Sell non-core assets, Tim Carter says

Last updated 05:00 22/05/2013
Tim Carter
Fairfax NZ
TIM CARTER: The Christchurch City councillor says the city could sell non-core assets, including its own offices, to help pay for big-ticket rebuild projects.
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A Christchurch City councillor says the city could offload non-core assets, including its own offices, to help pay its share of big-ticket rebuild projects.

Cr Tim Carter said last night that less important assets were expendable if sales helped ease the council's debt burden in funding anchor projects such as a new convention centre and a roofed sports stadium.

"We should question whether we should be owning half of the civic office building and the Henderson properties,'' he said.

"The Henderson properties ... add nothing to ratepayers. The council had no plan for how we were going to develop them when the council decided to purchase, and we still have no plan."

The council's projected debt from earthquake recovery of $2.1 billion was not sustainable, he said.

"The council's finances are in a very precarious position and we should consider our options rather than passing on higher rates," Carter said.

He was against selling strategic, money-earning assets such as Christchurch Airport, Lyttelton Port, Orion and Enable, which is installing ultrafast broadband in Christchurch.

His comments came as Prime Minister John Key yesterday weighed into the council asset sales debate.

Key told Firstline it was up to the council to ask whether the people of Christchurch wanted "the nice-to-haves".

"Then they'll ask how are you going to pay? That could be through rates or asset sales," he said.

The Government raised the estimates of the rebuild from $30b to $40b last month, with the Government's contribution increasing by $2b to $15b.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the council would not sell assets to fund its share of the city's quake repairs and rebuild.

Rates rises of between 5 and 6 per cent have instead been proposed.

Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman and potential Christchurch mayoral candidate Lianne Dalziel said she opposed asset sales.

"I don't believe Christchurch should, in any way, sell revenue-generating strategic assets to pay for these anchor projects that the Government has decided we should build in our city,'' she said.

"The majority of these assets are assets that keep rates down."

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