Lianne Dalziel and her council supporters are intent on imposing their long term plan on Christchurch - even though it lacks community support.
I WENT TO A MEETING THIS WEEK where a lot dissatisfaction (to put it mildly) was expressed about the Christchurch City Council and its determination to hike up rates and flog off its assets.
That dissatisfaction has only intensified with the growing realisation that the Council has basically ignored the results of its own process of public consultation which delivered a resounding rejection of both asset sales and the rates hikes. While the pro-privatisation local media has conspicuously downplayed these results, the word has slowly got out.
No one at the meeting was buying Dalziel's nonsensical claim that the Council had listened to the concerns of the community.
A number of people also expressed disappointment with Dalziel. Some were of an opinion that, as a former Labour MP and cabinet minister, she should not be behaving as she is. The dark days of Mayor Bob Parker were recalled. I, you might be surprised to learn, rose to Bob's defence. I pointed out that Bob never supported privatisation during his six years as mayor. He had a helluva of a lot of other faults, but an enthusiasm for flogging off the Council's assets was not one of them.
On reflection I think the meeting expressed both a right and wrong view of Lianne Dalziel.
Dalziel was carried into the mayoral's office on the tide of a public backlash against the behaviour of Bob Parker and his supporters on Council. She promised a new era of accountability and democracy.
But we certainly haven't had either of these things around the development of the long term plan.
The consultation process has been a charade, designed to sweeten the bitter pill. Dalziel asked Christchurch what the smart choice was and was empathically told that it wasn't hiking up rates and flogging off council assets. Having not got the answers they wanted, Dalziel and her supporters have simply ignored the wishes of the community.
The Green's Eugenie Sage has observed that changes to the 'revised' long term plan have been purely cosmetic, and that the plan to sell council assets was a done deal from the start.
""The Council’s pro privatisation advisors, investment bankers Cameron Partners, didn’t envisage any major changes being made to the proposed asset sales programme and revenue target through public consultation on the Long Term Plan.
"A February 2015 memo from Cameron Partners to the Council’s Chief Financial Officer says the Council can realise $750m from assets sales by 30 June 2017 provided that it, "begins preparations for the asset sales shortly and commences actual asset sales processes almost immediately at the conclusion of the LTP consultation."
"The memo makes it clear that Cameron Partners wasn’t envisioning the Mayor or Council doing anything other than sell our assets."
We've been taken for fools, folks. The imposition of this long term plan has been as top down and as bureaucratic as anything that the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority have done. It is more than ironic that a trenchant critic of the undemocratic behaviour of CERA like Barnaby Bennett, co-editor of Christchurch: The Transitional City, has swung in behind Dalziel and co.
So it is correct that Dalziel, who committed herself to accountability and transparency during her mayoralty campaign, has abandoned these principles for the sake of political expediency. However I think it is incorrect to have expected her to behave in any other way just because she happened to be a Labour MP and cabinet minister. Such a view is under the misimpression that Dalziel's sympathies lie with the left.
While Dalziel has liked to convey the impression that she is a lefty, its always been a work of fiction. And you don't need to be a rocket scientist to work that out. Her track record speaks for itself.
Dalziel was an MP of for twenty three years and a minister in the fifth Labour government of Helen Clark.
During those nine years she loyally supported the right wing and anti-worker polices of the Clark government. When Jim Anderton left Labour to form NewLabour Dalziel didn't feel compelled to follow him.
Her downfall in 2004 was of her own making when, as the minister of immigration, she launched a racist attack on people she claimed were making up false stories to get refugee status and gain access to New Zealand education, health and welfare services.
The subject of Dalziel's vileness was a young Sri Lankan woman called Thakshila who Dalziel labelled a liar. But it was Dalziel who proved to be telling porkies when she lied about leaking to the media a letter by Thakshila’s solicitor. Caught out fibbing, Dalziel had no choice but to resign.
So it is myth to say that Dalziel's sympathies lie on the left. That was recognised by people like former Christchurch City Councillor Tim Carter, son of Christchurch property developer Philip Carter and nephew of Speaker David Carter, who encouraged her to stand for the mayoralty.
And no less than Cameron Slater backed Dalziel for the mayoralty: 'Christchurch needs a uniter, not a divider, and the word is that National would far rather deal with Lianne and the competent councillors she is bringing with her than Bob Parker.'
Dalziel is far more comfortable working with conservative technocrats like Finance committee chairperson Raf Manji whose enthusiasm for privatisation also extends to selling off the Council's housing stock. This was a step too far for Dalziel but since she is intent on opening up the Council's pantry for private interests to pillage, it is not unreasonable that Council assets like its social housing s will be vulnerable to attack somewhere down the track.
The long term plan that Dalziel is seeking approval for implicitly reinforces the top down approach of the government to Christchurch's recovery - one that denies community rebuilding efforts and genuine democratic participation.