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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

WEDNESDAY, 24 JUNE 2020

(continued on 25 June 2020)

GREATER CHRISTCHURCH REGENERATION AMENDMENT BILL

Third Reading

Debate resumed.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): The National Party is supporting this bill, as we have supported Christchurch all the way since those early days, some years back now. The original legislation that was passed unanimously by this House provided an opportunity to set up a recovery process. When that recovery process was no longer required, the House, once again, unanimously decided to support a regeneration bill. That bill was constructed as a result of discussions across the Parliament, with representatives of every party and the Minister at the time—who happened to be me—putting together a bill that was designed to allow there to be a reasonable transition between the need to get things done quickly and to have a policy shop that was a little bigger than the Christchurch City Council or Waimak or Selwyn could provide themselves, and to create a framework that would allow a rapid approval for projects that would need to be completed to assist with that ongoing recovery of Christchurch.

The problem is that that original arrangement, I think, got somewhat captured—captured by an excessive degree of bureaucracy; captured by a degree of timid attitude toward using the provisions in the bill itself, and, I think, also a degree of uncertainty among the people who were inside Greater Christchurch, or the Greater Christchurch Regeneration organisation, and the Christchurch City Council particularly. So there was always going to be need to change. The bill itself had a provision for a transition over a period of years, but this bill that’s in front of us today brings that forward quite substantially, and I think it is the right thing to do. I’m pleased that some of the provisions that are in it will allow for the rapid approval, the rapid development and implementation, of things that would make a difference to the community in the Greater Christchurch area.

Where I am disappointed is that in the last three years, there has not been even one new project for Christchurch approved—not one. There are plenty that were under way that have been stalled or modified, but they have not come up in the last three years. No one has come up in the last three years with anything new at all. So I’m hopeful that by getting this bill through today, the Christchurch City Council will grab up the extra tools that they’ve got available to them and get into some negotiation with the Government about what can be done to get more of the shovel-ready stuff in Christchurch under way.

In many parts of the country, there will be a reliance on a further Act of Parliament to allow some of those shovel-ready projects to go ahead. That won’t be the case in the Greater Christchurch area because of this bill. It will provide the opportunity for some of the fast-track that might be needed. What we don’t need is the inertia of the last three years, inertia that saw, for example, the Metro Sports Facility reduced in size, would anyone believe—reduced in size—only to end up costing more because of the time delays—quite extraordinary. Then there has been the long and torturous discussion about a stadium in Christchurch.

Those are just two of many things, I think, for me personally—massive disappointment that some of those people who had considerable responsibility put on their plate managed to completely, in my view, miss an opportunity to provide a water facility in the east of Christchurch. It would have been transformational for the east of Christchurch and provided New Zealand with a high-class facility that could have accommodated a large range of sports that are played or carried out on water, including triathlon or open-water swimming—any of those sort of individual-type sports, or, for that matter, the use of kayaks or rowing skiffs. That’s all gone because of the, sort of, general inertia and the desire to have every single little viewpoint accommodated somewhere. While I do, believe it or not, have a strong view that there should be community consultation about these things, sadly, in my view, in this case, the majority of people were ignored.

So I do hope that when the city council gets this law available or has it available to it, it’s able to recognise that in these straitened times, we don’t want to see massive rate rises for people to pay for some of this stuff, particularly when every shade of political engagement in this House knows that we are going to have to borrow for infrastructure to expand the domestic economy over the next few years. Christchurch needs to use this bill, use the provisions in it, to get a good deal out of all of that and to create employment in our city.

I want to, although it’s a little bit out of the bill, recognise that all MPs in Christchurch have worked constructively to get it through Parliament. That has been the case all the way through. But I want to particularly single out Dr Duncan Webb, who I think is the most honest politician in the Labour Party—no question about that. He’s come out and he’s said that he thinks the Christchurch City Council’s budget is one of austerity. So in an age where so many people have lost jobs, so many people have had income reduced, so many households no longer have income from casual work or part-time work, so many households are fearful that there may not be a job to start at next Monday, Dr Webb comes out and says the council should be putting the rates up by a considerable amount, loading huge extra expense on to households. Well, I congratulate him for being honest.

But I want to make it very clear that in supporting this bill, in wanting that infrastructure, we do not believe the Christchurch City Council should be running massive rate increases for their ratepayers—I freely concede I’m one of them. But there are so many living on fixed incomes, so many living on incomes that are potentially compromised, and so many that are living in fear of not having an income that such a move advocated by Dr Webb should not be considered. But it is an honest position, and we know, eventually, that’s what the Labour Party will do. Should they be returned—and I doubt it—then taxes will go up, but it’s not something that we want to see happening at a local body level because of this bill.

I’ll say it again: the country is going to borrow considerably—$140 billion, according to the current Government—in order to boost or expand—and that’s the real question—the local economy. Is it expansion or is it just paying for what we’ve got? That is going to be some of the battleground in the months ahead towards 19 September.

But in the end, I say again, I hope that the Christchurch City Council recognises the goodwill of Parliament in giving them a tool that will be useful for the ongoing recovery of the city; that they recognise that there is going to be an opportunity to bid in much, much more strongly than they have so far for those shovel-ready projects, with the surety that the consenting process that will still be required for those projects can be facilitated through this piece of legislation.

I understand, too, that the period for which that provision is going to be in existence has been extended from the original bill as a result of select committee deliberations. So I want to add my thanks, as others, I’m sure have and will, to the Governance and Administration Committee for the work that’s been done, and once again make the commitment, as it’s always been there from the National Party, to Christchurch and to the support of this bill.

MIL OSI