The new single entity ChristchurchNZ amalgamated five separate functions:
- economic development
- tourism promotion
- convention bureau
- major events promotion
- Antarctica promotion.
The restructure was justified by an expectation of lower senior management costs, reduced administration costs and increased coordination across the various functions, leading to an overall improvement in efficiency and effectiveness.
The downside risk, seemingly ignored in the Council’s decision, was always going to be an actual increase in budget requirements combined with a loss of focus on the individual functions, resulting in a reduced efficiency and effectiveness.
What’s needed now is an independent review of how ChristchurchNZ is performing against the original business case approved by the Council. I suspect there are lessons to be learnt. I wouldn’t be surprised if the findings included a recommendation to separate out economic development.
With regard to the economic development function, I fear we may be missing out on a huge one-off opportunity:
If greater Christchurch could find a way to continue housing development at pace and also prevent any further rise in house prices, then we would attract huge numbers of businesses and people from the North Island. This would provide a much larger rating base to support all the wonderful new public assets we are investing in e.g., Convention Centre, Stadium, cycleways, mass transit etc. It could be the start of a long-term development of greater Christchurch to be a genuine rival to Auckland. A doubling of Christchurch population is potentially achievable within the next 20-30 years. We have huge natural advantages, e.g., flat land, climate, leisure opportunities.
All the attention nationally has been on the golden triangle of Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga as the current centre of the national economy, but the SI based on Christchurch as main centre has huge potential for the future.
Let’s see some big picture thinking and long-term vision and leadership from the CCC. The big new airport in Central Otago is a great start. But it needs to go much further.
Otherwise we risk Christchurch becoming a nice wee provincial city supplying a steady stream of bright young people to Auckland, the country’s economic powerhouse and only “international city”.