“Eastgate” – the Christchurch Conniptions

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It’s being described as the biggest turmoil in local body politics since CEO Tony Marryatt’s golden handshake back in 2011 that cost many city councillors their seats.

I speak of “Eastgate.” No, not the east side Christchurch mall in Linwood, but the kerfuffle between Council (alleged) ‘staff’ and Cr David East (Coastal) and his fellow Coastal-Burwood community board politicians.

I grew up in Burwood. But its real claim to fame, is being one of the peas in that pod of devastated eastern suburbs neglected post-earthquakes. Y’know, that mayor Lianne Dalziel was once MP of (“Chch East”). Liquefaction, sand, derelict homes, wastelands of emptied streets and red zones and feral cats.

Mike Yardley, writing for STUFF/Press yesterday, opined…

“Councillor and three community board members, Kim Money, Tim Sintes and Darrell Latham, now find themselves the subject of Code of Conduct staff complaints and pending disciplinary action.”

This has surprised many fatigued Christchurch residents as somewhat heavy-handed and rather reactionary by their Council. The more cynical are wondering, what is the CCC machine trying to distract ratepayers from? There are disciplinary hearings, threatened lawsuits, and Cr East has been stood down as chairman of an important regulatory committee (he’s a very experienced local body councillor) by the mayor.

The main issues are these:

• There is a Christchurch Replacement District Plan (born Dec. 2017).

• Eastern suburban politicians have been pushing for special dispensation for eastern ratepayers regarding building activity due to their unique circumstances, an RDA or “restricted discretionary activity.”

• There was an Independent Hearing Panel led by Sir John Hansen and Environment Court Judge Hassan who sat to consider, among other things, that building restrictions for eastern landowners were “too onerous.”

• Cr East and other community leaders developed a policy which went forward to the IHP in drafts to help inform deliberations. At some stage “someone” removed a vital policy – the “omitted policy;” it is alleged therefore the IHP was not fully informed.

• Sir John replied to Cr East in a letter, saying “My understanding is that while the RDA rule is included in the plan, the policy was at some stage omitted from the planning provisions.” He also said,“If this matter had been brought to our attention we [the IHP] would certainly have added the policy back into the plan. It would appear that the omission of the policy was known before our jurisdiction ceased.”

• The issue is WHO or WHAT omitted the policy from the plan which now affects planning consent rules for eastern developers and residents.

It has become an issue of transparent channels of power affecting ratepayers and their money (such as people paying for consents but getting turned down for various building activities). This Southshore couple in the area being discussed, is an example.

It then gets messy.

• Eastern poli.s have for sometime used internal CCC channels to try and address these issues. They feel frustrated and stonewalled. So Cr East eventually called a press conference. Taking that action is very against his character and was not done lightly.

• The take away line was “tampering” (someone tampered with the policy) which threw a feral cat in amongst local body stuffed pigeons.

• CCC machinery then rounded on that “breach” (poli.s going public rather than utilising internal processes) which distracted from the serious allegations Cr East and his eastern posse had raised on behalf of their long-suffering residents. Yardley again, “Council hierarchy wasted no time circling the wagons and rounding on the four members. It’s prompted East to return fire against council staff, filing complaints over what he claims were intemperate character attacks on him.”

You then had a war on two fronts: alleged internal tampering; poli.s not following process. One seems small cheese in comparison with the other.

Mike Yardley again, “East’s dramatic press conference last week has served its purpose. It has forced the council’s hand to front up…” 

The word “dramatic” relates to the press conference inference it might have been Council staff who were responsible, which is what others believe motivated the disciplinary actions and censure to descend so quickly on the east by officials.  But East never made that direct allegation and named no names. However, C&B community board chair Kim Money did. Council staff “openly admitted at a meeting last month that they had deleted the clause from the plan’s final draft.”

It gets more murky, in that Council staff knew the policy was not in the IHP draft when it should have been, so allegations are that they took no action to correct that fault as professional civil servants.  This has led some to believe ‘interests’ did not want to correct the error as it de facto served other interests. Yardley accused the Council of perceived “spitefulness;” not helped by inferences being made against Cr East’s character that prompted talk by the mild mannered Councillor of legal action.

Yardley is right.  “In the interests of trust, confidence and accountability, the public is owed an explanation” [about how/who removed the policy].

To that end a series of public meetings are called, for last night and tonight, to lay out the issues transparently. “District Plan Omission,” “How This Affects Us” (eastern ratepayers); “Recent Media Release” (Cr East’s presser last week). Fliers have been printed. The predominant tone of the public response is one of rallying behind their local politicians, now viewed as champions against an oppressive ‘Nanny State’ bureaucracy.

That might set a tone for the 2019 elections; the beginnings of an anti-Council sentiment along the lines of the Marryatt tsunami that swept several elected politicians away and brought in a fresh regime under Lianne Dalziel now on the flip side holding a different baby.

As the public now climbs into this local body debate via the public meetings, we shall see if there is any clarity, or whether trenches get dug, artillery is rolled in, and a war on two fronts beds down for a long attrition.

Reporter Chris Lynch, to whom PM Ardern made the obfuscated ‘Clare Curran wasn’t sacked’ (when she’d already resigned) comments the day before, had this clarifying video with David East on ZB.

 

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