Dalziel and Cameron

The Mayor & the Neo-Liberal Ideologue

The Mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, told residents that their under-insured city is a
billion dollars short of what it needs. Eventually, in 2015, the Christchurch City Council (CCC) resolved to sell assets worth $750,000,000. This does not seem a popular decision, though it’s hard to know, as public discussion has been avoided and the numbers haven’t been explained. From the start of her term, in 2013, the incoming Mayor had warned of money trouble and when she commissioned advice, it seemed a sensible thing to do.

She was also helped by the embedded managerial culture that binds local councils. In keeping with the prevailing political mood, which mandates hypocrisy, the Councillors at CCC are said to exist in a “governance” role. They’re supposed to be a board of governors, rubber stamping the decisions of staffers. In a managerial culture the last thing that’s needed is for politicians to represent the views of those who voted for them. Local government seeks to take the politics out of politics by making the Councillors depend on reports from senior (ambitious) bureaucrats, without which nothing can be done.

In Christchurch the pretence had reached absurdity. As is customary when a new Council gathers, the Mayor talked of unity, contrary views being routinely dismissed as evidence of a “dysfunctional culture”. So, official opinion expressed astonishment when six Councillors, elected as The People’s Choice (obviously Labour) proposed moderate and conventional alternatives to the debt hysteria. The other seven councillors had labelled themselves as the inevitable “independents”, as though they were not connected to other groupings like - let’s leap here - National. To take just one current example of the farcical depths of the double standard - in Auckland there is open and (rightly) unremarkable talk that Rightwing Councillors have been planning strategy with John Key himself.

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This article, written by Jeremy Agar, was first published in December 2015 Foreign Control Watchdog.   

Vigorous Campaign To Stop Christchurch City Council Selling City Care

 Starts With Picket Wednesday December 9th

A Keep Our Assets Canterbury (KOA) protest outside Christchurch’s main City Care depot next Wednesday (December 9th) will kick off a vigorous campaign to stop the Christchurch City Council selling City Care.

Earlier this week the Mayor Lianne Dalziel announced the Council intends to sell City Care as part of a “capital raising” programme.

Dalziel and seven other councillors have voted to sell $750 million of our assets over three years and City Care is the first one they want to flog off.

The Mayor’s reasons for selling don’t stack up.

The projected budget shortfall in future years would disappear if the Council insisted the Government meet its share of the cost of fixing damaged infrastructure and renegotiated the timeline for building the Government’s so-called anchor projects (which Treasury has declared to be financially non-viable).

The Mayor has frankly admitted she has not asked the Government to consider changes in the building programme for the anchor projects. 

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With the anchor project programme in disarray anyway there is no point in selling in any case.

However it’s clear the Mayor is working for a National government agenda for Christchurch rather than for Christchurch citizens.

KOA is appalled at this short-sighted stupidity.

Wednesday’s picket will be from 4pm to 6pm outside City Care depot at 245 Milton Street,Sydenham.

We will be taking our message direct to the public and the workers employed by City Care whose jobs and/or conditions of employment are on the line. 

Facebook Event page 

Foolish To Sell City Care

OUR Infrastructure Company

Monday’s announcement that the Christchurch City Council will sell 100% of
its infrastructure company, City Care, is foolish in the extreme.

For a city that is undergoing a $46 billion rebuild, this is exactly the wrong time to be flogging off its core infrastructure company.

People from all shades of opinion agree that the guts of local government responsibility are things like roads, footpaths, water and sewerage – the very things that City Care exists to build, repair and service.

Keep Our Assets Canterbury (KOA) does not defend City Care’s empire building up and down the country.

Nor do we defend obscenities like its CEO’s salary.

But we do say that it is absolutely essential that the people of Christchurch own and control what used to be the City Council’s Works Department.

To those who say “what’s wrong with passing public assets and/or services to private owners?” I give a one word answer – Serco (to give just the most current example of what is wrong with privatisation).

