Yesterday, the Herald remembered about Christchurch, and upon waking from its slumber, fired off about a dozen stories about the rebuild. Many of them were from bank economists, and all of them were unrelentingly bullish about the state of the rebuild. In the midst of the cheerleading was an extraordinary piece by Fran O’Sullivan, profiling Don Miskell, the chief architect of the blueprint. It is remarkably revealing of Miskell, and in turn, the government’s, intentions towards the rebuild. He talks about the eastern frame, and how the plan has changed to allow for more residential development.

Already the Blueprint is being tweaked to create some upmarket residential housing within the East Frame, which was originally targeted to allow the central business district to expand as the city grows.

“Inner-city residential is one of the big changes we are looking to make happen,” says Miskell. “Empty nesters like myself would be able to take advantage of the opportunity to walk to work, enjoy hospitality and cultural events.”

Great. So the frame – which was initially designed to mop up excess land so that developers who had large inner city property portfolios didn’t lose too much money – is now revealed to be an upmarket retirement village for well-paid government puppets, sucking on the taxpayer teat. Let’s not forget that this is the man CERA put in charge of designing the blueprint, and he seems to want to create a city for wealthy retirees. I’ll admit that I don’t have his design expertise, but it would be good if someone could point me to the chapter in the manual where it says that the key to making an inner city vibrant and liveable is to bring in old, white, scared people.

How do I know that they are scared? Well, Miskell tells us himself:

A lot of it seems like common sense, but it is about avoiding dead ends, such as Latimer Square which is 80m wide and not well lit. There used to be a bit of antisocial behaviour occurring in the middle – drug dealing and so on. With the East Frame you can read the looks on people’s faces as to whether they are supposed to be there or not. It will be easy to get on the phone and report as there will be no nooks and crannies.

Miskell can tell just by looking at someone whether they belong in his future city or not. Let that sink in for a bit. The head designer of New Zealand’s largest ever infrastructure project is going to judge people just by looking at them. If he doesn’t like the look of you, peering out from the balcony of his $1.5 million dollar apartment, he’ll call the authorities and dob you in. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing anything. He can tell. Just by looking at you.

It’s worth reminding people at this point how much the “Frame” is going to cost. The government is using $481 million dollars – taxpayer dollars – to buy up the land that makes the frame. Miskell says that they want 1500 people living in this area. Assuming that these “empty nesters” like himself live two to a dwelling, that is 750 new apartments. That would mean that the land alone for each of these apartments would be costing the taxpayer $641,300. The best part of 2/3rd of a million dollars to put paranoid boomers into the central city, where they can strangle all the life out of the central city via an anonymous 0800 tip-line. Is this what anyone signed up for?

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