Archives for posts with tag: council

“Power Lists” are the pre-Buzzfeed listicle that publications fall back on when they don’t have enough news for an actual story. They’re an arbitrary list, comparing people in different professions, walks of life, levels of influence, and giving them a ranking that can’t be justified. Having said all of that, as I watched the council debtate over the Town Hall last week, I couldn’t help but think: Lianne Dalziel is now the most powerful person in the city.

In ordinary circumstances, it might not be a surprise that the Mayor is the most powerful person – but these are no ordinary circumstances. Gerry Brownlee has dominated the political environment in the city since the quakes, completely emasculating the previous mayor, sidelining any opposition MPs, and marginalising his ultimately doomed Chief Executive Roger Sutton. But the decision over the Town Hall may be the point at which we look back and say that the Council took back the power.

Brownlee’s grasp on the city has been waning since before the last election. During the campaign, the Prime Minister announced that CERA was to be brought within his own Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – a sure sign that Key and English no longer trusted Brownlee’s handling of the recovery. While Sutton departed under a cloud, we’ve also seen a number of other high profile exits – Warwick Isaacs and Reid Stieven have also left CCDU and EQC, respectively. 

Post-election, Brownlee was also given the Defence portfolio, which has been an important but low-profile Ministry for some time. His handling of the deployment to Iraq has been a return to the cartoon buffonery that he was associated with pre-quake. I’d argue that his behaviour in the defence portfolio – arrogant, ignorant, bullying – is no different from his rule over the recovery. The difference seems to be that while he can get away with it in Christchurch, he can’t pull the same tricks in full view of parliament and the Press Gallery.

On the Town Hall, Brownlee has shown the disdain he has previously expressed for heritage buildings. He remarkably dismissed the independent report into the facility, whilst admitting he hadn’t read it. Back at the Council Chambers on Thursday, and Mayor Dalziel cross-examined her own council staff who presented the report, showing that not only did she read it, she understood it. She understood the heritage, the cultural, the environmental, and the financial implications of the decision. She could see that a full restoration of the Town Hall was the right call, in spite of the campaign from the Press, who repeatedly used their editorial and opinion pages to present a very one-sided case against it. Her experience and determination moved the windvanes of knee-jerk reaction – with two former talkback hosts sensing the changing breeze. Concillor Ali Jones voted for restoration, whilst her former NewstalkZB colleague Mike Yardley wrote on Friday that he too had become a convert after watching the Mayor’s performance.

This is but one decision, but bodes well for the campaign to bring control of the city back to the people who live and work in it. At the end of the month, the “transition plan” will come up for discussion. And there may be a transition of another kind; rumours abound that David Carter may be relieved of his terrible reign in the Speaker’s chair. The bad news is that his replacement may be none other than Gerry Brownlee. If this did come to pass – probably not before late this year or early next – then it would be left to Nicky Wagner to turn the lights out at CERA. It is into this void that Dalziel and her council are reaffirming their role as the primary determinants of the broken city’s direction. 

One of the anchor projects in the CCDU blueprint was building a new Bus Interchange. This is part of the transport plan, and is set down for the block between Tuam and Lichfield St. This is where the old Council / Millers Building is / was.

Millers-Tuam-St_2This is the old Millers building. It was built in 1931, and was the first building in the country to have an escalator. I’ve always liked the building, and would have liked to have seen the building be converted into a transport exchange. Instead, this is the design that CERA has released for the Bus Interchange today:

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 3.52.38 PMMaybe it will look better in real life, but based on the image above, I’m not convinced that it’s a fair exchange.

 

 

A couple of odds and ends from the Press today. Firstly, Johnny Moore’s column, in response to his column last week asking why we’re so apathetic. There are a number of reasons for this, but one that struck me is that the sprawl of the city works quite well in countering the concentration of people that you need for a vibrant protest. This was a problem before the quakes, but in the few occasions where we could put a critical mass of people into a smallish area, that was often enough to start attracting more people. That said, 10’s of thousands of people poured into Hagley Park to see Christmas in the Park, so I guess it still happens if it’s the right cause.

