Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Fran O’Sullivan jumps Bernard Hickey’s shark

Every taxi driver, barber and newspaper columnist is the same.

They know how the world works. They know what needs to be done to fix things.  They know, uniquely, what has to happen, and all they need is is big bossy gummint to give them the big stick!

Fran O’Sullivan is no different.

Staring at Christchurch and seeing only months of inactivity brought about by government meddling both central and local (waiting for EQC to sign off houses, builders and buildings; waiting for CERA o demolish what’s left of people’s property in the central city; waiting for council to release its “strategy” for what property owners in the city might be allowed to do;  waiting for government to decide what regulations it might issue mandating how they might be allowed to do it;  waiting (vainly, I might add) to see if council’s District Plan might be relaxed to allow businesses to relocate to new office buildings in different parts of the city, and new housing to be built in places the planners never contemplated) Fran doesn’t draw the obvious conclusion that making the country’s second-largest city a ward of the state is neither sustainable nor affordable.

Instead, she leaps for the same big stick beloved of blowhards everywhere: the gummint must do something! (As if it weren’t already doing enough!)

_osullivan_fran1602091Fran has a plan. It’s not very complicated, or even very well thought out. Specifically, Fran demands the government:

  • nationalise all the private land on the outskirts of Christchurch (i.e,, completing the job CERA have already largely done in the CBD);
  • build houses on it (because the government does this so well); and
  • raid the pocketbooks of everyone in the country able to afford a Rugby World Cup ticket to pay for it.

Simple as that. A plan that every barber, every taxi driver--every blowhard and Bernard Hickey in the country--could agree with and call their own.

Fran O’Sullivan is a business columnist.

But she has no idea, apparently, how business works. She doesn’t realise that regime uncertainty and a loss of property rights between them have barred businesses from doing what they do best.

Fran O’Sullivan writes about politics.

But she has no idea, apparently, that making the city a ward of the state has caused the very malaise she decries.

It can be undone, but not by making the state’s interference even bigger. It can be done very simply: by letting businessmen themselves rebuild the city businessmen created.

Tell business owners they can relocate wherever in Christchurch they want, and that zoning will be relaxed to accommodate that, and watch businesses start to take off again.

Tell owners of stable land that they can build as many houses on their land as they can provide services for, with neither costs to nor charges from council, and watch a festival of house-building take off.

Let those who own their own property determine between them and their insurance company what they wish their building standards to be. Such a system can be set up very quickly as it already exists in government reports. And then watch the festival start producing innovative affordable homes.

Bus Bob Parker, Gerry Brownlee, Roger Sutton and all the town planners--and Fran O’Sullivan--out of Christchurch permanently, get the hell out of the way, and allow the city and the people within it to reinvent itself spontaneously. This would be a wonder to see.  Call it spontaneous order, if you will, since that’s what you’re trying to kick off. Call it crowd-sourcing, if you like, since that’s what markets and entrepreneurial activity like this are really made of.

In fact, call it an Enterprise Zone and allow some enterprise to happen in the city for the first time in nearly a year.

Make it an Enterprise Zone instead of a Ward of the State, get government out of the way (and provide land-owners and businesses some certainty they’ll stay there), and can I assure you you’ll be surprised what might happen. 

Even Fran might be.

Because Fran O’Sullivan is a business columnist. Or was.


  1. Brilliant. Have just spent three years trying to get resource consent from the council it is the most maddening experience out, how about a 3 week delay because the planting plan had a typo and one of the leaves didn't match with the drawing FFS. How about 30 CCC staff making a site visit including a librarian from the other side of town ! Outcome of that joyous experience was after the provisional thumbs up it was back to the drawing board. If we ever get rebuilt here itvwill be a miracle and if I was English I would have budgeted the expense over 40 years.

  2. Too bloody Right PC

  3. From time to time, I think about returning, and then the people who are meant to be pro-business, start going all Lenin.

    Keep going New Zealand, join the Eurozone slide into perpetually wondering why you can't afford the technology, the medicine and the lifestyles of people who a couple of generations ago were in poverty.


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