Mayor speaks out, belatedly, on excessive state control

Posted on February 29, 2012 by

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The recent focus on local politics continues today on this blog. And why not, for local politics has a significant bearing on the direction the city will take as it begins the big task of recovering and rebuilding.

The political battle lines appear to be drawn up between The Mayor and Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee. Mayor Bob Parker recently criticised the model around which Christchurch is currently being governed (the “CERA” model) suggesting that it would be better to have a model where a greater sense of local control is retained. The purpose of that would be to put the direction of the city in local hands rather than at the whim of what he terms a “Wellington bureaucracy located in the city.” I completely agree, but it is something that the Mayor is perhaps many months too late in saying. Surely he saw the writing on the wall 10 months ago when CERA and such were being floated and put together, and should have spoken out then when he was still the sparkle in everyone’s eye (and thus had more pulling power).

My view of the Mayor is complicated. On one hand, he has brought an ambitious and much-needed vision of a competitive, sustainable world-class city to the table of local politics that few others ever have, and seems to have worked hard to get the ball rolling. The quick and thorough response in producing the draft City Plan is a testament to that. On the other hand, his management of the council has been troublesome, with a clear line being drawn down the council table, and some seemingly minor issues getting out of hand and into the media far too regularly. A lot of that seems to be linked to issues around transparency, as some councillors feel they are being cut out of the loop. This has kind of snowballed, and has directly led to the recent issues which have made national headlines.

Something else I have noticed is that the Mayor has always been reluctant to really come out and say “Christchurch needs this” or “Christchurch needs that” and really try to force the Government’s hand on key issues (like Len Brown has done, and to a lesser extent Celia Wade-Brown). Instead he seems to drip-feed ideas and concepts, perhaps to try to appease the Government, rather than just getting out there and saying “we really need this, and for these reasons, and we need the government to support us to do it”.

So I am pleased that the Mayor has finally said something that amounts to “give us back control of our city” and actually contrasts with the Government’s way of doing things in Christchurch. However, it may well be largely ineffective as the Mayor and Council’s reputations have taken an incredible hit of late. Still, better late than never I guess, and if you have pissed the Minister off to the point that he called you “a clown” and clearly has no faith in the Council (or democracy) then why not. More of the same from the Mayor would be most welcome from myself, it is just a shame this kind of stuff wasn’t forthcoming last year when it really could have done more good.

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