The question of ‘Who Runs Christchurch?’ is increasingly being asked. Is it the residents, or bureaucrats, central government, local business, insurance companies, or elected councilors? Tomorrow could become a landmark in the struggle for the ‘The Peoples Republic of Christchurch’, with a protest at noon outside the Christchurch City Council. Writing in the Press newspaper, Will Harvie has issued a clarion call for a new political movement – see: Stand up People's Republic of Christchurch. Harvie details how ‘Voting rights of Cantabrians have been trampled in recent years’, and he argues that residents should now embrace an old insult by Auckland businessman Douglas Myers, who labelled the city ‘The People's Republic of Christchurch’. Harvie speaks of the need for locals to reassert their independence from central government’s grand schemes ‘upholding democratic values in Christchurch’. Chris Trotter also deals with the problems of democracy and governance in Christchurch in his Press column, Christchurch City Council Needs Choristers - Not Soloists. Trotter says that it’s not ‘the people’, who run Christchurch but instead ‘Administrative Authoritarianism’ is at ‘the heart of Christchurch’s local government crisis’.
The political situation in Christchurch has been covered very well by Sam Sachdeva, a journalist whose work is becoming a must-read – see, for example, his article today on public sector CEO salaries: Marryatt's pay exceeded the norm. But his overview of the problems with Christchurch’s current political management is particularly illuminating: Fuse lit under 'Bob and Tony show'. The latest issues to arise are over the legality and appointment of a Crown Observer to watch over the Council – see: RadioLive’s Chch Crown observer role ripples with anger, and differences of opinion over whether the ‘red zone’ should eventually be turned into a public park or rebuilt.
One of the main reasons that New Zealand still has SOE power companies (and broadcasters for that matter) is the handbrake applied by Maori groups using the Treaty of Waitangi. By the time the Fourth Labour Government had sorted out the Treaty obligations as required by the courts, the political tide had well and truly turned against the sales. The National Party, still swimming against that tide, must be aware of the potential for similar challenges to derail its latest partial privatisation plans.
In the last parliamentary term the Maori Party would have played an invaluable role in smoothing the way, particularly with iwi corporate interests. As Danya Levy reports, however, National’s coalition partner has now attacked it for planning to leave out of the sale legislation any requirement for the Crown to act in a manner consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. This could, of course, be seen as leverage to try and get iwi buyers preferential treatment, something the Maori Party advocated before the election, despite opposing the policy in general – see Levy’s Treaty sellout claims over asset sales.
Hone Harawira has taken it a step further claiming that it could stop the sales altogether. As Claire Trevett reports, Harawira sees this issue as a major impediment in the Government’s privatisation plans: ‘The Treaty is stopping the Government from flogging off the nations assets, so they're going to throw the Treaty out’ – see: Treaty clause complicates asset sales and listen to Harawira on RNZ’s Morning Report here.
Iwi enthusiasm to purchase state assets may be waning in any case according to Morgan Godfery. He is particularly damning in the comments section of his post about Wira Gardner’s role in the government’s consultation process. For a different perspective on iwi protection of assets, see Cathy Odgers’ blogpost Ngai Tahu Flog Off More Land Than Westpac To Foreigners, which gives examples of iwi selling large chunks of land to foreign investors.
Elsewhere in politics today, Colin James looks at a range of sleeper issues and decisions that may have an impact on our constitutional arrangements, including legislation and reviews agreed to by National as part of its coalition deals with the Maori Party and Act – see: It's the constitution, stupid. Not so ho hum. Similarly, Karl du Fresne’s Slipping the government bonds to touch the face of Mammon, argues that ‘If the National Party has an Achilles heel that makes it vulnerable to attack, it's a fondness for cosying up to big money.’
The so-called Teapot Tapes are analysed in the Political Scientist blogpost, Boil; Pour; Stew – Drink?. The argument is made that the conversation is a revealing account of how John Key sought to dominate and manipulate his political rival John Banks.
Finally, the Reserve Bank is looking for a replacement for governor Alan Bollard who has confirmed his retirement. In his article, Strong candidates to succeed Bollard, business journalist James Weir details the likely candidates, and explains why this is a big issue: ‘Arguably the most powerful post in the New Zealand economy, the governor has sole responsibility for setting interest rates. The central bank also plays a much bigger role in the supervision of the banking sector than in the 1990s when its key role was taming inflation’. [Continue reading below for a full list of the highlights of NZ Politics Daily]