Secondly, the cost-sharing agreement between the council and the government seems to be under a bit of strain. While on the one hand, it could result in the CCC being forced into selling off assets to pay for things (which I think would be bad) it could also lead to the council questioning some of the projects that the previous council prioritized, such as the stadium, convention centre and building a new library, rather than repairing the old one (which I think would be good.) It certainly seems like this issue is in a state of flux at the moment.

This is a cross-post of my most recent piece, which went up at the Daily Blog on Saturday.

A change of seasons, and a mysterious smell hangs in the air over Christchurch. No-one quite knows what it is. Could it be the change of council, alongside the change in the seasons? Is this the Canterbury Spring? In one of the least surprising elections of all time, Lianne Dalziel coasted into the mayoral chambers without even breaking a sweat; along with her came a swag of new councillors, many from the left, many with some innovative new ideas. It wasn’t just talk though – one of her first actions was to put a stop to some of the excessive spending that seems to have characterised the arrogant, out-of-touch attitude of the Parker-led administration. Just this week, the first council meeting was opened up to the sunlight of the livestream. Not much happened, but it was the principle of the thing. We could watch nothing happen, from the comfort of our own homes. We could watch it later, if we had something else to do, like, say, work.

The council isn’t the only thing that is showing signs of changing – the big man may be for turning. Incoming councillor Raf Manji is leading the voices questioning the wisdom of the “green frame”. I’ve written about it before, but this is the large amount of land that was going to be bought up and converted into green space on the centre-east part of the CBD. Except now the green elements are being watered down, with buildings and projects being added. The grand artifice of the blueprint, with it’s digital flyovers and shiny brochures, is starting to crumble. The revelations about EQC intentionally excluding people from it’s surveys was not taken well by Gerry, who has been less than supportive of his chief executive, Ian Simpson. Even the recovery’s most vocal cheerleader, Peter Townsend from the chamber of commerce, has admitted that we are only 3-5% of the way through the rebuild. Coming up to 3 years after the February quake, that simply isn’t good enough.

In the middle of this dynamic time, the Labour party made the bold choice to have it’s annual conference in Christchurch. I was on the organising committee for the conference, and it certainly wasn’t easy to hold it here. We could have done it somewhere else, and it would have been much, much easier for everybody. But we stuck with it, and made sure it happened here – because it meant something to the party, to give something back to the city. The organising committee was then rewarded by the party for their work hosting, with some bold policy announcements which will help the city get out of this rut.

The announcements at conference – KiwiAssure, plus extra Kiwibuild in the east, red zone temporary accommodation and the New Brighton revivatlistation – are all designed to benefit Christchurch East, but the also single the end of the phoney war that has been going on over the rebuild. “Don’t politicise the rebuild” has been the catch-cry since February. These announcements show that Labour isn’t afraid to make some bold decisions. The Christchurch East by-election is high stakes, for both Poto Williams and David Cunliffe. A win onNovember 30 wont just be a vindication of the change of leadership; it will be the next step towards winning back Christchurch, and ultimately the Treasury benches, in 2014.

Finally, just 22 years after Al Gore invented the internet, the Christchurch City Council has taken the on-ramp and is now hooning down the information super highway. Yes, we have live streaming!

It’s probably gonna be real boring, but it’s the thought that counts, right? The stream is cutting in and out a bit for me – but a few teething problems are to be expected. Have a look here.

The red tide is sweeping Christchurch; barricades are going up in Hereford St, the hammer and sickle has been raised above the council chambers. Or has it? Without wanting to down-play the success of the left in the local body elections, I think it’s worth tempering the enthusiasm. Somewhat.

