Mayor Sideshow Bob wants to privatise public land bequeathed to the good people of Christchurch in 1855.
The creeping privatisation of public land is a problem throughout the world and, here in Christchurch, Mayor Sideshow Bob is doing his bit for creeping privatisation by supporting Canterbury Cricket's proposed multi-million redevelopment of Hagley Oval as an international cricket venue.
Canterbury Cricket, among other things, wants to build an embankment with an average height of 2.2 metres around Hagley Oval to accommodate 12,000 spectators, build a two-storey pavilion and grandstand within the embankment and install four lighting towers of 30.9m in height when retracted and 48.9m when in operation.
Sideshow, who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, is once again running to the support of vested commercial interests. The man who wanted to drop a huge concrete block / music centre in the middle of the Arts Centre now wants to hand over to private operators land that was bequeathed to the city in 1855.
When the new Provincial Government took over the role of the Canterbury Association, a law was passed which said that 'the land commonly known as Hagley Park, shall be reserved for ever as a public park, and shall be open for the recreation and enjoyment of the public.'
As the Central Riccarton Residents Association has said: 'our Association’s objection to this application by Canterbury Cricket is to the very idea that land in Hagley Park will, if this application is successful, be appropriated permanently so that they can charge entrance fees and make a profit from the very same land that was left in perpetuity for the future generations of citizens of Christchurch.'
The Association goes on to say: 'This application by Canterbury Cricket is fraudulent, masquerading as ‘the essential village green concept’ when the development proposed is contrary in every respect to the commonly held understanding of what a village green is: an open space within a community, undeveloped and freely available for casual use to the members of the community.'
Environment Court judge Jane Borthwick has yet to deliver her verdict on the redevelopment on Hagley Oval after a month-long hearing that ended in early July. A decision is expected in a fortnight.
In a blatant attempt to sway the good judge's decision, the organisers of the 2015 Cricket World Cup this week announced that Christchurch will host the opening match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka on plus two other pool games. But the sting in the tail is that the organisers say these games will go elsewhere if Canterbury Cricket isn't allowed to redevelop Hagley Oval.
Canterbury Cricket - and so much for democratic accountability - already thinks it has the support of the City Council in the bag.
Disgracefully Sideshow Bob has stuck his oar in the legal process. While he has had nothing to say about the plight of the eastern suburbs, Sideshow has been running his mouth off about the proposed redevelopment. He won't defend the interests of people who pay him his big fat salary but when commercial interests come to call Bob can't do enough for them.
Bob thinks privatising public land for the sake of a few fleeting moments of television coverage is a great idea. He has also resorted to the tedious argument that 'it'll be good for tourism' although he has no provided no evidence for this claim. Given that Sideshow plays fast and loose with the facts most of the time this is just another case of him making it up as he goes along.
Save Hagley Park spokesman Martin Meehan is right when he says that the World Cup is the 'hook to get into Hagley Park' but the 'prize' will be the ground's long-term use for international cricket.
The entire proposal reeks of commercial and vested self-interest and once again, thanks to Sideshow Bob, the Christchurch City Council can only be seen as supporting private interests at the expense of the good people of Christchurch.
It is not enough for corporate interests to shape the central city in their image, they also want to steal common land as well.