The desire expressed recently by Mayor Bob Parker for Christchurch City Council to take back more control of the city’s affairs echoes the feelings of many Christchurch people. The mayor spoke of the matter two weeks ago, when he said he was looking forward to the council regaining control of the central business district from the Central Christchurch Development Unit “sooner rather than later”. While acknowledging the important role the Government had in the rebuild, the mayor said: “We think [the city centre rebuild] is something that should be driven by the people in the city and council.”
An understandable desire, but it is worth pointing out that most Councils are equipped to deal with one or two major projects at a time. Dealing with a rebuild of an entire city centre is to be blunt well beyond the resources and capability of a city council.
The greatest interference with the council’s functions, though, came from the creation of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority as a government department and then later the CCDU as a unit within Cera to plan the reconstruction of the central city. This, according to Parker, has left the council’s elected representatives feeling “politically impotent” and accounts for the dysfunction (“so-called dysfunction”, according to Parker) on the council.
Here, Parker has got his analysis backwards. The creation of Cera did not cause ructions among otherwise efficient and smoothly functioning councillors to erupt. Cera was necessary for several compelling reasons. But one of them, surely, was a fear, among other things, that councillors would not be able to put aside their differences to face the mammoth task before the city without petty distractions.
Whatever the cause, councillors certainly proceeded to live down to expectations when in the midst of the calamity, and egged on by irresponsible outside elements, they plunged the depths of mindless backbiting and bitchery in an ultimately trivial row over the chief executive’s salary.
Exactly. The Council came close to being dismissed for their inability to function, as the backbiting was so extreme. Things have improved, but a long way to go.
Power over the city’s affairs will of course eventually be returned entirely to the council. So far as the CCDU is concerned, Parker is holding discussions with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee. In order for him to be able to make a persuasive case, however, the council must show that it is capable of doing the job. Whether that is the case yet is far from clear. It is alarming, for instance, to hear that it is in danger of losing its accreditation as a building consents authority because of 17 identified shortcomings.
I think the saying is look after your own backyard first.
The fact the CEO thinks he can grant an extra 12 days paid leave to all Council staff without even informing the Mayor and Council of his intentions in advance, shows that there is still a fairly high degree of dysfunctionality.