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Christchurch Asset Sales Should Be Explored

Media Release: 29 May 2013

Christchurch Asset Sales Should Be Explored

Some Christchurch City Councillors have expressed an appetite for exploring the sale of some of the city’s assets as a way of helping fund the rebuild with a number of them not ruling it out.

Prime Minister John Key has suggested a partial asset sale of Christchurch’s council controlled organisations (CCOs) as a way of helping fund the city’s rebuild and planned anchor projects.

Christchurch City Councillor Jamie Gough said it was time the city reviewed what constitutes a strategic asset post-earthquake with a view to explore sale options for those that may no longer be deemed strategic.

Cr Gough said council’s share of the rebuild was going to have to be financed from rates, borrowing or the sale of city assets and that a healthy balance must be struck to ensure the highest quality rebuild but not at the cost of excessive levels of debt.

Gough ruled out an immediate sale of the council acquired central city properties from troubled property developer Dave Henderson.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in the central city right now but the one thing we do know is that inner city property prices have fallen to anywhere between one half to one third of where they were pre-earthquake. I have no doubt that it will rise stronger and better than before however the idea of buying high and selling low doesn’t hold much commercial appeal to me.”

Everything changed as a result of the earthquake on the 22 February 2011, and I think we’d be remiss, if not stupid, to not get clarity on where that leaves us with regard to strategic assets and strategic CCOs, Gough said.

Gough said that organisations such as Christchurch Airport, Lyttelton Port, Enable (data infrastructure) and Orion (power infrastructure) held a high strategic value in his view as they were key, monopoly infrastructure companies and their returns helped keep rates lower than most other metropolitan centres in the country.

“What I am less than convinced on is council owned contracting entities such as City Care or Red Bus which compete in an open and competitive marketplace.”

“Are non-monopoly contracting firms that cut the lunch of private-enterprise strategic assets for our city today? If they’re not, then what strategic value are they providing?”

Gough said that he supported the retention of strategic assets in city ownership however he believed that if you do not know what defines a key strategic asset in today’s new climate then it was impossible to be able to make that call.

“We could of course guess, and I have my own hunches and suspicions, but decision making by guesswork would be appalling governance and a road that I wouldn’t be prepared to go down.”

“We only get one shot at this rebuild and the decisions that are made today must be informed ones to ensure the greatest results, but not ones that end up disproportionally costing future generations.”


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