The people of Christchurch can expect to see City Care’s new owner go down the old familiar privatisation path of staff cuts, price hikes and quality decline.

KOA and its constituent groups and parties will fight this and any subsequent selloffs (tipsters pick Red Bus to be next).

This will be a major issue at the 2016 local body election, particularly as no City Councillor has a mandate to sell our assets.

The subject was never mentioned at the 2013 election.

We repeat our central point that the motivation driving this, at both central Government and City Council level, is ideological, not financial. 

The quake rebuild costs provide a convenient excuse for what is a classic example of disaster capitalism and asset grabbing.


Is Our Greatest Public Asset

It Needs To Be Restored NOW!
Murray Horton & Steve Howard of Keep Our Asserts Canterbury (KOA) appeared before the Select Committee yesterday to speak in support of KOA’s submission on the Environment Canterbury (Transitional Governance Arrangements) Bill.

They pointed out that it was appropriate that the hearings were in the Christchurch City Council (CCC) Building, as KOA finds itself in rare agreement with the CCC, whose submission on the same Bill described it (and the Government pushing it) as “extraordinarily arrogant”. Well said the mouse that roared!

But KOA also pointed out that the venue was appropriate for another reason, namely that the former Mayor, Sir Bob Parker and his Council, played a leading role in the 2010 Government coup that has deprived the people of Canterbury of regional government level democracy ever since. The CCC found out the hard way, and very soon, that it needed to be careful what it wished for, because – only a year later – it found itself in the same position, courtesy of the disaster capitalism shock doctrine imposed on it by the very same Government under the guise of quake recovery.

The Bill is about a public asset, namely water, a vital necessity of life. What happened to ECan was a crude move to remove any democratic input, let alone control, from the people of Canterbury and preventing us in having any say about what happens to, and who benefits from, the public asset that is our water. Who does benefit? Farmers and agribusiness. It’s a textbook example of State-aided and abetted privatisation – the profits have been privatised and the costs, primarily environmental degradation by the dairying agribusiness monoculture, have been socialised.

Fundamentally the Bill is about democracy, or the lack thereof. Democracy is the key public asset with which KOA is most concerned. Everything flows from that. Canterbury has been deprived of democratic regional government since 2010 and we have been continually lied to, regarding when a fully elected regional council will be restored. First it was going to be 2013, then 2016, now it’s going to be a partial restoration in 2019. This year, next year, maybe, never? The Bill continues the lie. No other regional council in NZ has had this mixed member model forced upon it. This sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the country (just like so much else that has been done to Canterbury and Christchurch since 2010). And it’s not even mixed member proportional but mixed member first past the post, with a rural gerrymander to boot.

The ECan coup was the issue in Christchurch in 2010 and would have remained so if Mother Earth had not upstaged it in such catastrophic fashion just a few months later. Amid all the devastation in Cathedral Square, the dead heart of the city, the democracy cairn of stones still stands, erected by Canterbury people in protest in 2010. It is a vivid and literally indestructible symbol of the strong desire of Canterbury people for democracy.

The Bill removes ECan from the jurisdiction of the Environment Court and the Resource Management Act. This is clearly acting in the interests of agribusiness and the water privatisers.

It is nonsense to compare the proposed model of ECan governance with that used for DHBs. The latter are funded by central Government, not through local government rates. And since that comparison has been raised, KOA asks – why aren’t DHBs fully elected, like the old Hospital Boards used to be?

New Zealand’s government routinely spouts platitudes of support for the brave people fighting for democracy in places like the Arab countries and China but blithely removes it from the people of Canterbury, one of the country’s biggest regions, at the stroke of a pen. Why? Because democracy is inconvenient, democracy is literally bad for business – agribusiness that is, the private business interests of the water privatisers.

No taxation without representation.

KOA demands that the Government scraps this Bill and restores ECan to a fully elected body by no later than the 2016 local body elections, preferably sooner. Give back the regional democracy to the people of Canterbury that is ours by right, not at the whim of central Government and its sticky fingered mates.