Dalziel sees light on asset sales?

August 2, 2014

Christchurch has to find an extra $883 million by 2019 to cover its share of the rebuild and one of the options for funding that is asset sales:

. . . Meanwhile the Cameron Partners report shows the council needs to find an extra $883 million by 2019 to cover its share of the rebuild – constructing basic community facilities like libraries and swimming pools, and carrying out road and piping repairs.

The finance advisory firm believes the council has few legitimate reasons to hold onto its entire $2.6 billion asset portfolio and says there is “considerable scope” for a partial sale.

Ms Dalziel says the proposal is being considered as part of a wider recovery plan, which is likely to include rate increases and spending cuts. The council plans to open the floor for consultation in September and will listen to public opinion before making any decision.

The council is considering the release of around $400 million in capital from CCHL. The $2.6 billion portfolio includes Christchurch International Airport, the Lyttelton Port Company and electricity supplier Orion – although Ms Dalziel hopes to maintain “strategic control” of all three companies. . .

Christchurch mayor, Lianne Dalziel, was a Labour MP when the party so vehemently opposed the government’s plan to sell shares in a few state assets.

She appears to have now seen the light and accepts that asset sales would be preferable to a huge rates hike or steep increase in debt but her former colleagues are still in the dark:

Labour will vigorously oppose short term solutions to plug Christchurch City Council’s funding shortfall – including asset sales – which leave the city worse off financially and strategically in the long term, Labour’s Canterbury Recovery spokesperson Ruth Dyson says. . .

The Green Party is similarly blinkered:

Christchurch City Council should not be forced into selling its strategic assets, the Green Party said today. . .

“A firesale of Council assets involving the sale or partial sale of strategic assets such as Orion and Christchurch Airport is not in Christchurch’s interests,” said Green Party Christchurch spokesperson Eugenie Sage today. . .

This is the council’s business not opposition partys’.

The government is making a multi-billion dollar commitment to the rebuild and no-one should begrudge that but the city has to help itself too.

Christchurch people have more than enough to cope with without substantial rates increases or shackling themselves with excessive debt.

The city council has asked for advice on what to do and it’s up to it to do it or not without the interference from opportunistic opposition parties blinded by their ideological opposition to sensible economics and more interested in securing votes than the best interests of the city and its people.


Govt losing patience with CCC

June 13, 2013

Dame Margaret Bazley described the Christchurch City Council as incompetent, the government obviously has a lot of sympathy with her view:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the time has come for the Government to take urgent action to address the Christchurch City Council’s repeated inability to meet statutory timeframes for processing building consents.

This follows a letter dated 30 May from International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) to Christchurch City Council which gives the council till June 28 (16 days from today) to improve consenting processes or lose accreditation as a Building Consent Authority.

“This is to say the very least alarming and, in the circumstances of the massive rebuild we face in Christchurch, a crisis point,” Mr Brownlee says.

“For some time now we’ve had grave concerns about consenting processes at the Christchurch City Council.

“When I’ve asked for information about that in recent months I’ve been assured things were changing, and improving.

“Because of our concerns the Government has had the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (formerly the Department of Building and Housing) involved on a number of occasions since 10 February 2010 in trying to assist Christchurch City Council to improve and speed up their building consent processes.

“We have provided considerable support and advice, but still the council has failed to adequately address its systems, resources and improve the culture of its consenting staff.

“As a result Government Ministers of Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and Building and Construction are now working on a contingency plan for implementation ahead of the IANZ deadline of June 28 for a decision to be made on whether Christchurch City Council maintains its Building Consent Authority accreditation.

“I note from the agenda of the council’s Planning Committee meeting on June 5 that in March and April the council was receiving an average of 35 building applications a day, a workload which led council officers to report: ‘we have seen backlogs develop across all process steps – from pre-processing initial data entry through processing and into typing. The sheer volume exceeds capacity and applicants are expressing a significant level of concern at this.’

“The council knew this workload was coming and hasn’t adequately addressed it. We can’t let that continue and will be discussing the Government’s approach with councillors soon,” Mr Brownlee says.

