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Canterbury’s earthquake recovery progresses

The end of 2012 marked nearly two years since the most devastating of Canterbury’s 2010–11 earthquakes. All community sectors experienced a year of challenges, achievements, and milestones in 2012, and progress is underway.
  • Image, construction on a new building in Christchurch.

    Action focuses on the worst affected residential properties

    Soon after the February 2011 earthquake, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) mapped the Christchurch land into four zones – red, orange, green, and white. Land was marked red if it was so badly damaged by the earthquakes it was likely it would take a prolonged period of time before it could be rebuilt on again; or it was affected by cliff collapse or rock roll where there would be an immediate or unacceptable risk to life; or where other engineering solutions were not practicable. In total, 7,857 properties were deemed red.

    By 31 December 2012, all residential property owners knew whether their property was zoned red or green, and if the government would offer to buy their house and land.

    The Residential Red Zone offer was crucial to Canterbury’s recovery. It gave red zone property owners the chance to move on with one part of their lives and find a new, secure, and safe home.

    By December 2012, over 6,300 property owners had signed a sale and purchase agreement. The government had spent $989 million on buying the properties of owners who had settled.

    Although the government is still to decide about the future use of residential red zone land, nearly 1,300 properties had been demolished by the end of 2012. These cleared areas will be grassed over and maintained until longer-term decisions are made.

    Outside the residential red zone, about 28,000 of the approximately 180,000 homes in greater Christchurch are classed as Technical Category 3 or TC3). Of these homes, 10,000 are likely to require rebuilding or to need significant foundation repairs. Technical categories describe how the land is expected to perform in future earthquakes, and also describe the foundation systems which are most likely to be required for homes in those areas.

    Many Cantabrians continue their negotiations with the Earthquake Commission and their insurers as they work towards rebuilding and repairing their homes.

    Rebuilding begins in the business district

    Alongside a need to redevelop where people live is the necessity to rebuild a strong, vibrant, and economically successful central business district (CBD).

    Immediately after the February 2011 earthquake the cordon around the CBD extended to 92 hectares. By the end of 2012, this was down to 39 hectares, with a substantial amount of demolition in the CBD completed. The city was refocusing on recovery and reconstruction.

    In July 2012, CERA’s Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) launched the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan. Over 100 days, a consortium worked with the CCDU to develop The Blueprint Plan, which provides a spatial framework for developing central Christchurch. It describes the form for rebuilding the central city as a whole, and defines the locations of 16 'anchor' projects, which will stimulate further development.

    A green and open CBD will focus on the Avon River, with transport corridors for cyclists and pedestrians that easily link sections of the CBD. This area, referred to as the Frame, is a four-sided green corridor that defines and contains the CBD. The city’s arts, sports, and retail facilities will be rebuilt and improved – to make the most of the blank canvas the earthquakes’ devastation created.

    In 2012, CCDU began negotiations with CBD property owners to acquire the land needed for the anchor projects in the Frame. By the end of the year, this ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ process was progressing very well.

    In December 2012, key anchor projects began to take shape. CCDU appointed groups to design and develop the Avon River Precinct and the North and East Frame. The projects will take about three years to complete.

    Private sector bounces back

    In 2012 the Canterbury private sector bounced back.

    Building work underway in Canterbury in September 2012 was worth $603 million in total, up 46 percent on the value of work in September 2010. Over $3.9 billion worth of building consents were issued in Canterbury between September 2010 and December 2012.

    In the final quarter of 2012, contractors produced 170,000 cubic metres of ready-mixed concrete in Canterbury, enough for 68 Olympic-sized swimming pools and an 82 percent increase on the three months to December 2010.

    Between February 2010 and February 2012, the number of employees in the construction industry in Canterbury increased from 15,520 to 20,420 (up 32 percent). Information from the labour market suggests at least 80 percent of pre-quake tenancies will return to the central city.

    Greater Christchurch is now well down the recovery path as it works towards becoming a vibrant, world-class, innovative city.  

    Source: Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority.

There is a necessity to rebuild a strong, vibrant, and economically successful central business district.
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