Not very common sense

April 21st, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An alternate budget that slashes the Christchurch City Council’s work programme and avoids the need for strategic asset sales is being touted as the answer to the city’s financial woes.

The Common Sense Plan for Christchurch was released at the weekend by the six Labour-aligned People’s Choice councillors and is aimed at circumventing the need for the council to sell shares in Lyttelton Port, Christchurch International Airport Ltd, Orion and Enable.

Its release comes less than 10 days out from the closure of public submissions on the Christchurch City Council’s draft Long Term Plan (LTP) which includes provision to sell up to $750 million in assets in order to plug the council’s $1.2 billion funding shortfall.

The People’s Choice councillors – Andrew Turner, Phil Clearwater, Yani Johanson, Glenn Livingstone, Pauline Cotter and Jimmy Chen – voted against including asset sales in the draft LTP and have been desperate to find another way to balance the books. 

They propose cutting $700 million, or 15 per cent, from the council’s $4.6 billion 10-year capital works programme outlined in the draft Long Term Plan (LTP) by deferring all non-urgent work, including construction of the city’s planned new rugby stadium.

They also propose asking the Government to use the $37m it has allocated for the new stadium on road repairs and propose asking for another $180m in Government funding for the horizontal infrastructure repair programme.

I’m all for cutting spending. That part of the proposal is good.

However their balanced budget is dependent on waving a magical wand and the Government handing over $217 million. That’s not common sense. That is wishful thinking. The Government has a signed and sealed agreement with the CCC as to how much it will contribute.

Alternative budgets are a good thing if they genuinely propose alternatives such as deferred spending, or different revenue streams – so long as they are revenue streams that the Council can actually use.

This is not an alternative budget. It is a plea for a Government bailout.


Ashes in Christchurch

March 30th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

A cultural clash over scattering of human ashes has left Christchurch City Council split and a new bylaw in limbo.

Despite months of deliberations, councillors still cannot agree whether the Draft 2014 Parks and Reserves Bylaw should include a provision allowing human ashes to be interred or scattered in parks and reserves.

Local Maori are against the practice for cultural reasons, but a council hearings panel decided it was unwilling to impose any blanket restrictions on the scattering of human ashes without first doing wider public consultation.

The panel brought a report to Thursday’s council meeting that recommended the council pass the bylaw with the omission of the clauses relating to the scattering of ashes.

That would mean the status quo would continue to apply and people would be able to scatter or bury ashes in any public place, apart from the Botanic Gardens, until the council had time to consider the matter further.

Good. So long as it is done in a way that doesn’t interfere with other users of parks (ie don’t sprinkle ashes in the middle of someone’s picnic), people should be at liberty to let cremated loved ones be scattered in a park.

Mahaanui Kurataiao (MKT), the company that acts on behalf of six runanga within Christchurch, had formally submitted the council should ban the scattering of ashes in parks and reserves.

In subsequent talks with the council, it acknowledged it was not practicable but said, as a minimum, the practice should be restricted to identified locations within council-controlled parks and reserves and people encouraged to bury ashes rather than scatter them to the wind.

If members of the six runanga don’t wish to scatter ashes, then they shouldn’t. But their religious beliefs should not be imposed on others.

Andrew Turner and the other People’s Choice councillors said they were unprepared to allow the status quo to continue when MKT had raised such significant cultural concerns about human ashes being scattered in parks.

“I’m not happy for this bylaw to be approved with this significant matter still unresolved,” Turner said.

“To approve the bylaw and then signal we are looking to change it quite soon … is quite absurd.”

As the hearings panel had already been instructed once to go back and reconsider the bylaw as it related to the scattering of ashes, there was no point asking it to revisit the matter again, Turner said.

The best option was to refer it to the full council for a decision.

The Council should follow the advice of the panel, and not impose the religious beliefs of some residents on all residents. The harm it causes to those who can’t farewell their loved ones in they way they wish is much greater than any perceived harm by those who disagree with the practice.

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Guest Post: Christchurch Planners

March 14th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

A guest post by Hugh Pavletich:


 Hugh Pavletich
Performance Urban Planning
New Zealand

 4 March 2015

 Introduction …

 On Thursday 26 February, an important decision was announced by the Christchurch Replacement District Plan Independent Hearings Panel, dealing with the Christchurch City Councils Notified Plan foundation Strategic Directions and Outcomes ( ).

 Recently, the Press Senior Feature Writer John McCrone interviewed Sir John Hansen, a former High Court Judge and current Chair of the Christchurch Hearing Panel … Sir John Hansen is a man with a plan . Sir John and the Panel are highly regarded within the wider community.

