Worlds eyes on the “Southern Capital”

Posted on December 2, 2011 by

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Christchurch has been listed by US magazine Foreign Policy as one of 10 global cities to watch (hat tip JP), illustrating once and for all that this is actually a big thing, much is expected, and the worlds eyes are upon us. We certainly have a great opportunity to make a great city, and make an impact on a wider scale than ever imagined.

Christchurch is in some very illustrious company too, including the likes of Vancouver, London, New York, Hong Kong, and Singapore – all great cities (dunno about Gurgaon though!). Of Christchurch, the magazine says that a “…massive rebuilding effort following this years New Zealand earthquake is a unique opportunity to rethink urban form.

That is it really. We don’t just have the opportunity to rebuild Christchurch, we actually have the opportunity to rethink the city. We can look at what hasn’t worked in the past, both here and around the world. Is urban sprawl really desirable? Should the form of our city be dictated according to the “needs” of the automobile? Should we allow developers to do whatever they want, wherever they want regardless of the effects on the community, wider economy, and environment? Should we continue to build big malls and sprawling office parks?

We can look to examples in other cities around the world of good ideas that have made them better cities to live, work, visit, do business, and play in, and apply them in our own way to Christchurch. Should we build a city around people rather than cars? Should we develop an innovative public transport system, including making use of rail? Should we promote and build better infrastructure for cycling? Should we intensify development? Should we develop a more sustainable city? Do we develop a plan that encompasses the ideas above, and more, from which the future city will develop?

Why is it important to do this and to think about  these sorts of things rather than rush  forward and simply “rebuild”? We are at a unique cross roads. Prior to the earthquake, we were stunted on many levels as a city. We didn’t offer the variety of lifestyle options that modern world-class cities offer. We didn’t have the infrastructure and cultural approach needed of a city that is going places. We were not competing for people and business, in particular with Wellington and Auckland. In many ways we were becoming a giant, sprawling, bland suburb on the Canterbury Plains not a city, as people elsewhere know it. The city was also very run down, particularly the CBD. Then the earthquake happened. Out of tragedy we now have the opportunity to develop Christchurch into the world-class city we want it to be, not bit by bit but in one big push. These opportunities do not come along too often, if ever. We should grasp this with both hands and run like hell. We would all be fools to simply rebuild and rush it. We must rethink.

We are off to a good start. The draft Central City Plan is a fantastic document and if only half of it is implemented we won’t be doing too bad really. The spirit of it is what is really important, and it is that spirit we must maintain as we go forward. Thinking about the city we want to be, looking at what has worked, looking at what hasn’t, and looking at ideas that have got other places to the kind of outcomes we desire.

The 10 Global Cities to watch are:

1. Singapore

2. Guragon, India

3. Cairo, Egypt

4. Hong Kong/Shenzhen, China

5. Athens, Greece

6. Vancouver, Canada

7. New York, USA

8. Sao Paulo, Brazil

9. Christchurch, New Zealand

10. London, UK

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