Chris Lynch: Heads need to roll over Christchurch's lack of recovery

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The site of the former earthquake-damaged Christchurch Convention Centre, opposite the Town Hall on Kilmore Street. Photo / Geoff Sloan
The site of the former earthquake-damaged Christchurch Convention Centre, opposite the Town Hall on Kilmore Street. Photo / Geoff Sloan

Heads need to roll and quickly, following more shocking news that Christchurch will have to wait another nine months for the Government-led convention centre.

Treasury has released yet another scathing report highlighting issues with the project's definition, budget and benefits. The last word - benefit - is telling. How many times do those at the top need to be told of the benefits of a convention centre for Christchurch?

Or could it just be that they're struggling to produce a sound business case? It's always interesting when the private hotels cry out for convention centres, but are never willing to dig into their own pockets to fund them.

Originally, the project was due to be completed next year. However, building work has yet to start. But don't worry, plenty of people are creaming it while the going is good.

$16 million has been spent arranging the convention centre, and that doesn't include the $60 million already spent on buying up the land.

If the convention centre was being led by a private company, then the CEO of that company would have been fired a long time ago for failing to deliver on the project.

April 2019 has now been set as the latest operational completion date. That's frankly disgusting, and Gerry Brownlee needs to front up and stop acting like a 12 year old whenever criticism comes his way.

The report also shows the government initially wanted all negotiations around the convention centre to be finalised before CERA was disestablished. Well that hasn't happened? So who's going to take responsibility? Who's protecting who? And who needs to be fired for failing Christchurch and its business community?

Gerry Brownlee needs to front up and stop acting like a 12 year old when there is criticism. Photo / File
Gerry Brownlee needs to front up and stop acting like a 12 year old when there is criticism. Photo / File

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Gerry Brownlee says the report doesn't mean a thing and has made his usual sarcastic attacks on "Treasury's competence".

He says: "Treasury is so brilliant it looks at New Zealand's involvement in the Antarctic, gives it green lights all the way, not recognising we don't have a plane that can fly there safely, nor a ship that can get there."

What planet is he on? Diversion works sometimes, but not this time.

There's more bad news for the minister. The report says the effective delivery of anchor projects in Christchurch's post-quake recovery face significant risk because of transition problems as CERA's responsibilities are transferred to a new entity.

How many staff members from CERA are now with the agency, Regenerate Christchurch?

This needs to be investigated. And what does Otakaro Limited actually do? And what about Development Christchurch? And what about the Canterbury Development Corporation? They're all funded with ratepayer and taxpayer cash. Those working there need KPIs and they must be made public.

To make matter worse questions are being raised after the "purpose" of the Crown-owned company charged with delivering anchor projects, was changed.

The Press reports changes to Otakaro Limited's constitution were signed off by Brownlee on May 19 and Finance Minister Bill English, Otakaro's other shareholder minister, on May 25.

Otakaro's purpose clause originally said it would "deliver" the anchor projects, but that's under the new clause that now says it will "add value" to the projects. Could it be those at the top realise they can't deliver on time?

These organisations needs to merge into one slim-downed machine, a commissioner needs to be appointed to run it, and Brownlee can then take a break.

The old boys network in this city needs to be broken and smashed and the city needs to recover on its own, because so far, government intervention on the city, when it comes to the anchor projects, has been nothing more than a disaster.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Newstalk ZB

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