 Housing …

 With respect to housing (s164 onwards) the Panel states the Council’s Notified Plan was “insufficiently clear and directive on the very important subject of housing capacity and choice”.

As noted within the decision, submitters explained the human costs of Christchurch’s stressed and currently severely unaffordable housing market.

S167 states …

‘In the overall sense, that demonstrated relevant provisions of the Notified Version would fail to promote sustainable management. In particular, its Policy referred vaguely and inconsistently to notions of “housing affordability” and “opportunities for affordable housing development … sufficient to meet demand’. Without proper definition or objective or goal” the Notified Version did not provide any helpful measure of the problem or ability to monitor whether the problem was being resolved (through the administration of related Plan provisions, for example).”

The Panel Decision stressed the importance of consistency, clarity and certainty.

In subsequent sections the Decision states the Planning Experts Joint Version “… was much clearer”.

The Planning Experts perspective, however, tends to be prescriptive.


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Labour breaking their word on asset sales

December 8th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Asset sales are a controversial and often emotional issue. That is why National has been very careful to lay out its policy in advance, and keep to it.

In 2008 National said no SOEs would be sold in the first term, and none were.

In 2011 National said up to 49% of four power SOEs and Air NZ would be sold, and they were (except Solid Energy that collapsed).

In 2014 National said no further sales of SOEs and there are none planned.

Now contrast this to Labour in Christchurch. The Press reports:

It took months of briefings, quiet lobbying, and frank meetings to bring the Left-leaning People’s Choice councillors around to the inescapable truth that some asset sales would be needed to solve the city’s financial woes.

Those meetings happened  right up until late Thursday afternoon, which suggests some councillors were still wavering.

The reason the People’s Choice councillors – Andrew Turner, Jimmy Chen, Pauline Cotter, Yani Johanson, Phil Clearwater, and Glenn Livingstone– were  reluctant to go down the path of asset sales was because they had signed a pledge before last October’s elections to support keeping all significant public assets in public ownership and control.

They didn’t want to be seen to be going back on their word.

They were confident that if they pored over the council’s budgets, cutting expenditure and deferring capital projects, they could achieve the necessary savings without asset sales. 

Alas, it was not to be and on Thursday the People’s Choice councillors reluctantly threw in the towel and acknowledged the funding gap, which has jumped from $900 million to $1.2 billion, was too large to close through savings.

“Our preferred option is not to sell assets, however, the financial position in which the council has been placed requires us to sell assets as one of the number of things we need to do to fill the funding gap,” they conceded in a statement issued through Turner, their spokesman.

This is not true. There is a choice. They have chosen to break their word. I think their policy was stupid and wrong, but they made it.

The People’s Choice is the Labour Party in Christchurch local government politics. In fact most of the PC Councillors had their affiliation on their ballot as (The People’s Choice – Labour).

So the moral of the story is that National has kept its word on asset sales, and Labour once again has not.

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Will Christchurch sell assets?

December 1st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

The path to asset sales is likely to be cleared this week as the Christchurch City Council takes steps to raise money for the rebuild.

Councillors are expected to hold a special meeting on Friday to adopt a financial strategy that deals with the potential $900 million funding shortfall the council is facing over the next few years.

Details of the strategy have yet to be made public but Mayor Lianne Dalziel said it would include a range of options to release capital from city-owned assets.

That could sit uneasily with the seven People’s Choice councillors, who all signed a pre-election pledge that promised all significant public assets would be kept in public ownership and control.

Dalziel had studied the pledge and believed councillors would not be breaking their word if they went down the route proposed.

She reasoned that if the council was to sell some of its Orion shares to the neighbouring Selwyn District Council (SDC), which already had an 11 per cent stake in the company, that pledge would still have been honoured.

Likewise, she saw no problem with inviting a strategic partner to buy a stake in Christchurch Airport or Lyttelton Port (LPC), provided the council retained its control.

You mean a mixed ownership model? Have the Council keep say 51%? Use the proceeds to reduce the need to borrow for other assets?

It sounds a very sensible idea. Of course it is the same idea National had in 2011, which Lianne campaigned against. If the Christchurch Council does agree to this policy, I expect Labour to of course condemn them and campaign against their decision!

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Christchurch Council considers partial privatisations

August 5th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Ngai Tahu is expected to be one of the partners invited to take a stake in the cash-strapped Christchurch City Council’s commercial and investment arm.

The council is considering releasing up to $400 million in capital from Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL) as part of a plan to reduce its funding shortfall, which has been calculated by investment bankers Cameron Partners to reach up to $883m by 2019.

CCHL owns 75 per cent of Christchurch International Airport and is also the majority shareholder in the Lyttelton Port Company and Orion.

