Monday, May 02, 2011

Brownlee can sell Christchurch

The Press this morning has an unpleasant revelation about the government's recently-passed earthquake legislation: it allows Gerry Brownlee to decide, by himself, to sell Christchurch's strategic assets.

Such decisions must normally be announced in the long-term plan and approved by a special consultative procedure. But under Brownlee's earthquake legislation, the Recovery Strategy (which his minions write and he approves) becomes part of all council planning documents, and prevails over them. Which allows Brownlee to bypass all the normal safeguards and force Christchurch to sell its family silver to fund his recovery plans.

Brownlee of course assures us he won't use this power. But quite apart from questions of trust, the decision should not be his to make in the first place. Decisions on what assets they should own and what they should sell are the proper domain of the people of Christchurch, not some government Minister with an ideological agenda and donors demanding favours. But then, the same could be said of the entire recovery strategy itself.

Meanwhile, its a bit rich for Labour to be complaining about this now. After all, they voted to give Brownlee this power, even after specific amendments to prevent such local body privatisation were defeated. If it was such a red line, they should have voted against the bill. Their failure to do so makes them look like cowardly hypocrites.