Wednesday 18 April 2012


Central government has taken over responsibility for fixing downtown Christchurch. Here's Chris Hutching's take:
No more $500 million light rail schemes or reverting one-way streets to two-way at a cost of $91 million.
Today, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee ditched the Christchurch City Council’s recovery plan.
Mayor Bob Parker put a brave face on things at the media conference today, even claiming the city plan’s “visionary” Volume 1 themes had been enshrined.
The new arrangement would be a “true partnership”, he said.
But the reality is that the actual proposals contained in Volume 2 have been thrown out of the recovery scenario.
They included the mayor’s pet light rail project that would have soaked up $500m of the $2 billion recovery plan.
I'm more than happy to see the back of the woollier Council proposals; I hope Hutching's right that we're binning both the changes in the one-way system and the light rail scheme.

I don't think Hugh Pavletich is far off the mark in pushing for substantial devolution to local boards to help get things done; I'd have leaned that way rather than to a new centralized control body.

But at least the new board's talking some of the right talk for downtown. The new team's emphasis on quickly establishing the sites for major public infrastructure pieces like the convention centre is important - the hotels won't want to move until they know where these kinds of facilities will be placed. And restaurants will want to know where the hotels are going to be.

I really hope that, when they talk about land amalgamation, they give some thought to Tabarrok's dominant assurance contracts rather than compulsory acquisition. Applying Tabarrok's model to land acquisition, Councils effectively buy options to purchase a lot of properties, then exercise those options on the best set of properties for the development.

We invoke eminent domain to avoid hold-out problems where the last owner to sign on for a major development can extract a good part of the project's surplus. Buying options across a lot of potential sites can be more expensive, but eliminates the hold-out problem where different bundles of properties could serve similar purpose. So long as the strike price is a fair one, you've a dominant strategy in selling the option to the government. If the government doesn't exercise the option on your property, you're up by the option payment; if they do, you're no worse off.

See also Bruce Benson's work on solutions to land amalgamation problems that do not do violence to existing ownership rights.

I hope that whatever aesthetic vision the planners might want to impose is done by setting examples in the design of the new public facilities rather than by mandating standards. I'd be really happy to hear an announcement that they're planning structures designed around innovative wooden laminates. U Canterbury is doing some work in the area if they're looking for people with expertise.

A final hope is that the new agency pushes hard to get insurance issues sorted. Does full replacement cover mean coverage to the ex ante or ex post building code? Getting a few declaratory judgements on issues facing a lot of property owners could help get things moving.

Perhaps the best thing about the take-over is that it's now very clear what voters need to do come the next election if Christchurch remains buggered. Parker's already toast, at least according to iPredict. If Christchurch is back on track come the next election, vote National. Otherwise, don't. At least for Canterbury, the next election ought now to wind up being a referendum on how they've handled Christchurch.

NZIER reports on the latest economic indicators for post-quake Christchurch.

Here's the latest on building consents. See also Bill Kaye-Blake.
More building consents than elsewhere in the country, but we're not even meeting the numbers of consents issued through most of the 2000s. National hasn't long to get things moving.


  1. It was notable that the careful and academic Eric, had to tell us that Christchurch Council’s backward looking policy on building restrictions was insane.
    He was referring to the Christchurch Council refusal to release peripheral land for housing after the earthquakes.
    I can remember the scorn and derision which was dished out to Hugh Pavletich for his clear rational thinking, and analysis.
    Many Citizens have suffered for decades at the bookwork of this always dysfunctional Christchurch Council;
    and we can not just blame the mad visionary for floating rails in the sky.
    He is, he really is mad of course, he described the new City plan as “stunning” and he was stunned by himself again.
    But lets remember Mike Moore was once pictured in the Press Vicky Buck and other visionaries , dancing;
    with their T shirts on marked ‘ People’s Republic of Christchurch’
    It had nothing to do with the people, the Council is and always was a giant stupid sloth.
    The good thing I can say about Moore is he was not insane about spending our money. And he could talk to ordinary people

    But he, and Buck presided over the three blue books of Christchurch plan,
    which could tell where you could put nails in the framework of a hen house, and after that of course,
    after Sue Wells had read you the entire RMA, you could see that can not have a hen house at all.

    I vote all of them out. This is a decidedly sick Council.
    NZ Government knows we want action, this is a National crisis, and we do not want the tv star
    [ did you see my bomber jacket on tv ] and his side kick, best darling friend ever.
    They can not add.
    Council Chambers 150 million.
    Lancaster park 100 million,
    Civic centre 100 million.
    East side sport facility 60 million,
    Light off my rails 800 million

    People of Christchurch, my name is Bob and I am off my rails, you put me here.
    This is why Government is getting rid of me.

  2. Wouldn't read too much into iPredict, given the state of its liquidity these days.
    I would say the stock is saying it is unlikely he would even stand. Two terms would likely be enough given all that has happened.

    Only problem is there are a bunch of stark raving socialists lining up the job who think they have the expertise for anything rebuild related.

    1. I'm going to have to spend a day trolling through the dozens of new contracts they've got up. There have to be pricing anomalies waiting for somebody to play with; just haven't had the time...