|The 'Share An Idea' Wall|
Former Christchurch mayor Bob Parker claims he was 'shattered' when CERA dumped the Christchurch City Council's own plan for the central city - but that didn't stop him from cheerleading for the Government's blueprint, the corporate failure that the city is stuck with now.
IMAGINE IF CHRISTCHURCH, some five years ago, had not been forcibly lumbered with the Government's corporate-friendly top-down rebuiid. Just imagine if the city been allowed to implement the central city blueprint that the Christchurch City Council arrived at after a year of extensive consultation with the local community - more than 100,000 suggestions were contributed by local folk, which amply demonstrated that the local community had embraced the Council's 'Share An Idea' campaign.
Last week The Star published an interesting article, 'Looking at what might have been for our central city', by Gabrielle Stuart which examined what kind of central Christchurch we might have now if only the city had been allowed to follow its own vision.
It's worth quoting Gabrielle Stuart:
'Green and bustling with people - that was the city council's vision for how the central city would look by 2017.
In the centre of the city, an indoor market be open and busy with shoppers.
Up the road, the new Central Library would be open, and a new convention centre on the former Kilmore St site would be finished and hosting events. The Metro Sports Facility would almost be finished.
Free marking and bus rides would encourage people to visit the central city.
Space would have been set aside for a light rail network from the central city to the suburbs and Canterbury University, with construction of the network set to begin in 2019. They planned to have it running by 2022.
There would be far fewer empty spaces.'
'There would be far fewer empty spaces'. I think Gabrielle is taking a subtle swipe at the current unsatisfactory situation and the extensive areas of ugly wasteland that still pockmark the central city.
In very general terms the Christchurch City council blueprint envisaged a people-friendly central city that was in keeping with its modest population of some 400,000 people. There were no plans for bloated 'anchor projects' and other monuments to the 'greatness' of corporate capitalism.
However that plan was deliberately scuttled by CERA representing the interests of the corporate sector.
Connal Townsend , the chief Executive of the Property Council and brother of Pete Townsend, the CEO of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, wrote in the Property Council's 2012 Annual Report: 'By September Christchurch City Council had released a highly prescriptive draft Inner City Plan that generated considerable disquiet throughout the country. The release, on 13 October, of the formal letter from CERA to Mayor Bob Parker advising the city that the inner city plan was not acceptable to the crown in its present form as it did “not represent the requirements or aspirations of commercial property owners or investors” was a great relief'.
Unfortunately Gabrielle Stuart failed to answer her own question as to why the Christchurch City Council plan ended up being binned.
Instead she sought comment from former mayor Bob Parker. He expresses his disappointment that his council's plan was unceremoniously dumped. In fact Parker claims he was 'shattered' by the rejection;
"I am still disappointed. My personal view is we would have ended up with the city that was truly created by it's community. which would have been remarkable. In the end it was taken completely out of our hands and we had to sit there and watch others brought in to do the work that I and others had spent our whole local government careers preparing to do."
lf Parker was as upset as he claims he was, he certainly hid it well. When the government's own blueprint was launched by the Prime Minister, Parker exclaimed that he was "very excited" about it.
Parker's loyalty to the Government, as opposed to the local community who voted him into office and paid his bloated salary, earned him a knighthood.
Meanwhile the good people of Christchurch continue to live with the consequences of a rebuild that remains tightly in the grip of the corporate sector - and which shows no signs of changing under the mayoralty of Lianne Dalziel.