Q+A: Lianne Dalziel
Balance of Power Has Shifted in Christchurch: Dalziel
The re-elected mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, says the restoring of decision-making powers to locals in the city means her new term is going to be different to the last.
“The balance of power has shifted. So it’s not completely that the government is walking away, and they’ve never said that they would. They have invested a lot in our city, and they want to continue to do so,” she told Q+A’s Jessica Mutch.
“But what they have said is that it is time to start that programme of restoring local leadership.
“Democracy has been missing in action in Christchurch. We had ECan still not entirely democratic. I mean, I always say it’s a little bit like being a little bit pregnant – you either are democratic or you’re not. And it’s not there yet. But it will be at the end of the next three years.”
Q + A
Interviewed by JESSICA MUTCH
JESSICA Christchurch mayor
Lianne Dalziel joins me now. Congratulations, and thank you
for being with me this
LIANNE Thank you, Jessica.
JESSICA You’ve signed up again for a very tough job. When you got that call, when you heard the results, what went through your head?
LIANNE Well, you know, I probably had that moment cemented in my mind when I made the decision to run again. It’s not like last time. Last time we came in, we opened the books, we realised that we had to get our finances in order, and some of the aspirations that we had really had to be put on hold. We didn’t have our insurance settled. All of those things are now sorted, so actually, coming on for another three years, I feel way more optimistic. We’ve got a whole new environment. CERA’s gone. We’ve got Regenerate Christchurch, a whole new regeneration planning approach, which engages communities, that gives them a real say in what their city’s going to look like. So, you know, that, to me, is something quite exciting about this term.
JESSICA In your heart of hearts, how hungry were you for another term in this job or how much of this is out of a sense of duty, out of a sense of service?
LIANNE I think the first time that I stood, it was that sense of duty and service to the city where I was born and raised and lived all my life. And leaving Parliament was a hard decision to make – I felt my time wasn’t done there. But yeah, I’m really looking forward to what is an incredible opportunity for our city. We can actually take advantage of the tragedy that has befallen us and build a fantastic 21st-century city. You know, people have commented that we are not there, but we can achieve that. And that’s something that I really want to focus on. I mean, one thing is that since well before the earthquakes, we wanted more than 20,000 people to be living inside the four avenues. We can actually achieve that now. So that’s one of the goals that I really want to focus my attention on.
JESSICA How do you juggle that relationship with central government? Because particularly in Christchurch, it’s looming large.
LIANNE I think people will say that I’ve actually done quite a good job in that regard. A lot of people said that a former Labour Member of Parliament and Cabinet minister wouldn’t be able to form a close working relationship with central government. I’ve really proved people, you know, wrong in that regard. I have been able to form a good relationship. I’ve had a lot of input into designing the new legislative framework that has taken the place of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act. And, you know, to be honest, I believe that if I hadn’t been the mayor for the last three years, we wouldn’t be in such a good position as we are now.
JESSICA Do you have enough power from central government, though? How does that go? How do you balance that?
LIANNE Well, it has changed. The balance of power has shifted. So it’s not completely that the government is walking away, and they’ve never said that they would. They have invested a lot in our city, and they want to continue to do so. But what they have said is that it is time to start that programme of restoring local leadership. Democracy has been missing in action in Christchurch. We had ECan still not entirely democratic. I mean, I always say it’s a little bit like being a little bit pregnant – you either are democratic or you’re not. And it’s not there yet. But it will be at the end of the next three years. But we have elected members on there. That means there’s much more that we can do together. I want public transport to come back to the city. It is so vital that we get those links between Selwyn and Waimakariri, which have experienced significant growth.
JESSICA As well as transport, there were also other issues of water and asset sales that dominated the election campaign. Do you feel like John Minto has forced you to firm up some of your stance, particularly on asset sales?
LIANNE No, I think the question around the— because the election result— One of the side effects of the election result was that when you don’t have a high-profile, hotly contested political campaign – which it wasn’t – then you don’t get such a good turnout. There were 42% in the last election campaign when Paul Lonsdale ran against me. But the time before that, it was over 50% turnout, and that was because you had the high-profile campaign of Sir Bob Parker and Jim Anderton. So it wasn’t a high-profile campaign. It was good to have issues debated, but a lot of those issues are actually dependent on the city working collaboratively with the region and the other districts in order to make a real change.
JESSICA And we will be talking about that voter turnout a little bit later in the show. But we’ll have to leave it there. Thank you very much for your time this morning, and congratulations again.
LIANNE Thank you.