Brownlee v Parker

February 9th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Earthquake Recovery Minister says calling Mayor a clown was “over the top” but reflects his frustration with the city council’s problems. …

In yesterday’s Christchurch Mail, Brownlee called Parker a “clown” over comments about possible rates rises in the city.

Parker told The Mail last week the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) Act allowed the Government to force the council to hike rates or sell off assets to fund the city’s recovery.

“Cera has the ability to say, `This is how you have to meet your costs, and can make us take measures such as raising rates or selling assets’,” the mayor said.

Treasury officials had made overtures to the council about a potential rates rise, Parker told The Mail.

Brownlee dismissed the remarks, saying the legislation did not allow the Government to make the council set a rate. “That’s an outrageous abdication of his responsibilities. The Cera Act specifically forbids that,” he told The Mail. 

Brownlee told The Press last night the clown remark was “probably over the top”, but was based on his frustration with Parker’s comments and the council’s problems. “We were going through a quite intense period of getting the council to recognise their responsibilities … I am sick and tired of the council running and telling people what we’re going to do.”

Ironically this will probably make Gerry more popular in Christchurch.

It seems clear the Mayor was incorrect in his comments. Having said that, the remark just adds fuel to an already difficult situation. Hopefully it won’t become a major issue.

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12 Responses to “Brownlee v Parker”

  1. XChequer (350 comments) says:

    ” Hopefully it won’t become a major issue”

    Heh! Shirley you can’t be serious, DPF?

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  2. deanknight (263 comments) says:

    Hmmm. I’m not sure you can so quickly dismiss Parker’s comments as incorrect

    Brownlee is right that the minister and CERA can’t formally direct the Christchurch Council to raise rates (CERA, s48(3).

    However, there are other ways that outcome can be almost inevitable. The combination of the ministerial power to approve or amend a recovery plan (CERA, ss21 & 22), the obligation for annual and other plans to comply with a recovery plan (CERA, s26) and the balanced budget requirement (LGA2002, s 100) provide obvious indirect levers for the minister to raise rates or trigger assets sales.

    Directing large amounts of recovery costs to be bourne by the Council as operating expenses necessarily affects the amount of operating revenue that must be sought from ratepayers as rates or otherwise.

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  3. flipper (3,908 comments) says:

    Hullo, Hullo, Hullo…
    There is more to this than meets the eye.
    This is also in the Press coverage this morning:

    “He [Brownlee] also told Radio New Zealand he had been pressured by the city council to take its power company Orion off the wholesale electricity price path, allowing power prices to increase.

    That would mean the council could afford the $70 million required to repair the electricity network.

    Price paths set limits on what monopoly companies are able to charge.

    “I was being pressured to put through an order in council under the Cera Act to take Orion off the price path,” he said.

    Orion is 100 per cent council owned.

    Looking at Orion’s balance sheet, Brownlee said the figures did not justify the request to come off the price path.

    Orion had assets of $680m and $39m debt, while the cost to repair the network was $70m.

    ”All of this does not add up to just take them off the price path and let them go willy nilly charging consumers what they like,” he said.

    “If you’re a consumer you’d expect a monopoly provider is on a price path and to have to justify the price they are able to charge.

    ”That legislation should not be easily set aside.”

    Brownlee earlier criticised councillors for their reluctance to consider a rates rise or asset sales, saying the council needed to examine “every single option” to fund the city’s recovery.

    Parker last week told The Mail the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) Act allowed the Government to force the council to hike rates or sell off assets to fund the city’s recovery.

    “Cera has the ability to say, ‘This is how you have to meet your costs, and can make us take measures such as raising rates or selling assets’,” the mayor said.

    Treasury officials had made overtures to the council about a potential rates rise, Parker told the Fairfax newspaper.

    Brownlee dismissed the remarks, saying the legislation did not allow the Government to make the council set a rate. … Etc.”

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  4. ben (2,418 comments) says:

    The underlying driver of these problems is the bureaucracy’s inability to deal with massive complexity. Officials, however, clever, cannot plan economies and they cannot plan the minutiae of rebuilding. Until CERA and CCC realise this, and they do not, then these struggles will intensify, and some combination of delay and bad decisionmaking will necessarily result.

    Let us hope the government does not allow the massive deficiencies being created by CERA and CCC to be papered over with taxpayer money.

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  5. metcalph (1,425 comments) says:

    Ironically this will probably make Gerry more popular in Christchurch.

    I can recall the days when the letter pages of the press were full of slurs that the woodwork teacher was in over his depth and should go.

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  6. KevinH (1,191 comments) says:

    If Parker is a clown, then Brownlee is humpty dumpty.
    Enough of the name calling and get on with the job.Enormous funds have been placed at the disposal of both men, so get on with it, no if’s or but’s.
    Certainly people may feel a bit jaded but the rest of the country is sick and tired of the whining coming out of Christchurch from the Council and local body officials.

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  7. BeaB (2,103 comments) says:

    Go Gerry. A good Kiwi straight talker. I thought they had all disappeared forever.

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  8. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    What KevinH said.

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  9. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    Brownlee is the clown in all of this. How the hell does he know what Parker was told by Treasury? And as Dean Knight indicates, the effect is largely the same irrespective of what Bronwlee (and CERA) says.

    Maybe Brownlee is envious of Marryatt’s pay rise. Either way he needs to learn a little self control…and I’m not talking about his eating habits.

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  10. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    > Enough of the name calling and get on with the job.

    Well, quite. It’s a pity that Brownlee couldn’t discuss the issues with Parker while he is in the country. Instead, he abuses the mayor while the latter is out of the country and can’t defend himself.

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  11. m@tt (619 comments) says:

    Being ‘incorrect in your comments’ and being wrong are two different things.
    As pointed out above CERA simply has to require the council to fund enough of the rebuild entirely by itself and it then has only two choices rate rises or no rebuild.
    In practical terms, Bob is correct.

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  12. Viking2 (11,334 comments) says:

    One of the Cabinet Ministers made the comment to myself at Christmas when I pointed out the Gerry had been given the rena job as well. that the poor bloke hadn’t had a break for the last 2 years. Parker is much the same.
    Lots of stress for both of them so its unfortunate that this incident happened. One has some sympathy for both but for sure Gerry gooffed it.

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