A short stroll through Christchurch and it’s clear that new life is being breathed into the city on every block. Greenspaces are in abundance, while thousands of new and exotic trees have been planted across the CBD, restoring its green image while also rebuilding the city’s heart.
It’s been seven years since a 6.3 magnitude earthquake rocked Christchurch, which saw 185 people lose their lives, homes and infrastructure destroyed, and left the Garden City resembling a shell of its former self. While the city continues to be transformed, its heart is still strong, and it is organisations like Citycare Group that are keeping it beating.
Since February 2011, thousands of people across hundreds of companies have worked together to ensure that Christchurch has risen from the rubble, and Citycare Group’s teams have become known as an exemplar of the notion that adversity breeds character.
SENSITIVE TO EMOTIONS
Roger Foy, general manager major projects for Citycare Civil, says their teams have faced jobs confronting emotions of that day seven years ago. Working on the former CTV site – where 115 lives were lost when the building collapsed – was one of those jobs.
“At times our teams were required to be highly sensitive to the emotions of those observing our work, notably the CTV site,” says Roger. “This sort of work is always a huge boost for our staff – to feel the extent to which their hard work is not just embraced, but truly loved by Christchurch residents.”
The site reopened in February as a peaceful garden – with cherry and kowhai trees planted – for people to reflect and take a moment to rest. Three of the car parks and much of the building’s foundation were retained, while the western side of the foundation has been covered with stone chip. Planter boxes have been placed on the eastern side where the concrete is exposed.
“Citycare Civil did this work at cost as a gesture of goodwill to the city, which shows the genuine passion and care for the communities in which we operate,” says Roger.
KEY JOINT VENTURE
Seven years on, Citycare has steadily grown and matured into one of the country’s largest council-owned maintenance and construction companies, turning over more than $300 million annually.
Citycare’s positive attitude towards rebuilding the city led to a key joint venture with John Fillmore Contracting (JFC). Roger talks proudly about the many restoration and reshaping projects delivered by the JV over the last few years.
“Each project brought its own unique set of challenges and through the JV with JFC, Citycare Civil was able to meet these challenges while delivering on our core values of innovating, delivering and caring.”
AVON RIVER PRECINCT
Roger describes Citycare as being ‘passionate about putting the garden back into the Garden City’, and nowhere has this been more evident than the intensive landscape enhancement that continues to be undertaken by City-care along the Otakaro/Avon River.
The Avon River landscape project began with an assessment of about 750 trees to determine their health and likely lifespan, in conjunction with Christchurch City Council. The existing canopy of trees along the Avon River has been retained, with new trees and shrubs adding to its distinctive character.
The planting and management of indigenous and exotic plants has been combined in the uniquely Christchurch Garden City style, enhancing its natural character by weaving Maori and Pakeha values together into the landscape.
The restoration and development of the central city area surrounding the iconic river has been a particularly high-profile feature of Christchurch’s regeneration. This project involved constructing the 2 km long City Promenade walk that weaves its way through the central business district, replacing Oxford Terrace on the Avon’s eastern side with a new city ‘waterfront’ that makes it easier for the public to access the river and its surrounds.
On the Avon’s western side, Citycare Civil, together with partner JFC, constructed a green space with walking and cycling paths. Great care was required to avoid damaging tree roots when working near significant trees, so Citycare employed innovative excavation processes, such as excavating with air vacuums that eliminated the need for hydro-vac technology.
“Excavation with air vacuums worked well and was definitely safer, cleaner and faster than conventional methods,” says Roger.
Meanwhile in nearby Victoria Square, Citycare worked on the restoration of this beloved park after it sustained extensive damage to its surfaces and structures during the earthquakes.
The square was made safer and more accessible to the public, and new links were created with nearby features, like the riverside promenade. New elements were also designed to better reflect shared Maori and European heritage.
The project required extensive repairs to adjacent footpaths and underground pipes, and substantial landscape construction. Around 17,500 new plants were established in and around the square and just over 170,000 new pavers laid, while 3 km of pipes and cabling have been placed below ground. A new drainage and irrigation system will aid in extending the life of the square.
MARGARET MAHY FAMILY PLAYGROUND
Another large, iconic construction project for Citycare forming part of the new Avon River Precinct was Christchurch’s popular new central city play area, the Margaret Mahy Playground, which was awarded the Best Public Works Project over $5 million at the 2017 IPWEA NZ Excellence Awards.
One of the largest playgrounds in the Southern Hemisphere, the playground has been designed with separate activity zones for different ages, and the sound of laughter is never far away.
Opened in December 2015, the playground was designed with accessibility in mind. “The objective was that children of all abilities could interact side-by-side, rather than singling out an area or specific equipment for children with disabilities,” says Roger. “All the slopes and surfacing have been designed to meet accessibility standards – a 1:12 maximum gradient for children or adults in wheelchairs.”
Roger says this was another project where Citycare also led the landscaping component and created a greenspace perfectly complementing the living, breathing ethos of the adjacent playground.
BRIDGE OF REMEMBRANCE
The restoration and repair of central Christchurch’s historic Bridge of Remembrance is another notable project delivered by Citycare.
Strengthening work on the Triumphal Arch and the Bridge of Remembrance foundation structure was completed at the end of September 2015. New paving on the bridge, along with a ramp to improve accessibility and lighting to highlight the arch soon followed. Two Nga Whariki Manaaki stone weaving patterns were also installed.
EAST FRAME RAUORA PARK
Through the JV, Citycare Civil also worked on the construction of the East Frame’s greenspace and paved areas that form the third-largest open space in central Christchurch, Rauora Park.
“The construction of streets, event spaces and paved areas, as well as a central park running north to south, all contribute strongly to the city’s vibrancy. Commuting within the area and into the city will be easy with shared-space walkways and cycling paths, and public transport close by,” says Roger.
“The East Frame is close to many inner-city attractions and speaks to Citycare’s drive to create better places and better communities.”
The name Rauora signifies ‘wellbeing’ in a wider, holistic sense. Rau can mean ‘leaves’, ‘greenery’, ‘many’ and ‘gathering’, while Ora indicates health and wellbeing.
Citycare Civil also has extensive experience in creating places where people live. The largest land development contractor in the South Island, the business has successfully delivered 10 subdivisions since 2007 in Canterbury. Totalling more than $100 million, this work has included the $18 million Knights Stream in Halswell and the $20 million Ravenswood development in Woodend.
Over the last few years, Citycare Civil has also successfully delivered five subdivisions in the North Island, totalling in excess of $30 million.
Citycare’s rebuild efforts have led them to re-energise and restructure their business through a new sector-led business model: Citycare Water, Citycare Property, and Citycare Civil.
“As any good contractor knows, a strong foundation is essential. Citycare has built its strong foundation in Canterbury and this has set the platform for our growing portfolio of New Zealand-wide work,” says Roger. “We discover. We deliver. We care.”