The Treasury

Global Navigation

Personal tools


Investing for New Zealand: Insights from 2015/16

Case Study: Christchurch Horizontal Infrastructure Programme,Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority/Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

The Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 caused widespread damage throughout greater Christchurch impacting essential services networks of roading, bridges and retaining walls, fresh water, wastewater and stormwater assets - collectively referred to as horizontal infrastructure.

Following the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes some areas of Christchurch had no access to fresh drinking water. Residents were left without working toilets, and sewage flowed down some streets posing a significant health and safety risk. Hundreds of kilometres of underground pipes carrying fresh water, stormwater or wastewater needed repair or replacement as did bridges, retaining walls and more than a million square metres of road. The total cost of repairs and rebuilding was $2.7 billion, of which the Government has funded $1.7 billion and the Christchurch City Council $1.0 billion.

The Government - through the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and the NZ Transport Agency - and Christchurch City Council established an alliance in September 2011, called the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT). The alliance secured the services of five major civil contractors to manage and carry out the repairs and rebuild programme of work.

The work channelled through SCIRT will account for around $1.9 billion of the total cost of repairs and rebuilding. This work consists of more than 720 projects, making it one of the largest and most complex programmes of its kind ever carried out in New Zealand.

“The size of the task involved in restoring the horizontal infrastructure in Christchurch meant that traditional approaches would not deliver a timely and affordable outcome,” says David Adamson, General Manager, City Services, Christchurch City Council. “Setting up an eight way alliance contract after the February earthquake showed vision, courage and a high level of commitment to an enormous task by both the public and private sector.”

The SCIRT alliance was created with a well-defined purpose to meet the needs of a post-disaster rebuild. A cooperative model, the alliance combines the skills and efforts of planners, designers, contractors and asset owners to deliver the work based on assessment against agreed guidelines and what is cost effective.

The SCIRT alliance overcame a number of challenges, particularly in the early stages of its existence. The alliance was established with urgency, which meant securing the necessary resources, identifying the quantum of work and identifying and managing funding partners differing expectations needed to happen quickly. Cooperation and collaboration from all the alliance partners was critical to ensure best-for-rebuild outcomes were achieved, and decisions were made at pace.

“The alliance model requires close collaboration between the Government, Council and the construction companies,” says Rob Rouse, Manager, Horizontal Infrastructure, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. “All the parties involved have a shared interest in the programme and have worked together to resolve challenges and support each other.”

As the programme progressed, innovations and improvements based on engineering and asset management principles helped ensure it was delivering value for money to investors.

Priority was given to critical defects that impacted on the networks' performance, serviceability and functionality over the repair of general asset damage where this created no risks or issues, and carrying out the work would have no added value to the network.

“We have used modern materials, new technology and the latest construction techniques to build Christchurch's underground pipes more resilient than before,” says Ian Campbell, Executive General Manager, SCIRT. “Christchurch people can be confident the underground services will cope better with any future earthquakes.”

Diagram 9: What the programme has achieved
(as at October 2016)

Network Total

Damage Total

% of Damage

Waste water


583km of pipe


164 pump stations

75 pump stations


Storm water

941km of pipe

59km of pipe


35 pump stations

5 pump stations


Fresh water

3,403km of pipe

97km of pipe


177 pump stations and reservoirs

22 pump stations and reservoirs



11,670,000m2 of road

1,384,236m2 of road


303 bridges/culverts

144 bridges/culverts


1,867 retaining walls

164 retaining walls


  • Restored essential services necessary for healthy and safe communities.
  • Provided the foundation for the wider rebuild, growth and development in Christchurch.
  • A more resilient, stronger and sustainable network for Christchurch, and for Christchurch City Council to maintain and manage.
  • Smarter solutions and cost efficiencies through innovative designs and methods.
  • Relocation of underground pipes where possible, away from poor ground conditions, providing increased network resilience for future seismic events.
  • Value-for-money for both the New Zealand tax payer and Christchurch rate payer.

The repair and rebuild work has been very disruptive, and often lengthy, to communities and road users. Throughout its programme SCIRT has worked hard to keep affected residents and communities up to speed by providing relevant, timely and accurate information about projects including notices in letterboxes, newsletters, advertising and road signage.

With SCIRT expecting to largely complete construction works by the end of December 2016, the Government is working closely with SCIRT and Christchurch City Council to ensure a smooth transfer of data, information and processes from SCIRT to Christchurch City Council.

Christchurch City Council and the NZ Transport Agency will continue to improve and maintain these networks as part of their ongoing programmes of work.

“The rebuild governance and alliance programme management arrangements have introduced a new way of working for the NZ Transport Agency as a funding partner,” says Janice Brass, Planning & Investment Manager at NZ Transport Agency. “The benefits have included faster decision-making, active financial management of the budget and a shared vision for the earthquake response.”

Page top