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CERA, EQC keep public information secret

The government’s Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and EQC are making a mockery of Official Information Act requests.

Lincoln university academic resident in Christchurch Geoff Marks says he requested information from EQC on May 25. He complained to the Office of the Ombudsmen on July 26.

NBR made a request of CERA in early August about anticipated costs of the central city rebuild which ratepayers will be required to pay.

In September, on expiry of the statutory time for replying, Jacinda Lean, manager of ministerial and chief executive support for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, told NBR she had extended the time by another 20 working days to process the request.

Last week the extension expired and she wrote again to NBR saying the response from government-appointed chief executive Roger Sutton would be further delayed.

This is because of the large number of documents to be considered and the consultations involved, she says.

Christchurch city councillor Yani Yohanson independently and coincidentally sent similar requests to CERA and has received the same stonewalling.

At the same time, CERA has asked for expressions of interest from developers for its first Avon River beautification anchor project – without revealing the anticipated cost ratepayers must pay.

It expects to make further requests for expressions of interest for the convention centre and metro sports centre.

Again, CERA is keeping its costings secret, even though it will dump the cost on ratepayers.

The projects were unveiled by Prime Minister John Key on July 30 during a live-to-air function costing $550,000.

The drinks, catering and other hosting services for the function accounted for $25,920, with the balance spent on the interactive display unit, liquid galaxy, signage, print material, promotional and information videos, 3D modelling and animation, virtual data room and CCDU the website.

Some sources believe the costs top $1 billion for the proposed metro sports centre, convention centre and covered rugby stadium.

This does not include the cost of compulsorily buying central city land from 850 private landowners, which may require another $1 billion, depending on how values are calculated.

Ironically, the government is repealing the Local Government Act 2002 in order to rein in spending by councils. And a couple of weeks ago education minister Hekia Parata announced sweeping plans to close and merge 31 Christchurch schools.

But the government has allowed its own earthquake agency, CERA, to override the city council’s Share An Idea consultation last year with residents, who chose far more modest proposals for civic facilities.

This has led many locals to believe the CERA blueprint is being imposed to financially cripple the city and force it to sell assets such as the airport and Lyttelton Port Company.

CERA spent about $3.6 million on communications over the past financial year, of which about $1 million was for wages. The 11-strong communications team includes three former journalists.

c.hutch@clear.net.nz

More by Chris Hutching

Comments and questions
6

Eqc & Cera are as deviouis as the proverbial rat with the same attitude to their victim 'clients'. I am delighted that Mr Hutching continues to put the heat on them via Natiopnal Business Review and look forward to the day when individual intransigent staff of those organisations will also be specifically named.

That will be one hell of a long list.

Our government has robbed tax payers in recent decades to stuff effectively billions of dollars into the pockets of corporate "tribes" who never let their poor and underprivileged get within reach of it. The reason? Vote buying - as always... Bill English, who appeared to change his personal legal status with regard to a family home in Wellington in order to claim accommodation expenses from the taxpayer (ok because he acted within the rules...and John Key was taxpayer subsidised in his first Wellington year, too ) can say he finds nothing morally wrong with some multimillionaires paying no tax on their enormous earnings. But when it comes to paying to save the irreplaceable - as overseas countries do our undereducated Philistines - money boys who know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing - are consistent in the damage they do. Destroying beautiful things is unforgivable. New Zealanders need to start saying a strong No to politicians and their facilitators at national and local government level.

I have said before that the Government's actions with regards to their handling of the Canterbury Earthquakes will be the downfall of the National Government at the next elections, but in reality I do not wish the other side to win by default as we will be that much worse of ?? A real worry for us long suffering Canterbury residents, which is no better than one year ago. I feel that, like our Great Council there is far too much secrecy remaining, all matters should be 100% transparent. The thought of selling my inner city property to the Government and then seeing say Fletchers buying all the surrounding properties at double face value from the Government's collection, will be the final blow to us and the Government. Why should the Government make money out of the Land Owners because it suits them.
"DO NOT SELL TO THE GOVERNMENT ANY LAND IN THE CBD"

This cadre of self-serving bureaucratic despots has no interest in "democracy" nor "public information": their only relationship with the public is via "Public Relations" (read bullsh*t), as Chris has noted.
Keep up the battle!

i have always though that beyond some ( for lack of a better word ) silly decisions by various Governments i was always sure that we lived in a basically caring democracy. All naivety has now gone and I now realise that rights and democracy are now a thing of the past and the new era has arrived. Do what the Government says or take the consequences. When did the Government stop working for the people and start working for themselves? I am sad that our caring New Zealand society has gone.