Some people just don’t like the Central City Plan

Posted on February 8, 2012 by

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The Property Council has warned that the re-drafted City Plan will put the city’s rebuild and economy at risk, due to its “ideological” restrictions which favour a “green city” over an economically viable one, the Press says.

Council president Connal Townsend warns that people will walk and take their insurance cash elsewhere, rather than rebuild in the CBD due to the restrictions that the final draft Plan imposes. The rebuild, he says, is too costly due to restrictions on buildings and its “nice ideas”. He also takes the opportunity to have a crack at restrictions on urban sprawl, calling them damaging. Funnily enough, I would say having no, or weak, restrictions on urban sprawl would be damaging to the city.

There are undoubtedly going to be people who will walk, it is only natural after so much change. But we also have to keep things in perspective. Times, they are a changing, so is it viable to go back to the same old ways? If Christchurch wants to move forward as well as simply recover, which I would say is the most desirable outcome, then something has to change, a new approach is needed, and what went before simply won’t do. I note the points he makes, there are undoubtedly valid concerns there, but we really need to be thinking long-term here. My alarm at these views is, as usual, certain interests will try to push for short-term gains.

However, the question that isn’t being asked here is whether a “green city” will fail to attract new investors? Will old investors balk at the “nice ideas” or will they see within them new opportunities the likes of which no New Zealand city has ever seen before, and want to be a part of it? What opportunities will it provide? I don’t have all the answers, and Mr Townsend raises some interesting points, but I think there is more than one way to look at this.

Some people are always scared of change, but I think most people realise a radical new approach is needed with the CBD. There will always be winners and losers. Hell, what went before wasn’t working, remember all the moaning about the state of the CBD that went on before the earthquakes? I think Richard Peebles raises a much more important issue about process in the same article. He seems to like the Plan, but thinks processes need to be relaxed to encourage reinvestment. He says, “The city council is well meaning, but we’re trying to get a building up for tenants and they’re concerned at the height of the toilet-roll holders.” Funny, but it raises a fair point without getting too emotional or over-dramatic about the whole thing (unlike some other submitters, who claim the world will end).

We already know that many key institutions will return to the CBD, especially legal and financial, and that will mean a lot of other business will ride back in on their coat-tails. Auckland and Wellington aren’t going to exactly be cheaper alternatives for developers either (in fact, I haven’t seen a lot of analysis on that), especially when you consider developers are similarly moaning about Auckland’s spatial plan. There will always be people who resist change, but I feel a lot of this resistance is to do with short-term outcomes rather than long-term ones (a kiwi trait, I would say). The latter is more important, and I think that is what the City Plan really nails.

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