WELLINGTON Quake-ravaged Christchurch, New Zealand's second biggest city, plans to spend about NZ$2 billion ($1.6 billion) rebuilding its heavily-damaged downtown, including building a memorial to the 181 victims, the City Council said on Thursday.
The central business district, parts of which are still closed after the magnitude 6.3 quake of February 22, will be rebuilt within a smaller area with a focus on low rise buildings, less traffic, green spaces, and redeveloping the iconic Avon River and Cathedral Square areas, the council said in a draft plan.
"Central Christchurch will be redeveloped as a low-rise resilient, safe and sustainable city," the council said.
There are about 70 separate projects in the council's plan, which would take up to 20 years to complete, starting in 2012.
The cost of the plan would be split between central and local government, insurance payments and private sector investment, with incentives being offered to lure back business that fled the central city after February.
About NZ$8 million would be set aside for a memorial to the quake victims within the central city, the council said.
In June the government said it would spend up to NZ$635 million compensating 5,000 homeowners whose properties were uninhabitable.
Large parts of the eastern city have suffered severe damage to the ground and cannot be built upon but studies indicate the central city area was safe to rebuild on.
The total cost of the series of earthquakes which stretch back to September 2010 has been estimated at NZ$15 billion, making it one of the world's costliest natural disasters.
The council will seek public feedback on the plan before finalizing it in December.
(Reporting by Miranda Tindill; Editing by Balazs Koranyi)