which has been closed since February 22, was expected to reopen.

Spokesman Luke Schepen said it was hoped that would happen later this year.

He said the company did not own the building.

"I'm not aware of any plans to demolish the site," Schepen said.

"We are working with our landlord as some structural repairs need to be completed, but safety comes first and these things can take time."

Significant work was needed before internal repairs could begin, he said.

The news is a boost for east Christchurch shoppers after New World Redcliffs was demolished last week.

The Foodstuffs-owned store will be replaced by a larger supermarket and shops on the site.

New World St Martins is also being demolished, and work on the new building is expected to start in July. The $9 million project is expected to take about a year to complete.

Foodstuffs property and retail development general manager Roger Davidson said the resource consent was granted within two months of the February 22 quake.

The quake-damaged Countdown supermarket in The Palms shopping centre is scheduled to reopen at the end of next month, as is the Eastgate Shopping Centre's Countdown.

Despite the closures, Progressive has retained all 2250 employees in Canterbury. It plans to open new stores in Rangiora and Rolleston.

Foodstuffs plans to open a Pak 'n Save in Lineside Rd, Rangiora.

Corporate takeover of city's suburbs

Corporate takeover of city's suburbs

Last updated 05:00 14/05/2011
Go west, young man. That could be the advice to anybody wanting to find life in Christchurch after the February earthquake.

The west includes places such as Riccarton, Addington, Hornby, Sockburn and Bishopdale, which are buzzing with traffic and people.

They are talked about as the new business hubs of Christchurch, but in reality they have been developing as retail, light industrial and commercial office centres for many years.

Since the quakes, any high-quality spare capacity has been gobbled up by the displaced occupants of the paralysed central business district and surrounds.

As usual, the best barometers are the cafes and restaurants.

Carl Sara, who owns the Crafted Coffee Company on the corner of Blenheim Rd and Dalgety St in Riccarton, is riding a wave of increased population and more traffic.

"There's no such thing as a boardroom any more – it's an office for 10 people," he says.

Trade got a boost after the September earthquake but then flattened out. After February, "we've been really busy right through".

Hornby is undergoing a transformation.

The managing director of commercial lease specialists Knight Frank, Layne Harwood, says he recently had six or seven cash buyers competing for a Robert Harris franchise in the Hornby mall.

The five-storey Clock Tower building in Main South Rd is being revamped, and a busy Coffee Culture outlet is ensconced on the ground floor.

Clock Tower developer Brent Jones says Hornby was already humming before the influx from the February quake because of the population increases in Rolleston, Prebbleton and Lincoln.

About three floors of the building are more or less spoken for and interest so far is "comfortable", he says.

The Hazeldean Business Park in Lincoln Rd is the poster boy for the redevelopment of Addington, which has new office complexes in Lincoln and Wrights roads, Show Pl and Princess St.

The low-rise buildings are surrounded by spacious car parks, and the areas have their own creches and cafes.

Law firm Cavell Leitch has moved to the park, and its reception area, with its concrete floor and makeshift table, reflects the speed of the shift.

Sharebroker Forsyth Barr has moved to the first floor of one of the other Hazeldean complexes, as have the Ministry of Health and an insurance broker.

The relocation of law firms and accountancy practices illustrates the flight to the suburbs.

Law firm Lane Neave is now in the Russley Business Park in Harewood and Walker Davey Accountants has moved to the Airport Business Park in Russley Rd.

Law firm Duncan Cotterill has relocated to Sir William Pickering Dr in Burnside, and another law firm, Wynn Williams, is now in Marshland Rd.

The same trend is evident in light industry.

Shalimar Knitwear, which makes high-quality garments mainly for the rural sector, reopened last week in Vanadium Pl in Addington.

Managing director John Stevens says he has signed a two-year lease and will be thinking hard about relocating again, after the shift cost about $70,000.

He likes the new area, and its high traffic presents an opportunity for a factory shop.

The bustle extends to the rental and residential market.

Any home coming up for rent in the west and northwest is snapped up, says Face Property Management general manager Emma Lindsay.

"People are renting purely on what they believe are safe locations and emotion, even if the eastern suburbs have plenty of undamaged rentals available," she says.

Harcourts business development manager Jim Davis says sales in the western and northwest suburbs are robust, but he is not writing off the eastern suburbs.

"Our Ferrymead office sold five properties in April," he says.

"The increased interest in the west is short-term, and it will swing back as things stabilise and the market returns to normality.

As businesses and their staff adjust to the new realities and become comfortable in their new environment, some big questions arise. Will they go back to the central city? And if they do, what do they want?

