CERA, the acronym that has presided over Christchurch since the 2011 earthquakes, will close its doors on April 18th, 2016. James Dann Power Ranks each and every one of the “anchor projects” that have been completed in the quake city under CERA’s reign – a task slightly less Herculean than it should have been.
CERA was created on the 29th of March, 2011, but its most important date was the 30th of July, 2012. This was when The Blueprint was announced – the master plan for the centre of Christchurch that introduced us to the term “anchor project”.
The Blueprint included plans for a convention centre, a library, stadium, and plenty more. With CERA closing its doors for the last time at the end of the week, we’ve Power Ranked all of the projects that they’ve completed in their five year reign over the CBD.
1) The Margaret Mahy Playground – $41 million, opened December 2015
Though it has only been open since just before Christmas, the Margaret Mahy Playground is without a doubt the single most successful thing that CERA has done in its existence. It’s been packed with kids since day one, and you can often find some of the older – but young at heart – residents using the equipment at night. This project showed that not only could the CCDU actually deliver a project, but it could bring life back to the CBD.
The playground isn’t without issue though – the lack of play equipment for children with disabilities was an embarrassing oversight for CERA, which has been promoting the idea of an “accessible city”. There was also a bit of a naming faux pas, when it had to be pointed out to CERA that the land they had chosen for the Margaret Mahy Playground overlapped with an existing park dedicated to Elsie Locke.
2) The Bus Exchange – $53 million, opened May 2015
A couple of notches up from a utilitarian suburban station, the Bus Exchange opened almost a year ago. It’s a very big space with a high ceiling, a cathedral devoted to the idea of public transport. Even when full of people, it can be strangely quiet, save for the disembodied voices directing you to the various platforms. The bold entrance stands out like a sore thumb, but that’s more to do with the lack of development surrounding the exchange at the moment. There were initial complaints about the buses moving through the station, but these seem to have been overcome. There is plenty of capacity to grow (read: hardly anyone takes the bus) but the building will be well placed to absorb any increases in passenger numbers.
3) Hagley Oval – $13.5 – $20 million(?), opened September 2014
If you’ve watched any of the tests that have been played at Hagley Oval, you may have heard the commentators call it the most beautiful ground in the country. The thing is, it’s not the oval itself that’s beautiful, it’s the park that surrounds it. If CERA had chosen to put an abattoir in Hagley Park, I have no doubt that it would have been the country’s most beautiful abattoir. A terrible idea and a stench on the city, but beautiful, no doubt. The Oval itself is pretty standard – a gentle grass bank around most of the boundary, with a seated pavilion that remains stubbornly and embarrassingly empty despite all of the cheap seats usually selling out. CERA used the Blueprint process to get this project done in time for the Cricket World Cup, which shows how they can pull out all the stops to get things done when it suited them. If only there had been a world cup for repairing houses, or a competition to see who could build the flattest roading system, the situation in the east of the city might have been very different.
That’s it. Of the remaining projects, the Metro Sports Facility, The Convention Centre, Central Library and the Stadium haven’t turned ground yet, and it doesn’t look like they will anytime soon. The Innovation Precinct and the Retail precinct – both of which are developed by private rather than public interests – are well under way. The Justice and Emergency Services Precinct is coming along well, and the refit of Christchurch hospital is proceeding too. Virtually nothing has been heard of the Ngai Tahu cultural centre, and the residential demonstration project completely collapsed last year after the government and developers couldn’t agree on how to proceed.
The International Car Rental Precinct was not part of the Blueprint, but its opening is highly anticipated by locals and tourists alike. Also, this is totally a real thing and most definitely not a joke.