Townsend urges councillors to consider sales

Posted 05 Jun 2012 by MediaStuff
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Christchurch's assets should not be off-limits when deciding how to fund the city's recovery, a business leader says.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend urged councillors to be "brave in the big calls" during a submission to the city council's annual-plan hearings yesterday.

He said the council needed to consider all options to fund the city's rebuild, including asset sales or a sell-down of its shareholdings.

Relying solely on rates increases and higher debt did not provide "wriggle room" if costs increased, he said.

He expressed concerns about the low insurance valuations of some quake-hit council facilities and said the council needed to investigate the issue further.

"You've got the Convention Centre insured for full replacement of $30 million, but the like-for-like replacement is $60m – that's a huge gap," Townsend said.

He said the council could not operate as if it was "business as usual" and needed to make brave decisions for city ratepayers.

"It is really important that we make big calls, that we prioritise the big calls and we are brave in the big calls. We cannot accept anything that looks like mediocrity."

The chamber had been working closely with the government-led Christchurch Central Development Unit on the city's major facilities.

It supported the idea of public-private partnerships for key facilities, such as a new convention centre, to reduce the cost for ratepayers and increase the opportunities for the city.

"The whole thing can become a much bigger package than initially envisaged and it opens up a whole lot of opportunities," Townsend said.

He backed plans for an Avon River park, which could become the "spine" of the new city centre.

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