Budget blowout for Christchurch anchor project

The Government has revealed a budget blowout for one of Christchurch’s anchor projects.

The metro sports facility, which sits astride almost an entire city block near Hagley Park, will now cost $321 million. The Christchurch City Council’s contribution is $147 million.

Christchurch Rebuild Minister Megan Woods says the budget blowout is $75 million. However, for more than two years, the local Press newspaper has been reporting the project’s budget at $300 million.

The facility was originally meant to open early last year, but the project’s been further delayed with a scheduled finish date in late 2020.

At a press conference in the city this afternoon, Woods announced the Government was tearing up an ECI (early contractor involvement) contract with Leighs Cockram Joint Venture Ltd. Crown rebuild agency Otakaro will complete the design work, which is 80 percent finished, and prepare a build-only plan by April.

Government officials, with city council staff, will urgently review options for the facility, including whether it should be combined with a multi-purpose stadium, proposed to be built near Latimer Square. That’s a suggestion that has been raised before.

In a statement, Woods called the budget blowout an “undue burden” on taxpayers and Christchurch ratepayers, adding the extra costs were “unacceptable”.

“I know we can’t continue with the same approach and expect a different outcome.”

Woods previously told Newsroom she wanted to find out the reasons for delay in Christchurch rebuild projects, adding: “I want to see us pick up the pace.”

The central Christchurch site earmarked for the new facility. Photo: David Williams

Budget rises

The original budget for the metro sports facility was put at $217 million. Two years ago, that was increased to $246.3 million. The Government said today a construction cost of $321 million was down to “an increased price by the preferred contractor and a significant risk escalation component”.

The facility was billed as the largest aquatic and indoor recreation of its kind in the country, boasting New Zealand’s largest leisure pool, five hydroslides, and an indoor aquatic hall with 1000 spectator seats.

The current design stretches over more than 30,000 square metres, featuring multi-purpose courts with enough room for nine netball courts and retractable seating for 2500 spectators on the show court.

Sport Canterbury and High Performance Sport New Zealand would be based there. There would also be a large gym facility, four studios and car parking for 500 vehicles. On average, 40,000 people were expected to use it each week.

Delays and rising costs have been put down to poor ground conditions, confirmed by testing after original budgets were set, and high land costs. Land remediation – including dealing with asbestos, hazardous materials and the risk of liquefaction – would cost $5 million, The Press reported in July.

Contractors started work on the site in October last year and had to drive thousands of concrete piles, up to a metre-wide, into the ground. Otakaro chief executive Albert Brantley told The Press the site was “not exactly the best” for the facility.

Cheaper, smaller options have been considered previously but tossed out.

It’s been a frustrating wait for several of the city’s sports codes. The facility was meant to be the new home for Christchurch swimmers, to replace Burwood’s wrecked QEII complex, and provide an indoor base for Canterbury netball.

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