Keep Our Assets Request To Speak At This Week's Canterbury Earthquakes Symposium

Refused


Keep Our Assets Canterbury (KOA) is disappointed  - but not surprised - that our request to speak at the November 29-30 Canterbury Earthquakes Symposium has been refused.

The Symposium's title is "Sharing The Lessons From The Canterbury Experiences". KOA has both experiences and lessons to share,  acquired in our years of successfully campaigning to stop the Christchurch City Council from selling Christchurch's public assets.

'Disaster Capitalism - How To Protect Community Assets'
the Contribution you are not allowed to hear
Our proposed topic was: "Disaster Capitalism - How To Protect Community Assets". Post-quakes Christchurch presents a textbook example of disaster capitalism (or "shock doctrine"). KOA ran John Minto for Mayor in 2016 and he gained around 15% of the vote. That's a lot of Christchurch people whose voice is being excluded from this Symposium. 

Some may argue that our proposed topic is too "political". But the whole Symposium is political, as evidenced by the fact that all speaking topics have to be signed off by the Mayor and the Minister (Megan Woods). It's all a question of whose politics are being presented. Or not.

From the post-quakes outset, the people of Christchurch have been excluded from the decision making process about our city. Not through lack of interest - the excellent Share An Idea initiative attracted over 100,000 responses. All of which were promptly ignored by Gerry Brownlee and the then Government, which prioritised rebuilding the city in the interests of Big Business.

a different Government and  City Council
  
but same old story
This week's symposium is another example of more of the same. Different Government and City Council, but same old story. KOA is aware of other grassroots groups who have been told that their participation is not welcome. The symposium is about lessons from the quakes. We say that democracy is our greatest community asset and that it has been deliberately and wilfully trampled on. The quakes were natural disasters - the undemocratic shock doctrine which followed, and continues, is a strictly man made disaster.



As Govt Now Paying For ChCh Stadium City Council Has Freed Up Millions For Higher Priorities LIke

Public Housing


Keep Our Assets Canterbury (KOA) points out that the 2013 Cost Share Agreement between the Key government and the Parker Christchurch City Council committed each party to pay $253 million towards the $506m cost of a covered stadium.

That Agreement remains in place - indeed that is confirmed in the Supplementary Agenda Paper for this Thursday's Christchurch City Council meeting, at which the stadium will be a major item.

The Ardern government has budgeted to give Christchurch a one-off gift of $300m. The City Council has said that it proposes to use $220m of this towards the stadium's cost.

In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, KOA is left with the only conclusion that this $220m is in addition to the Government's already-committed $253m for the stadium.

$253m + $220m comes to $473m . And - guess what - that same Council Supplementary Agenda Paper for Thursday's meeting lists $473m as the updated cost of the stadium.

This means that the Government is effectively paying all of the stadium cost. They are simply giving the Council the money with which to do it.

To put this in everyday terms - it's the same as Mum and Dad giving their child the money to pay a house deposit. The kid might be making the payment but Mum and Dad provided the money.

In this case Mum and Dad are paying for the whole house (let's call it the White Elephant House).

Meaning that the Christchurch City Council suddenly has $253m that is no longer needed for the stadium and can be spent on higher priorities. Such as repairing, replacing and replenishing its stock of public housing which is still 400 units down on pre-quake numbers. And for which it has budgeted a measly $30m.

The City Council has been stampeded into treating the stadium as its top priority by a concerted lobby campaign from the business community and the Rugby Union (which, despite standing to be the stadium's biggest beneficiary, is not prepared to spend one cent on it. Insult is added to injury).

KOA is not opposed to a stadium per se, but simply to its being given top priority in the city's rebuild. Once built it will be a public asset, but that's still years away, under any circumstances. The Council's housing portfolio is also a public asset, which needs urgent attention right now.

If we're wrong in our conclusion, and this new Government money is instead of the amount agreed in the Cost Share Agreement rather than in addition to it, then that raises a whole different set of questions. Such as, has that Cost Share Agreement been quietly renegotiated behind closed doors? Something that both Minister Woods and Mayor Dalziel have assured the people of Christchurch would not happen.



An update

Talk Of Selling Christchurch City Council Assets Is
Deja Vu All Over Again


Christchurch's Mayor, Lianne Dalziel, was recently quoted as saying: "What I would like is to be able to have an intelligent conversation without somebody just standing there with a little placard in their hand saying 'no asset sales' or 'keep our assets'".

Lianne must have been having a senior moment because Keep Our Assets Canterbury (KOA) was never so coy as to muck around with "little placards".

On several occasions we went right into the Christchurch City Council's Chamber during Council meetings with a great big banner saying "Keep Our Assets".

Joking aside, KOA is pleased that the City Council has passed its Long Term Plan with no asset sales included.

Obviously the Mayor is not so happy.

We remind her that Christchurch has very recently had "an intelligent conversation" about asset sales.

It was called the 2016 local body election, where KOA ran John Minto as our Mayoral candidate on a "No Assets Sales" platform.

Obviously, Lianne won the Mayoralty but enough Christchurch residents and ratepayers voted for John, and the Council candidates who also opposed asset sales, for the message to sink home.

