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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Parker v Dalziel

February 20th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Glenn Conway at The Press reports:

Former Christchurch mayor Sir Bob Parker has criticised his successor, Lianne Dalziel, for doubling staff numbers in her office without consulting ratepayers.

The staff changes for the Mayor’s Office were part of a restructure by the Christchurch City Council’s acting chief executive Jane Parfitt, as mayoral responsibilities increased.

Dalziel said the structure helped “create an efficient use of my time so I can devote myself to the city”.

Dalziel yesterday said she had made “an error in judgment” by not explaining the changes when staff were appointed.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show the mayoral office budget in the 2013-14 year was $385,952. The proposed budget for 2014-15 is $798,605.

Dalziel said she should have “front-footed” the changes to her office.

Parker, who had about four staff in his office during his six years in charge, said the “sizeable increase in costs” was never raised publicly through the annual plan process.

“The decisions, apparently, have already been made and contracts granted by the mayor,” Parker said.

Dalziel’s office has more staff than the mayoral offices in Wellington and Dunedin combined.

It would be very interesting to learn the size of each mayoral office. They should all be of comparable sizes, for similarly sized councils.

Auckland mayor Len Brown has about 20 staff in his office and Prime Minister John Key employs about 25 staff .

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull, who has “a PA and that’s it” said new mayoral powers were “more illusionary than real”.

His council looked for savings “wherever we can find them” and “as a default” did not hire new staff if possible. There were no plans to review staffing levels.

A spokesman for Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown said she employed six-and-a-half fulltime positions, including a chief of staff, office manager/PA, receptionist (who is also PA to the chief of staff), an events co-ordinator and one and a half fulltime correspondence co-ordinators.

20 staff for Len Brown is a staggeringly high figure.

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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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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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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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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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Will Lianne allow Orion to price gouge?

August 20th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Mike Yardley at The Press writes:

Orion’s odious proposed price hike, which would gouge an extra $1000 off every Christchurch customer, over and above its existing 25 per cent share of power bills, has run into a brick wall.

The Commerce Commission’s draft report has virtually halved the scope of Orion’s planned cash-grab, while also noting that the community-owned lines company does not have to proceed with this increase.

No-one disputes the critical infrastructure repair and enhancement programme Orion has embarked upon.

But there are alternative ways to pay the $150 million bill for this 10-year project.

As the Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee, has pointed out, the company’s balance sheet is very strong, its cash reserves are healthy – and Orion has generated $220m in profit in the past five years alone.

Brownlee has described Orion’s proposed price hike as “an appalling slap in the face to the community, by a council-owned company that is behaving like a rapacious capitalist”.

Well that is a clear stance by Gerry. But what about Lianne Dalziel? Are Labour not against price gouging by electricity companies?

So what is the position of our mayoral aspirants?

And should they be successful on October 12, what pressure will they apply on Orion to abandon this lazy financial assault on a captive market?

Paul Lonsdale swiftly responded to me, pledging to negotiate with Orion’s board to abandon the proposed increase.

But Lianne Dalziel took umbrage at my inquiry as to whether she would lean on Orion to jettison the increase.

Instead, I was emailed a diversionary missive from the red-hot mayoral favourite as to why Orion was an “over my dead body” strategic asset which must be protected.

So is Lianne saying that she supports Christchurch people paying an extra $1,000 a year for power, so long as she owns the company and can get to spend the dividends?

Dalziel also fired off a chapter and verse broadside about why the power retailers are the real “villains”. (Although, unlike the retailers, the customer can’t shop around for a lines company. And, unlike the lines company, the council has no control over power retailers.)

Retailers have competition, and effective competition also. Hundreds of thousands of people swap retailers when they can get better offer. Why would Lianne ignore the monopolist lines company? Oh, maybe because is she becomes Mayor their profits can fund her spending plans?

Of course, all of this is a big fat red herring by the mayoral contender and, surprisingly, Dalziel declined to give me a straight answer on whether she specifically supports Orion’s desire to fleece an extra $1000 out of your backpocket.

It seems like a very reasonable question.

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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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So what is Lianne’s debt solution?

June 25th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Christchurch mayoral candidate Lianne Dalziel has slammed the level of debt the city council will be taking on as “fiscally irresponsible”.