The council is facing an unprecedented work load but if it’s not coping it needs to get help.

The rebuild is a priority not just for the city and its people but for the rest of the country.

We need the South Island’s biggest city to be back to normal as quickly as possible.

The letter to the council is here.


CCC ‘incompetent’ – Bazley

June 8, 2013

Environment Canterbury head Dame Margaret Bazley says Christchurch City Council is a “totally incompetent organisation”.

. . . Documents obtained by The Press under the Official Information Act show the tension between the two councils over the delivery of transport infrastructure, particularly the city council’s delay in building a bus “superstop” at Northlands mall.

ECan chief executive Bill Bayfield wrote to his city council counterpart Tony Marryatt on December 10 last year saying it was “extremely disappointing” the superstop was not ready for a December 3 deadline.

The city council’s “inadequate provision of infrastructure” was undoing his staff’s work, Bayfield said.

A council staff member replied, accepting responsibility for the Northlands problems, saying: “Rather than offer excuses, I can confirm that the new infrastructure will be in place in Northlands by the end of February 2013.”

When this deadline was also missed, Dame Margaret weighed into the debate: “I have monitored the performance of the Christchurch City Council on the provision of these facilities… and have built up a picture of staff who tell lies, and of a totally incompetent organisation,” she wrote to Parker on April 16.

“Our staff have at all times worked collaboratively with your officers and have been given assurances that everything was in order, and progress was on track, when this was obviously not true.”

It was a “sad reflection on our supposed partnership” that even building a bus stop on time seemed beyond the city council, she said, and asked Parker to intervene. . .

Friends who are, or have been, trying to do business and rebuild homes in Christchurch tell stories of delays and frustrations which suggest that problems with the council aren’t restricted to this project.

The city has been devastated and faces a huge task in rebuilding.

The council plays a big part in ensuring the rebuild goes as smoothly as possible.

That requires people and systems designed to respond quickly and competently to minimise problems and maximise service.

The council needs a how can we help attitude backed by action for the good of the city and its people.

They and the country need the South Island’s biggest city rebuilt and back to its best as soon as possible.


Water too important for dog’s breakfast

June 11, 2012

Canterbury doesn’t need another dysfunctional elected council making decisions on water, former Environment Minister Nick Smith says:

As a cabinet minister, he sacked elected Environment Canterbury councillors and replaced them with commissioners.

When their term expires next year, he hopes they will be replaced by a mixed council of elected and Government-appointed representatives.

In Ashburton on Thursday at a Federated Farmers water forum, he said there were some big water decisions ahead of Canterbury, including bulk storage and tapping into alpine rivers protected by Water Conservation Orders.

He said a fully-elected regional council making those decisions would result in the same “dog’s breakfast” left by the previous council, with views polarised into urban and rural camps.

What is it about Canterbury? From the outside, the Christchurch City Council seems to be similarly troubled by dysfunction and it doesn’t have theexcuse of a rural-urban divide.

Sacking the elected councillors from ECan  was not a decision taken lightly. The Commissioners appointed to replace them were tasked with forming a water plan which ECan had been struggling to do for 20 years.

That plan has been superseded by a national Land and Water plan but it still needs a  local body to oversee it.

Nature has made more than enough of a dogs’ breakfast in Canterbury without aggravating problems with another dysfunctional regional council.

Mr Smith said there was no shortage of water in Canterbury, but too much of the water taken for economic use came from aquifers and lowland streams.
“They only make up 15 per cent of our water resource; 85 per cent is in the big alpine river systems but the moment anyone comes along and tries to use the water everyone says ‘no’.”
He said there was a good chance water rights would be pegged back if there was no progress on storage or alpine river resources could not be tapped. 
That would have consequences for both farmers and the economy.
Mid Canterbury has around 160,000ha of irrigated farmland, returning a gross farm income of $1.36 billion. 
Farmers spent around $800 million. 
By contrast, a 250,000ha Australian cattle station currently had a gross farm income of $50m.

