Today the Christchurch Press reported Chch door open for asset sales, and quoted ChCh Central Labour MP was today on National Radio saying that the ‘sale of assets must be stopped’. The Press reported:

A legal loophole means city ratepayers’ stakes in Christchurch City Holdings Ltd’s (CCHL) assets – including electricity company Orion New Zealand, Christchurch International Airport Ltd, Lyttelton Port Co, Red Bus and City Care – could be sold to help pay for the estimated more than $20b rebuild of the central business district.

Well it’s all just rubbish. Here’s what wrong with this story:

  • The headline is misleading.  This is no open door.  The door was never closed.   There is also no loophole. The Council can, if it chooses, sell any asset it owns, and has always been able to do this.  There is no new provision that the CERA act creates that didn’t already exist.
  • Labour are trying to make a story put of this by trying to ‘block CERA from forcing sales’, yet the Minister for Earthquake Recovery (Gerry Browlee) is VERY clear that it’s a CCC decision, not CERA.   Mayor Parker (both Browlee and Parker were also interviewed on National Radio this morning) agrees and says the Council aren’t even considering this, and if they did it would be done with full community consultation.
  • The Government and the Council are both clear on their roles here.  Only a Labour MP (and the ChCh press) seam to think there is an issue.

The Press should know better that running such a misleading headline (that or just being stupid and falling for the spin from an MP).

While it’s not my intention to make this post about the merits or otherwise of selling such assets (my gut reaction would say keep em), it was interesting to note that the CCC has $2 billion in assets, that reportedly returned $600 million over the last 10 years.  So that’s $60 million a year, or a return of 3% (that’s simplistic, since I have assumed the asset’s value was $2 billion throughout the last 10 years, and its very likely that the assets have increased in value over the period).   Based on that I might suggest that at the very least this issue is looked at and the question of are they a good investment?, earthquake or not, is asked.  The problem with ideological approaches of don’t sell or always sell is that such questions aren’t asked.  IMHO, asking that question would be a far more interesting and valuable story.

Black and White Version: Just coz an MP says it’s true, doesn’t make it so.  Media need to do their job and RESEARCH before printing misleading headlines.

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