Airport opponents are jumping the gun

However the opponents of the proposed airport are jumping the gun. Yes the manner in which they received the news might not have been ideal, but that does not change the fact that this is far from a done deal.

A resource consent application of this size will almost certainly be deemed discretionary by Otago Regional Council, meaning that the council would able to exercise its discretion on any number or combination of aspects pertaining to the airport. It also has a number of steps that would need to be followed (though perhaps not quite in the order set down here) that need to be actioned.

  • Property acquisition, either under the Public Works Act or by sale to the applicant is inevitable.
  • Iwi would need to be consulted
  • A requiring authority may need to issue a designation
  • The application is most certainly going to have to be publically notified. As such it means that the public will then be invited make submissions on the proposal – as well as submissions from a range of community, environmental, economic interest groups

All of the above and a range of other steps would need to happen before resource consent hearings could take place. The resource consent hearings themselves could take years to get through. As with any resource consent application, a basic rule of thumb applies in that the bigger the application the more complex the information that will be needed will be. Building a single story 3 bedroom house is one thing; building an airport of any size, let alone one that could take an A320 short haul aircraft is quite another.

It is also possible in the COVID19 economic environment that the proposal collapses under its own weight. This could happen because the demand for extra airport capacity may take too long to materialise and C.I.A.L. decide it is simply not worth the effort any longer. And indeed, C.I.A.L. cannot see a business case for building a new airport happening until Queenstown airport reaches capacity.

To be honest though I was frankly quite surprised to hear that C.I.A.L. were even considering this, when there is hardly any international demand for flights. Their assumption is clearly that New Zealand will bounce back quickly within a few years and Queenstown reaches capacity relatively quickly. With COVID19 showing no sign of slowing down anytime time soon around the world and our borders being closed indefinitely, I envisage it being years before we event reach the stage where C.I.A.L. are even ready to apply for resource consent.

So, I think if I were the people of Tarras, I would stop worrying about it for the immediate future. At this stage, aside from being a fancy idea on paper and a couple of properties sold to C.I.A.L., my guess is that the lodging of resource consents is at least 5 years away.

Gerry Brownlee’s legacy to Christchurch

National Party leader Todd Muller on Friday, told the media that Christchurch is the city “that Gerry built”. Gerry Brownlee, former Minister of Earthquake Recovery’s legacy to the city is his handling of what was New Zealand’s largest construction programme in history.

Unfortunately for Christchurch, Mr Brownlee’s legacy as Minister for Earthquake Recovery, is not one to be hugely proud of. He might have – and he did – have a somewhat thankless task managing what was for a time the biggest construction site in the world. The legalities of the insurance claims, the shoddy workmanship done by cowboy contractors whose sole goal was to make a fast dollar and flee, balancing Christchurch’s expectations with those of the Crown made for an immensely complex job. Complainants were always going to exist.

But the fact that the Government has allowed insurers to continue delaying payouts to elderly tenants who do not have long to live has left a sour taste in peoples mouths. The feeling that eastern Christchurch is continuing to be neglected because it is not a National Party strong hold has many feeling bitter. Combined with the costs of all of these new projects and some questionable city council politics, disgruntlement is a growing problem.

Several properties remain off limits, their owners still entangled with their insurers over the details necessary to reach a settlement. Thus those properties sit in Christchurch, derelict and disused, slowly gaining a fair carpeting of graffiti, with homeless, drug users and prostitutes plying their business. The failure of the Government to give insurers a deadline to reach a settlement with claimants has enabled cases to drag on and on, costing them more and more money, time and effort. Some give up, take the offer on the table and run.

Then there are the residents who are still waiting for payouts. Like commercial property owners, they are still trying to reach a fair and just settlement with their insurers, who can be reasonably accused of dragging their feet. They do so in the hope that these people, many of whom are in their 70’s and 80’s, will either give up out of frustration or not being able to afford to continue fighting, or die.

Parts of central Christchurch are going nowhere. Empty land around Manchester Street where restaurants, bars, and various other small commercial premises used to be has become Wilsons car parking, or given over to temporary features such as basketball courts. Barren, lifeless and poorly lit they are uninviting places to pass by night.

Christchurch City Council was handed back control of the city in July 2019. The deal finalized what the Crown would pay for and what the City Council would foot the bill for. Facilities such as Metro Sports Facility, the bus exchange and Otakaro were handed back to the C.C.C., whilst the Crown retains control of Te Pae, the Christchurch Convention Centre, for which they are footing the bill.

The City has several challenges to overcome. Infrastructure projects are still underway, which consist of mainly long term repairs to water, roads, sewerage and electricity networks. With COVID19 having impacted on the timetable for repairing these, dates that had been set in earlier financial years for their completion have been pushed back.

So, yes Mr Muller, Gerry might have rebuilt Christchurch, but the people of Christchurch do not think he has done a good job of it. When we look at how other cities have recovered from major disasters, yes the New Zealand Government response does appear well organized. It had the democratic input that appears to have been lacking in the Japanese recovery from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima reactor meltdown. It was certainly better than the disorganized shambles that was the American response to Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it wrought in New Orleans.

But the battering ram approach to the passage of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Act rightfully caused consternation among civil rights watchers. The contemptuous responses to agitated Christchurch locals around access to properties would have contributed to Labour’s resurgence in Christchurch Central. The demolition of high category heritage buildings was nothing more than government sanctioned vandalism. In those respects, and what I mentioned earlier, Mr Brownlee very much failed.

Lest we forget: Christchurch Mosque shootings 1 year on

Much aroha to our Muslim brothers and sisters one year after the Christchurch mosques attack.

