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Govt puts council between rock and hard place

Christchurch City Councillors have been left with few options after the Government forced them into a cost-sharing agreement and threatened them with replacement with Commissioners, says Ruth Dyson on behalf of Labour’s Canterbury MPs.

“Christchurch residents have been let down by the Government which has dumped costs onto ratepayers without discussion and walked away from offering support. This is an unacceptable way of behaving with a local authority.

“The proposals the Council announced today reflect the position they have inherited with uncertainty ahead around infrastructure costs and liabilities, the anchor projects and insurance payouts. The Government has forced them to produce a draft financial strategy that balances the books.

“We support retention of the City’s assets in public ownership. These assets are important in a strategic sense – whether it be Orion, the airport, the port, Red Bus or City Care. They have also been of huge benefit to the city by keeping down rates through their dividend return. Selling assets is generally a short term fix that costs ratepayers more in the longer term. 

“The Council’s moves today have recognised the importance of public ownership, which is to their credit. The move to ensure continued public ownership is a sensible proposal. 

“We are keen to see the longer term financial justification about any sell-down. This information should be part of the discussion document so that an informed discussion can be held.

“We urge the residents of our City to read the consultation document when it is released early next year and have their say. We will be working very hard to ensure there is no further diversification of assets.

“The proposal to establish a Development Agency to have a one-stop-shop for attracting and supporting private investment to our City is a good one. CERA has been performing this role and the City needs to start planning a structure for taking on that role once CERA is gone. 

“The Councillors have worked very hard to get to this point today. The issues they are confronting are complex and not of their making. We urge all residents to get involved in this debate and contribute to the proposed strategy early in the New Year,” says Ruth Dyson.