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.