OPINION: The mayor, Bob Parker, last week unveiled an ambitious wishlist of big-ticket items for rebuilding essential facilities in the city.
Amounting to more than $800 million, the proposed projects are part of the annual plan that the council will be asked to approve in a process beginning today.
If the plan goes ahead, it is expected to lead to an overall increase in rates of 7.63 per cent. It is also, in the number of projects being carried out at the same time, on a scale and at a cost that is unprecedented in New Zealand.
At the same time, the Central Christchurch Development Unit (CCDU), part of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, continues to work on its masterplan for the location and design of "anchor projects" within the central city.
Much of what it is working on clearly overlaps with the big projects in the council's annual plan. Questions of what contribution the Government will make to whatever the unit comes up with may also have an impact on the council's budget and rates requirements.
This duplication of effort has a potential for causing conflict and confusion. Ratepayers could be forgiven for wondering if there could not have been a more efficient process.
It is true, as Parker has said, that the council's annual plan looks beyond just the central city, which is the brief for the CCDU. The plan is also, as he says, for the whole of Christchurch, of which the central city is just one part.
But much of the annual plan focuses on facilities in the central city and what happens there is obviously critical to the recovery.
One example of a potentially contentious issue is the mayor's proposal to spend $241.5m on a new uncovered AMI Stadium at the old Lancaster Park site. For one thing, it is by no means clear at this point whether rebuilding at that site is feasible. The land there is badly damaged and any new facility on the site may be uninsurable.
Further, the Canterbury Rugby Football Union, among others, wants a covered stadium and it is also possible that the CCDU, as part of its notion of creating specific precincts within the rebuilt city, may be inclined towards a stadium within the four avenues. In the light of these unresolved matters, the annual-plan proposal seems premature.
According to Cr Glenn Livingstone, the council is required by the Local Government Act to produce its annual plan, although he too believes that because of the ultimate supremacy of the CCDU blueprint it amounts to "shadow-boxing" by the council.
That overlooks the fact that it would have been possible under the Cera legislation to postpone the council's ruminations until the CCDU's ideas are known.
Council officers could then have concentrated on their input to the CCDU without the distraction of having to devote resources to the council's own plan. Since the CCDU's ideas are scheduled to be published next month, the delay would not have been inordinate.
The handicap with that idea would be the possibility that ratepayers would feel sidelined to planning for the rebuild, something critics of the CCDU have not been slow to suggest.
The mayor is confident that the present dual process is the way to ensure the community's views are listened to and the council and CCDU are co-operating well.
It must be hoped he is right and that it does not just lead to the production of incompatible visions for the city and provoke pointless bickering and spats over who does what and how.
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