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Post-quake many property investors took their insurance money and fled Christchurch. And, with foreign investors failing to show, Frank Film finds a few plucky locals taking a punt on building a city.
Christchurch property investor Mike Percasky remembers feeling “extremely nervous” when the Little High Eatery opened to the public in 2017.
Fellow investors in the project, Richard Peebles and Kris Ingles, weren’t confident the boutique, food hall concept would succeed and Percasky says he had to work hard to convince them otherwise. It’s fair to say Percasky’s early judgement was bang on.
“I thought success would be 300 people a day” he says, “some days we get 2000 people through the door.”
Little High is a rebuild success story, located at the hub of the newly named SALT district. Percasky explains it as South Alternative, and incorporating the streets nearby - St Asaph, Lichfield and Tuam.
The Peebles, Ingles, Percasky investment partnership has resulted in other central city projects, including the McKenzie and Willis development and the current Duncan Buildings restoration and refurbishment.
Next to open is their Riverside Market, by the Bridge of Remembrance and just along from Antony Gough’s massive, 140 million dollar Terrace development.
“It’s the locals who have rebuilt Christchurch” explains Gough, “it's not your overseas investors, not out of towners.”
The launch of the government Blueprint for Christchurch in 2012, was heralded as a plan to attract international property investors. Richard Peebles says representatives from government earthquake agencies travelled the world to entice money to Christchurch, but in the end, he says, no-one took the bait.
Christchurch Mayor, Lianne Dalziel, who was an opposition Member of Parliament in 2012, says “over time people realised that expectations had been raised a bit high.”
To compound the issue, Urbanist, James Lunday, and Gough estimate around half of the city’s commercial property owners took their insurance money and reinvested out of Christchurch, leaving the city’s resident investors to fill the gaps in the CBD.
“If the local private sector hadn't dug deep and took massive risk .. we wouldn’t be sitting in a city which is starting to look pretty darn good at the moment,” says Lunday.
Lunday says a debt is owed to the old investment families - “Ballantynes, Glassons, Carters and others who put huge investment back into the city at a time when we weren’t even certain if the central city could recover.”
Shaun Stockman is a local investor and proud Cantabrian who has re-invested his insurance monies into developing and restoring several properties, among them the Stranges, Bonnington and Billens buildings, all located on High Street.
“To invest in Auckland, while it would be simple and simplify your life, it would really go against the grain,” says Stockman.
Several of the investors who spoke to Frank Film take issue with CERA and local government bureacracy. While for Antony Gough the main issue was financial and he was forced to close his site down twice.
James Lunday believes there was :a lack of understanding about how you build a city by the people who were leading the recovery.”
But, it seems, there was no such lack of understanding by the local investors, left to fill the gaps and re-build a city.
“It's just wonderful how those people have made such a huge mark,” says Mayor Dalziel, “and we will be forever grateful to them for doing that.”