Thursday, 7 December 2017


On 30 November 2017 I end my association with the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce (The Chamber) after 21.5 years of rewarding and sometimes challenging times. Over those 21.5 years I have seen our city transformed, our region go through a period of unprecedented economic development and our Island establish itself as one of the world’s best kept secrets.

My role at the Chamber has allowed me to get a very clear understanding of what makes this economy tick and the significant contribution made to the welfare of our community by our hardworking business sector.

Of course, the earthquakes of 2010/2011 changed everything - from a generally conservative, inward looking, slightly old-fashioned community - Christchurch has been through unprecedented upheaval and is now positioned to be a modern, forward looking, entrepreneurial, multi-cultural city and well equipped to face its future. I will always be proud of the role the Chamber played in the post-earthquake environment. Together with other agencies, we operated as a safe pair of hands for business and through being involved in driving various interventions. I believe we had a material impact on business survival in extremely challenging times.

One of my proudest moments was the appointment of Leeann Watson as my successor. Leeann and I have worked together at the Chamber for 20 years and she has been involved as General Manager for the last eight of those years. She is the right person, in the right position, at the right time to assume leadership at the Chamber. 

Peter Townsend
Chief Executive
Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce

15 November 2017

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Celebrating Christ Church Cathedral

Recently I have been promoting an idea for the rebuild of Christ Church Cathedral which has created a lot of interest.

Now that we have agreement on the restoration of the Cathedral, nobly supported by the Church, the Government, City Council and generous private benefactors we will begin to embark on a seven to ten year restoration programme. I think we should turn the restoration of the Cathedral into a tourist attraction rather than hiding it behind high fences and under shrouds of plastic as it goes through the restoration process. Why not celebrate the restoration of the Cathedral and turn it into a tourist attraction?

A transparent fence could be erected around the construction site. A couple of temporary grandstands could be placed at appropriate locations just outside that fence so that visitors to the Square could sit and watch progress on the Cathedral.

Having the Cathedral restored in full view to the residents of Christchurch and visitors to our city would in its own right become a significant attraction, drawing people into the Square to watch the restoration real time. This would give our city a real sense of ownership of the restoration process and create another attraction in the Square.

Given the timeframes involved in the restoration process, concealing the rebuild of the Cathedral is unconscionable. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Lest We Forget

100 years ago on 12 October 1917 my grandfather’s brother, Sam, died in the mud at Passchendaele

He and my Grandfather Harry Townsend ran a butchers shop at Church Corner here in Christchurch. Sam enlisted with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

Three days before he died in Belgium he wrote his last letter to his nephew, also called Sam.  This is what he wrote:

“9 October 1917

My Dear Sam

I was very pleased to receive your most interesting letter and to hear you had seen the battle pictures and tanks. You ask me if I have seen them. Yes I have been in action with them twice but they are too slow for us we usually have them far behind. We have just been in a big push and you will see by the papers captured a lot of prisoners, but there were a lot more killed than captured. They surrender at the first chance, and a more miserable lot you never saw, a lot of them are mere boys from about fifteen to eighteen and seemed very pleased to get out of it. The ground we advanced over was a horrible sight being covered with dead and nothing but deep shell holes from our guns. We have been relieved for a few days. But we are into it again shortly. It is a great pity that the weather has broken as it may stop the advance and is not too comfortable laying in shell holes when you are wet through. Myself and two more fellows were in a shell hole for three days and nights and during the day time we could not show a finger. That is the time when hours a like days. I haven’t seen Addie’s brother “Frank” yet, but I saw her brother Bill the other day for a few minutes. I could not say much to him, we being on the march, but I expect to see him again shortly. Tell Dad I have not seen Stringleman since the beginning of last August and have not seen Wilson or Newman at all. I often see Bruce Harris, he being attached to my Battalion now. Do you remember him? He used to be postman at Riccarton. Bob Raxworthy is wounded and the two eldest boys killed. I haven’t heard how the others got on in this last stint. I shall have to close now, dinner being about ready, and if a man doesn’t get in early he misses his whack. Love to all.

Your affectionate Uncle Sam”

