Ho, ho, ho! Can our intrepid Christchurch City councillor Jamie Gough save Xmas?
IF YOU WERE to believe both the national and local media the big issue confronting the people of Christchurch right now is..Xmas decorations.
The Christchurch City Council have decided to forgo the street decorations this Xmas and save $55,000.
This is a crisis according to our diligent corporate media. This is the same media that has routinely ignored the housing crisis in this city, the rising level of homelessness and poverty. While TVNZ's Seven Sharp took the city council to task for its decision this is the same show that has barely raised a whisper about the skyrocketing rents in the city which have forced many people into overcrowded conditions, garages and caravans. Not to mention squatting in abandoned homes in the former Red Zone.
The Christchurch Star has decided that the absence of Xmas decorations is of such seriousness that it has launched a campaign to restore the street decorations.
The Star owner and managing director Pier Smulders says in a front page story of the Friday edition that he is 'shocked' by the city council's decision. Gosh. Shocked. I hope he had a cup of tea and a lie down.
But never fear because Jamie Gough is here! He was one of three councillors to vote against the decision. He has even set up an online fundraising site to raise the necessary funds - I'm sure Jamie has already donated a generous portion of his exorbitant six figure council salary.
Indeed if the mayor and each councillor donated just $5000 to the cause that would be $60,000 in the kitty. Problem solved!
According to Jamie Gough: 'I think this city and its citizens have been put through the absolute wringer and you don't need to look too far to see some pretty hurtful reminders of what we've been through. For a small price during a special time of the year we can pretend we are a half normal city for a while.'
Perhaps the Christchurch City Council might have a little more money to spare if the previous council of Mayor Sideshow Bob Parker had not been so cavalier with the cash.
Like, for instance, giving then CEO Tony Marryatt a big fat $70,000 salary increase in 2011. As a loyal member of Parker's 'A Team', Jamie Gough voted for that.
Indeed Parker and Marryatt could always count on the support of Gough. It's been estimated that the city council's cancelled accreditation as a building consent authority under Marryatt's watch cost the council some $5 million. That would buy a helluva lot of Xmas decorations. Gough though always publicly praised and defended Marryatt.
The city council might have been able to find the cash for street decorations in the central city if, ironically, property developers in the very same central city were making a real contribution to the city council coffers.
But, partly thanks to Jamie Gough , these developers don't have to stump up anything. Last year Gough campaigned to give property developers a 100 percent rates rebate on residential developments. This was approved by the Bob Parker-led council. Only one councillor at the time, Tim Carter, voted against it. This has cost the city an estimated $10 million. As I wrote at the time:
In effect, the good people of Christchurch - including those who are still living in damaged houses and garages in the eastern suburbs- will be subsidising property developers and helping them to maintain their healthy profit margins as they flog off high-end properties to other wealthy investors, who will be the only people who'll be able to afford these central city residences.
But it also should be noted that all the Labour-leaning councillors such as Glen Livingstone and Yani Johanson voted for this wealth transfer from the poor to the rich. These are the very same councillors who voted against spending $55,000 on putting up Xmas decorations.
Meanwhile our Xmas hero Jamie Gough is still working hard for those struggling property developers - like Uncle Antony Gough for instance. In April Jamie declared that “We should be rolling out the red carpet and not the red tape for developers'.
Gough has never demonstrated the same zeal for helping Christchurch's homeless. Last year he voted against the council spending $50 million on a social housing project.