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eople’s Choice team committed to retaining Council’s assets

Media Release

The People’s Choice team committed to retaining Council’s strategic assets

When The People’s Choice Councillors campaigned for election, we stood for Council keeping control of our city and retaining Christchurch’s strategic assets. Despite the challenges of the huge costs Council faces, we are determined to explore all other financial options first and it would only be a very last resort that we would consider agreeing to sell down any of our strategic assets.

The city has the benefit of a strong balance sheet, built up over generations, and made up of valuable strategic assets such as the port, the airport and Orion. We see the strategic and financial sense in retaining those assets, not only for their dividend stream but also for the capital gains they offer, to add to the city's income and to reduce our reliance on ratepayers to fund Council’s activities. Any sell-down of these would reduce the amount of control Council has over these valuable assets.

At the time of the local elections last year, we knew that the Council was facing financial difficulties. We promised the public we would cut out extravagant projects and defer non-urgent work. However, Council is dealing with a funding gap much larger than any of us expected at that time. We welcome and support the open and transparent manner in which the Council is sharing this information with the public. We are very pleased that the people are now able to engage with Council on the financial issues facing the city, and fully support the engagement process described by the Mayor in her statement this morning.

We will be working with the Mayor and all the Councillors to find ways of saving capital and operational expenses, deferring non-urgent projects, and identifying other efficiencies. We realise there is no single silver bullet to solve this
and that the solution will involve a combination of interventions. We will need to balance rate rises against cost savings, levels of service against community outcomes, core services against “nice to haves”, large and ambitious projects against our ability to wait for them.

There are also commitments, made before our time in office, to which we are obligated and which we cannot unilaterally change. If this council was able to decide for itself all of its spending priorities, without these obligations, clearly the financial position we find ourselves in would be considerably less difficult.

We are confident that we can achieve the necessary savings by a rigorous re-examination of expenditure, especially capital expenditure. It goes without saying that we wish to renegotiate with government on the timing and delivery of anchor projects, and our commitments under the cost share agreement, particularly with regard to our required $253m contribution to the stadium. Less well known is the fact that the Council’s current financial plan proposes “business-as-usual” capital expenditure of over $1.6b over the next eight years. A significant proportion of this programme is non-urgent. We are confident that reductions and deferrals can be made, enabling the Council to concentrate on priority tasks such as fixing Christchurch roads.

Agreeing to even a partial sale of our city’s strategic assets is something The People’s Choice Councillors will not consider except as a very last resort, and then with extreme reluctance. Christchurch residents have our commitment to work through all of the options available to us to solve the problem we are faced with in the best interests of all the people in the city, and to do so in line with the commitments we have made, and our values.

These are the policies on which we as The People’s Choice (Labour)
Councillors ran for election - and these are the policies we stand by today as we endeavour to find the right combination of solutions to ensure the city is rebuilt, both physically and financially, to offer future generations a legacy we can be proud of.

ENDS

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