We want Chch back, Parker tells the Govt

LOCAL POWER: Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker.
LOCAL POWER: Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker.

The Government does not know when the city council will be handed back control of the city centre.

Yesterday, Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said he wanted to take control of the city centre back from the Government.

The city centre rebuild is currently controlled by a Government unit, the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU), but Parker said it should "return to full council control".

This morning Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told Radio New Zealand he did not have a time frame for when the council would resume control.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera), which controlled the CCDU, was due to run for three years.

"Quite clearly the CBD won't be fully reconstructed within that period of time," said Brownlee.

However, it might be "desirable" to continue aspects of the CCDU. "The question is where would that unit reside in two or three years time and I think that's a good discussion to have."

He said he did not have a time frame on when that may happen.

"I've always said that when Cera has finished its work in the recovery the Christchurch City Council is the remaining authority that will need to resume responsibility."

Brownlee added that he had never "expressed a lack of confidence" in the council.

"I've always said there would be no local authority in New Zealand capable of handling the rebuild on the scale that is presented in Christchurch and that's why we stepped up as a government."

Parker said he was talking to Brownlee about taking control back "sooner rather than later".

"There is a transition point. I would argue it is sooner rather later, because I think it would be positive for the rebuild. But I don't want to lose those unique abilities the Government has to engender broader business confidence and it is good that the Government has more skin in the game because that is a better outcome for the city," he said.

"We think [the city centre rebuild] is something that should be driven by the people in the city and council. The best city will result when we unleash the creativity of developers and architects and the community."

He said the completion of the residential land zoning meant it was time to talk about returning power to the council.

He said the timing of the transition would have to be carefully planned, as the Government had powers to buy land and create development parcels in the city centre.

"The Government way is much more direct because time is important. They can operate under a different set of rules. They can make strong decisions with the minimum of time delay.

"It is a balance between local democracy and the need for central government to make progress."

Brownlee said he was open to discussing democratic control of the city centre rebuild.

"That is a discussion we will begin having towards the later part of next year," he said. "There is a point where you have to think about what its future is so we don't lose momentum later next year."

Brownlee would not confirm if control would return before Cera was disbanded.

"I wouldn't speculate on that. We have to talk to council about what would be the best consequence for Christchurch at that time."

Labour MP Lianne Dalziel said a joint venture between the Government and council should control the city centre rebuild.

"There is a complete lack of democracy around the central city. It is an entirely top-down process. I don't feel like the public has a voice," she said.

"I don't think the council is ready to take over the whole of the CBD process, but the establishment of a joint venture should happen now and include a very clear role for the people.

"It is almost impossible to recover a sense of ownership without democracy."

The Press