Heathcote Heresthetics

By Eric Crampton 11/10/2014


Bill Riker defined heresthetics as political entrepreneurship. Alasdair Cassels is a Heathcote heresthetician.

Christchurch developer Alasdair Cassels will invest $400,000 to revitalise part of the Heathcote River.
The project would link his $20 million Tannery complex with the river, the existing Towpath walkway out to Ferrymead and would be an attraction for locals and tourists.
Cassels said plans would be lodged with the Christchurch City Council by the end of the month and the build would be complete within a year.
The development area was adjacent to the Cumnor Tce side of The Tannery. It would include an ornate Victorian footbridge, a wharf on The Tannery riverbank and a sculpture installation in the river.
“We’re going to do this with our own money and resources,” he said.
“All we need is council support with planning and input from key groups.”
Cassels said the idea was to link the early settler and Maori history of the area by juxtaposing sculpture, approved by Ngai Tahu, and period architecture.

Recall that Cassels is the hero who rebuilt an old brick woolstore into an excellent craft brewpub and retail venue in the midst of the Canterbury earthquakes. But he also, in doing so, set up a coming-to-the-nuisance problem. The gelatine plant pre-dated his retail conversion. The stink of a damaged gelatine plant then flipped from being an annoyance when driving by Garlands road into something bothering a lot of his customers. And so he encouraged his customers to complain to ECan whenever the gelatine plant smelled bad. Since the plant was in regular breach of its consents because of smell, and because that was in part to earthquake damage, and because much of this involves coming-to-the-nuisance, it’s a nice messy law and economics problem.

Cassels is not investing in cleaning up the Heathcote River that runs alongside both the gelatine plant and his development. More people walking on nice trails means more people who will complain to ECan, more pressure to enforce the consenting rules, and quite possibly the closure or relocation of the plant.

Were I teaching Public Choice this year, one of the take-home exam questions would have had the students read the few news articles on this and apply our standard theory to it. Tons of great stuff in there: private environmental amenity provision by someone with an encompassing interest in the area’s enhancement, but also some really fun heresthetics around changing the balance in favour of greater regulatory pressure against the gelatine plant.

I’d be shorting the gelatine plant.