The Christchurch City Council intends to increase rates by a third over four years. It is yet another economic burden being forced on to the good people of Christchurch, from a Council that has meekly capitulated to the agenda of the National Government and its business allies.

SOME TWO WEEKS AGO Mayor Lianne Dalziel was on stage at the opening ceremony of the World Cricket Cup, talking up Christchurch. She excitedly announced that the city had emerged from the darkness of the devastating earthquake and was moving forward into a brighter future. It did not sound unlike a National Party election campaign message and it certainly would of not displeased John Key and co.

But it was designed for consumption by an international television audience, the majority of whom would of taken Dalziel on face value. It was propaganda, designed to divert attention from the city's  many problems and unresolved issues.

While I was watching Dalziel I wondered if she would quite so prominent when she announced the proposed rates increase for 2015. I doubted it. Late last year I caught an interview on CTV's Lynched where Councillor Raf Manji talked of a 13 percent rates increase in 2015. I don't think host Chris Lynch quite believed what he was hearing because he asked Manji to repeat the figure. Yes, it was 13 percent. It didn't sound any better the second time round.

James Dann points out that it was Manji who, less than a year ago, said that rate hikes would be politically unacceptable: "That would be a huge flashpoint. You've got to remember what people have been through over the past four years. They're stretched emotionally more than you could ever imagine."

It seems Manji has conveniently forgotten his own counsel.

The good news is that the increase for 2015 is not 13 percent. It will be 8.75 percent. Then it will 8.5 percent in 2016 and another 8.5 percent in 2017. That's a total increase of 25.7 percent over the next three years.

But, wait, there's more! Unfortunately.

Lianne Dalziel's press release says that rates will increase a further 7.5 percent in 2018. That means council rates will increase by a third in just four years. I doubt she will be shouting that fact anytime soon.

For Dalziel to claim that her council have kept the rates increased down to single figures is not going to impress the good people of Christchurch. Unlike the mayor and her councillors, who are all on six figure salaries, a great many people are doing it hard.

Nor can Dalziel claim the increases are some kind of achievement when she has also announced that there will be further cuts to council services. If you are living in the eastern suburbs, for instance, you will not be thrilled to learn that the quake damaged roads you are forced to navigate are likely to say that way for the next thirty years. So you pay MORE in rates for LESS services. Yes, we all get royally screwed over but it'll be good for the city, supposedly.

To add insult to injury the Council will proceed with asset sales, in the face of widespread community opposition, which it hopes will raise some $750 million. The Council though is effectively split on asset sales with Peoples Choice, the largest voting block around the council table, attempting to block the move - but lost by eight votes to six.

Lianne Dalziel has described rates increases+ asset sales +cutbacks as a 'financial strategy'. That's the kind of nonsense that former Mayor Bob Parker used to come out with. He would probably also appreciate Dalziel describing asset sales as 'releasing capital'. James Dann described it this way on Twitter:

"How would you like to pay for that, sir?'
Oh, I'll be releasing some capital. From my wallet. To you."

If Dalziel is being advised by the Council's External Relations and Communications Unit on how to sugar coat the bitter pill, she's getting remarkably bad advice.

The uncomfortable truth for Dalziel and her council is that they have meekly capitulated to the demands of  John Key and his cohorts. They have forgotten they are, in theory at least, elected representatives of the very same people who pay their big salaries. They are supposed to defend our interests but Instead they view us as a bottomless money pit which they can dip into when ever they see fit. Such is the failure of representative democracy - again.

When the Parker-led council signed off on the Government 'blueprint' for the central city, they denied the people of Christchurch having any real say in the rebuild.

There has been no political counterweight to the government agenda, either in the way of community alliances (which is what writer Naomi Klein advocates, for instance) or a much more structured political opposition.

That opposition certainly has not come from the Dalziel-led council. Maybe some of them are scared the Government will replace them with commissioners if they kick up a fuss. No more fat salary!

I'd hoped that we would not stand idly by while the earthquake was used as an opportunity by the political and business elite to replace the city's uniqueness and history with bloated sports stadiums and convention centres that the city neither needs or afford.

The cost of the rebuild is not only too high, the economic burden is being placed on the shoulders of those who can least afford it. And the Christchurch City Council cannot claim it is a reluctant participant in this travesty when it has done so little to oppose this government.


Post a Comment

Comments are moderated.