Julian Clarke, managing partner of Cavell Leitch, which formerly had three floors in the Clarendon Tower in Oxford Tce, says the firm has signed a six-year lease in the Hazeldean complex, but he cautions against an assumption the firm will not return to the central city.

"I would be very disappointed if firms did not go back, especially if the central city is made attractive," he says.

"People will go back if its attractive enough."

A lease does not mean a business is tied to a location, he says, as other tenants can be found, allowing a firm to move within its lease term.

The fact that other law firms are now so spread out makes business much more difficult and clients no longer "pop in".

"Life enjoyment" has been diminished by leaving the city centre, with its bars and shops, he says.

Forsyth Barr office manager Garry Moore says the firm's shift to Hazeldean is as permanent "as things can be in a business environment".

He commends the park as being attractive, modern, handy to the central business district and low-rise, yet he cannot see any reason why businesses would not go back to the inner city if it is functioning well.

"However, city planners will have to get their head around the fact people will get comfortable and be reluctant to leave. The longer the rebuild goes on, the more entrenched people will become."

He says transport to the growth areas is the main issue. He believes the CBD is in the wrong place and should be spread along the transport corridor of the railway tracks.

Although landlords face difficult decisions as they contend with falling land value and less opportunity to maximise returns because buildings will be low-rise, many are confident the city will recover its tenant base.

Jones is positive because he believes the large number of businesses in temporary buildings will want to go back into the inner city.

"The danger is that only half or two-thirds of tenants will go back into town, and the longer the rebuild, the greater the risk they will not return," he says.

In any event, some tough decisions lie ahead for landlords and developers.

Shaun Stockman, whose company, KPI Rothschild Property Group, specialises in "reinventing" historic buildings attractive to high-end, smaller-scale tenants, says the fundamental position that a city starts in the centre and spreads out has not changed.

The need for law firms to be near the courts and for the financial sector to congregate remains, he says.

Banks such as Westpac might have new headquarters in Addington but will still need a presence in town.

Firms such as his cannot afford the luxury of waiting 10 years for business to shift back into the city, and he expects to be building low-rise buildings with something special to entice tenants.

"They have got to be fabulous," he says. "I have found out over the years that if you build what people want, they will come. It's a punt, but it has always worked."

Angus McFarlane, the managing director of the one of the city's largest property companies, says larger companies and tenants are adamant they want to return to the CBD because "they need to be around each other".

Even companies that have signed six or eight-year leases plan to return.

The drift away from the CBD has being going on for years, he says, and the quake handed many of the smaller tenants in places such as Lichfield and Tuam streets the excuse to leave.

"We won't be seeing them come back," he says. "We speak with them and they think [their new locations] are marvellous. On the other side, we are seeing very strong inquiry for professional offices."

Prospective tenants wanted low-rise buildings – no more than eight storeys – with safety being one of the prime factors.

"The first question is always about the stairs."

He says rent has been relegated to second or third on the ranking of considerations, with the number of stairwells being more important.

He is encouraged by the response to proposals for three buildings his group plans to build in the CBD.

A six-level building in Worcester St has been consented and will go to the market in about three weeks. It will not be finished for at least 2 1/2 years.

The largest of the three is an eight-level (two parking levels) complex in Armagh St on the former Munns site, which could provide 14,500 square metres of office space.

The buildings were on the drawing board before the quake but are now clearly needed, he says.

He predicts construction costs will rise by about 8 per cent and rents will increase between 10 and 15 per cent.

The biggest risk, he says, is businesses going broke when they run out of insurance and before crucial decisions are made.

The future health of the city is in the numbers, says Mark Macauley, of CB Richard Ellis. He says the city has lost about 300,000 square metres of office space, but the new areas can provide only about 20,000sqm to 30,000sqm.

"There was not that much available and it was snapped up in a few days. Landlords are not necessarily increasing rents but do not have to offer incentives either."

Many tenants had squeezed themselves into half of the space they had previously and would move when the time was right.

People should not write off the CBD yet, he says.

"We need to remember there is still a lot of undamaged infrastructure in the CBD."

His firm has moved to offices on the edge of the cordon in Tuam St to be close to the CBD, and he has just leased a building in Walker St.

Harwood says his company leased a lot of space in the suburbs after the quake, mainly on short to medium terms.

About half of the tenants are content with their premises, he says, and the other half are keen to return to the CBD. Those unhappy with their new location are finding the lack of amenities for staff and insufficient parking difficult.

Four-year terms are popular because many businesses are allowing that time for space to become available in the CBD, he says.

The future of the CBD, then, looks reasonably secure. Relocated businesses adjusting to life in suburban business parks are finding the worth of what they once took for granted.

