In his quest to get the GCSB bill passed, Prime Minister John Key has invoked the spectre of terrorism as a reason for increased state surveillance, first with the Boston Bombing, then with Al Qaeda. He has called upon this largely hypothetical threat to serve his own political ends, whilst when presented with a threat that is real, tangible and I would argue far more scary – earthquakes – he’s happy to defer to the business lobby

We know what earthquakes can do. We don’t know when they will happen, but we’ve had two examples in the last hundred years of the damage they can cause when unleashed under or near a city. Yet the government would rather chase the windmills of terrorists. 

I’ve been up in Wellington a bit, and while it is great to be back in a proper city, with cafes, bars, movies and shops, the place scares the shit out of me. I was up about a fortnight ago, in the week of the big(ish) Seddon shake. Buildings that would come crumbling down in a reasonable shock have yellow stickers, displayed with less prominence than advertisements for phone cards to call China. I saw a red-stickered building, three or four stories, just off Cuba St. I went up to the building to read the sticker – it said “dangerous building – DO NOT APPROACH”. I had to get right up to the building’s window to read this A4 sign – the building should have had a fence around it, footpath closed.

I don’t want to scaremonger. This is a very difficult, very expensive problem to solve. Eric Crampton has some ideas on how to resolve it which are worth considering. When I hear absentee landlords on the radio complaining about how much this will cost them, I get so, so angry. The propertied classes are already the most entitled in this country, and here they are, deferring the cost of their negligence onto the next generation. While they bitch about the financial impact they should remember: you can throw money at a building to save it, but no amount of money will bring someone back to life.

Advertisements