Piggy bank is council's cost-cutting symbol
A silver piggy bank is a new feature of the Christchurch City Council's finance committee meetings.
The pig was brought to the meeting by council finance committee chairman Raf Manji, who rattled it in the direction of the media bench, questioning whether we had brought our wallets, before ceremoniously placing it on the meeting table.
"We're taking this seriously," he said, in reference to the nearly $900 million funding gap the council is facing over the next few years.
The pig did not go unnoticed by the council's chief financial officer Peter Gudsell.
"Raf chasing donations?" he queried as he walked into the room and spotted it perched on the table. "Pass it around the gallery."
It was a light-hearted interlude but the symbolism was clear: The council needs to save its pennies - and it needs to start doing it now.
Council chief executive Dr Karleen Edwards has been set the task of cutting a minimum of 2 per cent from the council's operating budget for each of the next three years, so we can expect to see any unnecessary expenditure axed.
As part of its belt-tightening exercise the council will be engaging in wide-ranging consultation with the public about what it should be focusing on and where it should be spending its money.
Over the next few months, it will start putting together a long-term plan that will essentially shape the work programme for the next 10 years.
The plan is big picture stuff that will set a vision for post-earthquake Christchurch and outline the steps the council needs to take to achieve that vision. It will involve some big decisions around funding and, potentially, asset sales.
It is critical work, which is why Mayor Lianne Dalziel has decided to postpone her scheduled trip to China.
Dalziel was due to visit Wuhan and Gansu in September to drum up business for Christchurch and to mark the 30th anniversary of relations between Canterbury and Gansu, but she has decided there is so much happening on the home front that she cannot commit to being out of the country for the time required for the visit.
She has put the trip off to next year.
It is a wise and politically expedient decision. On September 4, the council is due to begin consulting the public about how it can raise the extra capital it needs to plug its funding shortfall.