Not so many years ago, when the Christchurch City Council was proud of the title “The People’s Republic of Christchurch”, it adopted a number of progressive resolutions and policies on foreign investment and free trade agreements.

In the late 90s, there was a successful international campaign to stop the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) which was a global attempt to throw open the world’s economies to the transnational corporations in one king hit. The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) was one of the organisations which lobbied the Christchurch City Council to be aware of the serious implications for it should the MAI come into effect. The Council, to its great credit, adopted a policy against the MAI and went further, by deciding to alert other local bodies to it. It unanimously passed a five part resolution not only opposing the MAI but setting out a progressive policy on foreign investment.

That resolution was quietly revoked, without any publicity on May 28th, on the grounds that it is “obsolete”.

In part the resolution said: “That the Christchurch City Council reaffirms a commitment to the encouragement of controlled and managed foreign investment in the city that is consistent with broader local government social, environmental and economic development policies” and: “That a watching brief be kept on the implications of the effects of the MAI or similar projects in NZ and Christchurch City”.

What is “obsolete” about any of that? It sounds pretty current and necessary to CAFCA.

It was passed unanimously, meaning that all shades of political opinion represented on the Council at that time agreed with it.

The Council (which distinguished itself in its previous term by trying to flog off the Lyttelton Port Company to a Hong Kong transnational) is undoing all the good work that its predecessors have done on this issue, work which deservedly gave Christchurch the national reputation as having the most progressive local government in the country. The Council, within the past decade, also adopted resolutions opposing specific Free Trade Agreements such as that proposed with Hong Kong (negotiations on this proposed Agreement have just been revived this year).

Will they also now be quietly shelved as “obsolete”?

These free trade and foreign investment agreements have major consequences at the local government level, where the transnationals eagerly anticipate rich pickings, in the areas like water, roads and the whole range of local government services.

Is the Council laying the ground for a sell off of public assets under the guise of revoking “obsolete” policies? The people of Christchurch are entitled to an answer from our elected representatives.

No comments: