1 Dec 2015

Brownlee shrugs off critical Treasury report as 'trite'

5:07 pm on 1 December 2015

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has dismissed a report which says the government's programme to deliver to new facilities to central Christchurch is unachievable.

The Treasury report said the government's Christchurch anchor project programme had already missed key milestones and it was highly likely it would need more money.

Christchurch construction.

A Treasury report says the government's anchor projects programme is unachievable. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The anchor projects include a sports facility, convention centre and a stadium.

Treasury has given the programme a red rating, meaning it does not believe the project can be delivered successfully.

But Mr Brownlee said the officials who wrote the report knew little about Christchurch.

The Treasury's analysis was trite and did not appreciate the amount of money the government was spending in Christchurch, he told RNZ News.

"I think this is a very bad report. This is very much a Wellington bureaucrat view of what's actually happening in the city, and I think from that point of view very, very disappointing and quite unreasonable."

National MP, Gerry Brownlee.

Dismissive: Gerry Brownlee Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

"I think this is one of those dreadfully pessimistic reports written by some people sitting at a desk in Wellington, quite remote and isolated from Christchurch."

The Treasury report said the main problems with the programme concerned unanticipated costs related to land remediation, delays and timeframes.

It said: "A number of project milestones have been missed or are under review... these issues suggest the programme continues to be overly optimistic about what is achievable within its (and its partners) capacity and capability. It is highly likely that additional funding will be needed to finish the programme."

Mr Brownlee said other anchor projects, such as the bus exchange, had been completed on budget.

Finance Minister Bill English has also dismissed the report. Mr English said all big projects go through red phases, where there was uncertainty about things like scope and funding.

The report was done back in June when there were problems but all those questions have since been answered, he said.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little has called Mr Brownlee arrogant for dismissing the report.

Treasury produced "considered reports" that provided options to ministers, he said.

"It is totally wrong and arrogant in my view for a minister of Gerry Brownlee's seniority to be dismissing that work in the way that he has."

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter said Mr Brownlee needed to step aside from the convention centre project over his failure to get it built.

The minister needed to come clean on when the convention centre would be built, he said - and, if he could not get the project built, he needed to hand it to somebody who could.

Mr Hunter said he was told in August by Prime Minister John Key that the government was not getting value for money from the project and nothing would happen until it did.