Wasteland sites are ‘dragging down’ city
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.