ONE OF THE Christchurch City Council's most vocal campaigners for the privatisation of council assets has been Cr Raf Manji, chair of the Finance and Strategy committee.
Such is Manji's enthusiasm for flogging off ratepayer-owned assets to private interests is that he even thinks the council should sell off its social housing stock, home to some of the city's poorest and most vulnerable people.
In 2014, sounding eerily like the present Minister of Housing Paula Bennett, he claimed that "community housing providers' and ''new market entrants'' could create ''a sustainable model for providing good quality and affordable housing to meet the needs of both the social and affordable housing market'.
Fortunately Manji had little support for his plan to lay waste to the council's social housing. In 2014 Deputy mayor Vicki Buck described Manji's proposal to sell off the council's social housing stock as a "really dumb option" that would lead to "social disaster".
But Manji remains a proponent of privatisation. But he is up for re-election in the Waimairi ward and he has a political opponent in the form of Anthony Rimell of People's Choice. Rimell is firmly opposed to selling council assets:
"“I’m going to be making the common-sense case for protecting income-generating assets like Orion and Red Bus, so that our rates stay low and we can control our future. Selling off income-generating council assets is simply killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.”
|Anthony Rimell: People's Choice candidate in Waimairi.|
On his website we read:
"It isn't a case of being for or against the sale of assets; it's about being clear why we own them. That's an important process to go through, as it will help with our overall financial planning and budgeting."
Well, actually, it is a case of being for or against asset sales - and Manji is in favour of them. But Manji has the mindset of someone who worked in the world of casino capitalism and he thinks everything should be judged according to what's good for 'the market'. In the case of public assets, Manji thinks 'the market' should be judge, jury - and executioner.
What Manji attempts to sell as 'pragmatism' and 'common sense' is simply an attempt to deflect attention from the fact that the drive to privatise council assets is ideological. Manji would like to move the public services of the council into the private sector - and that is ideological. No amount of spin from Manji will change this reality.