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Changes for Christchurch convention centre

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 29/06/2016

Christchurch finally has an opening date for its new convention centre - but it's two years behind the original schedule and the consortium building it are no longer involved.

Gerry Brownlee, Minister supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration, that preliminary work would begin immediately and the centre would open its doors in late 2019.

But after protracted negotiations the government has ditched the construction consortium it picked to build the project.

The Crown will instead go it alone and has opted to build just the convention centre rather than a precinct which was tipped to include hotels, apartments and shops.

The cost of the centre hasn't been revealed.

In August 2014, Mr Brownlee and Prime Minister John Key announced Plenary Group, Ngai Tahu Property and Carter Group would build the centre, to which it committed $284 million.

Construction was then expected to begin in 2015, with the centre open for business in 2017.

Mr Brownlee said on Wednesday that the consortium, Plenary Conventions New Zealand (PCNZ), had done the early design and master planning for the centre, but the parties had mutually agreed it would not continue to work on the project.

In August the government will start looking for contractors to carry out the main build, while some preliminary works will begin immediately.

When asked about PCNZ on Wednesday, Mr Brownlee said: "There was no previous contractor - there was a contract for the master planning and the development of the whole precinct concept".

Mr Brownlee acknowledged there had been some criticism about the government's handling of the project but said it was nothing new from "some quarters" which had complained about all aspects of the rebuild.

Labour's Canterbury spokeswoman Megan Woods said Mr Brownlee's "failed" consortium deal had created uncertainty in the city's CBD.

"(The) prime minister and Gerry Brownlee have been calling for calm and patience around this project because they were continually on the cusp of a commercial deal - they failed in that task and taxpayers are now stuck writing a blank cheque," she said.

Both the Christchurch Airport and local tourism board have said the convention centre was essential for attracting business people to the area.

The government has said it plans to speak to interested parties regarding developing the wider convention centre precinct.

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