Yesterday, a group of us tried to get into Cathedral Square to lay a wreath at the stone cairn. Just a quick précis – way back in the times BE (Before Earthquake), water was a big issue in Canterbury. The biggest. Nick Smith and friends used the Creech Report as an excuse to do what they always wanted and scrap our regional council ECan. This led to a bunch of protests about the removal of democracy, under the umbrella of the Our Water, Our Vote (OWOV) group, which culminated in the building of the cairn. For this, around 3000 people gathered in Cathedral Square, and worked together to build the stone cairn. There’s a great 5 minute clip of that here

Last week, the bill which extended the ECan “temporary commissioners” bill was made law by the National-ACT-United Future-Maori government. We aren’t happy about that, and wanted to express our disapproval. However, OWOV has always tried to do things respectfully. We arranged a group to go in to the square, and requested permission from the relevant people at CERA. This request was for 8 people from OWOV, including Eugenie Sage, Sam Mahon, Edward Snowdon, Ruth Dyson and myself. This request was approved.

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It was only when someone at CERA got wind of the media coming along that they revoked the access. As the stories in the Press and at RNZ have reported, this was due to a ban on “political events”. At this point, it is worth noting that the access had been approved for a list which included the names Sage, Mahon, Dyson and Dann – but this didn’t seem to bother them. It was the media which got the powers that be worried, and led them to revoke access.

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Eventually, they let one person – Edward Snowdon, who engineered the cairn with Sam Mahon – go in with the wreath. In this photo, you can see the farcical nature of the situation: Edward is about to get a vest and a hard hat so he can go in, whilst the Red Zone disaster-porn tourism bus comes out after having done a lap of the square. 

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Here is another shot which highlight the idiocy. On the right, you have a food truck which operates every day in the square. You can see that there are cars going in and out of the square, using it as a parking lot. The cairn is still there, just above the tradie’s head. It’s not about safety, or about “protecting” us; it was simply, as Roger said, political. That’s very dangerous ground to tread on.

Here is a story from August last year, from the last time I went into the Red Zone.

That’s me in the highlighter orange. Roger, cycling advocate, led a tour of the CBD for cycling advocates which I was involved in. At one point, we went beyond the cordon and into the square. I’m a strong supporter of cycling in Christchurch, but lobbying for it is a political activity. A cycling lobby group going into the red zone is a political event. One that Roger organised, so CERA approved. He doesn’t have the right to approve and decline political activities solely based on whether he likes them or not. As others have pointed out, political expression is entrenched in our right to freedom of expression. I doubt Roger got into this job to do the dirty work of a dictator.

p.s. if you were conspiracy minded, you might see something sinister in their desire to ban political events from the red zone, and their promise to keep the cordon up if it helps developers