Extract from article published by Stuff on 13/06/2020.
“One that comes to mind is a somewhat infamous meeting that the then minister Stephen Joyce gate-crashed back in 2012. Christchurch’s Central Development Unit had been given 100 days to prepare a “blueprint for action”.
This saw a high-powered congregation of Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Christchurch City Council, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, and architects creating a top down rebuild plan. While there was theoretically an ability to “share an idea” channel operated by the city council for community groups to have input, I’m not sure these ideas got a lot of airtime during the process.
The folklore is that Joyce attended a blueprint meeting close to the end of the process where the draft was shared and snorted “this is all big boy crap, you need an innovation precinct where the little guys can flourish”.
Out of this came the Innovation Precinct (now known as the SALT district). Their first project was the EPIC Centre, an eco-friendly building that went up blindingly fast and quickly housed 20 high tech Christchurch early stage companies and around 250 workers.
I’ve worked with many of the companies that kicked off life in the EPIC Centre and can confirm it’s been a rich source of value for the region; and a handy use source of export dollars. And what made it work in my eyes was the combination of top down and bottom up approaches being joined up; thanks in part to a bolshie minister.
Recently the prime minister’s Business Advisory Council was wound up (as was always planned) in the lead up to the 2020 election. In his final note to the PM, chairman Fraser Whineray made the point that the way out of disaster is a joined-up approach.
This leads me back to what Dennis has noted about the context for the current disaster – New Zealand is facing a crisis that dwarfs the Christchurch earthquakes. With this in mind there’s one critical question that springs to mind – what’s the equivalent of the EPIC Centre, but on a national scale?”