Fresh calls for Garden City vote

Fresh calls for mid-term elections will be made today at a protest rally aimed at giving voice to people's concerns about the Christchurch City Council's handling of post-quake issues.

Cantabrians Unite spokesman and protest organiser Peter Lynch said the council's performance had not improved since February, when the government appointed a Crown observer, and it was time elected councillors were dumped.

"We are still demanding the government look at early elections because the way this council is performing is not on. We want fresh mid-term elections and we believe there are a lot of high- calibre candidates."

He said Sir Kerry Marshall's appointment as observer had changed nothing, and it was time the government intervened.

"It's made no difference whatsoever. All he's ever been is a band- aid over a cut and it's never going to heal," Lynch said. "It's had no affect at all on the situation."

Today's midday rally, on the site of the former St Elmos Court building on the corner of Hereford and Montreal streets, is the second Lynch has organised this year. The first was spurred by the $68,000 pay rise to council chief executive Tony Marryatt. It attracted more than 4000 people.

Today's protest, Lynch told the Sunday Star-Times, would be far more encompassing. "It's not about Marryatt's pay rise - we won that battle, although unfortunately he retained the $34,000 in back pay. Now it's about much more. It's about the fact Marryatt has said he is comfortable putting a 7.5 per cent rate increase on the poor ratepayers of our city. We accept rates have to go up to rebuild, but we are a very low-waged economy in Christchurch and there are thousands of people hurting.

"One of the other major issues is the lack of affordable housing. There are thousands who are red- zoned and have nowhere to go because land alone is $200,000 in Christchurch. Where are they to rebuild their lives?" Lynch said.

"Anybody who has a story is more than welcome to stand up and challenge the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, the Earthquake Commission and the council. People want trust, confidence and hope restored, with workable solutions and sound decision-making so they can get their lives together again."

Sunday Star Times