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.