Great to hear a Labour MP blast fiscal irresponsibility and raise the alarm on debt. I can only presume Lianne will not be voting Labour at the next election then, as their policies are for more spending and more debt.

In her speech Dalziel said it was “fiscally irresponsible” to take the council’s debt levels to 2% short of the maximum allowable ratio “giving us no room to manoeuvre should any calculations fall short of budget”.

I agree.

3 News reports:

But Ms Dalziel, the current Christchurch East MP, did not offer a solution to the planned uptake. Instead, she says she’s not making any promises around level of debt.

“I’m just offering absolute fiscal responsibility in terms of insuring that we’re not placing our council into so much debt that we don’t have we anywhere to move just in case something goes wrong,” she says.

Ms Dalziel says she’s opposed to asset sales as a solution – but is not ruling them out completely.

“I’m opposed to strategic assets being sold, [but] I’m not having a conversation at the moment about what strategic means,” she says.

It is pointless to criticise unless you have a credible alternative.

Debt is a function of spending. You borrow money to fund either an operational deficit or capital expenditure.

There are basically just two ways to reduce debt – spend less, or increase revenue.

If Lianne is saying the Council is spending too much money (which is very possible) she should identify what spending she would chop.

If she is saying the Council needs to increase its revenue, then she should spell out which assets she would sell, or how much more she would increase rates by.

“My final decision to run was only made two weeks ago so I haven’t got a detailed policy platform, but I will have one when I launch [the campaign] formally,” she says.

“I’ve got a couple of months to basically work with a variety of people across the city to put together that policy platform.”

Fair enough not to have it yet, but having blasted the Council for their debt she will in time need to be specific about what spending she would cut to reduce debt – or alternatively which assets she would sell and/or how much rates would increase.

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Lianne’s resignation

June 21st, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Lianne Dalziel has confirmed on Twitter that she will resign as an MP before the results of the Mayoral election are known.

This is the right thing to do, and Lianne deserves credit for that call.

She says she wants to have the by-election as far away as the Council election as possible. She could achieve that by resigning immediately and having a by-election in August. Of course that means no salary and no parliamentary resources (such as phones) while campaigning, so I suspect she is not keen on that option.

The local elections have the votes counted 12 October 2013. So let’s assume Lianne resigns on 11 October 2013.

This means the Governor-General must issue the by-election write by Friday 2 November 2013. the writ must be returned within 50 days which is 22 December 2013.

You need to allow 11 days for special votes, 3 working days for a recount application and estimate 3 days for a recount, so really the election day must be at least 17 days before 22 December, so the latest possible date for the by-election would be Saturday 30 November.

If Dalziel resigns on 11 October, then the earliest day would be Saturday 9 November for the by-election. Every week earlier she resigns then that week could move earlier.

I’m hoping for any date except Saturday 30 November, as I’ll be tramping that weekend, so out of cellphone and Internet coeverage!

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Who is The Press scaring off?

June 20th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press Deputy Editor writes:

Lianne Dalziel is good for Bob Parker, and vice versa. It seems an odd argument, but each needs the other to validate whatever comes of the Christchurch mayoral election.

The point was made eloquently by city councillor Peter Beck when he announced in March that he would soon retire, and expressed a wish that the coming contest should be a “two-horse race”.

“My hope is that there is one, and only one, seriously credible alternative [to Mayor Parker] so that the city has a clear choice,” Beck said then. “That is good for democracy. It is good for both candidates. Whoever is elected will then hopefully carry a real mandate of the people.”

With respect, Cr Beck said that because he didn’t want Parker winning against a split vote. Nothing to do with mandate.

Voters should not pay too much attention to the party politics in this election.

Good God. Just ignore the fact she has spent two years demanding the Minister resign.

Both Parker and Dalziel have considerable strengths. The real danger here is that a credible third candidate will declare and deny ratepayers the chance to make a proper decision between the two. It would not help the city if a mayor was elected at this important time who did not command a clear majority of votes cast.

Such a credible third candidate would be perfectly entitled to stand, but should carefully consider his or her motives for doing so before declaring.

