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Consultation On Asset Sales An Undemocratic Farce

Christchurch City Council Consultation On Asset Sales An Undemocratic Farce

The announcement that the Christchurch City Council has hired Cameron Partners to provide it with “independent” advice on asset sales – which the Council justifies based on a report which it commissioned from Cameron Partners – shows just what a total undemocratic farce the Council’s “public consultation” process is. The Council obviously sees it as merely a box ticking exercise and can’t even wait for it to be over before charging on with its predetermined agenda of asset sales.

Rest assured that it will have a fight on its hands.

For starters, Keep Our Assets Canterbury is calling for the consultation process on proposed asset sales to be extended and for the Council to provide ASAP written summaries of its proposals for every household.

Despite this being a consultation on a 10 year plan for Christchurch, as well as selling prized city assets, there has been no Council information provided direct to citizens. KOA activists are meeting people who have no idea what the Council is planning and they are shocked when they find out.

It’s just not good enough.

The effects of this planned review will be felt by the city for decades to come and yet the people are expected to absorb the Council’s proposals by osmosis.

Even the most engaged citizens who realise there is a consultation process need to wade through huge amounts of material online. Even then they are likely to miss the point that the Council actually wants permission to sell off 100% of all strategic assets.

“To ensure that the Council gains the greatest return from any sale, it needs the flexibility to consider the sale of part, or all of its entire holdings. ... As part of the Long Term Plan we are therefore consulting on the potential divestment by CCHL of its interest in Orion New Zealand, Lyttelton Port Company, Christchurch International Airport Ltd, Eco Central, City Care, and Red Bus.” (p15, Financial Strategy)

Christchurch City Council is also insisting that only formal submissions will be considered. Whereas other Councils will take into account comments on social media for example Christchurch Council insists that only those able to find the time to make an online submission or a written submission will be heard.

The effect of this denial of information is to narrow opportunities to respond and makes this supposed consultation an undemocratic farce.

We even heard of a report where an elected Councillor declined an invitation to defend the proposed asset sales on the grounds “we are in a consultation period”. Apparently that Councillor thinks democracy does not extend to public debate and discussion.

The remedy is simply. The Council must set back the deadline for submissions (currently 28th April), provide a written summary of its proposals to everyone, engage the community and get the democratic feedback the city needs.

ends

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