EXCLUSIVE: The story of Murphy’s Road – a blog every Christchurch resident should read

By   /   October 1, 2016  /   16 Comments

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I leave Christchurch residents to decide if they think this is corporate fraud, sloppy council oversight, greed, sharp business practice, conflict of interest, immoral, unethical, outrageous or a mixture of these.

In 2010 Murphy’s Road near Halswell was a country road with exceptionally low traffic volumes.

Like many roads in Christchurch it was badly damaged in the 4th September, 2010 earthquake with liquefaction and broken seal such that it was undriveable.

A local resident familiar with the area was astonished to find in November/December 2010 that the road had been completely repaired and resealed.
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How could a country road with such low traffic volume be a priority for repair when busy arterial roads close by which were needed for much higher traffic volumes were left in such a sorry state?

Later in 2013/2014 this local resident became aware that Fulton-Hogan were subdividing a large block of land bordering Murphy’s Road and Halswell Junction Road.
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He submitted an Official Information Act request to Christchurch City Council to find out who had repaired Murphy’s Road in 2010, who had authorised the repairs and why this particular road had been prioritised.

The OIA response from the council is included with this blogpost but in summary it says Fulton-Hogan did the repairs and, astonishingly, it was Fulton-Hogan which decided the priorities for the repair of city roads at that time.

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To quote directly from the council’s OIA response:
“This repair was identified for inspection and repair by our contractor at the time Fulton-Hogan. Repairs were undertaken during the emergency works period, to make the road accessible. The Christchurch City Council Pavement Maintenance Team Leader authorised the repair and invoice”

In other words the council contractor Fulton-Hogan was allowed to set the road repair priorities after the earthquake and prioritised a low-volume country road for repair “to make the road accessible” which just happened to serve a large area of land shortly to be subdivided and developed by none other than Fulton-Hogan themselves.

I leave Christchurch residents to decide if they think this is corporate fraud, sloppy council oversight, greed, sharp business practice, conflict of interest, immoral, unethical, outrageous or a mixture of these.

Contrast this with the experiences of Christchurch East residents I was speaking to on Wednesday this week as part of my bid for the Christchurch mayoralty. The mainly elderly audience complained that six years after the earthquakes their footpaths were still such a mess that many older people – particularly those relying on walkers or mobility scooters – were virtually trapped in their homes.

They are right to complain. They have been betrayed by a council which has swapped its public service ethos for a private-sector “contracting model” which is open to large-scale fraud and abuse as was revealed in Auckland here and is being exposed here and here.

I suspect Murphy’s Road is the tip of a large, ugly iceberg.

Christchurch City Council needs to conduct an investigation into Murphy’s Road and investigate other such conflicts of interest. It also must conduct a cost-benefit analysis of its contracting out of services. Tasman District found a few years back that it was cheaper to employ people directly to run council services than it was to have contractors do the work. I think it likely the same would apply to Christchurch City Council.

Most importantly the council needs to rediscover a public-service ethos where residents come first and the big business drive for profit is sidelined.

Christchurch residents need a people-centred city rather than a corporate focused city.

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16 Comments

  1. Michal says:

    I wonder if the Pavement Maintenance Team did well out of this. There is a fraud case on right at the moment in Auckland over huge backhanders to a council transport manager. Disgraceful, I agree it will be the tip of the iceberg.

  2. Draco T Bastard says:

    They have been betrayed by a council which has swapped its public service ethos for a private-sector “contracting model” which is open to large-scale fraud and abuse as was revealed in Auckland here and is being exposed here and here.

    Such has been happening ever since we started down the privatisation path but the corruption is really becoming overt now as the corrupt parasites realise that they can do it and not get put in jail for it.

    Can you imagine this type of overt self-serving action happening if Christchurch still maintained it’s own works department?

  3. Afewknowthetruth says:

    It’s the same everywhere, John.

    Across NZ local government was hijacked by local business people and opportunists decades ago. Just as with central government, local government is a ‘government of occupation’, geared to the short-term interests of the few at the expense of the many, and the bureaucrats who run the show are installed into positions of power on the basis of cronyism and their willingness to ‘play the game’. They are richly rewarded for doing so, even if ‘playing the game’ requires constant breaches of NZ statutes.

    Policy development and implementation are via off-the-record meetings followed up by box-ticking:

    ‘sustainable’, tick
    ‘prudent’, tick
    ‘efficient’; tick
    ‘effective’, tick
    ‘meeting community goals’, tick
    ‘consultation processes followed’, tick

    Needles to say, there is no accountability, nor any mechanism for challenging the corruption and malfeasance that now characterize local government (and central government). And bought-and-paid for politicians and mainstream media cheerlead the whole rotten system, thereby keeping a sufficient portion of the populace believing in the system for the rorts to continue a while longer.

    That said, a survey earlier this year suggested that faith in the system is at an all-time low.

  4. save nz says:

    Outrageous!

  5. Dave says:

    Yawn. I am I am surprised you had the time to write this since you cant fine the time to go to a Grey power meeting in the day time.

    • Pete says:

      John Minto not prioritising going to a Grey Power meeting in the day time is not just disgusting but heinous! Crime of the century stuff.

      That is far worse than any corporate corruption and immorality in council business.

      Hopefully Dave, now that you do not have a Grey Power meeting to attend to hear John Minto, you can spend the time following up on the issues he has raised. Or maybe you could spend the time out in the east helping some of those who have been treated like shit.

    • Michal says:

      Hi Dave you don’t seem to quite get the picture. John Minto is a full-time teacher of physics and maths at Hornby high school. He takes his job as a teacher very seriously and has senior students sitting exams in a few weeks. I am quite sure that you would be the first to complain if your kid’s teacher took time off for a debate when they are paid to be teaching. Murray Horton filled in admirably for him. As the Keep Our Assets convenor, Murray knows the issues and the six bold policies John is standing for extremely well. Do a little research before bothering to comment again.

    • Michal says:

      Oh Aaron isn’t it, I realised your last non de plume was ADav on another site – you are Aaron who is Lianne’s campaign manager aren’t you? Does this sort of stuff concern you that the city has been ripped off by a big corporate?

      • Dave says:

        Note sure if was directed at me or not but If so, I am simply Dave although you did give me a good laugh.

    • Stephen Howard says:

      John is a full time teacher of maths and physics at a low decile school in Christchurch. The Greypower meeting was in the afternoon and during the school term. In physics apart from some strange quatum theory you learn you can’t be in two places at the same time. John was teaching. It’s done during the day. Reading and writing can be done in the evenings and weekends and of course during the holidays.

      Does that help you understand

  6. Donna Miles says:

    I hope the council would make it their priority to investigate this. They owe it to the Christchurch East residents who must rightly be very angry to hear that the interests of those with wealth and influence are prioritised while the poor and vulnerable continue to struggle with lack of basic services.

    • Dave says:

      what lack of basic services are you talking about?

      • Geoff Lye says:

        Just go take a trip round the eastern half of town Dave, instead of keeping to your western half, where everything is sweet with their 2 nice new riccarton mall bus lounges, while easterners stand out in the wind rain and snow.

        Those bus lounges were nothing but national party suck ups for brownlees ilam residents

    • Michal says:

      Don’t hold your breath Donna it will never happen. Residents are tired and fed up and the council simply does not care.

  7. Takere says:

    Thats a cheap & quick road repair! Get ’em up here in Auckland!

  8. Kyle says:

    Aint New Brighton Rd just the best