Many can't wait to go back to the city, but they will want to go back to something better.

The CBD will need to become the next hot location in town.

- The Press

Mayor's message for Christchurch

Mayor's message for Christchurch

Last updated 05:00 14/05/2011
Out of adversity comes an opportunity. We have a chance to remake our central city. But what should it look like? How should it function, and who will live, work and play back inside the iconic four avenues? For whom are we rebuilding our city?

We cannot any longer ignore a demographic reality for Christchurch: that we have an ageing population and over the next couple of decades as a percentage of total population we'll have fewer people in the workforce and many more in the retirement age group.

Put another way, for us to survive and thrive as a city, we need to attract and hold our young people. And we will need families to come from elsewhere to be part of rejuvenating our future.

The rebuild is not just about recreating and improving on those things we already had.

It is actually about the very survival of our city and its ability to sustain the institutions and values we have developed here in Christchurch.

There are four bottom lines or key issues that most planning sets out to address. They are social, cultural, environmental and economic.

Already in the debate across the city one can see many ideas that address aspects of these issues, but such visions need also to ultimately bring the values associated with these "bottom lines" together. And therein are the most challenging aspects of the work in front of us.

It is in the heart of the city where we, the people, collectively express the values and optimism of this place.

It is where we come together for major community events, to relax and be entertained, and where the treasure, achievements and hopes of those who came before can inspire us.

It is where we express our pride of place. It is where we stand and say, "This is who we are, this is what we do and this is what we stand for". It is also where we do business, not exclusively, but by choice.

Education and health are delivered here. It is also the place where visitors and our own descendants will measure us. It must represent the best of what we are now and what we can be.

It falls to us to lay the central framework for the future survival and prosperity of Christchurch.

The project we launched last week online, and which is continuing at the CBS Arena this weekend, is called "Share an idea". It is designed to begin to download a community vision for what our people want to see.

Clearly that is the basis for our plan. We need also to turn our minds to how we want to be seen by others.

What we collectively achieve here must also face up to our demographic realities.

We are consulting widely, not just among our own people, but reaching out to some of the best urban thinkers in the world.

I believe we are fortunate to already have behind us the major consultation and decisions that inform the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy.

It means we have a base document already agreed upon that lays out how the central city must connect with the greater Christchurch area; suburbs, satellite towns, transport and green spaces.

Growing up in the 50s and 60s in Christchurch meant that I observed our city changing from the low-rise character of that earlier period to the more confused, less cohesive pattern of latter decades.

Better incomes and cheaper motorised personal transport meant that the dominance of the central city as the centre of public transport and commerce was seriously diluted.

Our city sprawled outwards as the higher standards of living and ease of movement meant that greater distance was no longer an issue for us.

Roads, that once brought us efficiently into the city, increasingly became highways to take us through the central area to our destination on the other side of town.

Bit by bit the central city was eroded. The suburban malls arrived and the retail heat moved to the suburbs.

Institutions such as the university and some government departments, as well as significant numbers of centrally located commercial enterprises, moved to outlying suburban centres.

Slowly the heartbeat of the city began to fade. For decades councils, residents and businesses have struggled to put a new sense of purpose back into our civic heart – and then, in a heart-beat, those hopes were dashed.

On the morning of the February 22, 50,000 workers arrived in central Christchurch, but in just a few hours the centre lay empty, save for rescuers, Civil Defence, council staff and those trapped in the rubble.

By day's end the confidence in the central city was devastated.

Now it falls to us, all of us, to ensure that we rise again and rebuild confidence in Christchurch.

Our city's future depends on us. Let us work, not apart in competition, but together in co-operation.

The council has the statutory task of bringing this together, and what a task. It will not be easy. We will need your help. We will need your goodwill as we step into our collective future.

Whatever our collective final vision, it does need to be common sense and achievable. We need an inspiring plan that will readily migrate from the planning documents to the real world. In order to recover, our city will need to attract private and institutional investment.

Most of all it will have to attract and work for many different people. For all that we have; our commerce and enterprise, education and art, science and sport, great plans and even small hopes, all of them will amount to nothing unless this is a place that people willingly inhabit.

To paraphrase an ancient truth understood by those founders arriving to establish Christchurch: "Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference". Put another way; "Kia Kaha" Christchurch!

- The Press

Picture of a tragedy

Picture of a tragedy

Grab and snap yields lasting image

Last updated 05:00 14/05/2011

An enduring image from Christchurch's earthquake might never have been taken.

As she stood in her garden watching the dust rise over the city just after the February quake, Gilly Needham was told by a shocked workman to grab her camera.

She replied she was not going inside the house because it was too dangerous.

