Speech to the Property Council New Zealand Rebuild Seminar

Thursday, June 16, 2016

It’s great to be here and to speak on behalf of the Government at this Rebuild Seminar. I would like to pass on apologies from the Hon Gerry Brownlee and Hon Nicky Wagner who couldn’t be here today.

It’s great to be here at the newly opened Sudima Hotel, which was recently opened by the Prime Minister. I’m sure some of you like me, will have great memories of coming here for family meals when it was the White Heron in the 70’s and 80’s.

By way of introduction I am a proud born and bred Cantabrian and returned home following the earthquakes after spending 15 years in London on my OE and developing a career in health, becoming an Assistant Director at the internationally renowned Tavistock Clinic.

I grew up with building and property development as a backdrop in the family, my late Grandfather was Maurice Carter who is well known for Maurice Carter Homes, the building company built many homes out here in the northwest in the post war building boom. The Carter Group as it is known today then shifted in focus to property development.

I was honoured to be elected as MP for Waimakariri at the last election. The electorate covers from Casebrook in Christchurch to the Ashley River in Waimakariri and as far west as the town of Oxford. The Waimakariri electorate is the third fastest growing electorate in New Zealand and the Waimakariri district recently overtook Invercargill as the third biggest district by population in the South Island.

Its fair to say we have seen phenomenal growth in what is now the new greater Christchurch. How we view greater Christchurch has changed significantly, growing up in Bryndwr travelling to Belfast would have been a day trip, you would have packed your lunch to go over the Styx mill bridge. Now Redwood/Belfast is probably seen as central Christchurch, in fact Styx mill is part of the Christchurch central electorate.

In Parliament I am a member of the Local Government and Environment Select Committee which recently debated on the Regenerate Greater Christchurch Bill.

This Bill now enacted is fundamental to building a competitive Greater Christchurch that will compete with other international small cities in attracting visitors, international students and a skilled workforce. As well as continuing on the tradition of Canterbury being a great place to live, work and bring up our families.

Before we discuss the future it is important that we look back for a minute or 2 to reflect on where we have been and the challenges.

As you are all aware the scale of the Canterbury earthquakes was such that intervention by central Government was needed from the emergency response phase, through to the recovery and now regeneration of greater Christchurch.

The Government has stood by the people of greater Christchurch as they have made huge strides forward by providing targeted support such as the Christchurch Earthquake Support Package.

Five years on and the greater Christchurch population is growing and the economy continues to perform strongly, the latest unemployment rate in Canterbury is just 3 per cent.

The recovery phase in greater Christchurch formally came to an end, with the expiry of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act and the end of CERA in April 2016.

In financial terms, the Government’s forecast contribution to this recovery and regeneration now stands at $17.2 billion.

As you will know CERA was established in March 2011 to lead and co-ordinate the Government’s response and recovery efforts following the earthquakes.

The passage of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act provided special powers to accelerate the region’s recovery and help get people and communities back onto their feet.

CERA’s Recovery Strategy for Greater Christchurch was formed in consultation with our strategic partners, the local councils included the Christchurch City Council, and neighbouring Waimakariri and Selwyn District Councils, Environment Canterbury and local iwi Ngai Tahu.

The Recovery Strategy was the key reference document that guided the programmes of work under the new legislation. It set out a shared vision for greater Christchurch and provided direction to all individuals and organisations working in recovery activities.

A large demolition programme was required, with CERA having oversight of more than 1000 full or partial demolitions in central Christchurch alone. The earthquake damage was also significant to the city’s horizontal infrastructure such as roads, bridges and underground pipes.

SCIRT was established to carry out infrastructure repairs, and about 90 per cent of the SCIRT programme is now complete.

Estimated cost of horizontal infrastructure repair $2.694 billion with Central government providing $1.689 billion of this funding.

Properties across greater Christchurch had to be checked to establish the extent of land damage or ongoing risk from rockfall or cliff collapse, and as a result more than 8000 properties were zoned red. The owners of 7871 of these red zoned properties received a Crown offer for their properties, to enable the owners to move on, and 98 per cent of these owners accepted the Crown offer.

The vast majority of these Crown owned properties have now been cleared of houses and grassed in anticipation of decisions to be made on the land’s future use. In a recent survey, 79 per cent of those who accepted the Crown red zone offer felt it gave them certainty to move forward quickly after the earthquakes.

Greater Christchurch was fortunate to be well-insured, between private insurance and the national disaster insurance provided by Crown entity, the Earthquake Commission.