This is the bizarre part. I’m not sure I can recall a NZ newspaper before imploring people not to stand for office, let alone almost threatening them that they will be seen as having bad motives if they do stand.

How incredibly arrogant to declare that Parker and Dalziel must be the only choices and that a credible third candidate is a “danger” who will hinder a “proper” decision. I’d suggest many people in Christchurch would love to have a credible third candidate as they are so thoroughly depressed by the prospects of either Parker or Dalziel.

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Surprise – not!

June 18th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour MP Lianne Dalziel is set to enter the Christchurch mayoral race, Fairfax Media understands.

The Christchurch East MP has long been rumoured as the favourite to challenge incumbent Bob Parker for the mayoral chains, following her high-profile role as Labour’s earthquake recovery spokeswoman, and criticism of the current council.

Her declaration is expected later this week.

Dalziel has the backing of her party for a mayoral bid, despite dropping out of the top 20-ranked Labour MPs in a party reshuffle in February.

If she stands and wins, she will likely have to resign her Christchurch East seat, triggering a by-election.

Worst kept secret ever.

In March she was “99 per cent” sure she would not stand, but a month later it was revealed she had attempted to recruit Student Volunteer Army founder Sam Johnson as a potential running mate.

I don’t know why more MPs can’t be as honest as Maurice Williamson was and just say upfront that they are considering standing, rather than deny it one month and be trying to lien up running mates the next.

Last month she was still coy on a bid, but talked about the importance of an alternative council leadership that cut across political party lines.

She said at the time that she would consider standing if she got the “right” team behind her, but admitted it was likely to include candidates from the Left-leaning People’s Choice movement.

Their aim, is to get a Labour majority on Council.

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Mayors united

June 6th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Two former Christchurch mayors are mulling a return to local politics.

Former mayors Vicki Buck and Garry Moore are both considering running for the city council at the October local elections.

Buck has been meeting regularly with possible mayoral candidate Lianne Dalziel.

Moore said it was likely Labour MP Dalziel would run for the mayoralty and he criticised the current councillors.

“I would say the probability would be reasonably high. It is up to her to announce that when she finally goes through the starting line.

“The Government has to hand over [the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority] to the local council in two and a bit years. If I were the Government, there is no way I would hand it over to the current council. It needs horsepower.

“We need to think hard about supporting excellent people on the council, not the sort of dull people that many of them are right now.”

Dalziel said she could not comment on whether she had offered Buck or Moore roles in her possible campaign.

“I haven’t formalised where I stand at the moment. People know I’m talking to a lot of people. This is the hardest decision I have ever made in my life.

Oh don’t be silly. Of course you’re standing. It’s not a hard decision. You were dumped from Labour’s shadow cabinet. You won’t be a Minister again, even if Labour wins. So of course you’re standing for Mayor. You’ve spent weeks or months putting together running mates and campaign teams. Just make the bloody announcement.

The involvement of Buck and Moore is astute. I thought Buck was a very good Mayor, and Moore wasn’t too bad either – even though I disagree with his politics. Both Buck and Moore are Labour aligned.

If one or both stand, they will be the ones who attack Parker on behalf of Dalziel, which is a smart strategy. As former Mayors they can do so with credibility, and talk about how one needs a more unified Council and the role of leadership in that. That leaves Dalziel free to run a more positive campaign, which she needs to do. She should win so long as she is not seen as overly negative.

Buck said she was considering running for councillor, but ruled out the mayoralty and the deputy role.

Under the new law, Mayors appoint the Deputy Mayor – not Council. So, candidates will be asked who their running mate is, so to speak.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said Buck would make a “great councillor”, but said she should avoid political affiliations.

“It would be a shame if she tied herself to one political group.”

Moore said he would be an independent candidate if he stood.

“I am sitting on the side utterly despairing at how pathetic the leadership is. Vicki and I have been sitting weeping into our coffees for the last couple of years.

“We have looked at all our hard work and thought: ‘My God, what’s happening?’ This is not a place for show ponies, it’s a time for carefully thought through strategic thinking.”

As I said, Moore and maybe Buck will be the attack dogs for Dalziel. It is a very clever strategy.

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Parker not to stand?

June 2nd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Christchurch’s mayoralty race could soon take a dramatic turn with rumours swirling that incumbent Bob Parker may not run.