It also owns City Care, Enable and Red Bus Ltd.

The irony is huge. Lianne Dalziel as a Labour MP campaigned against partial privatisations, yet as Christchurch Mayor she may implement the same policy at the Christchurch City Council.

It is the obvious thing to do. When you have huge debt, then a reduction in assets to offset debt is preferable to rate increases of 20%+.

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Christchurch City Council incompetence continues

July 12th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Christchurch City Council is unlikely to face consequences after a food-licensing blunder affected businesses, Local Government Minister Paula Bennett says.

All cafes, supermarkets and food manufacturers in Christchurch were left operating illegally for two weeks after food licences expired on June 30 and none were renewed by the council.

Bennett said the council would not face intervention as a result of the delay but would be under the spotlight and monitored for further botchups.

Delays in renewal were timing and administration, which the council said it had now fixed.

“The council has some unique challenges to manage on top of its core business requirements,” Bennett said.

“While I don’t believe this delay indicates the council has wider issues or that there is a need for intervention, I’ve asked officials to continue monitoring the council’s work to ensure all is on track.”

Hospitality NZ Canterbury president Peter Morrison said the blunder was “unbelievable”.

“It’s diabolical, considering all the trouble they’ve had with the building consents, that they couldn’t get a simple thing like this right,” he said.

Now consider Labour is vowing to abolish CERA in 2016 and make their mate Lianne’s council responsible for the entire rebuild.

Considering the Council lost its consenting accreditation due to incompetence, and now has failed to perform another statutory duty, can you imagine the chaos that would eventuate if they were in charge of everything.


Is the Christchurch Town Hall affordable?

July 10th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The Christchurch City Council’s decision to pause its project to restore the Christchurch Town Hall until its financial position is clearer is plainly a wise one. The council had intended to begin seeking expressions of interest from companies who wanted to be involved in the project in May. But that has not gone ahead while the council awaits the outcome of negotiations with is insurers. That makes sense. There would be little point in committing a lot of time and money to the project if in the end there would be no rational way for the council to complete it.

The Council is already struggling with debt.

The Town Hall was insured for $69.1 million, but not all of that is necessarily recoverable. In any case, repairs have been estimated to cost $127.5m, more than it cost, in inflation-adjusted terms, to build.

So the net cost to ratepayers is at least $58 million.But it sounds like they won’t get the full insurance and we all know government construction projects tend to cost more than originally estimated. I would not be surprised if ratepayers end up having to pay over $100 million. That is almost $800 per household. If you asked households if they would rather have the $800 themselves or spend it on the Town Hall, I know what the answer would be.


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Can Christchurch Council make hard decisions?

May 8th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Christchurch City Council is facing a cost over-run of $534 million which could balloon even higher if it fails to secure $1 billion in insurance payouts.

The grim financial picture was revealed this afternoon as the council finally released the findings of an independent audit of its finances conducted by KordaMentha, an advisory firm specialising in insolvencies and corporate recovery. …

The report has been labelled a worst case scenario by others in this story. What it is really about is trying to get more money out of taxpayers, rather than ratepayers:

Green MP Eugenie Sage said it was time the council and the Crown renegotiated their earthquake rebuild cost-sharing agreement.

“It’s clear that the Christchurch City Council is not in the financial position to pay all of its share for the big-ticket items being pursued by the Government, or to borrow more,” said Sage.

Labour MP Ruth Dyson said the Government had to acknowledge the city’s financial position had changed.

“We need a genuine partnership between central and local government if our recovery is going to be the best it possibly can be. We need to hear that commitment from John Key now.”

My answer is simple. No.

An agreement  was signed and agreed to after great negotiation last year. Taxpayers have been very generous with Christchurch, pumping billions into it. But the Council needs to now stand on its own two feet, and start making some hard decisions.

Finance committee chairman Cr Raf Manji said the council would need to take decisive action to put itself on a sound financial footing for the future.

“We have a strong balance sheet to help us weather this kind of financial challenge. KordaMentha makes it clear that there is no single simple solution but rather a number of levers that will need to be be used.

“Hard choices will need to be made and we will be relying on the residents of the city to engage with the council as it makes these decisions and charts a prudent and sustainable course forward,” Manji said.

The Council has a number of routes it can take:

  • Reduce the rebuild costs – the council needs to consider not doing some of the work planned.
  • Negotiate for the Crown to pay more money or for the council to pay less money for the anchor projects.
  • Increase the council’s core revenue through rate rises.
  • Cut spending in other areas such as the capital programme.
  • Improve the performance of council owned assets and investments, or sell them.

The left will ignore four of those options and just call for taxpayers to pay more. Real leadership would be making the hard decisions yourself.



