Christchurch Convention Centre construction to begin

An artist's impression of the Convention Centre
An artist's impression of the Convention Centre

Construction will soon begin on Christchurch's convention centre, which is scheduled to be completed in late 2019 -- two years later than planned.

Minister supporting the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Gerry Brownlee made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon.

"Today the Government has released an indicative design for the Convention Centre Precinct, to give people an idea of what to expect from this important new facility for Christchurch," Mr Brownlee says.

The Crown will now be delivering the convention centre only, after completing the early design and master planning stages with Plenary Conventions New Zealand (PCNZ).

Ōtākaro Limited, the Crown-owned company set up to deliver central city anchor projects on the Government's behalf, will take care of who will develop the rest of the precinct. This will include accommodation, hospitality and retail businesses.

PCNZ -- a consortium of international infrastructure firm Plenary Group -- along with local firms Ngāi Tahu Property and Carter Group were selected as the preferred developers for the project.

The contract with the group was for the design and master plan of the facility, which the Minister says is "pretty much" done and the decision not to proceed with PCNZ was mutually agreed.

Work will begin immediately at the convention centre site on Oxford Terrace and Gloucester St and Mr Brownlee has assured the Government remains "committed" to a world-class precinct.

Mr Brownlee isn't disappointed the whole precinct project won't be delivered at the same time.

"It's always been necessary for the convention centre itself to get underway and for there to be a timeline of its delivery for others to start considering what investments they might like to make."

"What we're going to end up with is a convention centre that's internationally competitive," he says, "A little extra time now won't have been wasted."

Mr Brownlee wouldn't comment on how much the project will cost the Government, but says it would be slightly in excess of the originally proposed $284 million. 

Minister Gerry Brownlee (Newshub.)

News the construction phase will begin has brought relief to The Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce (The Chamber).

"This is critical to instilling confidence in that part of the city, enabling other investors to work in an environment of more certainty and to underpin visitor growth for the city and the region," The Chamber general manager Leeann Watson says.

"The Convention Centre is well recognised as a vital piece of infrastructure that will make an important statement in our central city."

Christchurch International Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns says a convention centre is an essential piece of enabling infrastructure for a city.

"Christchurch needs world-class enabling infrastructure which lets our city, its businesses, institutions, communities and people engage nationally and internationally in business, science and sports," Mr Jones says.

"We've been missing out in these areas," he says, "Today's announcement gives us a clear pathway to be able to participate in major conventions and business events."

Mr Brownlee says the Christchuch centre will fit in neatly between popular convention centre destinations Auckland and Queenstown.

International convention centre and hotel operator Accor was selected as the preferred operator.

In April, a Treasury report gave the Christchurch rebuild its worst possible rating. Slow progress of projects such as the convention centre were said to be holding back "a whole heap of investment", Labour leader Andrew Little said at the time.

Construction was originally planned to begin in 2015 and with completion scheduled for 2017.