So what happened? Well, Lianne Dalziel won the mayoralty with a commanding majority and a good return. It is a strong mandate (I’m not going to say “awesome” as I think she’s said that enough already). There was a worry that the non-contest for the mayoralty would lead to a low turnout; I think it was important that Dalziel got a good number of votes, and she did. It was just a shame that she didn’t get to go up against Bob Parker – with the backlash against the Marryatt-team, he would have got his ass handed to him on a plate. While some will eulogise his two terms in charge, I would hope that history remembers him for more than just the Orange Parka. He showed media savvy and leadership for about 3 months in September 2010; the mood was already turning against him in early 2011 before the February quake. He led well in the wake of that disaster; there might have been 12-15 months of his two terms in which he performed competently, the remainder was pock-marked with poor decisions – the Henderson deal, the Ellerslie deal, the Marryatt saga and the building consents debacle, to mention but a few.

At the council level, there will be 9 new faces – six of them from the People’s Choice team. I don’t want to detract from the result, but need to put a few caveats on it. Firstly, the Banks Peninsula result is at this point to close to call – with Andrew Turner ahead by just 5 votes. Once special votes have come in, I’d expect it will still be close, and that it will proceed to a recount. So let’s say there are 5 PC councillors. It’s worth remembering that in 2010, we had 4 PC councillors – Yani Johanson, Glenn Livingstone, Jimmy Chen and Chrissie Williams, who resigned mid-term. Johanson, Livingstone and Chen have retained their seats, as well as Phil Clearwater in Spreydon-Heathcote and Pauline Cotter in Shirley-Papanui. Clearwater did well, but was helped by the two long-serving incumbents stepping down. Cotter was assisted by the voters of Shirley-Papanui punishing Ngaire Button and Aaron Keown for their abysmal record at council.

So while I’m not trying to detract from the result – which is fantastic – I think suggestions that Christchurch has “gone left” and is punishing the government are premature. This was an extraordinary election, in which the electorate has punished Parker’s so-called “A Team”; Keown, Button, Claudia Reid and Helen Broughton were thrown out at the ballot box, whilst Sue Wells and Barry Corbett had the political nous to see the writing was on the wall months ago, and chose not to stand. Jamie Gough is the only councillor to survive this ballot, which shows just how bleak the Fendalton-Waimairi ward is.

Possibly the biggest casualty has been the centre-right “independent” groupings. While People’s Choice is openly Labour, in Christchurch the “National-in-drag” grouping was Independent Citizens. That was then rebranded as “iCitz”. Then there was the split, with Ngaire Button leaving to form her own independent non-political political party City First with Aaron Keown. Gough was the only councillor to return on the iCitz tag; Claudia Reid and Helen Broughton both lost their seats, and as mentioned before, but I will gleefully mention it again, City First got precisely zero (0) councillors. I assume that the right will try and rebuild their presence at the local body level; they may want to look at what Labour has done with the People’s Choice.

That said, I’m not convinced that the People’s Choice did that well. In two wards where I thought they could or would pick up a second council seat (Burwood-Pegasus and Hagley-Ferrymead), they didn’t. In each of these wards, People’s Choice had a high-profile councillor seeking re-election (Livingstone and Johanson) along with a council vacancy (Peter Beck and Tim Carter). A strong Labour presence on the ground in these wards sadly didn’t translate to a win for either Robyn Nuthall or Tracey McLellan, who would have been bold, female voices on Council (only 3 of the 13 councillors are women; time to talk about man-ban again?) So while the People’s Choice team should be satisfied with the effort, they should be wary of getting too carried away with the results.

To build on them in 2016, it will be critical that our councillors perform well. Given their 5, maybe 6, seats, People’s Choice should be able to lay claim to the deputy mayoralty. While Johanson and Livingstone are the most senior of the team, I would suggest that maybe Clearwater is the best choice. Though he will be learning on the job about being a councillor, he has a long history of representation at the community board level. On top of this, he has been instrumental in leading the People’s Choice organisation for quite some time, alongside Community Board member Paul McMahon. They have been a superb job to keep the organisation running, rebuilding it from the ashes of the old Christchurch 2021 group – which almost fell apart on a couple of occasions. He knows how to manage people and egos, and would be a calm, sensible voice in what will be a very challenging transitional period.

