According to the Herald, the view of the Business Roundtable is that by:
"... Reducing its shareholding in its port, airport and electricity companies (CCC) would free up cash for repairs to local infrastructure without imposing new burdens on ratepayers," the roundtable said.As pointed out by the Herald, the investments are strategic, provide a good return to the city, and in turn help keep rates lower.
This argument has been had before and, for the city and its residents, it makes no sense. Overall the investments are sound, return money to the city, and help keep control of essential assets: Orion (electricity supply), Christchurch Airport, Lyttelton Port Company, Christchurch City Networks, the Red Bus, and City Care.
The Herald report is based upon part of an article entitled Some Public Policy Implications of the Canterbury Earthquake by Roger Kerr, executive director of the New Zealand Business Roundtable. When you read the article you will find that encouraging the City to sell off it's investments is only part of the range of changes being promoted.
The earthquake seems to have become an opportunity for a pre-existing range of issues to be revisited in a different and more urgent context. The big view being promoted is that:
"The tragic events in Christchurch will have implications for the government and councils in the region for years to come. Public policies could help or hinder the recovery process."
An approach that is particularly disturbing to me is the prospect of replacing democracy with market forces when devising the rebuilding strategy. To quote the article:
"A broader issue is the relative role of top-down and bottom-up strategies in rebuilding Christchurch. Clearly the devastation is too vast for a detailed centrally planned strategy to be viable. Central and local government need to concentrate on their vital roles and let markets work."
I await with interest what response, if any, we get from John Key, Bill English and Gerry Brownlee.