EQC, provides natural disaster insurance cover for the first $100,000 to those who have home and/or contents insurance.

Of more than 68,000 homes in the Earthquake Commission’s Canterbury Home Repair Programme, more than 99 per cent of repairs are complete, and 99 per cent of properties with a building claim have been resolved.

EQC has allowed New Zealanders insurance policies to be affordable to all. We would be in a very different situation if we were like California or Japan – where 85% are uninsured.

In regard to private insurance claims, insurers have settled more than 91 per cent of all earthquake claims from residential properties in Canterbury. Private insurers have paid out almost $18 billion in earthquake-related claims.

In addition to the Government support for rebuilding homes and horizontal infrastructure, hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into rebuilding schools (including building 13 schools on new sites), and the largest health-related building project in New Zealand’s history, around 900M, that will provide top-class new hospital facilities in Christchurch and it was great to see the new Burwood Hospital open recently.

The wellbeing of people in greater Christchurch is most important of all, and the last Wellbeing Survey carried out by CERA found 77 per cent of respondents rated their quality of life as good or extremely good. However the survey also showed a proportion of people still facing difficulties and stress relating to issues such as unresolved insurance claims.

This is why the Government has supported programmes like the Residential Advisory Service, where people can get free advice around the repair and rebuild of their homes, and the In the Know Hub, that allowed people to drop in to get free support or advice. More than 50,000 free counselling sessions also helped people on their path to recovery.

The Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, and the central city Blueprint within it, was launched in July 2012. It included a commitment by Government to funding, alongside other agencies, a series of large-scale anchor projects designed to re-energise Christchurch’s central city, where about a quarter of the buildings had to be partially or fully demolished.

The Blueprint identified 16 anchor projects designed to catalyse investment.

This plan had drawn on a draft Central City Plan by the Christchurch City Council, and the views of thousands of Christchurch people in the Council’s Share an Idea engagement, who wanted a greener, more vibrant city that was easier to travel around.

To date, two of the anchor projects in the Recovery Plan have been completed – the city’s new Hagley Oval cricket ground, and its new $53 million Bus Interchange. In addition, a number of other Government-led projects are well advanced, including:

The Avon River Precinct, where work to revitalise the river itself and one riverside public area, Watermark, is complete; where part of another riverside area, The Terraces, is well progressed; and the $3 million Margaret Mahy Family Playground is complete and is attracting thousands of visitors.

The Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial, where the northern side is complete, and the memorial wall on the southern side is under construction and due for completion next February.

The Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, where construction is significantly progressed and it is due for completion in mid-2017.

The Metro Sports Facility, where the design is underway

The Convention Centre Precinct, where the planning and commercial negotiations is well progressed.

The building boom in the central city driven by the private sector, with numerous large developments complete or underway within the city’s four avenues, including within the city’s Retail and Innovation Precincts.

The Government has committed to returning a public sector workforce to central Christchurch, with four new developments that will be tenanted by various Government departments and agencies.

The first of these, BNZ Centre stage one, is now open and will be tenanted by about 380 public servants from eight different agencies. Hundreds more workers from other departments and agencies will progressively move into the other new developments through until the end of 2017.

By the end of this year another 1000 public servants will move into new office buildings in the CBD.

It is worthwhile noting that throughout this time Christchurch continued to experience aftershocks which caused further damage to buildings, infrastructure and land.

I would like to touch on the experience from my own Waimakariri Electorate: We quite often call the earthquakes the Christchurch Earthquakes when really they are the Canterbury Earthquakes and a town in my electorate was the hardest hit in the first earthquake in September 2010. The town centre was devastated and we lost over a thousand residential homes.

From the start, the recovery process has been about bringing people on board and moving them forward in a shared vision. Nowhere is this more transparent than in how our communities have worked together to have a say on the future use of our residential redzoned land.

Waimakariri is leading the way in this process and we are aware that Christchurch will be looking to the Waimak model as they follow with their future-use decisions.

In 2014 the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Hon Gerry Brownlee launched the CERA-led Canvas campaign to gather residents’ ideas for the red zones.

The aim of the campaign was to give people the opportunity to talk about their vision for the land. It became apparent that people were looking for community spaces that would enable and promote recreation; others raised the view that the use of the spaces should be economically productive.

In September 2015 Government directed Waimakariri District Council to prepare for consideration a plan for the long-term use of redzoned residential land.

In February this year the Preliminary Draft Waimakariri Residential Red Zone Recovery Plan was released for public comment.

The area encompasses almost 100 hectares of mainly residential land that was red zoned.

