Government must help Christchurch to keep its valuable public assets

The Government needs to renegotiate the cost sharing agreement with Christchurch City Council rather than force the city to flog off its valuable assets, the Green Party said today.

Submissions closed today on the Council’s Long Term Plan 2015-2025. In it, the Council proposes to sell $750 million of assets such as Orion and Christchurch Airport Limited in order to fund an ambitious capital spending programme and its $793m share of the anchor projects.

“Anchor projects like the $253m stadium are a huge financial burden on the city, which was not clear when the cost sharing agreement was signed,” said Green Party Christchurch spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“The Government has foisted the anchor projects on Christchurch without adequate public consultation on whether they are wanted or needed. The cost sharing agreement was signed with no indication that the price would be the sale of Council assets. The former city mayor explicitly ruled out asset sales.

“If National agrees to allow Council to defer development of and spending on a new sports stadium to beyond 2025, and it cuts Crown spending on projects such as the Avon-Otakaro River precinct, the unpopular redesign of Victoria Square, and the proposed new convention centre, the Government could use the resulting savings to increase the Crown contribution to repair of essential infrastructure such as sewerage systems and stormwater.

“This would be a major step towards bridging the Council’s funding gap. 

“Flogging off Christchurch’s assets may provide a short burst of funding, but will cost ratepayers in the long term. It will jeopardise the Council’s future financial sustainability with a halving of annual dividend revenue for each year of the plan.

“Asset sales need not be the fait accompli they appear to be in the Council’s 10 year plan. Christchurch doesn’t have to sell off valuable assets to fund the things that really matter to the city,” Ms Sage said.