Parker, who late last year confirmed he would seek a third term as mayor, has been sounding out city leaders lately, asking whether they thought he could win if Christchurch East MP Lianne Dalziel stood against him.

The popular Labour MP is widely tipped to run in October’s election and yesterday said she would announce her “decision” later this month.

The city’s mayoralty race has been non-existent so far with Parker the only confirmed candidate. Yesterday, he denied any suggestion he would stand down, claiming that was purely what his opponents wanted to hear.

It is thought Parker received mixed feedback from those he consulted.

Polling done by his political rivals shows Dalziel holding a narrow lead against him and it is thought these results prompted the Parker rethink.

But his loyal deputy Ngaire Button strongly denied any talk of Parker quitting. “That [rumour] is completely fanciful. Bob has told me he is running.”

Earlier last week, Button hosted a group of “independent” candidates she will soon unveil to stand across the city. The, group, to be called City First, fuelled rumours Parker could endorse Button for the mayoralty and slip out of the political landscape on his own terms.

She did little to dampen down that talk yesterday, saying the idea of Parker endorsing her for the mayoralty was “a scenario that could work out in time . . . but I have not thought about it”.

Bob Parker led the city very well through the initial crisis of earthquake. But he does run the risk of ending up like Winston Churchill in 1950 – the public grateful for the efforts, but wanting a change.

Would it be better to go out on top after two terms, than risk losing to Dalziel?

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Upfront?

April 23rd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Speaking to The Press yesterday, Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson said Dalziel has been “upfront” about chewing over challenging Parker.

Upfront is not quite the word I would use.

On 12 May 2012:

“I’m sick of every time I try to get debate around the real issues, they say, ‘It’s the beginning of her mayoralty bid’. So I’m taking it off the table.

Off the table sounds rather final.

“I intend to re-stand for Christchurch East in whatever form it becomes, because obviously there will be major boundary changes. I could end up the MP for Christchurch Central again by accident,” she said.

And

Lianne Dalziel’s refusal to stand for the Christchurch mayoralty should scotch the gossip that has been swirling about the city for more than a year.

Alas such denials do not scotch the gossip, because you can’t believe them!

And in today’s stories:

Dalziel ruled out her recent demotion as reason for considering a shot at the mayoralty.

“I don’t want anyone to believe that the mayoralty of Christchurch was somehow second-best. I crossed that hurdle when I realised how serious the issues actually are [in Christchurch].”

You mean Lianne didn’t realise there were serious issues last May when she ruled out standing?

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Johnson not standing

April 22nd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Student Volunteer Army founder Sam Johnson will not challenge Mayor Bob Parker in the upcoming Christchurch elections, despite agonising over an offer to team up with Labour MP Lianne Dalziel.

The Weekend Press revealed Dalziel – the MP for Christchurch East and Labour’s earthquake recovery spokeswoman – invited Johnson to be her running mate and would-be deputy mayor in October’s local body elections.

Neither Dalziel nor Johnson would comment on Friday, but Johnson admitted last night he “very seriously did consider” the offer. He finally decided against it on Saturday afternoon.

“I really wanted to do it,” he said. “It was a really difficult decision to make, but I don’t think it is the right thing for me right now.”

Johnson did not intend to run for a seat on the Christchurch City Council and was undecided about standing again for the Riccarton-Wigram Community Board.

He planned instead to finish his law and politics degree and focus on the Volunteer Army Foundation and his work with the Ministry of Awesome.

I often talk to young aspiring politicians, and my advice almost always is not to stand too early. I think it is crucial that people do not just go from student politics to a job in Parliament to being an MP. While there are exceptions, you are a better MP if you have some life experience.

Now Sam has had some pretty incredible successes and experiences, and would have been a credible figure at a young age. But his decision not to rush things shows a good level of maturity.

However, he did not rule out dipping a toe back into politics in the future.

“I’m not a career politician. Later in life, maybe, but right now there are many other things that need to be done.”

Sensible.

Despite Johnson’s defection, Dalziel has not ruled out a mayoralty bid.

She would have been “exceptionally happy to stand alongside Sam”, but maintained she was not committed yet.

