Government to take over?

Posted on April 5, 2012 by

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Could the draft City Plan be under threat from central government? That is what is clearly implied if the accusations against Gerry Brownlee from Labour, and Christchurch East MP, Lianne Dalziel are to be believed. The accusation levelled on Brownlee by Dalziel is that the Government is considering taking control of the Central City rebuild.

Despite the accusations, and the neither confirm or deny attitude of Brownlee, Councillors appear to be unaware of any such suggestions to usurp democracy – which suggests to me that they are either being kept in the dark (which wouldn’t surprise me in the least) or that perhaps the issue may have been discussed at some point, and is now being blown out of all proportion (equally unsurprising, but also worrying). Mayor Bob Parker has not been given any indication of such a government takeover, and warned against the idea, saying it would amount to a takeover of the entire organisation.

The details, Dalziel claims, include Cabinet approving a proposal to create a new unit within the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) to manage the rebuild. However, Brownlee has called Dalziels comments a “crazy rant” and “ridiculous” – something that could come back to bite him, and the government, big time if indeed plans are in place to cut out the council and compromise the public input that went into the draft City Plan.

“It is the last remaining vestige of local democracy and it is about to be discarded in favour of a ham-fisted response from the earthquake tsar,” – Lianne Dalziel 

The Council can’t begin funding and implementing the draft City Plan until the Government signs-off on it. The Christchurch situation is a little tricky. We have seen the resistance shown to ambitious plans for Auckland, but Christchurch is really a political powder keg. Remember that the draft City Plan recieved almost unprecedented attention and input from the public. Playing with that, and removing the last visteges of democracy the city has (remember the regional council, ECan, was replaced by government appointed commissioners) could lead to a significant backlash.

“I think the plan and the vision we have is superb, and it has been embraced by everybody.” – Bob Parker

Should the government go ahead with any plans to takeover responsibility of the Central City rebuild, and planning in general, it would almost certainly compromise existing plans and the realisation of the publics input into those plans. There is still no word on the government signing off on the draft City Plan, and I imagine it is probably not something that they are too keen on, given its general direction (although Prime Minister John Key did tentatively support the idea rail!). Many of the transport policies, for example, in the draft Plan seem anathema to government policy, so I imagine there is some “tut-tutting” going on. I wonder, had the Council asked for a 6-lane motorway to cut right through the inner suburbs and CBD in the Plan, would it have been signed off quicker? Probably.

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