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The Press-News column. May 6

Don’t Give Up on Christchurch.

Doom, despondency and discontent has dominated the local news headlines in the past week, with floods sinking the morale of thousands, and many others putting the boot in to the central city blueprint. It is imperative that the city council keeps the faith and delivers tangible solutions to the residents of the Flockton basin, the Heathcote’s riverside residents and elsewhere, by May 12. The council’s flirtation with providing more affordable housing runs the risk of being an ill-timed and costly distraction – particularly if Vicki Buck gets her way and the Capital Endowment Fund is raided for this non-core escapade. Bravo to Cr. Raf Manji for once again being the guiding light of financial restraint. Meanwhile, the spluttering central city rebuild appears to have become the plaything of the gloom-mongerers. But did anyone seriously think the reconstruction of the city centre would purr along like a contented cat? For all the stumbles and uncertainty about some anchor projects, the vast bulk of the central city blueprint embodied the overwhelming public sentiment, as expressed through the council’s Share an Idea exercise. The Avon River precinct, the playground, a more concentrated retail area, a centrally located Convention Centre and a pedestrian-centric city centre were all key themes that bubbled to the top. Sure, some anchor projects will no doubt be delayed, scaled back – even abandoned. That looks inevitable. But it’s grossly misguided to blame CERA for the wheels falling off the Performing Arts precinct. The city council’s obstinate insistence on fire-hosing $130 million on the beleaguered Town Hall, was a death blow to the dream of creating a brand spanking, dazzling and integrated performing arts precinct. Some armchair generals are adamant that the post-quake rebuild should have been totally left at the mercy of market forces to sort out, without any government intrusion. As much as I agree that far too many eminently repairable and reusable buildings have been forcibly acquired and clear-felled, do you seriously believe a better, more cohesive city centre for the future, would have emerged if every property owner had been left to their own devices to muddle their way through? Would Christchurch really be further down the road to recovery, if those individuals with conflicting, disjointed and disparate agendas had been allowed to do whatever they wanted? Glacial-paced, our recovery is. Frustratingly so. But for all the foibles and frustrations, the new Christchurch is slowly starting to emerge from its chrysalis. Over 200 private developments, within the four avenues, are already being constructed or have been consented. Don’t give up on Christchurch. Stay the course and see it rise.

Mike’s weekly current affairs column as published in The Press on May 6.

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