“Cronyism Centre” to be Built in Christchurch? Ngai Tahu May Take Stake in Council

The Christchurch convention centre developers have been announced.

The New Zealand Government has committed NZD$284 million of tax payers money to the project, with no announcement made as to who will own the $500 million convention centre after the build.

Some commenters are saying it will be privately owned but will be a white elephant because Christchurch cannot support infrastructure of this size, neither does it have any need for it.

Christchurch is currently suffering a massive budget deficit and is considering asset sales to lessen its burden.

Ngai Tahu may take stake in council

Ngai Tahu is expected to be one of the partners invited to take a stake in the cash-strapped Christchurch City Council’s commercial and investment arm.

The council is considering releasing up to $400 million in capital from Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (CCHL) as part of a plan to reduce its funding shortfall, which has been calculated by investment bankers Cameron Partners to reach up to $883m by 2019.

CCHL owns 75 per cent of Christchurch International Airport and is also the majority shareholder in the Lyttelton Port Company and Orion…”source

Co-incidentally, Ngai Tahu Property and the Carter Group has just been awarded the design and build of the convention centre, after minimal information being made public about the process.

Plenary Conventions, Ngai Tahu Property and Christchurch’s Carter Group will design and build the convention centre, the Government has announced today.

Prime Minister John Key and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee today revealed the preferred developer and operator of one of the central-city’s key anchor projects…

Plenary group executive director Paul Crowe said the convention centre was one of the “most critical and exciting anchor projects in the rebuild of the city” He said it was an “irresistible challenge”.

“This is a rare opportunity in all of our professional lives to be part of such an important catalyst project.”

Brownlee acknowledged that the process had been lengthy “with only minimal information publicly available“…source

Another blog has raised the issue of cronyism in the way the contract was awarded and asks why the NZ press isn’t making their own investigations. Polity.co.nz writes:

Christchurch Cronyism Centre?

“The Carter Group, it turns out, belongs to Philip Carter. Philip Carter is the brother of Parliament’s Speaker and National Party MP, David Carter. The NBR estimates he is worth $120 million…

(Philip Carter is the second biggest shareholder in Heartland New Zealand and a director of Christchurch International Airport).

This outcome – giant government contract goes to the Speaker’s brother – has the potential to be pretty murky. So why are we hearing about this project for the first time now?”

And he will be making an official information act request with the following questions

1. How many competitors did the Carter Group face in this tender process?

2. Was the Carter Group’s bid the lowest?

3. Did officials independently recommend the contract should go to the Carter Group?

4. Did Ministers who know Philip Carter personally, or who consider David Carter a friend, recuse themselves from the decision making?

5. How much money has Philip Carter, the Carter Group, or other associated people or entities given to the National Party or its candidates since the last election?

If the answers to these kinds of questions come up clean, my suspicions will be assuaged. But I’m not willing to simply accept Gerry Brownlee – king of the roading pork-barrel – telling us “move along, nothing to see here.”



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