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John MacDonald: A lesson in squandering public money

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Sep 2023, 1:35PM
Photo / Google Maps
Photo / Google Maps

John MacDonald: A lesson in squandering public money

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 7 Sep 2023, 1:35PM

If you’re not cringing over the latest decision by the Christchurch City Council, you should be.

Because yesterday, councillors sat around the table to decide whether they should spend $1.4 million on a 10-week trial of changes to a little piece of Gloucester Street.

These are changes to the stretch of Gloucester Street where the Isaac Theatre Royal is, to make the street “a more inviting space for hospitality, performers and theatre-goers”.

So they sat around the table at Council headquarters. Read a report written by council staff which effectively said “don’t do it”. And so what did these bozos do? They said ‘nah, let’s do it’.

Now to be fair. It was a close competition. Nine councillors voted “yes” and eight voted “no”. So nine of them were bozos.

But, either way, what it means is just over $1.2 million of taxpayer money and $140,000 of ratepayer money is going to be spent tarting-up that little stretch of Gloucester Street right in the centre of town - where the Turanga central library and the Isaac Theatre Royal are. And where the new Court Theatre is currently being built.

And they’re going to do the work, trial it for 10 weeks, and if they don’t think it’s working - they’ll change it all back again.

This has been on the cards since earlier in the year. Originally, the plan was to make the street one-way. But that part of the plan’s gone out the window.

They are sticking, however, with the plan to bring in a 10 kilometres per hour speed limit.

So the budget is $1.4 million. With 90 percent of the money coming from Waka Kotahi’s “Streets for People” programme. So taxpayers. And the rest is being paid for by the Christchurch City Council. So ratepayers.

I seem to recall that the $1.4 million is the total budget for making the changes and undoing them if they decide after 10 weeks that it’s not really worth it. But, either way, can you think of anything more wasteful?

And it’s not just the Christchurch City Council at fault here. Although, I reckon they should’ve just decided yesterday that it was a nutbar waste of money and they should’ve told the mayor to get on the blower to Waka Kotahi and say ‘hey, about that money. We think there are much more important things for you to spend it on, so we’re going to say thanks-but-no thanks’.

But did they do that? Of course they didn’t. And some of the reasons certain councillors gave for sticking with the plan and spending the money beggars belief.

One, in particular. Councillor Jake McLellan. Now it’s people like him who give the left a bad name. Because, even though he admitted now isn’t the best time to be doing a trial on that bit of Gloucester Street - especially because the Court Theatre is still being built there - he thought it was more important for the council to get its hands on the money coming from Waka Kotahi.

How about this for a quote? This is what Councilor Jake McLellan said yesterday. “There will probably not be a better funding opportunity. A subsidy of 90 percent seems a real shame to let slip through our hands.” That’s what you call spending money for the sake of spending money.

But, as I say, it’s not just the muppets at the council to blame. Because if the crowd at Waka Kotahi had their heads screwed on, they’d be on the phone to the council saying they’re pulling the plug on the funding.

Because how can it justify spending just over $1.2 million of taxpayer money on a 10-week beautification trial?

I think it is shameful that Waka Kotahi and the council think this is a good use of taxpayer and ratepayer money to fund what could turn out to be nothing more than an expensive trial and consultation exercise. At a time when the country is facing huge rebuild costs thanks to Cyclone Gabrielle. At a time when our roads are falling apart.

It is shameful that the Christchurch City Council hasn’t made a symbolic gesture and said to the Government ‘thanks but no thanks’ for the money, ‘we think there are much greater needs than blowing money on an experiment.”

And it is shameful that Waka Kotahi hasn’t stepped-in and pulled the funding from these clowns at the council.

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