Christchurch’s next Mayor?

April 2nd, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Mike Yardley writes:

He’s the bolter, the bloodhound, the big-hitter. And he is fast stapling his presence on to the city’s consciousness.

Cr Raf Manji, the most impressive newcomer to council, wasn’t elected to office with a pasteurised set of opinions from party central or enslaved to a rigid ideology.

He is an independently minded raging pragmatist, spearheading the drive for better performance and fiscal restraint. The hear-no-evil, see-no-evil culture of conceited mediocrity is what sunk the previous council regime. Its prime adversary was the fearless first-term tiger, Cr Tim Carter.

Manji appears to have picked up the baton from Carter, bringing the same financial rigour and razor-sharp scrutiny to the table.

Take the past fortnight, for example. Manji has publicly grilled council staff for failing to adopt any measures against feckless freedom campers.

The council has had the power to regulate freedom camping for two years. Two years, amigos! Manji has blasted their “dithering” as “just ridiculous”.

I’ve heard several people say very good things about Cr Manji. As Yardley says he’s an independent focused on improving performance and holding the management to account. Dalziel is doing fine so far, but if things don’t improve over the next two years, I won’t be surprised to see Manji standing for Mayor.

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Dalziel on right track

February 12th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Councillors were told this week that the rating base had declined by 2.3 per cent and the council faces a larger-than-forecast operating deficit. The decisions to be made will undeniably be difficult and are likely to be unpopular.

There is one option that Mayor Lianne Dalziel appears to have ruled out.

“It’s not a question of adding to the rates; it’s a question of re-allocating within budgets,” she said.

That is the right approach. Rates are already set to rise by 6.5 per cent this year and probably by similar amounts in years to come. Just adding more to property owners’ rates burden would be evading the problem not facing it.

It’s good to see Lianne Dalziel rule out further rates increases. The Council needs to adjust its expenditure to match its income – not take more money off struggling ratepayers.

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Will Christchurch City Council join the stupidity?

February 5th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Presss reports:

The Christchurch City Council is under pressure to find extra money to ensure all its employees get paid at least $18.40 an hour but its finance chairman is warning it cannot afford it.

“We are going through a process of cutting costs, not adding to them,” Cr Raf Manji said yesterday as councillors met to consider a report on the implications of introducing a Living Wage.

By law, workers must be paid a minimum of $13.75 an hour, but $18.40 is what the Living Wage movement believes a family of two adults and two children, where one adult works fulltime and the other works part-time, needs to meet basic living costs.

That is the key point. It is a calculation for one specific family type. That type of family is only around 10% of families earning under $18.40 an hour. Claiming that a 16 year old boy living at home must be paid $18.40 an hour because that is the income needed to support a family with two kids is ridiculous.

A report prepared for the council’s chief executive and employment matters committee, which met publicly for the first time yesterday, estimated the cost of increasing their hourly rate to $18.40 an hour at $1.1 million, excluding KiwiSaver, overtime and penal pay.

It also warned that introducing a Living Wage was likely to have a knock-on effect for other staff as the council would need to maintain relativities in remuneration.

That could add another $1 million to the council’s wage bill.

So proponents want ratepayers to pay an extra $2 million a year. Are ratepayers in Christchurch not already struggling enough?

Also the Councils seem to ignore the very serious flaws in the calculation by Rev Waldegrave, which include:

  1. Only 12% of low income households are two adults and two dependents, which the Waldegrave calculation is based on
  2. They assume you need 10 hours of childcare a week, even if the children are aged over 14
  3. They calculation of level of “basic necessities” is not based on any empirical measurement of the lowest cost of necessities, but merely a proportion of the average expenditure in deciles 1 to 5 (this one is key – it is a calculation based on the Browns should be spending as much as the Jones, and is not a calculation on how much income the Browns need)
  4. The calculation doesn’t account for some sources of household income such as trade-ins, sales, teenagers income (yet does include their costs) and school donation tax refunds
  5. The calculation double counts some expenditure such as childcare costs
  6. The calculation includes as a basic necessity costs such as Sky TV, pets, international travel and video games
  7. The calculation includes insurance for dwellings and mortgages, despite assuming they are renting

Any politician that advocates the living wage calculation as a serious way to do policy should not be trusted with finances.

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The Press on Mayoral accessibility

January 18th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

With the announcement this week of the appointment of a press secretary for Mayor Lianne Dalziel, along with a number of other appointments, the make-up of the mayor’s office is now complete. The mayor had earlier announced the appointment of a chief of staff to run the office. The mayor will have nine people working directly for her, more than twice the four that the former mayor, Bob Parker, had.

