Agreement 'crucial' to city centre recovery

FORMER MAYOR: Sir Bob Parker.
FORMER MAYOR: Sir Bob Parker.

The new Christchurch City Council should stop carping about the cost-sharing agreement signed with the Crown, former mayor Sir Bob Parker says.

He was concerned the council was creating uncertainty for potential investors in the city by hinting it may need to rethink some of the financial commitments it had made to anchor projects in the new central business district.

"They should commit to [the agreement] and get on with it. It's crucial to the reinvestment in the city centre," Parker said.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is also growing frustrated with the new council's attitude.

"What we're looking at is a council which is increasingly showing itself to be gun-shy when it comes to the essential elements of the recovery," he said yesterday.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel this week suggested the Parker-led council had left a "tragic legacy" and put the city in a potentially serious financial predicament by signing the cost-sharing agreement. It had committed the council to "projects we cannot afford", she said.

Labour's earthquake recovery spokeswoman, Ruth Dyson, yesterday added fuel to the fire by claiming the Government had given the council just three days to negotiate the agreement.

Dyson said the deadline had emerged in an Official Information Act request which showed Cabinet authorised negotiations on June 10, followed by three days of negotiation. The agreement was signed on June 18.

"The whole process was a train wreck," Dyson said.

"[Dalziel] has every right to demand new negotiations over who pays for the rebuild."

Parker told The Press yesterday the council had spent months negotiating the agreement.

While there might have only been a few days between when Cabinet authorised the negotiations and when the agreement was finally signed off, in reality there had been months of high-level negotiations between the parties, he said.

The deal that was negotiated was fair and gave investors a clear signal that both central and local government were committed to the rebuild of the city, Parker said.

Brownlee said Dyson had completely misread the Cabinet papers and what she was saying was "complete nonsense".

"None of this was rushed. I have taken a lot of political flak for things not moving quickly enough, things not getting done soon enough.

"These things are going to have a long-term impact on the city so they have been well thought through."

Brownlee said good progress was being made on a number of the anchor projects.

Dalziel said she was not prepared to publicly discuss the city's funding arrangements with the Government until the council had an "accurate global picture of the city's finances".

The Press