So today Gerry Brownlee announced the Government’s response to the draft Central City Plan. Overall, probably not as bad as it could have been, however, it did throw up a few things that didn’t surprise me in the least. Firstly, the plans for rail were called a “nice to have” and that, and other key transport projects are to be “put to one side”, with the remainder of the draft Plan largely agreed to and a blueprint to be drawn-up by a new unit in 100 days time. Also, other key transport plans, such as the conversion of the one-way system back to two-way, will join the rail plan in being considered separately.
“While it would be nice to have, the commuter rail service included in the draft plan needs greater consideration and would need to fit into a wider city transport plan… it is vital that all transport options are considered in relation to greater Christchurch, and this will be done.” – Gerry Brownlee
It is unclear if this means that the transport component will be considered separately as a section of the draft Plan, or whether it is an indication that a separate transport plan may be commissioned, which might include a more in-depth analysis of the role of rail within the regions transport network – a kind of ‘Greater Christchurch Transport Plan’, if you will. To be honest, I would rather the latter as it would effectively green-light the rail study proposed in the draft plan, and could lead to the development of a plan for an integrated transport network across the greater urban area – i.e. considering rail along with a new bus network and across the entire city. I guess we will have to wait and see, but at the end of the day there is no government green-light for rail, or a study, as art of the Central City Plan. It isn’t over, but we will have to wait. I guess that is better than nothing.
Essentially, the key messages from today’s announcement are:
- a new government unit will be set up, under CERA, to oversee the rebuild of the central city, to be called the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU), and headed by Warwick Isaacs
- the CCDU will work in partnership with the Christchurch City Council (CCC).
- CCC and Environment Canterbury (regional council) staff are to be seconded to the CCDU
- a blueprint for action is to be established in 100 days
- volume one of the Central City has been accepted in the main (volume two, which deals with changes to the District Plan, won’t be considered until after the blueprint)
- key transport projects in the plan will require “more detailed assessment” and are to be considered separately (i.e, not part of the blueprint)
- there is no committal to funding from the Government as yet
So there we go. Gerry Brownlee called the draft Central City Plan a “good idea”, and lavished a heap of praise on Bob Parker which, given all the happenings of late, sounds a little staged. It also sounds like this new unit will have free rein to change the ideals of the plan as it sees fit, which I think could give rise to business interests having a greater influence, and the community less of one. Certainly the unit will have a massive amount of power, and while the CCC does have some influence, any opposition from them to key changes could easily be countered with claims of Council infighting and ineptitude, on the back of recent drama and controversy.
Brownlee’s speech can be read here.