It would be interesting to compare the size of the various Mayoral offices to the sizes of their Councils.

In addition to a chief of staff and a press secretary, the mayor now has a senior adviser, a community adviser, a visits and ceremonials co-ordinator, two information officers and two executive assistants (one of them shared with the chief of staff). It must be hoped this staff will be committed to ensuring robust performance from the mayor’s office. It must also be hoped they will be committed to the greatest possible transparency and openness about the mayor’s work.

The mayor’s community adviser is Nicola Shirlaw, who was Dalziel’s campaign manager for the council election. That political connection is of no great significance by itself but the mayor must take care not to allow her office to become highly politicised or excessively inward-looking.

Of course it will be politicised. The job of the Mayor’s office is to get the Mayor re-elected. There’s nothing wrong with that per se. A Mayor who is doing a good job is more likely to be re-elected, so part of what the Mayoral office does is help the Mayor perform well. But they also of course promote the Mayor and try and get favourable coverage.

The office must also not become a barrier between the mayor and the media and public. Parker was commendably available to the media – replying with remarkable diligence and promptness to emails, texts and phone calls, even at the height of his political travails when there was little benefit to him from doing so. Dalziel is proving to be less accessible.

I didn’t know that about Parker. Good on him.

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Christchurch planners v developers

November 11th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Friction between property developers and local body planners is to be expected.

Developers want to be able to get on with their separate projects, doing what they need with the minimum of bureaucratic oversight.

Planners are concerned not just with the outcome of any individual project but also with its impact on the bigger picture of what is going on in the city.

Planners also want to see that rules, which have been adopted through appropriate processes for good reasons, are properly applied.

The two groups’ aims are not necessarily in conflict – developers want to get stuff done, planners (ideally) want to let it be done (provided the rules are followed). 

The statement that planners want to let things be done is highly contestable!

After the debacle earlier this year of the Christchurch City Council building consents process, which led to the council losing its status as an accredited consenting authority, it is alarming to hear home builders complaining that red tape and “design palaver” in the council planning process are holding up the construction of apartments and units.

The council has rejected the complaints, saying any delays come from developers failing to come to grips with new, tougher design rules.

But when a developer of the prominence of Mike Greer – owner of the region’s biggest house building company and who presumably runs a sophisticated operation capable of understanding any regulatory requirements – says the council’s bureaucracy is making it nearly impossible to build affordable housing, the complaint must be taken seriously.

As Christchurch has a serious housing shortage, you would think they would be doing what they can to make it easy to build more housing.

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Who is funding Dalziel?

September 27th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Lianne Dalziel’s main mayoral rival has demanded she reveal who is helping fund her campaign as accusations of party politics fly between the pair.

The issue of whether political parties are helping fund the campaigns of Dalziel and Paul Lonsdale flared briefly at Monday’s Press mayoral debate but intensified yesterday when Lonsdale was forced to defend rumours key National Party figures were helping him.

During the debate, Lonsdale admitted National’s Canterbury regional chairman Roger Bridge had given money to his campaign but Dalziel said she did not know who was funding her bid.

Lonsdale yesterday dismissed talk he was a National Party candidate and ramped up the pressure on Dalziel, demanding she should reveal some of her major donors as he had done.

Dalziel denied she had received any funding from the Labour Party or any unions.

She said her campaign was still fundraising but once the election was over, she would, as legally required, declare her major donors.

Dalziel said she preferred not to know who was helping pay for her campaign until after the election.

“That’s also because I don’t want any connection between who may have made a donation and the direction I might take as mayor.”

I watched the video of the debate where Dalziel said she did not know who was funding her campaign. With respect she sounded like John Banks denying knowledge of who funded his mayoral campaign.

The suggestions she does not known because she doesn’t want it impacting her decisions as Mayor is hard to believe because she will have to file a declaration soon after the election.

My conclusion is Dalziel doesn’t know because she wants to be able to avoid answering the question of who is funding her campaign.

Lonsdale has revealed his two major donors (he is in fact mainly funding the campaign himself he said). Dalziel’s refusal to do the same makes you wonder why. She could find out in five minutes. Why does she not want the public to know? As a sign of good faith she should disclose now any donations that would have to be disclosed after the election.

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Sam Johnson on Christchurch elections

September 26th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Sam Johnson has blogged his picks for Christchurch City Council:

  • Christchurch City Mayor: Lianne Daziel 
  • Shirley-Papanui: Ali Jones
  • Fendalton-Waimairi: Raf Manji (I would like three votes here as Jamie + Claudia are both good. It is important to me to have someone like Raf on CCC though, so he is my first vote). 
  • Burwood-Pegasus: Glenn Livingstone, Robyn Nuthall 
  • Riccarton-Wigram: Vicki Buck, Peter Laloli
  • Hagley-Ferrymead:Paul Lonsdale, Yani Johanson (updated)
  • Spreydon-Heathcote: Erin Jackson, Tim Scandrett
  • Banks Peninsula: Paula Smith

Now I don’t agree with Sam on all his choices. I think Paul Lonsdale would make a very good Mayor, who has already done a lot for the city. I’d also endorse John Stringer for Shirley-Papanui.

