Ōtautahi Christchurch has witnessed a colossal building boom in recent years as it has recovered from the devastating earthquakes that shook the city just over ten years ago. In this profile Alistair Pearson from Christchurch City Council talks about his work as Manager of Vertical Capital Delivery Major Facilities. Alistair has overseen the delivery of many of the city's key construction projects, including the Canterbury Multi-Use Arena (CMUA), the keenly-anticipated stadium which is set to energise sport in the city. Alistair talks about his career path which led him from being a carpenter all the way to his current role guiding the roll-out of civic projects for the people of Christchurch. He also shares some of his favourite time-out activities like walking in the Port Hills, as well as mountain biking and craft beers.

Tell us about your role at Christchurch City Council

I’m the Manager of Vertical Capital Delivery Major Facilities. It’s a mouthful of a title, but it basically means I manage the delivery of the Council’s large construction projects, the high value high risk portfolio, such as the Canterbury Multi-Use Arena, Te Pou Toetoe (Linwood Pool), Tūranga (Central Library) and the Performing Arts Precinct.

We also look after some of the Heritage projects that fit into that band such as the Christchurch Town Hall, Canterbury Provincial Chambers Buildings and the Old Municipal Chambers; these are all Class I Heritage Structures.

There are a lot of spinning plates that I deal with on a daily basis, but that’s also what I enjoy about the role – no two days are ever the same.

Can you tell us about some of your current projects which you are particularly excited about?

Being the project lead for the Canterbury Multi-Use Arena (CMUA) is right up there. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead the design and delivery of one of the largest construction projects the Christchurch City Council has ever undertaken.

Being the last of the major anchor projects in Christchurch’s rebuild, there’s a lot of scrutiny to make sure we get it right.

Many people are passionate about the project so we’re excited to deliver an incredible, state-of-the-art asset for Canterbury that will re-establish the region as the sporting and events capital of New Zealand.

The Council is working closely with a consortium of local and international experts in stadia design and construction called Kōtui, who are currently working hard on the preliminary design of the CMUA. Seeing the level of expertise and energy that everyone in Kōtui brings to the table has been both humbling and inspiring.

Other members of the team are delivering a hybrid model of combined resources at the Hornby Centre which is a Pool, Library and Community Facility in one building, this has certainly been done before and definitely meets the needs of the community.

As the CMUA is the last major Anchor Project in Christchurch, one of the other Anchor Projects we are delivering is the Performing Arts Precinct which is being completed with the addition of a public car park and public realm spaces. The team delivering this are working hand in glove with The Court Theatre to build a state-of-the-art theatre; to do this we reached out during the procurement process to UK theatre experts, Haworth Tompkins, to gain international expertise.

Why did you decide to work in local government?

My career has been from the ground up, I trained as a carpenter and transited from this into more formal education that elevated me into the commercial construction world as a construction manager. I have worked in commercial construction for many years in the private sector. When the Canterbury Earthquakes hit Christchurch I stepped into a role to assist with the demolition of the CBD, eventually joining the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) and now the Council.

The pleasure that my team and I receive from helping to bring back these catalyst projects to the people of Christchurch makes the role almost cathartic for me; I was part of the demolition, and now I am part of the rebuild.

In what ways have you been involved with Taituarā so far?

I am an avid reader of articles that help me to understand how other councils operate and what we can learn from each other, so any articles that advise on constraints and challenges are a must read. We have, unfortunately, had the need to rebuild and in doing so we have learnt so much since the quakes, we have many forms of engagement, procurement and methods to deliver projects into the marketplace. This area of delivery has enabled our teams across our Council network to work in an extremely collaborative manner, and deliver a series of civic assets worthy of the people we serve. We have assisted where we can with other councils across New Zealand in offering insight into the work we have done and the very many lessons we have learned; we will always be learning especially in our COVID-19 world.

When you are not working, what do you enjoy about living in Christchurch?

Christchurch is a walking city in which you can get anywhere fast. Gill and I we spend our time walking the Port Hills and spend lots of time in Hanmer Springs and Akaroa, two of our favourite places.

For me, mountain biking is my guilty pleasure and there are way too many tracks here to break myself on, thankfully the people I ride with are more leisurely now so we enjoy the exercise and the view with a nice craft beer afterwards, and like all cities there are lots of craft beer outlets to enjoy.

Some recent articles on projects Alistair has been involved with:

Expressions of interest sought for Armagh Street site – Christchurch City Council is calling for companies to register their interest in developing an empty piece of land in the city’s Performing Arts Precinct.
Want to build The Court Theatre's new home?
 – The search is on for a contractor to build the Court Theatre’s new central city home.
Community celebrates opening of Taiora QEII
 – The multimillion-dollar Taiora QEII Recreation and Sport Centre has been officially opened – ahead of schedule and under budget.
CSO calls the tune at new home in Christchurch Town Hall
 – The Christchurch Symphony Orchestra has a new residence - a purpose-built facility at the Christchurch Town Hall.
Last breakdown for Christchurch’s Lancaster Park
 – The final whistle has blown at Lancaster Park today with the demolition of the last building frame – exactly 138 years since the opening of the sports ground.