Letters reveal rebuild tensions

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 18/08/2014

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A frosty relationship between the Government and the Christchurch City Council threatened to handicap the city's rebuild, documents show.

Six months after Lianne Dalziel was sworn in as mayor, she was pleading with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Prime Minister John Key for better collaboration between the council and the Crown.

Documents obtained by The Press under the Official Information Act reveal Dalziel wrote to Key and Brownlee on April 11, saying miscommunication over the performing arts precinct was "symptomatic of a larger relational problem".

"Our concern is that six months into the new council's term we have yet to establish the necessary structures and systems to support a collaborative and efficient partnership at a governance level," she said.

"Without this high-level engagement we are not able to make well-informed decisions on behalf of the people of Christchurch."

Dalziel and Brownlee said the relationship had since improved and both believed their organisations were working together well.

The Press requested copies of all direct correspondence - including emails, texts, formal meeting minutes and staff notes - between Dalziel and Brownlee since November 2013. The council released seven letters and two emails but withheld text messages for privacy reasons.

The letter from Dalziel came after the Government decided to stop buying land in the southern side of the performing arts precinct.

An April 4 letter from Brownlee to Dalziel said because the council decided to fully restore the Town Hall, the Crown was no longer required to provide land under the cost-sharing agreement.

He also said the council's decision indicated it was "not committed to the wider performing arts precinct".

"I am deeply disappointed that the opportunity to better and more permanently establish homes for the arts community constituents in Christchurch is all but lost," Brownlee wrote.

Dalziel's letter said: "From a broader perspective, our greater concern is the manner in which this project has unravelled and the fact that we were only informed of the Crown's unilateral decision by letter."

The cost-sharing agreement required both parties to act in good faith, be "non-adversarial" and ready to discuss issues in a "principled manner", she said.

The recovery and rebuild could not happen without a real partnership between the Crown and the council, Dalziel said.

A spokesman for Brownlee confirmed there had been no written reply to the letter but meetings had since taken place.

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Brownlee told The Press the rapport between him and Dalziel was "good, professional and respectful".

Dalziel had shown strong leadership since elected, he said.

Dalziel said she had written to Brownlee and Key because she was concerned but the relationship was "squarely back on track".

- The Press

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