Waste­land sites are ‘drag­ging down’ city

The Press - - Front Page - LIZ McDON­ALD

Christchurch busi­ness peo­ple have re­newed calls to make landown­ers tidy waste­land sites to keep the city re­cov­er­ing.

With new build­ings open­ing and oth­ers well un­der con­struc­tion, the glar­ing con­trast with va­cant or derelict prop­er­ties is stir­ring new lev­els of frus­tra­tion.

Hamish Doig, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Col­liers In­ter­na­tional, said the coun­cil must in­cen­tivise land own­ers to im­prove va­cant sites.

Doig said there were large tracts of bare land ‘‘gap­ing like miss­ing teeth’’.

Some own­ers with in­surance cheques and aban­doned land were pas­sive in­vestors ‘‘and they may not have the skills set to re­de­velop their prop­er­ties, or they’re wait­ing for in­creased mar­ket de­mand’’, he said.

Doig said the slow-down in of­fice de­vel­op­ment meant some land would sit bare for years. Own­ers with ne­glected sites should be en­cour­aged to ei­ther green or seal their land, and be pe­nalised if they re­fused.

‘‘Leav­ing these cleared de­mo­li­tion sites as waste­lands does noth­ing to en­hance Christchurch’s im­age as a re­cov­er­ing city,’’ he said.

Bren­dan Chase, chair­man of the Cen­tral City Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion, said the prob­lem was worst where some own­ers had de­vel­oped their sites while another nearby was ‘‘as rough as guts’’.

‘‘It’s not help­ful still hav­ing un­tidy sites or build­ings bar­ri­caded into the streets when other peo­ple are try­ing to work out of neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties.

‘‘It looks as though noth­ing is hap­pen­ing, it looks like no man’s land.

‘‘Just be­cause some land is not be­ing used, doesn’t meant it shouldn’t be kept tidy.’’

The city coun­cil agreed last year to re­bate de­vel­op­ment con­tri­bu­tions for both com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial de­vel­op­ments in the cen­tral city. It also re­wards own­ers who hand sites over for tran­si­tional projects.

Christchurch City Coun­cil staff are look­ing at pol­icy op­tions to make own­ers clean up sites af­ter the coun­cil ac­cepted a rec­om­men­da­tion this year by the Christchurch City De­vel­op­ment Fo­rum.

The fo­rum asked the coun­cil put to form reg­u­la­tions so it take ac­tion where prop­er­ties are derelict, un­san­i­tary, or oth­er­wise an eye­sore.

Fo­rum chair­man and coun­cil­lor Jamie Gough said the lo­cal elec­tions had de­layed progress on the is­sue and there was un­likely to be ac­tion un­til next year as there were other pri­or­i­ties.

He ac­knowl­edged the frus­tra­tion of busi­nesses.

‘‘Pock­ets of dis­carded rub­ble five years out from the earth­quakes is not a good look for a city,’’ Gough said.

‘‘When we are past that stage and try­ing to re­gen­er­ate the city, it’s dis­heart­en­ing.’’

Gough said the coun­cil badly needed the tools to pull own­ers into line. He said a ‘‘car­rot and stick’’ ap­proach would prob­a­bly be needed, per­haps us­ing rates. The prob­lem was city-wide, as well as af­fect­ing the cen­tral city, he said.

‘‘Leav­ing these cleared de­mo­li­tion sites as waste­lands does noth­ing to en­hance Christchurch’s im­age as a re­cov­er­ing city.’’ Hamish Doig, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Col­liers In­ter­na­tional

‘‘Some peo­ple are stuck in in­surance wran­gles and do­ing the best they pos­si­ble can.

‘‘But there plenty of ex­am­ples where peo­ple are sit­ting on size­able in­surance pay­outs and they can’t be both­ered get­ting off their chuffs. They are ac­tu­ally drag­ging down every­one else around them.’’

City Own­ers Re­build En­tity chair­man Ernest Du­val called on the Gov­ern­ment to lead the charge by im­prov­ing Crown-owned land as some an­chor re­build projects were still years away.

‘‘A lot of these sites have been empty for five years. Im­prov­ing them would help the whole lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘Grass it up and put some trees in there, put it into a park,’’ Du­val said.

Spend­ing money on im­prov­ing the look of the cen­tral city would help ex­ist­ing re­tail­ers and help en­cour­age oth­ers, stim­u­lat­ing more de­vel­op­ment, Du­val said.

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