Dalziel's speech raises hackles

PLACING THE BLAME: Lianne Dalziel said her new council still did not "have a complete picture'' of the financial situation facing the city.
PLACING THE BLAME: Lianne Dalziel said her new council still did not "have a complete picture'' of the financial situation facing the city.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel has fired a blistering broadside at the Government and previous city council, prompting a terse political response.

The leaders of the city's recovery have traded blows, with both in her sights. But Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and former mayor Sir Bob Parker both fired back yesterday, sharply criticising aspects of Dalziel's ''State of the City'' speech.

Dalziel yesterday branded the former council ''irresponsible'' for signing a binding cost-sharing agreement with the Government. 

Dalziel suggested that all was not well and her crucial relationship with Brownlee faced difficulties. She said she and the Government had ''not yet forged the partnership that we need to achieve to make real progress''.

Dalziel also challenged all political parties eyeing the election to ''come to Christchurch and talk to us about what we want to achieve as a city before they tell us what they are going to do''.

''I don't want them to focus on each other either, because that would mean that the interests of the city would be sidelined.''

This irked Brownlee who described parts of Dalziel's speech as ''concerning'' and ''disappointing''.

''Just three weeks ago, the mayor publicly called on all political parties to leave politics out of the recovery. Since then, numerous public statements have suggested she's intent on putting politics back into the recovery.''

Brownlee said: ''In today's speech she's indicated the council intends to entertain some sort of bidding process with a view to endorsing whichever political party comes to Christchurch offering a suite of policies which align with her views. That is not partnership. It is disappointing.''

Brownlee said a collaborative partnership was needed between the council and Government, and work had begun to achieve that.

''I think we've shown considerable willingness to be that partner.''

Just last week he had ''constructive and lengthy'' talks with senior councillors, management and the Treasury board.

Prime Minister John Key described the relationship between the council and Crown as ''strong''. 

Brownlee regularly met with Dalziel and Key said he also tried to see her when he could. 

Key said it was important to put the rebuild - estimated at $40 billion - into perspective. 

''There will always be some tension and challenges but, for the most part, I think it is progressing quite well.''

''We will continue to discuss the things raised in the Mayor's speech and we'll work with her and her councillors to ensure we take people with us as the recovery continues.''

Dalziel said the Parker-led council had left ''a tragic legacy'' and a potentially serious financial predicament after inking the cost-sharing agreement.

That council had "committed to projects that we cannot afford. They created expectations of levels of service that we cannot deliver. We have inherited this situation but we are taking responsibility."

Parker denied Dalziel's claims and said her council "turned their backs on knowledge" by not having a full debrief with former chief executive Tony Marryatt, who was still employed by the council until November 30 last year.

Parker said his council, despite pressure, left the city's assets unsold and "put forward a programme of borrowing that we believed was responsible and manageable, if challenging".

"Because of that, all options to manage our future finances remain open. "

Dalziel said people did not want disunity or "spin".

"We constantly hear the expression about the need to move on - well it's time for us, your political leaders, to move on too. We need that partnership and we need it now."

The Press