The people of Christchurch delivered their intelligent answer.
 
They didn't want assets sold.

This is deja vu all over again.

The arguments presented in 2015/16 for asset sales are the same ones as being presented now - that Christchurch can't afford the rebuild costs and is going into too much debt.

The arguments for keeping our assets are the same as then.

Put simply - that the people of Christchurch are better off with those assets than without them.

And, once they're gone, they're gone.

One obvious solution is to renegotiate the onerous cost share agreement imposed on the previous Bob Parker Council by the previous Key government, forcing Christchurch ratepayers into paying for various anchor project white elephants.

We keep being told that what is now called the "global settlement" is being prepared between this Government and the Council.

But no details are being made public.

The whitest of the white elephants is the stadium, for which the Council has budgeted $253 million and brought it forward by two years in its list of priorities.

There's an obvious candidate for saving a cool quarter of a billion dollars or, at least, putting it further down the list of priorities until the city can afford it and more pressing needs have been met.

By contrast the Council has budgeted a measly $30 million for repairing or replacing Council housing damaged in the quakes.

Those priorities are the wrong way around - the Crusaders have got a home, at the temporary Addington stadium; the Council needs to prioritise those that need a home.

Put  a roof over their head before putting a roof over a stadium.

To add insult to injury, the Rugby Union - which will be the biggest single beneficiary of the stadium - is refusing to contribute one cent to its construction.

Councillor Raf Manji has resurrected the idea of partial asset sales, specifically by listing the airport company and Enable (the city's broadband network company) on the sharemarket.

Why would the city sell assets that make money - Christchurch Airport is a heavily used cash cow - for ones that don't make money, such as a stadium that will sit unused and generating no income for a lot of the time?

That's voodoo economics.

Nothing has changed as far as KOA is concerned.

The case for keeping our assets is as strong as ever.

YES to Metro Sports Facility

NO White Elephant Stadium


The Government has announced that Christchurch is to have both of the much delayed Metro Sports Facility and the covered rugby/events stadium.

Keep Our Assets Canterbury (KOA) welcomes the Metro Sports Facility, although we note that it is being downgraded.

This facility will actually be of use to a number of different sporting codes and to the wider Canterbury public.


But we repeat our longstanding opposition to the proposed stadium, which is the whitest and most elephantine of white elephants, to which the previous Government saddled the previous City Council under the name of "anchor projects".

To add insult to injury, the City Council is committed to paying $253 million of ratepayers' money towards it.

The justification for this is that it will guarantee Christchurch getting into the big boys' club of rugby venues.

No, it won't.

A myth is being spread that, because we didn't have a suitable stadium, Christchurch missed out on getting an All Blacks' test during the 2017 Lions tour.

A fact check is necessary.

When the NZ Rugby Union announced the itinerary for that tour (out of which it made a hefty profit), it announced that - for the first time in more than a century - the Lions wouldn't play the All Blacks anywhere in the South Island.

The Rugby Union ruled out Christchurch not only because it didn't have a suitable stadium - but the Rugby Union considered the city itself not up to scratch in terms of facilities to handle the number of touring fans, etc.

OK, so did the Lions play the All Blacks in Dunedin, which boasts the country's newest stadium, and only covered one?

No, they didn't.

Because the Rugby Union deemed that the covered stadium in Dunedin to be neither here not there, it decided that the city of Dunedin per se was not up to handling an event of such magnitude.

The Lions played their three tests against the All Blacks in Auckland and Wellington.

The England rugby teams plays all its home games at Twickenham. How long before the NZ Rugby Union decides that every All Blacks' home test will be played at Eden Park.

The message from the Rugby Union is very clear - "sorry, South Island. it doesn't matter how many covered stadiums you build, you suffer from a terminal case of 'not Auckland syndrome'".

The Christchurch City Council has got more pressing priorities on which to spend a quarter of a billion dollars - such as repairing its public housing units damaged in the quakes, replacing those destroyed in the quakes, and upgrading its whole stock of public housing in terms of healthiness, warmth and comfort.

Or, use it to pay for the rapidly escalating cost of fixing Christchurch's water network.

I speak as a rugby fan who regularly attends games at the perfectly adequate Addington stadium.

In fact, I was there on the wettest and stormiest night of winter 2017, on a day where the City Council declared a state of emergency due to flooding.

So I have plenty of first-hand experience of that stadium, including in lousy weather.

Indeed commentators remarked about that game (Crusaders versus Highlanders) that the visiting team was at a disadvantage because it had forgotten how to play games that aren't under the shelter of a roof.

But then again, on Saturday night I watched on TV a game played at Eden Park, the country's premier rugby stadium.

It was played in torrential rain.
 
City Council should do what you always do with an anchor.

Chuck it overboard
But there was absolutely zero clamour for Auckland ratepayers to fork out for a roof over that.

The NZ Rugby Union has got plenty of money, bolstered by its healthy profit from the 2017 Lions' tour.

But it hasn't offered to contribute one cent to a stadium from which it stands to be the major beneficiary.

Time for the Rugby Union to put up or shut up.

As far as this particular anchor project is concerned, the City Council should do what you always do with an anchor.

Chuck it overboard.


Murray Horton
Convenor