Turning her head, however, she saw the camera within reach on the edge of the kitchen bench of her remodelled Cashmere home.

"I just reached in, grabbed it, stood and took it."

"It" was the photo of dust rising over the central city that became one of the most widely circulated images of February 22. Needham – a fashion designer who is known professionally as Gillian Melhop – posted a low-resolution picture on Facebook a couple of days later.

Unbeknown to her, the image bounced around the world. It was printed in newspapers and on websites in New Zealand and Australia, and as far away as Britain.

There was a whisper it was taken by a BBC staffer on holiday or was digitally manipulated.

It was only later, when friends mentioned her picture had gone global, that she realised she had been cheated of credit, at least, and perhaps even royalties. "I almost feel used," she said.

She regrets posting the picture online, but is now selling about 20 mounted blocks of her photo a week, and will sell enlarged prints through a Christchurch printing firm.

Not that her picture was the main concern on the day of the quake.

"My husband [Colin] works right down there ... I immediately just thought I'd never see my man again, and my daughter was down the street."

As the wail of sirens wafted up the hill from the city, Needham used binoculars to discover her husband's car was intact and the pharmacy in which he worked was still standing.

She also saw the devastation, including crushed cars and panicked people walking in circles.

Needham bought the house in December for its majestic views of the city and the mountains. The earthquake, with its memories of her own screaming, swinging lightshades and the slopping water of her swimming pool, had not put her off.

"I love this home. I feel very safe here."

But, like most Christchurch people, the almost-vacant central city has left a gaping hole.

After all, you can see it from her deck.

"The city's always ablaze with lights, but even now the inner city's always black from up here.

"It's a square void; it's like there's a big hole."

Battle with boredom gets a boost

Battle with boredom gets a boost

Last updated 05:00 14/05/2011
Activity programmes are being created for bored Christchurch secondary school pupils finishing classes early because of site-sharing.

Sport Canterbury has applied for $500,000 from the Government's Christchurch Earthquake Appeal to run activity hubs around the city.

Initially, the hubs will be at sites in Papanui, Upper Riccarton, Linwood, Burnside and Cashmere, from 1pm to 3pm four days a week.

Sport Canterbury young persons manager Aaron Webb said yesterday that while the dollar figure had not been confirmed, the hubs had been given the go-ahead and all would be operational by Monday, May 23.

"The hubs are purely to address the social issues for students not having something to do from 1pm onwards."

The hubs would be for all ages and would not only provide sporting activities but also other passive recreational activities, Webb said.

Police, schools and parents had expressed concern about the many year 9 and 10 pupils flooding the streets after schools forced to site-share because of the earthquake finished at 12.35pm.

Constable Mike Withers said since students had been finishing early young people were flocking to Jellie Park after noon, and there had been an increase in assaults and disorderly behaviour.

"I guess whenever you have got a large group of kids, there's the potential for assaults and fights to happen," he said. "On [Wednesday], I was there and there was probably about 50 kids playing basketball – quite amicably – but whether that's because I was there watching them ... there were two or three groups wanting to use the basketball hoop, and were spilling out."

Many of those causing problems were "hangers-on", Withers said.

Burnside High School second principal Sandra Sidaway said about 1000 year 9 and 10 Burnside High School pupils were released when Avonside Girls' High School moved in for afternoon classes under the site-sharing arrangement.

The school and parents had been concerned about pupils who were "barely 13" leaving the school.

"Parents are finding it very hard to provide supervision and responsible parents don't want students hanging out at the mall or getting into less desirable activities such as shoplifting," she said.

The school provided homework supervision with about 40 pupils who had no care arrangements using the service.

"[The juniors] are the ones we are more concerned about.

"They are the ones most at risk in terms of having free time every afternoon."

Papanui High School principal Bronwyn Welsh said the school, which was sharing with Shirley Boys' High School, was already running a study centre at the rugby league club and activities for the junior students at the youth centre.

The school had received support from its local Rotary group, she said.

"The solution to our problems have been school-initiated and the Ministry of Education has come in and given resource support and that's been great.

"We have come up with a homegrown solution for a homegrown problem."

There had been no reports of disorderly behaviour by students leaving school early, she said.

Cashmere High School principal Mark Wilson said his school, which was sharing with Linwood College, was also running homework centres and sports and activities for their junior pupils – but was still waiting on promised funding from the Government.

"The school has worked really hard with the local community to find local solutions – in particular the Spreydon Baptist Church.

"We have support from their youth workers."

Wilson said he was unsure who the hubs would target but he hoped there had been some research done to ensure there would be some demand and that the money would not be wasted.

- The Press