Over 2000 people marched in Christchurch yesterday to protest the increasing lack of democracy in the city.
Marney Ainsworth, of Bryndwyr summed up the mood when she told the media that the rebuild of Christchurch was' ... being done by a small group of people in the interest of a small group of people. We all need to be out here taking a stand.”
One of those 'small group of people' working on behalf of a 'small group of people' is Tony Sewell.
He's Ngai Tahu Property's chief executive and National President of the New Zealand Property Council. He is also a director of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce.
Ngai Tahu Property will be one the major players in the rebuild of the central city.
Despite the fact that thousands of Christchurch people contributed to the Christchurch City Council's draft city plan Sewell was very happy when it got dumped. In fact he lobbied hard to get it filed in the rubbish bin by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA). In the Property Council's 2012 Annual report he writes:
'...On 13 October, months of hard work by National Office and the South Island Branch Executive paid off when the new Christchurch re-development agency, CERA, formally rejected Christchurch City Councils Inner City Plan - and resolved to develop a new plan in house - this time in consultation with Property Council members....'
Sewell didn't much like the concept of a low rise green-spaces city and he certainly did not like the 'restrictions' applied to building heights, to parking, vehicle access restrictions, and 'design requirements'.
In stark contrast Sewell was positively buzzing about Christchurch Central Development Unit's 'revised' central city plan
According to Sewell the plan was 'better than right'. Since he and Ngai Tahu had a major hand in developing the CCDU plan his glowing comments about his own work were hardly surprising.
Sewell's mercenary attitude to the rebuild was made clear when he was asked about the prospect of providing private residences in the central city.
He said: 'At the moment we can't crack the economic recipe. There's not many buyers in Christchurch for high-rise apartments in the $1m-plus category.'
So its not about providing affordable housing for the people of Christchurch - its all about Ngai Tahu Property making the biggest bang for its buck.
Sewell told Te Karaka magazine that Ngai Tahu was ' now entering a period of enormous opportunity, it’s huge. We are in a position to lead.'
And it looks like the people of Christchurch are going to be led by the nose while Ngai Tahu Property and its corporate mates extract as much profit as they can from the rebuild process.
This cannot be allowed to happen because what will be good for Ngai Tahu Property and its corporate mates won't be good for the citizens of Christchurch.