Oh, of course Lianne is standing.

Dalziel had previously ruled out standing for mayor but had been persuaded to reconsider, she said.

Oh, yes persuaded against her will I am sure. There’s nothing wrong with saying you want to be Mayor, but I can do without the false reluctance.

Even since Shearer dumped Lianne from the shadow cabinet, the bid was near-inevitable.

Lianne has said she will resign as an MP, if she stands. That means a by-election in Christchurch East. Who would stand for Labour?

UPDATE: I am told my multiple sources that Labour has already had their normal democratic selection process and the unions and hierarchy have chosen Tony Milne. Tony used to work for Tim Barnett, and is currently the National Manager of Public Health at the Problem Gambling Foundation.

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Dalziel seeks a running mate

April 20th, 2013 at 11:04 am by David Farrar

The word has been that Lianne Dalziel will announce her candidacy for Mayor in the next two weeks, despite over a year of denials.

The Press reports:

Labour MP Lianne Dalziel has asked the founder of Christchurch’s Student Volunteer Army, Sam Johnson, to stand together to challenge Mayor Bob Parker in this year’s local body elections, The Press understands.

Speculation has been mounting as to who will run against Parker in October. And The Press can now reveal Labour’s Canterbury Earthquake Recovery spokeswoman Dalziel has asked Johnson, 24, to be her running mate and would-be deputy mayor.

Johnson himself would have to be elected as a councillor to assume the deputy’s position, and Dalziel is believed to have sounded out other running mates too.

But Johnson’s reputation soared after he organised the much-celebrated student army to help quake-affected Cantabrians and in 2012 he was named Young New Zealander of the Year. He currently sits on the Riccarton-Wigram Community Board and in January indicated he could seek a seat on the city council .

Maybe Sam should stand for Mayor, rather than be Lianne’s deputy!

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Hysteria

March 26th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is demanding answers after EQC’s “unprecedented” privacy blunder while his Labour counterpart has called for his resignation.

Brownlee said last night he would meet EQC chief executive Ian Simpson and chairman Michael Wintringham this morning to insist on answers.

Brownlee, who found out about the 73,000 extra claimants only at 2.21pm yesterday (the media conference was at 3pm), said the blunder was embarrassing and he had a “lot more to find out”.

“On Friday when we first learned there had been a mishap, it was in the realms of being a forgivable mistake but when you learn that rather than 9700 claims affected it’s more than 80,000, well, that escalates it a little bit further to say the least.” …

Labour earthquake spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said Brownlee needed to “make an appointment with the Prime Minister and hand in his resignation notice”.

A staff member didn’t notice that his auto-complete function had inserted the wrong recipient name, and sent an attachment to the wrong person.

And Dalziel thinks this is a case for the Minister to resign.

All I can say is that Labour will need a very large caucus if they get into Government, because I expect Ministers will be resigning every week or so based on this new hysterical standard.

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1% wriggle room

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

Sam Sachdeva in The Press reports:

Less than a week after being dumped from Labour’s top 20 MPs, Christchurch East MP Lianne Dalziel is putting on a brave face.

The week before the announcement, Labour leader David Shearer took her aside for a “long chat” about the decision and explained the need for rejuvenation in the ranks.

This is the rejuvenation that saw Annette King promoted, despite entering Parliament in 1984.

Lianne got demoted because she is in the wrong faction.

A much-discussed mayoral bid still appears highly unlikely, with Dalziel concerned about the potential disruption a by-election in her electorate would cause.

While it is unlikely, it is still not off the table, not yet anyway.

“Like I said to someone the other day, my answer is 99 per cent no. Is 1 per cent wiggle room?

“I suppose it is, but I’m really not thinking that’s what I want to do.”

Watch that 1% become, 2% and 3% and ….

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Moral hazard

January 29th, 2013 at 9:11 am by David Farrar

Marc Greenhill at Stuff reports:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has rejected suggestions he ignored officials’ advice in making reduced offers to uninsured red-zoners.

The Press reported yesterday the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) advised Brownlee last August that property owners in the residential red zone who did not qualify for the initial Crown compensation deal – mainly commercial properties and undeveloped land – should have the same offer extended to them.