But Sam has spent three years on a community board and through his SVA work knows many of the candidates, so I think his picks will be of interest to many. He also names people worth supporting for local boards.

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Marryatt gone

September 14th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt has resigned, with a $270,000 payout.

The council accepted his resignation today, effective from November 30.

But he will not return to work in the meantime and will remain on full pay until then.

The payout will grate with many, myself included. But the reality of our employment laws is that sacking someone for just cause is extremely difficult and can lead to years of court action. One ex RNZ manager is into year 10 of her lawsuit!

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The fixer

September 10th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

The man charged with fixing the Christchurch City Council’s consenting crisis could be kept on to sort out other issues after impressing the city’s two leading mayoral contenders.

Crown manager Doug Martin was appointed by the Government in July to restore the council’s building consent accreditation, which was stripped after repeated threats to withdraw it were not responded to by council management.

He is paid $2000 a day, with his travel and accommodation costs extra. He is contracted until the end of the year but Lianne Dalziel and Paul Lonsdale are keen for him to stay longer.

His swiftly delivered and concise action plan has received plaudits from within the council but has also not gone unnoticed by the mayoral front-runners, who both see merit in using him to tackle other problems facing what will be a new-look council after next month’s local body elections.

Dalziel said she was “very impressed” with Martin’s thoroughness, expertise and skill in delivering a simple, yet effective action plan.

“That ticked a lot of boxes for me when I saw that,” she said.

If Martin could get to the heart of a serious problem that effectively, she saw potential for him to help the new council look at other issues she suspects it will face.

Doug is a former boss of mine. He is one of the most competent people I have ever known. His company (Martin Jenkins) has an excellent reputation at being able to analyse how a company or organisation is working, and how to improve it.

Lonsdale said Martin’s next project should be a full review of the council’s entire management structure, which he (Lonsdale) described as “bureaucratical constipation”.

That would be a very good idea.

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A 1% reduction

July 29th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

A policy limiting bars’ opening hours would reduce the amount of alcohol Christchurch people drink by as little as 1 per cent, according to a city council report.

The draft Local Alcohol Policy would also cost the region more to implement than it would save in alcohol-related healthcare and police services. It could also deter bars and licensed premises from rebuilding in the central city.

Those are among the findings of a report commissioned by the Christchurch City Council that compares the costs and benefits of the draft policy.

The district-wide policy proposes a one-way door rule from 1am in the central city and a blanket 1am closing for suburban licensed premises in a bid to help curb the city’s alcohol-related issues.

The hearing of submissions on the policy begins today and is expected to last four days.

The report concluded the economic costs of the policy would outweigh the economic benefits.

In other words, the policy will achieve almost nothing, but impose costs on businesses and remove choice for residents.

It is good the Council agreed to do an economic analysis of their proposed policy. Hopefully they will listen to their own report, and not give into the wowsers.

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The Press gives Tim Carter top marks

July 29th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

A first-term councillor has emerged as the top performer in The Press pre-election assessment of Christchurch City councillors.

Cr Tim Carter has been awarded an A- grade for his tenacity in questioning the council’s business-as-usual approach and for pushing for greater transparency and accountability.

Despite only being elected to the council in 2010 Carter has made a big impact, but he looks set to depart local body politics in October as he has indicated he is unlikely to seek re-election for personal reasons.
The three next highest performing councillors, as ranked by The Press after hundreds of hours of observation, were councillors Sue Wells, Claudia Reid and Peter Beck, all of whom earned a B+.

The article has a useful feature where you can see how various Councillors have voted on different issues. Would love the Dom Post to do that for the WCC.

Their overall ratings are:

  • Tim Carter A-
  • Peter Beck B+
  • Claudia Reid B+
  • Sue Wells B+
  • Ngaire Button B
  • Aaron Keown B
  • Jamie Gough B
  • Glenn Livingstone B
  • Yani Johanson B
  • Barry Corbett B-
  • Jimmy Chen C+
  • Sally Buck C
  • Helen Broughton C
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Why did Bob go?

