There have been some incredibly positive musings from both local and central government these last few days that gives me some optimism about the future of Christchurch.
While the CBD lies shattered, plans are starting to be put into place about the future of the entire city. Its hard to be optimistic right now, and some might say its too soon to be talking about such things, but it is incredibly important for the short and long-term future of the community that we start to put the process in place that leads to the ‘new and improved’ Christchurch.
Thankfully, the Council and Government have signalled an intention to pull out all the stops to not only rebuild the city, but to do it bigger and better than ever. Key national infrastructure projects, some of them probably controversial roads of national significance, are to be put on the back burner to give priority funding to the rebuilding effort. Christchurch has never enjoyed such attention and funding before, as it has often played second fiddle to the North Island cities. Its just such a shame it has come in such tragic circumstances.
There have already been a number of ideas talked about in regards to the future direction for the city. We plan to go over these in the near future in more detail, and as they become more clear. It remains though, that while this is a horrible tragedy the likes of which I’m sure no one ever wants to see again, there is a silver lining in that we now have an opportunity to do things with this city that were previously impossible, unaffordable or unimaginable. Former Mayor of Christchurch Garry Moore recently outlined his vision of the future Christchurch and sees this as a chance to build a model city that will “attract people from around the world”.
“We do have a chance to do the new, green, environmentally sound, fantastically state-of-the-art, 21st-century place, that will attract the brains and the thinkers of the world to come and live here.” – Garry Moore
We have in our hands the opportunity to make the city we always knew this place could be. Putting in place principles outlined in the Gehl report will surely be a priority as we rebuild the CBD and other communities. Obviously, the main priority will be to get the city back to ‘business as usual’ as quickly as possible (i.e. repair and rebuild the basic infrastructure ASAP) but as we get to the big stuff its likely to be a case of having that one opportunity to get it right.
As we rebuild there are bound to be countless opportunities to make some ‘leaps’ and do things all at once on the transport front. One example could be developing bus lanes as key roads are fixed and rebuilt, which might not only be a good use of funds (saves us from ripping the roads up again in due course) but actually could get the system complete a lot faster than was originally planned.
There is also an incredible opportunity to ‘build-in’ world class transport infrastructure as we redesign and rebuild the CBD. Never before have we had an opportunity to do things that were previously considered ‘undo-able’. For example, the City Council has often talked about the future of public transport in Christchurch being rail based, so perhaps this is the time to look at allowing rail access into the heart of the CBD? Its really going to be a question of now or never with these things, and if we want this city to recover and grow again and be a place people want to live in, visit and invest in then we are going to have to do some very bold things.
I hope to get into some of these issues in the near future, and as they develop. Obviously, right now the focus for most people is on getting through each day and their personal immediate futures. But I am convinced that this place has a future, one we can all be a part of and get excited about.