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Press Release

Budget 2014: Patience for Christchurch provisions

It occurred to me this week that I have now had my work laptop for just over three years. Most people probably wouldn’t remember a detail like that but for my colleagues and me it is easy. Our current laptops were issued almost immediately after the February 2011 earthquake that resulted in most of our IT equipment being lost in the demolition of the Grant Thornton building in Cathedral Square.

If only everything else could be replaced as quickly. If there is one thing that Cantabrians have learned, it’s the need for patience. Many red-zoners and others are still waiting for a satisfactory conclusion to settlement of their property claims. Most of the Christchurch CBD remains as vacant lots, with a number of significant demolitions still to be carried out. The islands of activity that do exist are themselves fraught with delays. 

There is still a significant amount of infrastructure work to be carried out. Although such work is less inspiring than seeing new houses, offices and restaurants go up, and (with over 40 sites being worked on in the CBD) creates commuting carnage, it is a vital part of the recovery.

Recent reports suggest that there is still $1.77 billion of “horizontal infrastructure” work to be carried out. City councillors have been told that there’s only $1.36 billion left in the Budget, although Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee, disputes the figures (1). Regardless, the amount of infrastructure spend appears to be a moving feast, and one must ask what provision will be made in this year’s Budget to ensure that Christchurch rebuilds itself to full capacity.

On the positive side, figures released in the Canterbury Development Corporation’s “Canterbury Report”(2) show that economic activity in Canterbury far exceeds that of the New Zealand average, with a 6.6% increase in local GDP during the year ending December 2013, including growth in: the construction sector (15.7%); professional, scientific and technical services (8.2%); retail trade (8.2%), and accommodation, cafes and restaurants (7.5%). Associated with this comes strong retail trade, low unemployment, and strong migration.

While that provides a return to the Government’s books in the form of higher tax receipts, much of the growth is acknowledged as being temporary and one-off as the city rebuilds. The real question is: what is it that will result from the current hive of activity as a lasting legacy and future driver of the Canterbury economy?

A continued understanding of, and funding for, Canterbury’s situation and requirements must be maintained by the Government. For anyone not in amongst it, the earthquakes may seem like yesterday’s news; after all, the last big ones were three years ago.  But for those of us still living in inadequate housing, driving on roller-coaster roads, and working in deficient “temporary” workplaces, it’s still a reality.

After three years, my laptop is starting to show signs of its age, including sluggish performance. Ironically, our IT man has suggested it may need a “rebuild”. Let’s not allow the pace of the rebuild of Canterbury to decelerate.

1The Press, 2 May 2014, p3

2 The Canterbury Report, Canterbury Development Corporation, Autumn 2014

Further enquiries, please contact:

Geordie Hooft
Grant Thornton New Zealand Partner, Tax and Privately Held Business
T +64 (0)3 964 6828

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