What the Christchurch City Council Can Learn From Greece

The Government and people of Greece have some valuable lessons to teach the headless chooks of the Christchurch City Council. Specifically the eight Councillors (including the Mayor) who have allowed themselves to be stampeded by debt hysteria and an ideologically-driven Government into a panic stricken headlong rush to flog off $750 million worth of public assets.

Greece faces a much more dire situation than Christchurch and is confronting even more ideologically blind opponents. The former Finance Minister was quite correct when he described them as “terrorists”.

But it has led by example, and put the likes of the Christchurch City Council to shame.
Democracy: elusive in the EU and Christchurch City 

1 When dealing with a highly controversial issue, the Greek government trusted its people and sought a democratic mandate – something the Christchurch City Council has conspicuously failed to do. Not one of the Councillors who voted to sell assets campaigned on that issue at the 2013 local body election. The subject was never raised. Indeed, the Council ignored the will of the people – of those who made submissions to the Long Term Plan specifically about asset sales, 83% were opposed
2 The Greek government and people told their “lords and masters” (i.e. their European Union creditors) that they want their oppressive debt repayment terms renegotiated. In other words; give us a better deal or shove it.  By contrast, the Christchurch City Council has cravenly refused to even try to renegotiate the onerous Cost Sharing Agreement signed between the Government and the previous Council (which was thrown out by disgusted Christchurch voters in 2013). The excuse given for asset sales is that they are necessary to pay for the city’s rebuild, and specifically for the white elephant anchor projects foisted by the Government on the people of Christchurch. 

3 How appropriate that Greece, the cradle of democracy, should give Christchurch, and the rest of the world, a graphic demonstration that democracy, and with it national sovereignty, are the greatest assets of them all, ones that Greeks put before “economic efficiency” (i.e neo-liberal restructuring and wholesale pillage of the country’s assets by transnational corporations). By contrast, the Christchurch City Council, a nominally “democratic” body, is aiding and abetting in the steady extinction of local democracy in this city and the loss of democratic control of the assets, utilities and infrastructure of the city, paid for generations of Christchurch ratepayers. And who do you think will buy those assets? It will be the very same transnational corporations that are always on the lookout for cheap bargains from desperate and deluded sellers.

Keep Our Assets Canterbury intends to keep our campaign going. The Council’s 8-6 decision to sell is not the end of the matter. For starters, the three year sales timeframe means it becomes the major issue in the 2016 local body election.

And we are aware that once the process starts, the ideologues will want to extend it to all the assets, functions and infrastructure of the City Council – housing, water, libraries, parks, roads, etc, etc.