A new survey predicts that the Christchurch rebuild will be 'longer,slower and flatter'. This will be news for Pete 'I can smell the money' Townsend who was predicting the rebuild to begin 'in earnest' this year. Which he also predicted for 2012 and 2013. 

SINCE THE big quake of 2011, one of the many things  the good people of Christchurch have had to endure is an endless  parade of  'movers and shakers'  talking  up the rebuild of central Christchurch.

One of the chief offenders  has been Peter Townsend, the big cheese at the Canterbury Employers' Chambers of Commerce and a committed supporter of the Key government.

So far Pete has had at least  three stabs at predicting when the rebuild would be 'cranking up' (his words) and everytime he has been wildly wrong.

He confidently  predicted that central  Christchurch  would magically  morph into a centre of frenzied building activity in 2012.

When that didn't happen  he said  2013 was going to be the big year and that he could even 'smell the money' pouring into Christchurch. According  to Pete 'Nostradamus' Townsend the rebuild was 'officially underway'. The  editor of The Press, Joanna Norris, was convinced. She wrote in March last year:

Developers are pushing ahead with a flamboyance and ballsiness that is to be admired. Our city is booming. As Peter Townsend, told The Press in October: "You can smell the money."

But  for the thousands of Christchurch people living in earthquake damaged houses the only odour they could smell was the pungent stink of rising damp.

It didn't take long though for Pete to change his  tune though  At  the annual meeting of the Canterbury Employers Chambers of Commerce in October last year he declared that  the recovery process had, in fact, 'only just started'.

Despite the flip-flop this didn't stop Pete  pontificating later in the year that the big rebuild would begin 'in earnest' in 2014.

Just two months ago, in April,  he said: 'By the end of the year Christchurch will be a goldrush city as the rebuild finally gets into top gear'.

Perhaps he thought he was doing the Government a good turn by talking things up, especially in an election year, but all he did was make a fool of himself in public once again. 

We're now halfway through the year and only thing that has happened is the Government's ludicrous blueprint for central Christchurch  has become  becalmed  with major developments now 'on hold' and others abandoned.  

But another prediction, not as rosy as any of Pete's many predictions, has just recently been issued by the  Aecom, a global technical services provider.  A six month survey  has revealed  nearly  half of  the local  industry respondents (engineers, architects, etc)  think that the rebuild will be 'longer,slower and flatter' with 'the peak' predicted for 2016. But significantly a growing number of the respondents think that 'the peak' won't arrive until 2017.

This certainly doesn't suggest that Aecom members share  the gung-ho  views of Peter Townsend or of the Prime Minister. John Key  told the Canterbury Employers' Chambers of Commerce in April  that  'It is clear that the rebuild in the central city is gaining momentum'.

The  Aecom survey found that  found that investor and supplier confidence had plateaued. Nothing about 'growing momentum' here.

Interestingly  the survey revealed  only 44 per cent of Canterbury respondents were in favour of the Government's bizarre plan for  gigantic sports stadiums and convention centres, down from 57 per cent at the last survey in November.  Concern was expressed about 'the cost escalation' of the Government's obviously  unaffordable  plan.

The cold fact is that the very people who have denied the people of Christchurch a real say in the rebuild of their city are the same people who are responsible for the mess that the city now finds itself in. But this is the city where a mayor who failed to represent the interests of the people of Christchurch for six long years  was rewarded for his loyalty to the Government with a knighthood.

Meanwhile out in the suburbs the crisis continues to deepen. The lack of affordable housing, skyrocketing rents, increasing poverty and lack of community services is wreaking a heavy toll on the health and well being of a great many people.

Not that Peter Townsend has noticed. He has largely had nothing to say about the crisis beyond the central city. In fact he seems to think that people are responding to the crisis by whipping up  snazzy new bedrooms or kitchens for the house in between gin and tonics at the golf club. Townsend appears to be living in the manicured  world of Home and Garden magazine:

Everyone I talk to that is repairing their house or rebuilding their house is putting more capital in than the insurance company, because they’re putting betterment in. So you have $200,000 worth of damage to your house you’re going to put a new kitchen in, you’re going to put a new bathroom in for another $40,000-$50,000 and do above and beyond what the like-for-like replacement of your insurance policy will allow you to do.

James Dann has skewered Townsend's comments on his blog Rebuilding Christchurch. Writes Dann:

Everyone Townsend talks to is putting in a new kitchen; whereas everyone I talk to on the streets of Ilam is worried about their landlord putting rent up, about the power bills for winter, about whether Housing New Zealand is going to kick them out. This really is a tale of two cities: the one where the quakes were a minor inconvenience resulting in a new master bedroom with an ensuite, and the one where rent has gone up 40% in the last year but there is still a queue of 50 lining up to lease it.


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