A decision was made to offer those in limbo half the rateable value (RV) of their land and avoid the “moral hazard” of a government safety net for the uninsured.

I think it would have been very bad to offer the same price for an uninsured property as for those insured. It would have set an awful precedent and encourage people not to insure.

Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said the “low-ball” offers would form part of a formal complaint she had made to the auditor-general about the Government’s handling of the residential red zone.

Labour – campaigning for the rights of the uninsured to get the same payouts as the insured. That’s true equality for you comrades!

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Labour in retreat

July 6th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

 Labour MP Charles Chauvel is calling for a minimum price on alcohol, but there is no consensus among his party about what that price should be.

This is trying to have your cake and eat it to. It is like a party announcing their taxation policy and saying “Oh we favour taxes going up, but we won’t tell you to how much”. A minimum pricing policy with no detail on what they want the minimum price to be, is not credible.

Before the 2011 election, Labour MP Lianne Dalziel argued in the House for a $2 minimum price per standard drink in Parliament. She said this would bump up the price of the $6 bottles of wine which young women “pre-loaded on”, while not affecting a $15 bottle of wine.

National has argued that this would mean no bottle of wine – which usually contained 7 to 8 standard drinks – could be bought for less than $16.

Ms Dalziel’s office yesterday said that the MP used the $2 threshold as an example, and it was not Labour policy. It was up to the Justice Minister to decide on the threshold, and if minimum pricing was voted on in the House, Labour MPs would vote individually on it.

Crap.  Here are her exact words:

we should set a minimum price that would prevent wine from being sold for less than $2 for a standard drink

Does that sound like an example? It is a clear statement of what the minimum price should be.

This was not a one off. Labour’s spokesperson has been very consistent. At the first reading in 2010 she also said:

The priority is to increase the price of dirt-cheap alcohol, and that is why I am arguing for minimum pricing. I refer to the $5.99 bottles of wine. At that price, three young women can buy five bottles of wine to preload on, rather than buy two bottles of very good wine for the same price. The ones who buy five bottles of $5.99 wine are the most price-sensitive buyers. They are the ones who will change their behaviour when prices go up. Do not let anyone tell us that it will do otherwise. That is the reason for a minimum price per standard drink. The $2 per minimum standard drink price would not touch a $15 bottle of wine. That would stay the same price, but it would slightly more than double the price of the $5.99 bottle of wine.

It would touch the $15 bottle of wine. My Central Otago Pinot Noir is 14%, which for 750mls is 8.3 standard drinks. That would mean a minimum price of $16.60. I generally avoid the $6 bottles of wines, but you get many good wines for $11 or so, and Lianne is advocating they increase 50% in price.

I hope that MPs in Parliament will not let Labour get away with their policy of saying we believe in minimum pricing, we want to pass a law to enable it, but we will not tell you what the minimum price should be. Labour should be honest and tell New Zealanders what they think the minimum price should be.

Maybe it is even more than $2 a standard drink?

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The Press on Christchurch

May 14th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

It will now be possible to consider Dalziel’s criticisms of the recovery process – and they have been many and seem to encompass just about everyone involved – the mayor, the minister, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority – without the thought they are designed to advance any designs on the mayoralty.

And the Council. Dalziel has been pretty relentlessly critical of everyone and everything.

Whether, if Labour were to win power in 2014, Dalziel would be a good choice to take Gerry Brownlee’s job as the minister for earthquake recovery is highly debatable. It is, in any case, a slightly unambitious goal. By the time it could come about, more than 2 1/2 years from now, the hard political and financial decisions on earthquake recovery will largely have been taken. By that time, it must be hoped, the recovery will be well under way and any ministerial involvement will have become peripheral.

Indeed. In fact the big decisions should all be made by mid 2013 I hope.

While Dalziel has many commendable personal qualities – and her energy as a critic of what is being done has been indefatigable – whether she would be the right person for the job is doubtful. She has been a minister before, of course, and though she was competent enough she hardly shone in the role.

That is a bit unfair. While I don’t share her policies, Dalziel was actually an  effective Commerce Minister, and one of the better performing Labour Ministers.

