Government control in Christchurch criticised

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 10:32 17/09/2012

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The ''command and control'' approach the Government is using in Christchurch is no longer appropriate, an expert in public policy and governance says.

Sacha McMeeking believes rather than imposing ''pre-packaged solutions'' on Christchurch the goverment should be taking a deliberative approach to decision-making in the city and engaging more with the community.

''We need real-time political dialogue in Christchurch. There are lots of examples of how we can engage citizens. It is timely to start experimenting with that in Christchurch,'' McMeeking told National Radio's Nine to Noon programme this morning.

She was on the programme with former Christchurch mayor Garry Moore to discuss concerns that local democracy in Christchurch has been eroded by the Government through the auspices of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU), and the government-appointed Environment Canterbury commissioners.

Moore said Wellington has too much control over what is happening in Christchurch and that a board made-up of ''sensible wise people'' should be set up to help reconcile the differences between what central government wants for the city and what local government wants.

''We need a structure in place that makes the city democratic,'' Moore said.

McMeeking said the problem was not the structures themselves, but how they were being driven.

''We should be looking for greater citizenship engagement,'' she said.

''Currently we have processes where technocrats ... work up solutions that are then delivered as pre-packaged solutions to the community.''

That left people with only two options - either to support those solutions or to oppose them. A better approach was to engage citizens before decisions were made.

''People believe they have solutions to contribute. Now is the time to trust in the intelligence and solution building capabilities of the people of Christchurch,'' McMeeking said.

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