Over 1000 homes in Kaiapoi were purchased by the Crown following the September 2010 earthquake.  People who had been neighbours as their children grew up around them were overnight left bereft and facing the possibility of having to relocate. What came forward was that people wanted to stay in Kaiapoi.

Because of the lack of available land, the Earthquake Recovery Minister used his emergency powers under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act to free up land for new, affordable housing, allowing Kaiapoi residents to stay in their town and to also cater for people moving into the area from Christchurch.

As a result, Waimakariri has experienced phenomenal growth as families have remained and new families arrived. This growth is expected to continue. As I mentioned in my introduction, Waimakariri electorate is now the third fastest-growing electorate in New Zealand and the Waimakariri District recently overtook Invercargill to become the largest district by population on the South Island.

With this growth, however, have come some issues that have required working through. Traffic congestion is one of the major issues constituents raise with me. However, the mood is one of optimism as we anticipate the major roading projects for our region.

In March, I brought the Prime Minister to the electorate for an update and briefing on the construction of the Western Belfast Bypass. It was good to hear construction is ahead of schedule and under Budget. When completed, the bypass is expected to divert 50 percent of traffic off Main North Rd.

We also look forward to the completion of the Northern Arterial Route which will improve access to the Christchurch CBD and provide an additional northbound lane on the bridge over the Waimakariri River.

Government commitment to the rebuild of major anchor projects in our town centres has attracted private-sector investment that has led to renewed vibrancy of our town centres. Included in this has been a $7 million grant towards the restoration of our earthquake-damaged facilities, including the re-opening of Oxford and Rangiora Town Halls; and new Ruataniwha Kaiapoi Civic Centre.

Recent figures show that Rangiora’s retail sector has grown to be the fifth largest in the greater Christchurch area. Waimakariri’s experience demonstrates the need to focus on regeneration.

Parliament recently debated and passed the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Act which provides a new legal framework to support the regeneration of greater Christchurch over the next five years. It recognises the shift in focus from recovery to regeneration, including providing for timely future development of Greater Christchurch under local leadership. The act is the product of extensive consultation and input from local government and other local leaders.

In December 2014, the Advisory Board on Transition was established to advise the Government on the transition from CERA to long term recovery arrangements. The Board was ably chaired by Dame Jenny Shipley and included representatives from each local council, as well as the community and business sectors.

The advice of the Board informed a Transition Recovery Plan detailing the arrangements to be put in place when the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority ends.

Public comment on the Transition Recovery Plan demonstrated strong support for local leadership. This will be achieved through a new joint entity with the Christchurch City Council called Regenerate Christchurch.

The Act provides Regenerate Christchurch with the powers necessary to achieve its purpose. It will begin as a joint Crown and Council body; and after five years will pass entirely to the Council. Appointments to, and funding of, Regenerate Christchurch will be shared by the Crown and Council.

It gives the strategic partners (Canterbury Regional Council, Christchurch City Council, Selwyn District Council, Ngāi Tahu and Waimakariri District Council) greater input into the exercise of the Minister’s powers and the development of Recovery Plans, now renamed Regeneration Plans.

Many of the emergency powers included in the 2011 CERA legislation are no longer necessary and have been removed.

Following negotiations with parties across Parliament and with the Christchurch City Council, the role of Regenerate Christchurch will be strengthened in leading Regeneration Plans in Christchurch District.

A proponent of a Plan will now submit its proposed Outline for the Regeneration Plan process to Regenerate Christchurch, rather than directly to the Minister. Regenerate Christchurch will provide advice to the Minister on how to proceed.

Once the Plan has been developed, Regenerate Christchurch will provide advice to the Minister on whether to approve the Plan.

The main provisions of the Act are to establish Regenerate Christchurch, an entity jointly controlled by the Crown and Christchurch City Council; set the path for a return to local leadership; have the key objective of moving on from the earthquake recovery phase and into the regeneration phase.

It’s important to note The Act enables regeneration and development that is not constrained by reference to the earthquakes, or to building back what we had before.

The rebuild of Canterbury is one of the most ambitious undertakings we have ever undertaken as a nation. All of you here today are an important part of the equation in helping rebuild our city as investors, developers, property owners.

Supporting the rebuild remains of one of the National led Government’s main priorities. Five years on from the first major earthquake, I believe we can take pride in what we have achieved.  I look forward to the acceleration of the work still to be undertaken as we seize all opportunities to make greater Christchurch a region that the rest of the world will look to in the years ahead as a dynamic, vibrant region that is a great place to live, do business, play and of course cheer on the Crusaders.

Thank you.