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New city rising, eight years on

Opinion Piece

The tax working group’s recommendation of a capital gains tax somewhat overshadowed the eighth anniversary on Friday of the Christchurch earthquake that caused the deaths of 185 people.

Rebuilding what was our second biggest city has been a project unlike anything previously seen in this country. It is much greater in scale than what followed the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake.

Latest Reserve Bank estimates put the cost at $40 billion, about $16 billion each for residential and commercial construction and ?$7 billion for infrastructure.

A new Christchurch is rising from the disaster, with the central city steadily being restored — including the reopening of the Christchurch Town Hall at the weekend after a $187 million restoration.

Major projects still to be done include rebuilding Christchurch Cathedral, a convention centre and a metro sports facility.

The deadly 6.3 magnitude quake struck after one of the quietest periods for seismic activity since European settlement. Before it the 2007 Gisborne earthquake had produced the greatest number of insurance claims.

Also pushed to the background to some extent was the visit of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who jetted in and out of the country on Friday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern complained that Australia’s deportation to New Zealand of convicted criminals with virtually no connection to this country — the figure is now 1600 — was corroding the relationship between the two countries. Morrison, however, has a May election on his mind and brushed aside Ardern’s rebuke with general comments on the unique relationship the two countries share.

The annual Halberg sports awards last week produced their usual controversy, with many asking why basketballer Steven Adams was ignored yet again.

Looking ahead, it appears that special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia over its interference in the 2016 US presidential election is nearing completion. It will be up to the Attorney General whether all or only parts of it are released to the public.