Lest We Forget
Peter Townsend 

Monday, 2 October 2017

Christchurch – will be a city of choice

As the rebuild takes effect, Christchurch has a golden opportunity to become New Zealand’s number one city of choice, says outgoing Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend.
Townsend says Christchurch is back and running after 11,000 aftershocks, 53 of them over five on the Richter scale.
Currently $83 million is being spent in rebuilding the city every week, and by the end of this calendar year 75 per cent of the housing stock will have been repaired and rebuilt. A total of 70 percent of the commercial building repairs and rebuilds will also have been completed, he says.
The cost of the Structural side of the rebuild so far is $33 billion. But there is still a massive amount to do. The total cost of the whole rebuild is still estimated at somewhere between $40 and $50 billion.
EQC insurance proceeds have accounted for around $11 billion dollars of insurance monies injected into the rebuild with other private insurance contributing another $20 billion
“There is nowhere in the world where around $30 billion dollars of insurance proceeds have been applied to the rebuild of a city of 400,000 people”.
“The Government have injected around $8.5 billion into land, infrastructure and amenities”.
Townsend makes other factual and compelling points about Christchurch and Canterbury, as it becomes a city of choice.
• A total of 1100 commercial buildings in the city were lost in the earthquakes but they might be replaced by just 400 buildings.
• By the end of 2020 Christchurch is going to have as much hotel accommodation as it had before the earthquakes.
• Christchurch will be the safest city in New Zealand because all the shonky stuff has gone.
• The city will be the most energy efficient city in New Zealand because it has rebuilt to a new code of double glazed windows, better insulation, heat pumps under the floors to heat the concrete pads and it all results in much cheaper electricity.
• A total of 25,000 Christchurch houses were destroyed or had in excess of 100,000 of damage in the earthquakes.
• There is no other city better equipped in primary, secondary and tertiary education, by a country mile.
• Canterbury is regarded as having one of the top six health systems in the world.
• Christchurch is going to be the most accessible city in the country as its traffic infrastructure is taking off with the southern motorway, the northern arterial route and the west diversion.
• A taxi driver told Townsend that many of his overseas passengers says the drive from the airport into the city is the most beautiful airport to city drive in the world
• Christchurch is the only city in the world with under a million people that has a daily Airbus 380 service
• The city is a target for medical specialists and doctors wanting to live and work in Christchurch. Why – Brexit, Trump, lone-wolf terrorism and Christchurch is seen to be a safe bolt-hole for people to live and bring up their kids; it’s really a compelling proposition.
• Canterbury is not all about dairy. Canterbury grows 68 percent of the world’s radish seeds and 34 percent of the world’s carrot seeds
• Finally, the rebuild of the ChristChurch Cathedral over the next seven to 10 years must be a tourist attraction. 
Townsend says, why not, instead of fencing it off and wrapped in white plastic, why not put glass panelling around the outside of it? Why not put a couple of grandstands in the Square so people can look into the rebuild? And why not make the rebuild of the ChristChurch Cathedral a positive experience for tourists.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Getting Christ Church Cathedral Back

It is a great relief that the decision has been made to restore Christ Church Cathedral. This is the beginning of a long and complicated process that must produce the best possible outcome for the heart of our city.

There are some critical elements of the restoration that need to be carefully managed and thought through.

The restoration is going to take a long time - anticipated somewhere between seven and ten years. This will involve the project being deliberately planned and executed over that timeframe. Importantly that execution will need to be done in a way that will have minimal impact on the heart of our city. It needs to be conducted in a way that adds attraction and interest to our central city as the restoration is conducted. That might mean that the restoration is visually accessible to the public in Cathedral Square.

Of course, the Cathedral needs to be restored in harmony with the Cathedral Square redevelopment. The Square is going through a massive reconstruction and this needs to be done to reinforce the positioning and presentation of Christ Church Cathedral in the Square.

We have got one chance to get this right. The restoration of the Arts Centre is showing us how that can be done with a staged rebuild, sensitive to its environment.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Better Connections

As the Christchurch and Canterbury economies continue to grow apace good infrastructure will be vital to ensure an increase in economic activity is well supported.

The evolution of our highway infrastructure is impressive and needs to continue. The work in progress to connect Christchurch to Rolleston with a four lane highway, the overbridge at the Airport (over State Highway 1) and the continuing progress on the Northern Motorway are all very encouraging.

Regardless of who assumes power post 23 September the continuation of four lane highways from Ashburton through to Pegasus township will be vitally important for our future. It will make an incredible difference to traffic flows on State Highway 1. If the proposed investment is adopted and quickly it will be another big step forward in good infrastructure in Canterbury that will reinforce this city and this region as a living destination of choice.

Regardless of the development of other forms of transport, good regional roading resulting in good connectivity is going to be important for a long time yet. From the perspective of ease of travel through to the efficient movement of products and the increased safety of our roading network, investment is necessary and welcome. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

NZCCI Election Manifesto

The Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce is a key stakeholder in the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and Industry (NZCCI).

NZCCI have prepared insight documents for the incoming Government after comprehensive consultation with membership across the country. We consider it to be critical that Central Government understands the needs of business, which are many and varied, and recognises the importance of businesses contribution to healthy sustainable communities.

We also are strongly of the view that our regions across New Zealand are quite different and require different levels of Government intervention and support to ensure optimal economic development and progress.

We have made it clear to Government that a one size fits all policy, whether that be covering immigration or infrastructure, is simply not appropriate and we look forward to working with whichever Government manifests itself post 23 September in the best interests of our members and the wider business community.

There are three insight documents:

1.  The first is directed towards the politicians and succinctly outlines our expectations. Click here to view.
2. The second is a member and community facing document which informs them of the rational behind our requirements for the incoming Government. Click here to view.
3. The third document contains all the background material which can be selectively mined to resource an intelligent business-political interface. Click here to view.