Tonight, parliament are discussing the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery bill. No-one is saying that we shouldn’t be trying to make sure this process as swift as possible, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need checks and balances. There is a very good legal take on it over at Public Address; essentially, instead of amending individual laws, this bill says that is too difficult, so we’ll just write legislation that allows for the over-riding of EVERY existing law, except the Bill of Rights. It doesn’t even pertain specifically to Canterbury, so someone could use the bill to over-ride laws in Auckland, or Wairarapa.
It hasn’t been a good year for democracy fans in Christchurch – first the scrapping of ECan, then this. And now that the election has not been delayed, there will be very major issues with the campaign. I am running for community board, and we had 9 meet the candidate meetings / mayoral forums set up, from last week till the close of polls. All have been cancelled. So while Bob Parker tells us he’s too busy to campaign, whilst spending hours a day fronting for the cameras for whatever reason, the public have had almost all chance of local democratic interaction stripped from them. I would like to think that people are engaged with the political process, I really would; but sub-40% turnouts would suggest that it was a struggle at the best of times, and it certainly isn’t the best of times down here right now.
The rush to legislate, to demolish, to rebuild, seems a pathological obsession. Rushing leads to mistakes; mistakes with buildings can cost millions, mistakes with urban design could cost our city in ways that are more than just financial. We don’t need to have Christchurch rebuilt before the local body elections are over; a good suggestion might be to take a break with the rebuild until that date, just to let things settle a bit. Then the incoming council – whoever they may be – can work together for the next term to make this city great. Until then, let’s keep the focus on keeping people safe, well housed, and stabilising and minimising the damage to structures, so that proper assessments and timely decisions can be made.