Archives for posts with tag: budget

Image of one of the new car-parking megastructures planned for Christchurch’s CBD (image source: CRUDE)

In a move that has been welcomed by the frequently ignored property developer class, the Finance Minister is expected to outline plans for a new focus on housing for cars in the Christchurch CBD as he delivers his 7th budget tomorrow. The plan will finally address the dire need for more carparks in the central city, a housing crisis which the government has repeatedly denied was an issue.

While the details have yet to be announced, Rebuilding Christchurch understands that the initiative, known as the Central Road Users and Developers Entity (CRUDE), will be focused on the East Frame. Stage One will see all remaining buildings in the government-owned East Frame demolished and replaced with car parking. Stage Two will involve a state-of-the-art, 4,500-berth facility built for the protection and security of cars. Stage Three of CRUDE will involve the repurposing of “people parks”, such as Latimer Square and the Margaret Mahy Playground, into parks for cars.

After years of being ignored, central city property developers are delighted with CRUDE. “We’re finally being listened to”, says developer Tony Trough. “We’ve been telling the government for years: you can’t have a successful city without cars. Just look at some of the great cities of the world: Los Angeles, Swindon, Los Angeles, Birmingham. They all have spectacular spaghetti junctions. With CRUDE, Christchurch finally has a chance to compete on the world stage.” Trough went on to say that the rights of cars have been ignored in the rebuild. “On any given day, there will be more cars in the CBD than people. Yet what are we doing for those cars? Nothing. They have no voice. Unless you have a late-model European car like I do, which tells you to put your seatbelt on. But apart from that, they’re silent.”

People living in the quake-damaged Eastern suburbs of the city who spoke with Rebuilding Christchurch on the condition of anonymity were supportive of the idea. Shoshanna, not her real name, lives with her 3 daughters, 2 sons, husband, de-facto partner, de facto partner’s ex, de facto partner’s ex’s nephew, de facto partner’s ex’s nephew’s wife and twin daughters, a wolfhound, two cats, a guinea pig and Jason Gunn in a 3-bedroom house in the suburb of Dallington. “After the quake, my whanau had nothing. No water, no power, no place to go. So I just opened the doors and let them all come here. It was a tight fit, so some of us had to sleep in the garage. Of course, that meant that the car had to go out on the street. We just never thought about the car. It’s been out there on the street for the best part of five years now. It can’t go on. So I’m grateful that the government is finally doing something [to house the cars].”

Rebuilding Christchurch understands that CRUDE will be partially funded by a series of toll-gates for pedestrians along the perimeter of the Four Avenues. Developer Trough thinks this is only fair. “For too long, people have just been walking along the streets without paying anything at all. They walk into shops, they walk up to the windows, but they don’t pay for anything. Foot traffic is welcome, but it needs to start paying its way, like real traffic does.” When asked about cyclists, Trough was less charitable. “Everyone knows you can’t ride a bike to go shopping. It’s political correctness gone stark raving mad. There is no place for them in this city.”

Given some of the recent bad publicity about the delays to key anchor projects, the government is very keen to see CRUDE up and running as soon as possible. Stage One is expected to be complete by the time the Finance Minister has finished delivering his speech; construction companies are working double-over-time to have Stage Two completed by Queen’s Birthday, when the Queen herself is expected to open the building by ceremonially driving her Bentley through a cavalcade of homeless people. Stage Three has no concrete completion date, as the repurposing of “people parks” is an ongoing project which the government is looking to roll out across the country.

Last week’s budget offered little for Christchurch. In fact, you could argue that it took from the city to enable a wafer-thin surplus for Key to crow about. Well, there was one tangible policy relating to Christchurch; paying beneficiaries to come to the city if they get a job.

nats-to-chch2It was widely lampooned when it was announced, and rightly so. A story from the Sunday Star Times yesterday further confirms the futility of this policy. Cecile Meier reports that Fletchers EQR, one of the biggest employers in the rebuild, is telling contractors to look for work elsewhere.

Two contractors, speaking anonymously, said Fletcher EQR, which is contracted to manage repairs, last week apologised to a group of its preferred contractors in Christchurch because it would not be able to give them as much work as promised. One of them, who has worked for Fletcher since the start of the repair programme, said the announcement came as a surprise.

“They told us last week that they couldn’t guarantee us work because EQC had not given them the jobs,” he said, speaking anonymously.

So the “come to Christchurch, there are heaps of jobs” bit has fallen flat, but where are these people going to live? CERA figures showing that rents in Christchurch will soon match those in Auckland confirm that there is indeed a housing crisis in the city, and that the government’s “hands-off” policy is leaving our most vulnerable people to suffer in a distorted market. Projections in a CERA report show that by January 2015, the average rent will be around $460 – on par with what you might expect in Auckland. This isn’t just an issue limited to the suburbs which sustained the most significant earthquake damage. In fact, data from MoBIE shows that the annual rent increase in the suburb of Aorangi in the Ilam electorate was a staggering 39.1%.

Despite these clear signals that the housing market in Christchurch is indeed in a crisis, the government continues to act as though everything is fine. Just this morning, Key was on Morning Report denying that there is any crisis. Meanwhile, projections from Housing New Zealand, released to Labour under the Official Information Act, show that over the next ten years, the government plans to sell off more than 500 state homes in the city.

We put a great crew of doorknockers out in the electorate at the weekend, and the single biggest issue was housing. This policy, and the PM joining Gerry Brownlee and Nick Smith in denying a housing crisis in the city shows just how out of touch they are with what is going on down here.

Crocogerry from Porcupine Farm

 

The Press reports that the much-touted surplus was in large part due to reduced spend on the Canterbury rebuild:

A surprise $300 million boost to the Government’s trumpeted Budget surplus relies mainly on a cut to the Earthquake Commission’s insurance bill, Treasury forecasts show … Budget documents show the improvement to $372m was given a $200m boost from “lower insurance expenses after an updated valuation of EQC’s insurance liabilities”.

If you look through Keith Ng’s awesome budget visualisation page, you will also observe that money is being pulled out of CERA. So while the Minister is busy denying that the floods in Christchurch have anything to do with the quakes, his government is putting the squeeze on EQC and CERA so that Key can boast about being “back in black”. The council is in a $534 million dollar hole – in part due to the anchor projects that the Crown has forced upon them – but instead of offering a helping hand, the government is pushing them towards it’s ideological obsession, asset sales.

Remember back to the day after the February 22nd quake, when Key said that this was a journey we would walk together? Well, National has hopped into a Crown limo and sped off, without even looking back to see how we’re doing. The message is clear; if you care about the rebuild of this city, about ensuring that people whose lives have been turned upside down through no fault of their own can get the assistance that they need, that they deserve, and that they were promised, then you need to throw out this government on September the 20th.