When Lianne Dalziel became Mayor of Christchurch in 2013, she had the overwhelming backing of Christchurch. Then it was a city sick and tired of a Mayoralty that many people had come to associate with cronyism, secrecy and inept managers. It was a city trying to rebuild after its most destructive and deadly disaster ever. Ms Dalziel knew she had a tough task ahead of her to reason decency to a public office that had been tarnished. 2 years later and with the end of her first term beckoning, how is she going?
The City Council that took office in October 2013, had nine new faces. Only four faces existed from the old council, after a combination of resignations and electoral defeats upended the others. They came from a range of backgrounds – from former Minister of the Crown and Member of Parliament Lianne Dalziel, through to people like Raf Manji, a self described social entrepreneur. Whereas Ms Dalziel came from a Ministerial background and brought a wealth of governance experience, Mr Manji helped to nicely balance that by bringing to the table his experience as an accountant in the private sector.
The tasks that they have had to work through and their combined load has been enormous. The Christchurch City Council was staring down huge rate increases when the 2013 elections took place. They were nearly N.Z.$1 billion in debt due to the huge damage the quake had wrought and the under insuring done by the previous City Council meant many facilities were at risk of not being fully covered. The Council had a problem with how it processed resource consents and this had led to the revocation of its right to issue them. On top of that
So how do I think the Christchurch City Council has been going?
Compared with the last one which had a nasty habit of closed door meetings on issues that should have been open to the public when being debated, this council has been quite transparent. Of course that is not to say that they made no mistakes, but at least those mistakes have been made in public and the ratepayers of the city have been able to critique the performance of their elected officials.
Thus far, though I have disagreed with him on social housing in Christchurch, which Mr Manji does not believe we need or should have a hand in, his peformance as the person responsible for the Council books has been very pragmatic. The Council has been able to claim over $600 million of the $900 million it thought it was owed for the damage caused to infrastructure by the earthquakes. The process of rebalancing the books post-earthquake is an ongoing one, that was not going to be completed in this term of the Christchurch City Council and I think most rate payers understand that even if they disagree with what is happening and why.
If Lianne Dalziel wants to stand for another term, I would probably vote for her to give her a chance to see the tasks she has undertaken get completed. I think Mr Manji has done enough to warrant a second term as well if he so desires. The other Councillor for Fendalton-Waimairi Ward, Peter Chen however needs to lift his game as I have seen or heard very little from him in this term.