A couple of thoughts on the Cera proposal, which came out yesterday. I’ve been reading through the press release and the Faq that came with it, and there are a few things that caught my eye.
CERA specifically cites these four examples of disasters as models for rebuilding:
Cyclone Tracey, Darwin, 1974
Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, USA, 2005
Black Sunday bushfires, Victoria, Australia, 2009,
Floods, Queensland, Australia, 2011
It is interesting to note that none of these disasters are earthquakes. One would have thought the Kobe earthquake in Japan would be a great case study, especially given how well many of the major buildings in Tokyo withstood the recent earthquake there. And if they can study the recovery from the Queensland floods of January, one would have thought that they could also look into some more recent earthquakes, such as the 2009 event at L’Aquila, Italy, or the disaster in Haiti last year. Surely there is something to be learnt from the massive quake in Japan too, where the damage was done by a tsunami rather than falling buildings (as an aside, people in Christchurch are rushing to say we should have a low-rise city; would you want a low rise city if a tsunami rolled off the pacific and you were in the CBD? We don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater on this (probably a terrible cliche to evoke.))
The community forum is going to be a very contentious issue. You can almost hear the sounds of champagne corks popping in Fendalton Rd as “old Christchurch” plan what they are going to do when Gerry ‘hand-picks’ them for the job. Cue Brownlee issuing platitudes such as “they known Christchurch best” and they have “great connections to the business community”. What I thought was both interesting and sad was the sentiment in this article from the Press, in which members of the community board line up to book their seats at the table.
Riccarton-Wigram Community Board chairman Mike Mora said community board members would be “ideally placed” to consult with their communities and give feedback. However, they had been “pushed aside” after last month’s earthquake. “It’s very, very frustrating. In fact, we feel like cheats, because we can’t do the job we’ve been elected to do.”
I have a lot of sympathy for what Mora is saying – the role of community boards has been watered down over the last couple of decades to the point where there really is no point (and I say this as someone who ran for said useless position in the last election). While these people may be well-suited community advocates, wouldn’t it be better if Cera actually gave power back to the community boards? They were designed to be able to respond to local and community issues, but the Civil Defence have treated them as a hindrance, rather than a help, and have totally sidelined them. The demise of the community boards goes a long way to explain the rise of new community groups, and the umbrella organisation CanCERN. Communities that needed a voice, to share information and resources, have largely re-invented the wheel since the September 4th quake, creating genuine community links that the actually Community Boards can only dream of.
However, I don’t want to see the Community Forum stacked with frustrated, elected representative from the Community Boards, or even councillors, who have also been marginalised by CD. 20 people is not very many, when you start thinking about how many people will want to be part of it. Central city business owners, arts and culture representatives, ethnic groups (though Ngai Tahu has a separate role in the diagram), heritage people, architects, churches. It will be interesting to see just how ‘community’ is represented on the forum, once patronage has been dished out to all of Gerry’s friends.
Life under Cera looks like it will be just as bleak for residents and businesses as it is under Civil Defence control. Under a question “What about compensation for other losses people may suffer?” there is this answer:
“we consider there should be no compensation for government actions that result in: economic or consequential loss e.g. the inability due to the cordon to obtain access to carry on a business or fulfil a lucrative order (because such a decision
is taken in the wider interests of the community)”
For people like me, who live in the CBD and cannot get access to their property, nor claim insurance, this suggests that the Government doesn’t think it’s a problem, or if it is, they don’t think it’s their problem. This seems to leave a bunch of people – residents and businesses – who are prevented from trying to resume their ‘normal’ lives by the Government, but who Gerry is washing his hands of. Not his problem. Presumably I should have known that there was going to be an earthquake, and moved my life accordingly somewhere else.