Christchurch rebuild needs 'clarity' - Parker

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 06/02/2013
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker

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Government concerns over the financial challenges facing the Christchurch City Council could see the planned release of the council's 10-year work programme and financial strategy dropped.

The council was due to put out its draft long-term plan (LTP) for public consultation this month, but a meeting yesterday between Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and the council has thrown doubt over whether that will happen.

Both parties were yesterday reluctant to give details about their private meeting, but The Press understands the council is looking at alternatives to a LTP that would satisfy the Government's accountancy requirements and its own requirements for transparency and accountability.

All councils are legally required to produce a LTP under the Local Government Act, but the Government could release the council of that obligation because of the special circumstances it faces.

It is understood to be keen to do that because it is reluctant for the council to lock into a 10-year work programme when there is still so much uncertainty over the cost of the rebuild.

Mayor Bob Parker yesterday indicated the council had taken on board the concerns raised by Brownlee and was doing more work on the LTP in an attempt to reach a satisfactory arrangement.

"We want to work our way through what is going to be the most certain, secure and transparent outcome for both our community and for the needs of the Government," he said.

"We need to find an effective way to present the economic picture that is balanced, but equally we need to find a way to speed up all sorts of other processes as well.

"What we're all after is the same thing. We are after certainty, clarity and affordability.

"We recognise the huge responsibility we have to ensure that we don't get cost blowouts and that we retain our status, in rating terms, as one of the most affordable cities in New Zealand."

Green Party local government spokeswoman Eugenie Sage said it would be a travesty if the council was prevented from producing a LTP as it was the one document that allowed Christchurch residents to have input into how their rates were spent.

"Telling the council not to prepare a long-term plan is further kneecapping the council and anti-democratic," she said.

Parker said that if the council did end up deviating from a LTP there would still be opportunity for significant community input.

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Brownlee did not want to comment.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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