21 Sep 2016

Chch mayoral rivals clash on asset sales

3:31 pm on 21 September 2016

Christchurch mayoral candidate Lianne Dalziel has watered down her pledge on asset sales, with her rival, John Minto, saying she is keeping her options open.

At a public debate last night, Ms Dalziel told the audience "not one single share in one single company" needed to be sold to balance the books.

Lianne Dalziel

Lianne Dalziel Photo: Supplied

This morning, on RNZ's Morning Report Ms Dalziel would only confirm that strategic assets would not be sold without public consultation.

Asked whether she could guarantee not a single share would be sold, Ms Dalziel said she could not.

"I'm not going to do that, and the reason I'm not going to do that is because you can't imagine for one minute that there wouldn't be a reason that you would [not] want to enter into a strategic relationship with someone, that you wouldn't want to re-organise something.

"A strategic asset has to go out for public consultation so nothing will happen without the public being fully engaged in a proper process."

Earlier in RNZ's debate, Mr Minto, who campaigns on an anti-asset sale ticket, was trumpeting the mayor's U-turn on the $600 million asset sales programme as a victory.

After Ms Dalziel's comments he said it was clear she wanted to keep her options open.

"There's big pressure from the government for the council to sell assets and to have these huge rates increases because the government wants the residents of Christchurch to put enormous eye-watering sums of money into big projects in the middle of the city which are not a priority for Christchurch residents."

Mr Minto said if elected he would renegotiate the council's $1 billion cost sharing agreement with the government and take these big ticket items off the table.

John Minto (file. September 2014)

John Minto Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Less spending would mean lower rates, he said.

In contrast to the council's plan to increase rates by 5 percent each year for the next three years, Mr Minto wanted to pin any rises to the - currently very low - rate of inflation in order to help struggling households.

Ms Dalziel said it was her "ambition" to also bring rates rises in line with inflation.

"You have to have ambitious targets and I guess that what I've shown is that we've come in with a huge financial mess, we've got that fixed, we've now got the opportunity to really focus on bringing those rates increases down. That's the best that I can do, I can't make promises around the specifics of it.

"All I can promise the people is that my track record is that when the place was a mess we got it in order, we brought the rates increase down that we had originally predicted and I keep intending to bring it down in that direction."

Asked what somebody who had lived in Christchurch for less than two years had to offer the city, Mr Minto said he brought with him a new perspective.

"When we started this campaign, we thought the biggest objection from people would be 'oh here comes ... another Jaffa to tell us what to do'. But in fact that hasn't happened. What people have said to me is that it's really good to see someone come to Christchurch and bring a fresh pair of eyes to look at the situation, especially the relationship between the council and the government which is not healthy for the people of Christchurch."

Ms Dalziel confirmed that if she won this would be her last term as mayor.

Questions have been raised in the past about her stamina for the job ever since an interview in April, in which she responded to a query about whether she was exhausted by saying this was an understatement.

This morning, she said anybody would be exhausted if they had gone through what she and the rest of the city had experienced over the past six years.

"I was torn [on whether to stand again] and I can tell you why; the reason I was torn was it's enormously challenging to take on the role of a city leadership when there are so many challenges still facing the city ... and there is a degree of frustration about what the limitations are. Some of the limitations have been imposed by central government but I'd rather work with them to try and resolve those than stand on the sidelines."

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