July 6th, 2013 at 3:10 pm by David Farrar

John Stringer blogs on 10 reasons why he thinks Bob Parker went:

  1. CEO not a poli.
  2. Marryatt and Consents
  3. Endless negativity and character assassination
  4. The Press
  5. Polls
  6. Wife and “well-being”
  7. Reputation and legacy
  8. Communication
  9. Transferred frustration
  10. Media prostitutes.

I don’t agree with all of them, but I do think the endless negativity was very real, and partly explains what Marryatt stuffed up also. He definitely made many mistakes, but I suspect the fact that some Councillors spent so much of their time attacking and undermining the Mayor and CEO, is why he was reluctant to let them know when problems arose, such a the consenting.

Now that is not to defend his decision. He should have informed the Council. But some Councillors are to blame also for creating a culture of negativity and attack, so the CEO did not feel he can be upfront with them. If he tells them of problems, they’ll just use it to attack him.

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Marryatt on leave, crown manager appointed

July 3rd, 2013 at 1:58 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Christchurch City Council Chief Executive Tony Marryatt is taking leave.

The council has issued a statement announcing Marryatt was taking leave “pending further discussions with the council”.

General manager city environment Jane Parfitt will be acting chief executive.

I’ve not been a long-term Marryatt hater, like some people. I thought the issue around his salary was a beat up. However he has on a number of occassions demonstrated judgement not up to the job – in my view.

The decision to give an extra day’s leave per month to all staff, without even informing Councillors, was one example.

The consenting failure has to be his responsibility – both the lack of capacity, the inability to improve enough, and the downplaying of the seriousness of it.

This afternoon’s planned meeting with four Government ministers has been cancelled.

Instead, councillors have been called to a special meeting of council at 12.45pm tomorrow when a resolution will be put to invite the local government minister Chris Tremain to install a Crown manager to oversee the council’s consents department.

Following the meeting, councillors will meet with the minister who will discuss the terms of reference for the Crown manager.

Mayor Bob Parker said it was “crucial that the community and the Government have complete confidence in the robustness of the consents process”.

This is a smart move by the Council – a crown manager, just for the consenting function. This should mean that the Council can be assisted to get its processes and resources sorted out, so they can regain the ability to authorise consents.

As a sign of how bad it may be, the Insurance Council says:

Christchurch buildings constructed using faulty council consents may have to be demolished, the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) says.

International Accreditation New Zealand (Ianz) this week said it would revoke the council’s consents accreditation on July 8, prompting a council and Government scramble to ensure consents can continue to be issued in the rebuilding city. 

The council had granted consents that Ianz found ”did not meet the requirements of the Building Code”.

ICNZ insurance manager John Lucas said today that the Ianz revelations were ”quite startling”.

Recently consented buildings should be audited on a case-by-case basis by an independent authority, he said.

”If insurers have started work on developing a new property, rebuilding a house or repairing a house, and then partway through that construction period there’s a delay because they find out later the building consent was issued incorrectly, then that’s going to stop that project,” Lucas said.

”It may cost the parties a lot of money because the project may have to be demolished and rebuilt, or there may be some very expensive remediation costs involved.”

Non-compliant foundations were the most likely to be an issue, he said.

Now who is it that has been calling for the Govt to be more hands off in Christchurch?

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Christchurch consents

July 3rd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Martin van Beynen at The Press reports:

The Christchurch City Council has granted building consents that potentially put people and property at risk, International Accreditation New Zealand (Ianz) says.

Ianz on Monday announced it was revoking the council’s accreditation of its consents function on July 8, prompting a council and Government scramble to ensure consents can continue to be issued in the rebuilding city.

The council had granted consents that Ianz found ‘‘did not meet the requirements of the Building Code’’, prompting one earthquake widower to label the debacle ‘‘very worrying’’.

Council officials will meet Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Local Government Minister Chris Tremain in Christchurch today. The most likely outcome is the appointment of a commissioner to run the council’s consents department until accreditation can be regained.

While attempts have been made to downplay the seriousness of the revocation, Ianz chief executive Llew Richards told The Press yesterday ‘‘we have serious concerns’’.

He referred to sections of the latest Ianz report saying the authority had identified council building consents that breached the Building Code and/or Act.

‘‘These have the potential to cause damage to the property, other adjoining property or injury to people,’’ the report says.

Hardly the equivalent of a parking ticket, as claimed by the Mayor.

He was staggered the problem went back as far as 2007, he said, but admitted in Parliament he did not know about the September Ianz report until June 7.

“At that point I decided that this situation was intolerable and we have been taking action since that time and we will have further discussions with the city council tomorrow, because this situation cannot continue.”

Those who had argued the Government should stay out of local authority functions should now be reconsidering, he said.


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Yardley calls for accountability

July 2nd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Mike Yardley writes in The Press:

The news ricocheted across the city yesterday morning, like a thunderclap.

