So Big Gerry is back, full of bully and bluster. Now, he’s threatened to strip the Christchurch City Council of their ability to issue building consents. It was straight from the Brownlee play book – big on threats, light on details. That didn’t stop TV3 from doing exactly what the minister wanted, running it at the top of the news without a modicum of critical analysis.

It feels similar to the lead up to Nick Smith sacking ECan; a real issue in process, exaggerated and exploited to create a sense of crisis which was used to remove a layer of governance. The rapid expansion of dairying in Canterbury in the late 90’s and early 00’s meant that ECan were overwhelmed by the number of consents they were being sent as people fought over a limited resource. Even though the issue was with processing consents, it was used as a convenient excuse for removing the governance layer (rather than just, say, an agreement between the government and ECan to hire more people in the consenting team).

Does Gerry have a point here? It’s hard to know, as he’s not presented any facts at all, just accused people of not doing their job. According to this media release from the CCC, they aim to process between 93 and 95% of consents within 20 days. Sue Wells says that this compares favourably to other councils around the country, but they are still aiming get 100% done in 20 days. According to the Council’s building consents page, they are expecting to process 10,000 consents per year in the next couple of years. If you go back to the Press article, it says that the council has been receiving 35 applications a day in March and April; assuming they get that number every day of the year (including holidays) would come to around 12,500 for the year. So the council would be a bit behind schedule, but not a huge amount. If that’s the case, maybe Gerry could offer to help with a few more staff, to deal with the increased workload?

As he has done time and time again already in this rebuild, Brownlee is more than happy to throw out accusations of incompetence, but very reluctant to take any responsibility for things going wrong. EQC screwing over ordinary families. A housing shortage making life difficult for those that have been forced to move. A CBD blueprint which has seen foreign investors runs for the hills, and local developers head for the suburbs. Which might be fine, if he didn’t have extraordinary powers which make him the single most powerful man in post-war New Zealand. You can’t be both the most powerful man in the city, and completely absolved from responsibility for the way the city is going at the same time. Choose one.

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