Christchurch Council “struggling” to cope
The Christchurch City Council admits it is struggling to cope with its rebuild work and wants to hand over responsibility for major development projects to a new commercial entity.
It is proposing to set up a development authority which will oversee new capital projects in the city and act as a point of entry for private investors who want to be involved in the rebuild.
The authority would manage the planning and delivery of public projects that could have private interests, such as the new central Christchurch library.
Council strategy and finance committee deputy chairman Raf Manji told The Press that setting up the authority was the single most important strategic decision the council was likely to take this term.
The council was stretched beyond its capacity and opportunities to get private investors into the city were slipping through its fingers, he said.
“We need a point of entry for investors. We’re getting calls all the time from people with unsolicited proposals and ideas.
“They would like to work with council to make those happen . . . but the council just doesn’t have time to consider those things.”
Having a commercially-run development authority operating at arm’s length would allow the council to get through more work, more efficiently, and enable private-sector involvement, Manji said.
“It [the work] is not going to get done if we don’t do it this way.”
It would be run on a commercial basis and be governed by an independent board, but the council would retain oversight of the projects it handled and have the right of final approval of projects.
Tomorrow, council chief financial officer Peter Gudsell will recommend councillors give their approval in principle to the establishment of a development authority.
In a report prepared for them, Gudsell pointed out the council had not delivered consistently on its planned capital programme, achieving on average over the past six years less than half of what was budgeted.
A development authority could operate as a commercial entity, with more flexibility to raise capital and adopt private sector procurement practices, Gudsell said.
It would increase the pace of the city’s response to investors and developers and potentially reduce the financial pressure on the council by facilitating joint-venture arrangements on major projects.
Gudsell said overseas, development authorities had worked very successfully and had been instrumental in major projects such as Salford Quays in Manchester and the London Docklands.
Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend yesterday backed the concept.
“We have been saying for a long time that we want to see more case management of investors into our community . . . and I think this will help that,” he said.
“It’s really important though that they are working with central government on this as well.”
- Lois Cairns
- The Press