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In February 2011 Christchurch was rocked by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Lives were lost, homes and infrastructure destroyed, and the nation wondered if the Garden City would ever be the same again.

While thousands of people across hundreds of companies worked together to ensure that Christchurch rose from the rubble, Citycare Group became known as an exemplar of the notion that adversity breeds character, with its busy employees working around the clock to dig residents out of the rubble and reconstruct civic services.

Seven years on, the business has steadily grown and matured into one of the country’s largest council-owned maintenance and construction companies, turning over $300M+ annually and with a well-balanced portfolio of North and South Island contract work.

Last year, recognising the wide variances in the services it offers and markets it serves, Citycare re-energised and re-structured its business to establish the delivery platform that would provide it with the best opportunity to secure profitable business through a new Sector-led business model:

• Citycare Water - construction and maintenance for water, wastewater and stormwater networks, with a focus on smarter management and optimisation of water sector infrastructure assets.

• Citycare Property - encompassing end-to-end maintenance and construction upgrade opportunity for public and private buildings and greenspace facilities.

• Citycare Civil - focusing on Golden Triangle and Canterbury civil construction and subdivision opportunities and South Island roading maintenance.

The Citycare Group re-set its focus around a new vision and values set that will better enable it to deepen and extend customer relationships, setting its sights on a new-look business that aims to drive better people, better places, better communities through a mantra of innovation discovery, service delivery and community care.

Joining forces to help rebuild the Garden City

Nowhere is the realisation of its new vision more obvious than in the work Citycare Civil, in a joint venture with John Filmore Contracting (JFC), has steadily set about as part of rebuilding the very heart of Christchurch.

General Manager Major Projects for Citycare Civil, Roger Foy, 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 Joint Venture with JFC, Citycare Civil was able to meet these challenges while delivering on our core values of ‘innovating, delivering and caring’.

“At times our teams were required to be highly sensitive to the emotions of those observing our work, notably the CTV site where the work we did was undertaken at cost. This sort of work was always a huge boost for our staff, to feel the extent to which their hard work was not just embraced but truly loved by Christchurch residents.’

Avon River Precinct

The restoration and development of the central city area surrounding the Christchurch’s iconic Avon River has been a particularly high-profile feature of Christchurch’s regeneration.

This project involved constructing a two-kilometre-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 Foy.

Victoria Square

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.

Citycare, working alongside its project partners, not only restored the square but also made it safer and more accessible. The restoration created new links with nearby features like the riverside promenade and new elements designed to better reflect shared Māori and European heritage.

The project required extensive repairs to adjacent footpaths, underground pipes and substantial landscape construction. Around 17,500 new plants were planted in and around the square and just over 170,000 new pavers laid, while three kilometres 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.

With separate activity zones for different ages, it's one of the largest playgrounds in the Southern Hemisphere and a place where 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 could interact side-by-side, rather than singling out an area or specific equipment for children with disabilities,” says Roger Foy.

“All the slopes and surfacing have been designed to meet accessibility standards – a 1:12 maximum gradient for children, or adults in wheelchairs.”

Foy says this was another project where Citycare also led the landscaping component and created a greenspace that perfectly complements the living, breathing ethos of the adjacent playground.

Bridge of Remembrance

Another notable project delivered by Citycare was the restoration and repair of central Christchurch’s historic Bridge of Remembrance.

Strengthening work on the Triumphal Arch and the Bridge of Remembrance foundation structure was completed at the end of September 2015.

The company later installed new paving on the bridge, along with a ramp to improve accessibility and lighting to highlight the arch. Two Ngā Whāriki Manaaki stone weaving patterns were also installed.

Restoring the landscape

Citycare Civil General Manager Major Projects, Roger Foy, 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 Citycare along the Ōtākaro/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 exotic and native trees and shrubs introduced to add 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 Māori and Pākehā values together into the landscape.

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. This distinctively landscaped public space is for local residents and the broader community.

As well as ample open space, there are cosier areas where people can relax, and feel safe and comfortable. Incorporating shared pedestrian and cycle paths, Rauora Park is easy to move through and around. The name Rauora signifies ‘well-being’ in a wider, holistic sense. Rau can mean ‘leaves’, ‘greenery’, ‘many’ and ‘gathering’, while Ora indicates health and wellbeing.

“The East Frame is close to many inner-city attractions and speaks to Citycare’s drive to create better places and better communities,” says Roger Foy.

“The construction of streets, event spaces, 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.”

CTV site

Through the JV, Citycare Civil and JFC also worked on the newly landscaped site of the former Canterbury Television (CTV) building which opened to the public on 22 February 2018. The collapse of the CTV building in the February 2011 earthquake on the corner of Cashel and Madras Streets resulted in the loss of 115 lives and the injury of many more people.

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.

The site is a peaceful place in the central city for people to take a moment to rest and reflect in a tranquil green space,” says Roger Foy.

“Citycare Civil did this work at cost as a gesture of goodwill to the city and shows the genuine passion and care for the communities in which we operate.”

Subdivisions

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’s Civil division has also successfully delivered five subdivisions in the North Island, totalling in excess of $30 million.

Says Roger Foy: “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.”

‘We discover. We deliver. We care.’