A year later the task is the same. Sharon Murdoch 17/03/19.

Kaikoura District in danger of implosion

Kaikoura District is struggling to stay afloat. As the new decade begins, New Zealand smallest district in terms of rate payer base is facing rate increases of up to 50% in the current council term, or about 16-17% per annum.

This problem is not new, and nor are the calls for amalgamating with Marlborough District Council. In October 2019 a report came out that said if Kaikoura District Council maintained its current funding model it would run the real risk of imploding within a matter of years.

It is true that Kaikoura District Council has some huge – and largely unresolvable – matters not necessarily of its making. The earthquake of 14 November 2016 caused $2 billion in damage around the district, most of it being to State Highway 1, the railway line, council infrastructure such as the water supply, community amenities. There was also widespread damage to private premises.

The natural effects of such a large earthquake also made themselves known. the harbour and South Bay marina were effectively left high and dry within a couple of minutes as hundreds of square kilometres of sea floor was uplifted from Cloudy Bay near Blenheim as far south as Oaro. Paua beds were left high and dry as well, causing a large amount of paua to go to waste.

And there were the inevitable economic effects. On top of the repair bill, which the then Government said it would foot since it involved infrastructure of national importance, there was several billion dollars in lost revenue. The closure of the road and railway by a combination of rock falls, displacement by rupturing faults and uplift virtually crippled Kaikoura. Even when the road and railway reopened, constant closures have afflicted them both. Ongoing repairs are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Also affected was Kaikoura’s world famous Whale Watch operation, which takes tourists out on boats to see sperm whales taking advantage of a deep sea canyon that comes in to within a few kilometres of the coast.

As Kaikoura has struggled back to its feet its District Council has faced some tough economic decisions. It cannot afford to just lump rate rise upon rate rise simply because it suits. Aside from locals having limited finances, the population in a District that extends from Oaro to Kekerengu in the north and is dominated by Kaikoura with little communities dotted along the coast, is a tiny 4,030.

Faced with these huge hurdles, no one should be too surprised that there are suggestions it should amalgamate with the Marlborough District Council. Historically this is a logical suggestion as the coastal communities north of the Clarence River typically identify with, Marlborough rather than Canterbury. They might have amalgamated earlier with Hurunui District Council, to the south, but for the rejection of the proposal by the Local Government Authority in 2009.

Rather than saddle Kaikoura with rate rises that might push the local rate payer base into an untenable position, I support investigating whether K.D.C. can actually change its funding model. If it cannot, the Council should approach the L.G.A. and ask for permission to hold a referendum on merging. At the end of the day, things are coming to a financial head that no one really wants, but the risk of implosion if the Council cannot change is very real.

Time for a new Mayor in Christchurch

In 2013 I supported the election of former Labour M.P. for Christchurch East, Lianne Dalziel. Ms Dalziel was the clear cut front runner in a mayoralty race after incumbent Robert (Bob) Parker decided he was not going to stand again.

At the time Christchurch was struggling back to its feet following the worst disaster in the city’s history and one of the biggest disasters in New Zealand’s peacetime history. The Christchurch City Council was a ship in disarray, off course with the senior officers bickering at the wheel. Its Chief Executive Tony Marryatt was in disgrace for his almost Nero-esque management of the City Council during the 2010 and 2011 earthquake emergencies. Secrecy at a time when the public needed open transparent decision making more than ever was rife.

When Ms Dalziel came to office, Raf Manji who had expertise in finance was given the finances portfolio. He had the messy and difficult job of accounting for finances that the council knew were going to require hefty rates increases in the near future, whilst balancing the bill for the massive damage caused by the earthquakes to city infrastructure. Mr Manji thought that Christchurch should not invest in social housing for vulnerable tenants as the cost of doing so on top of the already massive bill for earthquake repairs would cause a financial blowout. The Council instead committed to overhauling the heating and insulation in the existing stock of flats.

Until about the start of last year I thought Ms Dalziel had led the Christchurch City Council fairly well. Transparency had improved. Many of the major rebuild projects were starting to see some progress – the Town Hall restoration was underway; the construction of Te Pae was about to start, and much of the infrastructure repairs had been completed. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority had wrapped up its work and  The council treasury books, whilst still messy had a clear order to them at least now had priorities.

Yet at the same time, it was becoming obvious that the City Council had a listening issue. People were becoming frustrated by the obsession with cycle lanes around the city, especially on roads which they were not suited for. Some of the suburban revival projects were no closer to starting than the day they were announced – often several years earlier. Frivolous unnecessary expenditure was going on art works like something in the middle of the Avon River, which to this day I am convinced just collects rubbish.

I also note that New Brighton, which could be a pretty grim, run down part of town even on the best of days once again seems to be slipping under the radar. Sure its demographics have changed with the earthquakes. Sure it sits on the edge of the old civilian red zone, and in fairness I have heard that the new salt water pools are being constructed, but wasn’t there meant to be some sort of community redevelopment plan? You never hear about it if there was.

But more recently some of Ms Dalziel’s pronouncements have begun to concern me. She admitted a conflict of interest over her husbands involvement with a Chinese water bottling company, but did nothing to remove him or herself form the discourse.

With long time activist John Minto and businessman Darryll Park both vying to become Mayor, the 2019 race is looking a lot tighter than in 2016. The former wants free public transport, but has not really said much about his spending priorities. The latter wants to have zero rates increases should he win, but has never spent a day around a council table. I am not entirely sure now who I want to win, but Ms Dalziel is looking tired now as a leader and a fresh injection of ideas is needed and some knowledge of council procedures would be useful too.