Joe Hendren

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bob Parker sets up sale of Red Bus company

No Right Turn has highlighted how the Government appointed review of Environment Canterbury is an undemocratic farmer coup against Canterbury ratepayers. Apparently its a failure not to allow farmers to fill Canterbury waterways with as much cow shit as they want, and the review panel are seeking to replace ECan with an unelected 'commission' to push through their agenda.

To make matters worse, the Government appointed Wyatt Creech to lead the review, despite his company Open Country Cheese being found guility for illegally polluting land, rivers and streams as a means to increase profit.

But there is another agenda at play here too, and Christchurch Mayor (Sideshow) Bob Parker appears to be right in the thick of it. Christchurch and Timaru city councils are looking to take control of the region's public transport from ECan, and due to ideologically driven restrictions of current legislation this would force the city council to sell the Red Bus Company. So Sideshow Bob is pushing privatisation by stealth.

Red Bus is currently 100% owned by Christchurch City Holdings, which acts as the holding company for Christchurch City Council's trading assets. Christchurch is currently the only major city in New Zealand which has true electronic integrated ticketing across all bus and ferry operators and this has been operational since 2003. Determining factors in this success are likely to be that the City Council owned the major bus company and that Stagecoach/Infratil never made it to Christchurch. In the case of integrated ticketing, ECan succeeded where other regional authorities failed.

This is what the review into ECAN says about the regional council's responsibilities for managing public transport.

"Christchurch City Council is strongly of the view that the present arrangement leads to material additional costs due to the overlaps in responsibility between Christchurch City and ECan, and that this resource would be better applied to improving public transport services. Rather than making specific recommendations to address perceived issues, the Review Group feels that it is appropriate that the Commission initiate a review to consider the optimum arrangement for the management and operation of the public transport fleet within the Region. The overwhelming bulk of this activity is within Christchurch, however we note that three other Districts are also serviced by public transport managed by ECan. The Commission we have recommended to replace ECan would act on that review when completed."

The same strategy is in effect. Remove an elected regional council and replace it with unelected commissioners who will be appointed by Ministers. No doubt they will give the big thumbs up to changes to transport management if a side effect happens to be the privatisation of Red Bus. This is being proposed at the same time Auckland is up in arms at proposals that Ministers will appoint the initial directors of Auckland Transport, under the new Super City arrangements, with the current proposed structure offering elected councillors very limited ability to represent their constituents on transport issues. The same strategy is in effect.

Citizens of the People's Republic of Christchurch will not want the bus company sold. Since a National Government in the 1990s forced the City Council to sell Southpower the citizens have fought off the privateers more successfully than in Auckland or Wellington.

In 2006 the Christchurch City Council proposed selling effective control of the Lyttelton Port Company to a Hong Kong Multinational Hutchison Port Holdings and their was a significant public outcry. The same year the Council removed Red Bus and its contracting business City Care from a list of strategic assets to be protected. While Hutchison thankfully decided to walk away from the deal, these changes were designed to clear the way for the privateers in the future.

Sideshow Bob must know that taking over control of transport will necessitate the sale of Red Bus. Not surprisingly he has not been upfront about this. Given Bob's previous mismanagement, some citizens will wonder if the expected proceeds from the sale of the company will end up propping up another one of David Henderson's dodgy property deals....

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At 9:43 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for drawing this to my attention Joe


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