Those with short memories might have forgotten the economic, environmental and social devastation caused by droughts in Canterbury and North Otago before we had irrigation.

Those who farmed and lived through them appreciate the value of water applied carefully when required.

Those of a deep green persuasion believe that water should flow from the mountains to the sea untroubled by human and technological intervention.

Those of more moderate views know  it is possible to irrigate in a way that increases production and protects soils without degrading waterways.


CCC needs unity

January 24, 2012

We can’t blame the water – Christchurch is reputed to have the purest supply of any city in the country.

But something’s rotten in the city. ECan turned into ECan’t and matters got so bad the government stepped in and replaced the regional council with commissioners.

Now the city council is exhibiting signs of major dysfunction.

Councillor Tim Carter has called for a commissioner to replace chief executive Tony Marryatt and Councillor Sue Wells wants the government to sack the whole council and appoint a commissioner.

The idea of a unitary authority combining the regional council commisioners, CERRA and the city council has its appeal. The city is facing an extraordinary situation and the ordinary democratic system is showing the strain. But the government isn’t considering that:

The Government will not “interfere” in the troubled Christchurch City Council, says Local Government Minister Nick Smith.

Smith, who visited Christchurch today, said the Government had no plans to appoint commissioners to run the council, despite calls to do so from two councillors.

Problems at the council were “not entirely surprising”, given the scale of the challenge facing the council, but needed to be dealt with without government intervention, he said.

If central government isn’t going to interfere the local one must get its act together.

Polling before the 2010 local body elections indicated that Jim Anderton would win his challenge against mayor Bob Parker which was far from a vote of confidence in the latter.

But the September earthquake turned the tide and Parker was re-elected.

There were rumbles of dis-satisfaction about the chief executive but he was re-appointed in a decision supported by a majority of councillors.

Whether either of these decisions was in the best interests of the city is irrelevant. That’s what democracy delivered.

If councillors aren’t happy with what’s happening they have to persuade a majority of their colleagues to agree with them to get change or accept they’re in the minority and either shut up or resign.

Christchurch people have had more than enough trouble from nature they don’t need more from their council. The people and their city need unity and action any councillors who can’t deliver both should not be in that role.

 

 


Local body inaction leaves many in limbo

August 6, 2011

Earthquake Recovery Minister has delivered a pointed message to Canterbury local authorities:

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the Government is unwilling to tolerate undue delays over resource consents for new Christchurch subdivisions.

Mr Brownlee says local authorities cannot afford to have a business-as-usual approach to consenting subdivisions.

It sounds like the Minister is losing patience and if what I’ve been hearing is true he is justified.

His comment is aimed at Christchurch City Council, the Selwyn and Waimakariri District Councils, Canterbury Regional Council and Christchurch Motorways. But the worst of the damage is in the CCC area and that appears to be where the least is happening.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker did a very good job as the public face of the city immediately after the large earthquakes. But leadership requires more than reassurance.

People living in desperate situations are in limbo and council inaction is partly to blame for that.


Greenstone Editorial Gone

June 22, 2008

The story of the pounamu  gifted by the Christchurch City Council to China which flew first class because it would be culturally insensitive to put it in the hold prompted an editorial in The Press. Private Bin in the NBR (which isn’t on-line) noted the editorial had disappeared from the website and it hasn’t reappeared so here is a copy from the print edition:

 

Ngai Tahu asserts that Christchurch’s gift to China is imbued with spiritual force. That is debatable, but the boulder certainly is imbued with farce.

Its journey from Fiordland to Wuhan provides the basis for a novel of the absurd, in which the voyage is preposterous, the characters pretentious and the implications portentous.

Fortunately for the reputation of Christchurch, this wacky combination will initially be laughed at and attributed to the city’s liking for crankiness. But underneath the nonsense is a city council losing touch with reality.

The request for an inanimate rock to have a partly ratepayer-funded escort and a seat in first class should have been vetoed before it had a change to develop legs. However serious the claims by Ngai Tahu about the boulder’s spirituality they are not supported by the large majority of Christchurch citizens, in whose name the gift was being made. A mayor in tune with his citizens would not have associated them with such hocus-pocus, let Ngai Tahu pay for the exercise of its religious beliefs and had the rock presented with typical Kiwi restraint.

