Guest post by Hugh Pavletich of Cantabrians Unite
‘THE GOVERNMENT’S BUY-UP FOR the central Christchurch blueprint has been described as a "land grab" and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) as a "den of thieves.”’
The Press reports:
Angry landowners say the Government will profit by selling their sites to someone else, in some cases leaving the original owners severely out of pocket...
Lisle Hood, co-owner of properties around Poplar St earmarked for the new innovation precinct, accused the Government of bullying tactics.
"It's a land grab. They are nationalising private property and stomping all over our property rights," he said. "They are buying up all this land and they will flog it off to the big corporates and make a huge killing on it."
Owners investing in heritage restoration had improved the city "only to be treated like crap, and that's obscene.” "The Government should be looking after people, not ripping them off, and they've got a den of thieves [CERA] doing it on their behalf," Hood said.
Roland Logan, part-owner of the Ng building in the path of the proposed stadium, said owners would be "subject to a serious injustice" if their land was resold at a profit.
"Their property will be taken, their business destroyed, they'll receive what is as yet undetermined compensation, then [the Government] will on-sell it when the city has recovered."
He said Cera was "basically flouting the rule of law" by impinging on property rights.
"What they're doing is just mindboggling; it's appalling," Logan said…
Property lawyer Hamish Grant, of Anthony Harper, said the blueprint had opened a "legal can of worms" and unhappy property owners could try to fight the buy-up. "
Grant said the Government could take land only for earthquake recovery, not "willy-nilly" or to benefit the city or the economy, and could be challenged by judicial review. "
" 'The courts have traditionally come down on governments because they are taking advantage of people's property rights," he said. "But it could be hard to argue. Until someone who is unhappy takes them to task, we just won't know."
In Sections 60 through 70, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 sets out for confiscated property how little compensation can be paid. It needs to be studied closely and legal advice sought.
As Cantabrians Unite has made clear over recent weeks, from a commercial perspective, the Central Blueprint for Recovery is in reality an "Anti-Recovery Plan" based on theft of business owners’ property rights—to be partially paid for by that theft.
If it is allowed to proceed, it will do irreparable damage to Christchurch.
WITH WORK ALREADY BEGUN buying confiscated land at bargain prices, the Authorities have still to produce any detailed cost estimates, feasibility studies or robust social and economic reports. The reason for this is obvious: because they know as well as we know that this CGI-larded Blueprint would not withstand any kind of robust analysis. It is nothing more than a politically inept attempt to ram through a hare-brained planners wish list based on nothing more than a bunch of pretty pictures.
The politicians involved unfortunately are nothing more than "parrots" for bureaucrats with neither expertise nor track record in urban development, who are clearly clueless and careless about the consequences.
Several very good articles are already beginning to pull apart the threadbare underpinnings of this Anti-Recovery Plan.
A recent perceptive article by political scientist "Puddleglum" provided an inkling of how this whole sorry Blueprint saga is playing out, a fiasco in which the Central Development Agency (and it would appear CERA people) appear to have simply gone on an ego trip with no understanding or inkling whatsoever of urban development realities—delivering profits into the hand of a chosen few by taking the property rights of many.
Sam Richardson, economics lecturer at Massey University, has done substantial international research on the problems of these types of public projects. His short blog article with hyperlinks to further material is most helpful.
The "core problem" here has been weak and ill-informed governance at both the central and local levels right from Day One , 4 September 2010—nearly two years ago. The writer has covered these issues, many of which began before the earthquakes destroyed the city, most of the threads of which are incorporated within a recent article: CHRISTCHURCH: THE WAY FORWARD.
Last Thursday as well, Jo Kane of Canterbury Television graciously asked me to explain some of these issues on their One on One programme.
As I tell Jo, from the outset the authorities’ priorities should always have been (1) people (2) housing and (3) business.
In the wider context, the Central Area and its recovery is only a small component of the issues - with people and their housing being far more important. The Central Area property owners and associated businesses are more than capable of sorting out their own issues had they only been left free to do so.
Indeed, one of the few great "highlights" of these earthquake events has been watching the heroics performed by Christchurch’s central business people, so many of whom managed to get their businesses back up, running and relocated in the suburbs within a remarkable 7 to 14 days after the 22 February events.
A truly remarkable achievement !
Leave them alone and these same people are more than capable of making recovery happen back in the central area from which they’ve been barred—if only the authorities would allow them.
The authorities should remove their focus from grand plans formed over other people’s property rights, and focus instead restoring their own loss-making public facilities, at the lowest possible cost, in both central and suburban areas—a job, all too sadly foreign to bureaucrats now becoming used to Blueprint-driven power trips. And in the suburban areas as well, where most people now actually do live and work.
AT A HUMAN LEVEL, one of the things that has distressed me greatly these past two years of disaster has been the sheer bureaucratic ignorance and arrogance. It is not overstating it to say that far too many people, with their homes and their businesses, have simply been 'bureaucratically brutalised.
What the earthquake couldn’t do to them, the bureaucrats have.
This must stop. Now.
Recovery will not get under way until people and their communities are allowed to take back control.
One way to start is for ratepayers to talk to their local councillors, their employees, to instruct them and the staff they control to pull their heads in. Here are the contact details: http://www.ccc.govt.nz/thecouncil/councillors/index.aspx
Hugh Pavletich is a Christchurch entrepreneur, the owner of website Performance Urban Planning and the co-author of the Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, 2011 .