Govt poised to seize control of Christchurch rebuild - Dalziel

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 05/04/2012
Dalziel
FAIRFAX NZ
LIANNE DALZIEL: Labour's earthquake recovery spokeswoman says the Government is poised to take control of the city's rebuild effort.

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Christchurch democracy is to be "discarded" with the Government poised to take control of the central city rebuild, Labour says.

Earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said that Cabinet will approve a proposal to create a new unit within the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) to manage the rebuild.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee called Dalziel's comments a "crazy rant", but refused to confirm or deny whether the Government was considering taking control of central city planning.

Under the proposal the Christchurch City Council would be stripped of all planning responsibilities in the central city, Dalziel said. The new unit would also be involved in encouraging outside investment in the city.

"It is the last remaining vestige of local democracy and it is about to be discarded in favour of a ham-fisted response from the earthquake tsar," she said.

The question was first raised in Parliament on Tuesday night, when Dalziel questioned Brownlee about the plan.

Brownlee responded saying that he was "not reporting to the House discussions Cabinet might or might not be having".

Yesterday, Brownlee told The Press: "I'm off air on this one. It's just ridiculous."

Brownlee said discussion about how the central city plan would be implemented, including the distribution of responsibilities, were ongoing with the council and Cera.

"Because we are having these discussions I think Lianne has got out a little bit ahead of things. I've got no interest in confirming her as the person running out with the flag in front of the parade."

Mayor Bob Parker warned last night against any attempt to take the city council out of the planning process.

He said it would be tantamount to a takeover of the entire organisation.

However, Parker said he had not been informed of any "dramatic announcements" about the council's role in the central city rebuild.

He described the council's draft plan for the rebuild of it as a "stunning" document.

"I think the plan and the vision we have is superb, and it has been embraced by everybody."

The Government had "ultimate responsibility" for the city's recovery, but Parker said it would be unable to succeed without the council's expertise.

"They don't have the planning resources, the intellectual property, the wonderful database of information we have collected ... to do something that isn't a collaborative approach is impossible to contemplate." Cera chief executive Roger Sutton also said he was not aware of any proposal to take over planning responsibilities in the central city.

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"The first thing we have to do is work out what we are doing with the city plan and that's still with ministers." The city council has ceded many of its powers since 2011's February earthquake, with Cera and Brownlee, making calls on land use, altering district plans and authorising demolitions.

Brownlee also has the power under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act to strip the council of responsibilities.

The council submitted the draft central city plan to Brownlee in December. He can make amendments before approving a final plan.

- The Press

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