|In 2016 Lianne Dalziel apologised for neglecting the eastern suburbs.|
Corporate interests remain in control in Christchurch with Mayor Lianne Dalzeil proving to be as 'corporate-friendly' as her predecessor, Bob Parker. The losers have been residents in the working class eastern suburbs that have also suffered much of the earthquake damage.
IT CAN BE SAID that most major cities around the world have a similar dynamic. That dynamic is the tension between capital that seeks to make money from the city and the needs of the residents who seek to make the city their home. In Christchurch that tension, that conflict, has been heightened by a devastating natural disaster.
It has also been said that rarely do we see residents pushing back against finance capital. It does occur but it occurs infrequently. Unfortunately corporate interests have also dominated in Christchurch. When the corporate sector lobbied to have the Christchurch City Council's draft inner city plan rejected by John Key's government, the dye was cast. That plan, the product of thousands of submissions made by the people of Christchurch , was summarily rejected the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA).
CERA boss Roger Sutton wrote to Mayor Bob Parker to inform him that the inner city plan was not acceptable to the crown as it "did not represent the requirements or aspirations of commercial property owners or investors." (That plan included a more modest sports stadium, costed at $200 million.)
|The proposed Spark building for Cathedral Square.|
While Parker was roundly criticised for being an apologist for the government and doing little to represent the interests of the people who put him into office, little has changed under Mayor Lianne Dalziel and her council.
Dalziel writes a column in The Star , a local weekly freebie. It is invariably upbeat and full of PR puffery and this week's column is no exception. Dalziel gushes about new developments in the central city, namely some planned corporate office blocks. Apparently we are supposed to be 'thrilled' - like Dalziel -that one of the those glass and metal tower blocks, which will house Spark, will have a restaurant on its roof. Dalziel reminds us that it is important to "provide the right environment to support these businesses". This could easily be Bob Parker talking - or Gerry Brownlee.
Just a week earlier The Press published a very good report from Tina Law about the state of play in the eastern suburb of Shirley. Papanui Innes Community Board member Ali Jones recently described Shirley as the city's forgotten suburb. She is lobbying the council for extra funding for the area and the wider Papanui Innes ward.
As a resident of Shirley, I can confirm that the suburb has seen better days. Some areas are looking ever more dilapidated, roads and pathways remain unrepaired and there are no plans to replace the much used Shirley Community Centre. The quake-damaged building was demolished some two years ago.
One Shirley resident, Joanna Gould, is pushing for a new joint library, learning centre, service centre, playground and playcentre at the former community centre site. She has set up a website to promote the project and written a submission to council. She says that her community "...has been left behind, we haven't rebuilt from the earthquakes."
But as Tina Law writes:
"Shirley's situation is unlikely to change any time soon as the suburb has once again been largely left out of the council's 10-year budget, the 2018-2028 draft Long Term Plan. "
According to Dalziel "reinstating a community centre in Shirley would have to be weighed up against all the other challenges facing the city."
But Shirley is not the only eastern suburb that has been neglected - while the money has poured into the central city. Other areas, such as New Brighton and Aranui, also have legitimate grievances.
In May 2016, a chastened and tearful Lianne Dalziel facing another mayoral election, apologised to residents of the eastern suburbs. Residents had made it clear to her through their submissions on the Long Term Plan that they were unhappy about an insufficient level of spending in their suburbs and the slow pace of recovery. She promised to do better but, two years later, very little has changed.
Lianne Dalziel and her council have got away with it because the political opposition to Bob Parker's mayoralty was inextricably tied up with the political fortunes of the Labour Party. Now that Christchurch has both a Labour-leaning mayor and council that opposition has largely faded away - even though the same problems remain. Some of Bob Parker's most vocal opponents have proven to be little more than sycophantic apologists as far as Lianne Dalziel is concerned.
The absence of a sustained independent political opposition,not tied to the establishment political parties, means that Christchurch has been a denied a vision of the city that puts the interests of its people first rather than the concerns of capital.
In the near future the Government will announce that over half a billion dollars will be spent on a new sports stadium for the central city. The Christchurch City Council will not only be a major contributor to the construction costs but it will be expected to pay for its continued upkeep. The prospect of a further rate rise looms.
While the Christchurch political establishment will hail the stadium as major step forward for the city, for many residents in the neglected eastern suburbs it will seem like just another slap in the face.