The only other option I can see for deputy would be Vicki Buck, who won a council seat with the largest return of any candidate. However, there is some animosity between her and the People’s Choice camp, so while I’m sure she would bring a wealth of experience as a former mayor, it might be a bit “back to the future” for a supposedly forward-looking council. The Press’s favourite, Raf Manji took the second Fendalton-Waimairi seat, and will be interesting to see how he performs this term. I will be watching closely to see how Dalziel goes in working with the fresh faces like Manji, Ali Jones and Tim Scandrett. Given that the disunity of the last council was one of the nails in Bob’s coffin, how she pulls this team together will be one of her most important tests.

This was a remarkable election for Christchurch, and while I don’t want to detract from the individual campaigns of the various candidates – successful or otherwise – they need to realise that they are there mostly because of who they are not. Hopefully by 2016, we’ll be re-electing them because of who they are, and what they stand for.

The fallout from the council consenting crisis continues, and looks like it will have repercussions for a number of managers.

Among those whose positions are set to be axed is executive team member Peter Mitchell, who was the regulatory and democracy services general manager when the consenting crisis unfolded.

Great! Justice for those who were responsible for this mess. Oh, wait…

He has taken up a new role as a principal adviser to the council’s chief executive to make way for a new general manager of building control and rebuild.

So one of the most senior managers, who was involved in a systemic fuck-up at council loses his job, but they will find another one for him in council. Presumably on the same (high) salary band. I don’t know how close Mitchell was to the consents debacle, as I don’t think anyone outside a core of a few people at council really know the truth at this point. However, part of his role as the Orwellian-titled “regulatory and democracy services general manager” seemed to be to manage the democratically-elected council by keeping them at arms length from the executive.

Meanwhile, 20 less-senior employees will take the rap for these guys. It will be interesting to see what Lianne and the new council do to change this bizarre corporate culture that has permeated council; men (and they’re mainly men) who are paid large salaries to do a job, and when they fail at them, somehow get shifted into another role.

When the council controversially approved a $68,000 pay rise for Marryatt in late 2011, it did so partly because of advice it received from consultancy company Strategic Pay, which argued that Marryatt’s salary, when benchmarked against others in the private and public sector, was too low.

When Strategic Pay presented that advice, it was being paid by Marryatt to do other council work.

Let’s get an “independent” body to determine my pay, whilst I also pay that “independent” body to do other work. Can’t see how that’s a conflict at all. Surprise surprise, they argue that I should have more money.

Another take on the Christchurch local body elections, from Caleb Morgan. Digs into the “non-political politician” sham quite well.

the main barrier to informed voting seems to be that most candidates are doing their utmost to portray themselves as being non-party-affiliated, and sometimes even ‘non-political.’

Also worth considering it Generation Zero’s easy-to-read table comparing the policies of Hagley-Ferrymead candidates. They consider climate change, carbon neutrality, cycling, green buildings and public transport, and give the candidates good or average policy rankings. Notable that there were no bads.

There is a big feature in the Press this morning about the “new generation” that is taking over Christchurch politics, or something. It’s an astonishingly soft piece of journalism to publish in the middle of an election campaign.

It is being pitched as the old politics versus the new. Or even the Baby Boomers versus Generation Y.

Four names in particular – Raf Manji in Fendalton-Waimairi, Vicki Buck in Riccarton-Wigram, Erin Jackson in Spreydon- Heathcote and Ali Jones in Shirley-Papanui – appear to be the ones to watch if you want to know whether the power has shifted along with the ground in the new Christchurch.

Somehow, the campaigns of three middle-aged, well-to-do people – including Vick Buck, who has spent most of her adult life in local politics – plus the daughter of a former North Canterbury mayor, is “the new” taking on the old. Most of the article is a largely uncritical profile of Manji – if you’re going to dedicate two pages to the guy, would it hurt you to ask a few questions about what he believes in? The second page, at least in the print edition, features a large, not particularly flattering picture of Jackson – despite her almost not featuring in the story at all. No mention is made of mayor-in-waiting Lianne Dalziel, and her links with the various candidates.

I wish Manji the best – I’d certainly rather him than Jamie Gough – but I hope he’s ready for the cut and thrust of the council table. It’s not going to be saccharine puff-pieces like this forever.

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