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In the last week there has been a long overdue rush of public announcements about the Performing Arts Precinct in Christchurch. These can be tidily split into categories of ‘why didn’t they announce this 6 months ago’, and the more bewildering ‘are you trying to make yourself look stupid?’. I’ll explain this below, and by doing so try to work out a question that could easily apply to a number of projects in the city at the moment: is the current sad state of this project a result of incompetence or deceit? (It’s a long article, but there are specific recommendations at the end!)
I’ll start with the obvious announcement. The government has decided that a significant part of the area designated for the Arts Precinct is now no longer needed so they have wisely decided to remove the designation. This allows the owners of the land to avoid compulsory purchase of the land and to either sell the land or to develop what they want. It has been obvious to everyone involved that this land was not needed for the arts precinct project with the Council’s repeated and consistent position to retain and repair the Town hall. For a department that has been given the mandate to improve the quality and speed of the rebuild it seems strange to tie up this bit of land for so long given that it has been known since late August last year when the Council voted unanimously (for the 2nd time) to retain the Townhall. It was signaled long before this with the Council vote the previous year and the acknowledgment in the Cost Sharing Agreement between the CCC and CERA that the Town hall was likely to stay. This is from a famously fractured council, and not a single member voted against retention on two separate occasions.Read more