Government-Council Partnership for Christchurch positive but risky

22 Jan 2016 12:01 PM | Anonymous

Government-Council Partnership for Christchurch positive but complexity of structure remains significant risk

Media Statement 
25 September 2015 

Its encouraging to see the Government and Christchurch City Council forming Regenerate Christchurch as a joint partnership to oversee the future of the Christchurch rebuild. But the creation of three public agencies to deliver urban redevelopment risks creating implementation challenges, says NZ Council for Infrastructure Development head Stephen Selwood. 

The establishment of an independent board to oversee a new jointly owned Regenerate Christchurch entity will add expertise to the decision making process and will help depoliticise development decisions. 

This is welcome. However, as principally a planning, engagement and monitoring agency, Regenerate Christchurch will be one step removed from delivering the outcomes everyone in Canterbury wants to see.

Actual delivery will be vested in two other agencies a Crown owned company reporting to the Minister and Development Christchurch Limited which will be governed by an independent board appointed by the Council. 

Key issues that will need to be reconciled across all three agencies includesourcing governance and leadership expertise, sequencing of construction activity, cash-flow management, interfacing with users and investors and general commercial engagement, procurement and contracting.

Getting the very best talent in place is a permanent challenge for any major redevelopment undertaking. Attracting the very best expertise across three organisations is going to be difficult. 

A single, integrated delivery agency with requiring authority status and reporting directly to a joint Government and Council appointed board would have been simpler. 

We will have to wait to see how responsibilities and accountability will be apportioned among the three agencies. It will be important to understand how the Board of Regenerate Christchurch reporting to the Minister and the Council will hold CrownCo and Development Christchurch Limited to account when they also individually report to the same Minister and Council. 

Funding and financing responsibilities are also going to have to be well considered. If delivery agencies cannot operate flexibly to take advantage of property and other dynamic opportunities as they arise and instead are beholden to slow, process-driven public decision making practices, the tax payer is going to pick up a bigger share of the tab in the long run. 

Theres a fantastic opportunity to truly deliver something unique in Christchurch that all New Zealanders can be proud of, but its unclear whether that outcome requires such a complex governance model. Given a decision has been made to run with three agencies, the focus needs to be on installing the right leadership, responsibilities and accountabilities to bring all components together, Selwood says.

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