Projects could be scaled back - Key

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 05:00 23/05/2013

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The prime minister says big-ticket Christchurch recovery projects could be scaled back to help bridge the funding gap between local and central government.

Visiting the region yesterday, John Key said major projects in Christchurch's recovery blueprint, such as the new convention centre and roofed sports stadium, could be downsized to save money.

Key and the Government have repeatedly raised the issue of asset sales to help ease the Christchurch City Council's debt burden but Mayor Bob Parker has rejected the idea.

Key said, "The most obvious one is something like the stadium. At some point a decision is going to have to be made, is it going to be a more basic stadium or a covered stadium?

"If it was up to me I'd make that call [to have a roofed stadium] in a heartbeat if it meant changing the mix of assets. But I understand that for lots of other people they may not hold that view."

Projects would not be canned altogether to save money, he said.

The council only had three ways of paying its share of recovery projects, Key said.

"One is that it ultimately borrows the money. The second is that it significantly raises rates. The third is that it changes its asset mix. The only other option of course available to it is that it doesn't actually embark on some of the projects that it might want to embark on.

"I think in the end Cantabrians will have to have a say in what they think is the right mix."

Parker said scaling back the projects would bring them closer to the community's vision of them.

"[The council] would be relatively comfortable with that. On the other hand, what's been proposed is pretty magnificent. I would hate to see us miss what would be the development of some very aspirational projects.

"They would be a major set of assets provided they are affordable and sustainable. If Government is part of that we can reach that point."

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- The Press

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