Quake Minister Brownlee scolds council

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 21/12/2011

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has accused "parts" of the Christchurch City Council of slowing the earthquake recovery and has refused to rule out sacking councillors.

Days after being reappointed, Brownlee waded into Christchurch politics, accusing some councillors of being ill-informed and not supporting Mayor Bob Parker.

"There is a case for some elected members of the council to step up and learn a little more about what is going on than they know at the moment. We need to get past the idea that we are waiting for someone else to do it," he said.

"I have great sympathy for the mayor. I don't know that he is all that well supported by the council."

The relationship between the Government's Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) and the council was good, but there were "parts of the council" slowing the recovery, he said.

He would not elaborate but has previously raised concerns about council red tape.

"Our tolerance for slowing things down is zero," he said.

"I think there are too many examples at the moment of people wanting progress coming up against a bit of a brick wall in some parts of the council."

Brownlee said several people had asked him to "sack the bloody council and you guys [Cera] can get on with it", but Cera was not big enough to take over all of the council's role.

"We are a small organisation and you need people who know where things are at."

However, he did not rule out using his special powers to sack councillors or assume some of the council's responsibilities.

In The Press' leaders election debate last month, Prime Minister John Key said he would not sack city councillors if re-elected.

Responding to Brownlee's comments, Parker said fighting within the council had slowed some decisions.

"This is not a time to be embarking on Don Quixote political exercises, and there's a bit of that going on," he said.

Parker said Brownlee had given him repeated assurances that the Government was not planning to sack councillors.

"It's a remote possibility, but you can never dismiss it completely,'' he said.

"Should I find the council unable to fulfil its duty to the community, I would be the first person to tell him. I don't think we are in that place."

Cr Tim Carter, who has regularly opposed Parker at the council table, said Brownlee's comments were "fascinating", but it was difficult to know how to interpret them.

Delays should be avoided, but this did not mean supporting the mayor unconditionally, he said.

"It's not about personal support or not; it's about having the right processes," he said.

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Cr Glenn Livingstone, another regular opponent of Parker, said he was happy to support the mayor, but on issues such as the appointment of council chief executive Tony Marryatt, he had to take a stand.

Christchurch East Labour MP Lianne Dalziel said there was continued speculation about Government intervention in the council.

"It would be a complete disaster," she said. "It would be local democracy out the window."

Cera had already taken over some of the council's former roles, writing the recovery strategy for Greater Christchurch and making the final call on building demolition and heritage values, she said.

Direct responsibility for rebuilding Christchurch's battered infrastructure – normally core work for the council – had been delegated to a public-private "alliance" that included representatives from Cera and the council.

- The Press

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