 

But Christchurch has a council so in thrall to its sister-city relationships that its successive mayors and councillors repeatedly risk political demerits to cement the international contacts with visits, hospitality and gifts. So enthusiastic is city hall about these shenanigans that it now has a paid official with the title of international relations manager.

Part of her job, it seems, is ensuring Christchurch ratepayers do not get to know about things like the rummage in Fiordland for a rack, its luxurious passage halfway round the world, and the associating of the city with cultish beliefs. These facts were made public only because The Press forced them into the open by way of the Official Information Act.

Mayor Bob Parker need merely have remembered the public’s contempt for retiring MPs’ junketing on the Speaker’s tour to curtail the madcap greenstone trail. His lack of nous about such international skylarking will now require him to deflect a spectrum of critics: those unimpressed with Maori claims to privileged spirituality; those sickened by gravy-eating politicians; those intent on pillorying over-inflated city burghers.

The pounamu is now resting in the unkind keeping of the Communist Party of China. If the rock is consigned to the attic, as are most official gifts – even those received by totalitarian vulgarians – Christchurch’s spiritual out-reach will have been in vain. But there is hope of a more productive outcome.

China’s political bosses, driven into a corner by adherence to the unswerving olgic of dialectical materialism, might find the rock’s spirtiual immaterialism useful. An unquiet Tibet, a spluttering Olympic torch, a carbon-laden atmosphere, a political structure immune to renewal – these and China’s other gigantic problems seem so unlikely to be solved by Marxist administration that genuflection to a green stone could reasonably be tried.

On the other hand, Bob Parker, embarked on a mayoralty littered with gaffs, might need to reclaim the pounamu and beseech it for political advice. If he does, he would be wise to bring it home escorted only by recycled wrapping, protected by a butter box and placed in the belly of a plane.

 

The following letters to the editor were printed in response the following day:

Your editorial yesterday contained errors of concern to the Christchurch City Council.

The first of these is the implication that information about the gift of pounamu to Christchurch’s Friendship City of Wuhan, China, was discovered only through the Official Information Act.

The council issued a media release on April 22, detailing this gift and how it had travelled to Wuhan. Your newspaper received this release on this date, and published an article about the gift on April 26. The Star also ran the story on April 30.

At this time, no reporter called the council requesting any additional information, which we would have been happy to release.

The second point is that you inferred that the position of civic and international relations manager was new to the council. This position has been in existence for at least 10 years.

The manager’s role is not just to source gifts for our sister cities, as inferred in your editorial. She is responsible for identifying and developing international relationships that result in economic benefits for Christchurch – Tony Marryatt CHief Executive CCC.

The views expressed in your editorial yesterday displayed a remarkable level of insensitivity and ignorance, and are full of inaccuracies.

For generations pounamu has been central to Ngai Tahu culture and survival, with the gifting of pounamu an important Ngai Tahu tradition that carries with it our mana and protection. It is an act that has become commonplace, as was displayed in 2004 when the entire New Zealand Olympic team wore pounamu to Athens.

Your comments do your publication, the citizens of Wuhan and Ngai Tahu great disservice when one considers the spirit with which the gift is intended. Mark Solomon Kaiwhakahaere Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu

Yesterday’s editorial was intended to be tongue-in-cheek and whimsical. It ailed badly in making that clear and the intemperate, and in some instances offensive, sentiments are The Press’s editorial policy. I can only apologise. – Andrew Holden, Editor.

And:

New Zealand greenstone, a true jade, is pounemu. Bowenite – sometimes called greenstone by the geologically ignorant, and not a jade – is takiwai. Bowenite “greenstone” is not pounemu.

The addition of ‘stone” to pounemu, as pounamu is know in the south, is redundant.

This isn’t difficult nomenclature. How did your journalist get so muddled. (“Pounamu stone flies first class to satisfy protocol,: June 14)? Keri Hulme.


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