Rebuild agencies on the chopping block as Christchurch looks to new future

Rebuild agency Development Christchurch Ltd looks set to be axed, bringing to an end four years which many believe have seen little concrete achievement.

The company, owned by the city council, was set up in 2016 to help attract private investment in construction projects for the good of the city.

But its time has been marked by minor successes and a series of failed projects, with only the $19 million redevelopment of the seafront playground at New Brighton and the hot pools the notable fruit of its efforts.

The New Brighton Beachside Playground is one of DCL's more notable successes.

John Kirk-Anderson/Stuff

The New Brighton Beachside Playground is one of DCL’s more notable successes.

Now, with Christchurch looking to a future with fewer agencies to drive regeneration and momentum, Development Christchurch (DCL) looks likely to be wound down.

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Fellow rebuild agency Regenerate Christchurch – behind the $5m plan for the city’s river red zone and plans for new lights at Hagley Oval allowing international cricket matches – is also coming to an end, its $1m of funding from the council to be axed.

Assuming legal changes are pushed through by Parliament it will be dismantled at the end of the month, a year earlier than originally planned, its role and responsibilities taken over largely by the city council and some also likely passing to economic development agency ChristchurchNZ.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel, who was unavailable for comment on Thursday, said previously that she wanted DCL and Regenerate Christchurch to merge, becoming a joint council-Crown owned rebuild agency.

She has also suggested she has been happy with DCL’s performance, but that Christchurch would be better served by agencies where planning and development are combined.

Regenerate Christchurch led plans to revamp the river red zone, once home to tens of thousands of people.

Alden Williams/Stuff

Regenerate Christchurch led plans to revamp the river red zone, once home to tens of thousands of people.

The council is now in the early stages of developing a transition plan for DCL, chief executive Dawn Baxendale said.

“[This] will take into account whether other existing organisations could take over DCL’s projects and functions.”

It is not clear what any new structure may look like or whether it will be subsumed entirely by the council or other agencies, or what will happen to its eight remaining staff.

A report about its future by Christchurch City Holdings, the council’s commercial arm which owns DCL, was discussed by councillors behind closed doors on May 28 and has not yet been made public.

While DCL smoothed the way for $50m of direct investment to Christchurch last year, it made a $1.3m loss. It was set up after the Christchurch Central Development Unit closed.

The Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act allowed the council to take back control in 2016, allowing the authority to set up DCL funded by ratepayers with $3m a year.

Since then much of what it has done has been behind closed doors due to the commercially sensitive nature of its work.

But in public it appears to have achieved little.

Peterborough Quarter, a $900m city centre development on the site of the old convention centre opposite the Town Hall, fell through after years of negotiations.

More than four years after DCL was tasked with revamping New Brighton mall there is little progress, one shop owner describing it earlier this year as being like a “war zone”.

DCL increased its stake in the Christchurch Adventure Park a year ago, investing almost $5m after a plea for funding.

Iain McGregor/Stuff

DCL increased its stake in the Christchurch Adventure Park a year ago, investing almost $5m after a plea for funding.

It has also consulted on a revamp of Bishopdale mall, has a 54 per cent share in the Christchurch Adventure Park and helped with negotiations on the development of a new film studio at Templeton.

Chief executive Rob Hall said the agency had led or supported projects that have had “real benefits for our city”.

“Our commercial team has provided vital advice to city decision-makers and assisted in bringing around $200 million of external investment to the city in recent years.

“Planning [is] now under way recognising the changing economic drivers in the city, both post-Covid-19 lockdown and as we near a decade since the first Canterbury earthquake.

“Our focus right now is on the continuation of key projects and ensuring commercial activities and support mechanisms needed in the city are ongoing, until such time as the transition plan is implemented.”

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