 In addition, her well-signalled party-political partisanship could hinder her capacity to get on with others in a job that requires party politics to be put firmly aside. Her suggestion for some new layer of bureaucracy between the minister and Cera – as if more bureaucracy is what is required – also does not augur well.

I agree. Having the Minister appoint a board who supervise the CERA CEO seems bizarre. You have boards for commercial SOEs, not for government departments.

With Dalziel out of the running, attention can now turn to other possible contenders. While it may be a thankless job in many ways, it is also one of unprecedented opportunity and the incumbent Bob Parker shows no signs of having lost his appetite for it. At this early stage, talk inevitably centres on sitting councillors, and the names of Tim Carter, Peter Beck and Glenn Livingstone have been mentioned. All are very new to the council and their only mark of distinction so far is their inexperience in all the skills that will be needed in the next phase of Christchurch’s recovery. Neither they, nor indeed anyone else on the council, inspires much confidence as a future leader of the city and voters may be forgiven for hoping some better alternatives emerge before the election.

The Council obviously has bitter divisions. A new Mayor from one of those factions, will just compound the frictions. If people want an alternative to Bob Parker, they need someone not currently on Council who has proven leadership experience.

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Dalziel rules out Mayoralty

May 12th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

“I want to be the minister, not the mayor.”

With that sentence, Christchurch East Labour MP Lianne Dalziel wants to lay to rest one of the city’s most persistent rumours since the February 2011 earthquake.

Dalziel, Labour’s earthquake recovery spokeswoman, said there were several reasons why she was not interested in standing for the mayoralty late next year.

One was that she had Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee’s job in her sights if Labour was able to govern after the 2014 general election.

This seems to be confirmation that Dalziel will stand for a 9th term as an MP. This doesn’t help Labour with their rejuvenation, but if they do get to win Government it would be appropriate for Dalziel to become the CERA Minister as it would be karma. I think she would discover how incredibly difficult it is to do the job and please everyone. It is very easy to scratch every itch, and far more difficult to actually make the hard decisions.

Of course by 2014, most of the hard decisions will have been made.

In Wellington however, it is looking more likely Annette King will stand for Mayor, as she has now said she is actively considering it.

This opens up a Rongotai by-election in 2013, if so. If Labour loses the seat to the Greens it will be a big blow to them.

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Retraction

April 20th, 2012 at 9:14 pm by David Farrar

Earlier on Friday 20 April 2012 Kiwiblog reproduced excerpts from a reader’s e-mail which related to Hon Lianne Dalziel. Kiwiblog now understands that the contents of that e-mail misrepresented the actions of Hon Lianne Dalziel. It is is accepted they were injurious to the reputation of Hon Lianne Dalziel and they are unreservedly retracted.

Kiwiblog apologises to Hon Lianne Dalziel for any distress or inconvenience caused by the error.

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Can anyone work out Labour’s position on Christchurch

April 18th, 2012 at 2:58 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

But in a speech to the Employers Chamber of Commerce in Wellington this afternoon, Dalziel lashed out at both the Government and the council.

Everyone but Lianne is incompetent it seems.

“Without a layer of governance between the Minister and the recovery authority we have decisions being made by Cabinet, implemented by bureaucrats and undermining the last remaining democratic institution in Christchurch – our city council.”

So Labour’s policy is that there should be a Board for CERA? So the Minister appoints a Board that appoints a CEO, and all decisions go from staff to the CEO to the Board to the Minister. Yes, that will speed things up.

The council itself had not responded properly to the shock of the earthquake either, she said. …

However, the mistakes of the council had been compounded by the Government’s response of “imposing a growing bureaucracy” which “must not replace the core functions that belong to the council – the only body that can offer democratic participation in decision-making”.

It is a strange argument that local government is democratic, but central government is not.

“The solutions to all the problems we face in Christchurch can be found in strengthening the council so that it can perform its proper function in collaboration with the citizens of Christchurch, not to usurp its role with a government department without any practical knowledge and experience of urban planning and design.”

So now the policy is to “strengthen” the Council. Can anyone explain to me, what exactly is meant by that?

Just being angry about everything isn’t a substitute for rational policy and analysis.

The new unit is seconding experienced staff from the Council. Unless one is proposing that the City Council be given the powers of compulsory land acquisition, it has to be done by CERA.

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