AUSTRALASIA – New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has announced that a new state-of-the-art convention centre will be built in Christchurch with a completion date of 2016. A new 24,000sqm convention centre had been mooted since the city's quake-damaged convention centre was demolished.
“This is the news we have been waiting for and we’re thrilled there is now some certainty around the planned new convention centre,” says Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism Chief Executive, Tim Hunter. “The new convention centre will be a catalyst for further hospitality-related investment. Hotel investors have been holding off on making decisions about where they’re going to build until a decision on the location of the convention centre had been made, but now they can start actively planning for the future.”
A new and larger Christchurch Convention Centre is estimated to cost NZ$220m (US$178m), according to Christchurch Central Development Unit’s Warwick Isaacs.
Isaacs said, although the plans for the 2,000-delegate convention centre are only in the concept stage, the project would include two adjoining hotels, a restaurant and retail spaces. It will be configured so that as many as three events can be run simultaneously.
He added the project would help “re-establish” convention business for the city, which has an economic impact for Christchurch of $80m annually pre-quake. It was predicted the new convention centre would provide the opportunity to grow convention business by at least 40 per cent.
"So until such time as the design is fully developed the cost won't be known. We're keen on a private-public split of some description," Isaacs said.
Conventions and Incentives NZ Chief Executive, Alan Trotter, added that the $200m+ costing had been made relative to an Auckland convention centre project that had been costed at $350m to cope with up to 3,500 at full capacity.
Trotter said to have a medium-sized Christchurch centre sitting behind a national convention centre to be sited in Auckland was critical not only for Christchurch and the South Island but New Zealand as a whole. Before the original Christchurch Convention Centre was demolished it hosted 25 per cent of all conventions in New Zealand of 250+ delegates.
"When we lost it the offering from New Zealand was quite badly dented, so this announcement is really timely," Trotter said. "We've been telling the Government for some time there's no point in a Christchurch centre going head to head with Auckland. The way the numbers work is fantastic. The really big one is up here in Auckland, the second biggest one is down there and then of course we've got a smaller facility for up to 750 people to go in Queenstown."
Christchurch and Canterbury Convention Bureau Manager, Caroline Blanchfield, said the announcement meant the bureau could now actively pursue large international conferences for Christchurch. “This ticks all the boxes for conference organisers and fits what the convention industry is looking for in New Zealand. It will significantly improve our ability to attract trade shows and consumer exhibitions at a national level," she said.
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