Despite all the soothing tones of reassurance, despite all the varnished rhetoric that the big bad wolf of revocation would be kept from the council door, International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) has walked the talk and blown the house down.

The Christchurch City Council has incurred the unique and ignominious distinction of becoming the nation’s first consenting authority to be stripped of its accreditation.

On the day that the IANZ letter, outlining their intention to revoke, was brought to the public’s attention by the Earthquake Recovery Minister, the Christchurch mayor’s first reflex was to absolve the council of any blame or responsibility.

He slammed Gerry Brownlee for launching a ”media missile”, and he accused the Government of ”undermining public confidence in the council”. 

And that is something I doubt he will recover from. Up until the Govt made it public, the Council itself wasn’t aware they were on the verge of losing accreditation. And Parker attacked the Government for their transparency.

In the wake of such embellished bravado, the political fallout for Bob Parker is thunderous. Just three months out from election day, it’s a hell of a black eye. But beyond the political ramifications, this is a withering hammerblow to our sense of trust in the council. 

Would you trust them to be straight with you?

Late last week, the council’s senior management were trumpeting all of the progress they’d made to ward off and neutralise the compliance concerns IANZ had flagged.

But as the council brass back-slapped themselves into believing that all was well in the state of Denmark, ministers Gerry Brownlee and Maurice Williamson were busily deploying contingency plans, just in case the council was duly defrocked. 

Now that the nightmare scenario has become a reality, we should learn more about those plans tomorrow. But a show of accountability would also help clear the head. 

So, now that the good ship Christchurch has hit the rocks, stripped of its accreditation for one its most critical functions, who will resign?

I think the Chief Executive has to go. Consenting is a core function of Council, and losing accreditation is a management failure. This was not a surprise – IANZ had been warning for over a year.

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Christchurch City Council loses consent accreditation

July 1st, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

The Christchurch City Council has been stripped of its accreditation to issue building consents.

In a huge blow to the organisation International Accreditation New Zealand (Ianz) has followed through on its threat to revoke the council’s accreditation.

Christchurch City Council will be stripped of its right to issue consents from Monday.

Council’s general manager regulation and democracy services Peter Mitchell said in the last 14 days the council issued 632 consents with a combined value of $160 million.

Of the original backlog of 500 consents, 25 remained and these were expected to be cleared today.

He said the council could still lawfully receive, process and grant building consents and would continue with other aspects of the building consent process, including inspections and processing code compliance certificates.

Mitchell said he was confident the city council would regain its accreditation.

He explained the Ianz letter indicated that while the agency was satisfied progress was being made, it did not yet have confidence the council was operating in full compliance with its standards.

It had raised a number of issues that it had not raised in the May 30 letter which it now wanted more information on. …

Ianz chief executive Dr Llew Richards said stripping a council of its consenting powers was a “hugely unprecedented” move.

He said the organisation told the Christchurch City Council of its decision about 9am today.  “They have not been able to satisfy us,” Richards said.

He was unable to comment specifically on the problems but outlined the process for when issues arose.

”A core responsibility of a BCAs (Building Consent Authorities) is to ensure a sound audit process is in place and to provide Ianz with records of such technical reviews. Without such evidence, Ianz could not continue accreditation,” Richards said.

”A lot of publicity is given to the statutory deadline for issuing consents. Ianz uses this information as only one of the indicators of adequate resourcing.

“An improvement in the rate of consents issued still requires an assurance they comply with the Code and Act requirements.”

Note that IANZ is independent of the Government.

I’d say this delivers the mayoral election to Lianne Dalziel. Who wants to vote for incumbency, when the status quo is that you fail at your core functions?

Not that this is the fault of Bob Parker. The CEO Tony Maryatt needs to be held responsible for this outcome. Parker hasn’t helped though by denying there is a problem, and comparing the letter from IANZ to a parking ticket.

A spokesman for Brownlee said the council’s consenting crisis was scheduled to be discussed by Cabinet today. The Minister would make a comment after that.

City council planning committee chairwoman Cr Sue Wells said staff were gutted by the decision.

A consenting authority had never been stripped off its accreditation before so the council was now in uncharted waters, she said.

“We’re going to take a deep breath and sort this out,” she said.

Last November Ianz identified 17 areas of concern with the council’s processes and in May gave it formal notice of its intention to remove its consenting ability.

It is worth remembering that Lianne has spent three years claiming that the major problem in Christchurch was that the Government took away too much power from the Council. Considering the CCC has proven incompetent at even a core function such as consenting, imagine how much chaos there would have been if Labour had been in charge, and had CERA powers mainly resting with the Council?

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