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Last night, the wind dropped off enough for the Canterbury Tales procession of FESTA to go ahead. It was a fantastic display of creativity, ingenuity and organization, and one of the most uplifting weekends that Christchurch has seen since, well, the last FESTA in 2012. The carnivalesque procession went from the Bridge of Remembrance to Cathedral Square, and while that might not seem like a long walk, as the puppets and floats meandered along, the two hours flew by. In the small park at the Worcester St bridge, Bruce Russell (above) wailed on his guitar, whilst a barely-clad woman was suspended above the plinth that used to support the statue of Robert Falcon Scott – given her lack of clothes, she was probably about as cold as the Captain.

 

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Free Theatre came up with the idea of using Chaucer, and it was a great premise. The Knight, at the head of the parade, was constructed out of old bicycles. Sitting atop his steed, Ryan Reynolds, of Gap Filler and UC fame, provided a wry commentary on the building sites along the parade route. Further back in the procession, the Scholar (above) was piloted by Free Theatre’s George Parker, who engaged with the crowd and the other floats as they made their way down the road.

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While the big puppets were fixed on floats, there were a number of (slightly) smaller characters, such as the six friars (above and below). These were far more mobile, able to run off the route and through the crowd. When the procession reached the food tents at the corner of Worcester and Oxford, many of the friars ran off to try and get something to eat. Gerry was heard asking for chips on a number of occasions. While the real Gerry was no-where to be seen, the city’s new Mayor was in and around the march, clearly having a great time, posing for photos with puppets. It may still be early days, but it is so refreshing to see our leaders out and about, enjoying themselves with the public – it is such a contrast to the past 3 years.

 

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Of course, FESTA wasn’t just Canterbury Tales – but it was such a big effort that it is worth celebrating. Especially with the winds causing the cancellation of the Saturday show, there was just so much relief that the work that everyone had put in over the last year was able to be seen and enjoyed by all. On Friday, the “Urban Wanderings” also brought life back to the city centre. This year’s event had a different feel than last year’s Luxcity – but then, the city has a different feel to 2012. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.

 

In case you didn’t get the memo, housing in Christchurch is a major issue – especially for those at the lower end of the market. You don’t have to take my word for it:

The housing situation in Christchurch was “absolutely bloody dire”, said Tenants Protection Association Christchurch manager Helen Gatonyi.

That’s just one point of view though, right? Surely the Government is doing everything it can?

Just 8 per cent of the Crown agency’s broken city housing stock has been repaired, with more than 4500 still requiring work.

Despite that figure, which look like an absolute failure, Housing New Zealand assures that they are “on target“. 

BY THE NUMBERS

5000: Quake damaged properties to be completed by December 2015

2000: Number to be completed by mid-February 2014

1336: Number expected to be completed by mid-October

254: Number completed as of October 18

150: Number under way

So by Mid-October – which I think we can assume is “about now”, they were expecting to have done 1336 repairs. They have done 254. Even if you include the 150 that are in progress, that’s less than a third of what they were projecting to have done by now. How can they say that they are “on target”, when they have failed, dismally, to meet their own targets? How is anyone meant to have any faith that they will hit their next target of 2000 houses by mid-February 2014? Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford said: “I would say it’s a heroic assumption that they are on track.” There’s not a huge amount of heroism on display around here at the moment. 

That’s a relief. Andrew Turner has been elected to council from the Banks Peninsula ward, with a lead of 5 votes after specials were counted. That means that the People’s Choice have their 6 councillors confirmed – a great result.

I’ve not had much to write about this week – it’s the calm after the storm really. Dalziel seems to be getting on to things well, even the noises coming out of Brownlee are positive for a change. Sure, it’s only early days, but I think they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. 

Lianne Dalziel looks like a sure thing for the Christchurch mayoralty. The latest Press poll has her at 76%. iPredict has her at over 90%. Her opponents have conceded that they have little chance. Surely nothing, not even an earthquake, could stop her now?

Former National MP Aaron Gilmore has backed Labour stalwart Lianne Dalziel in the Christchurch mayoralty race.

Oh god, no! Surely not! How will Dalziel’s campaign be impacted by this endorsement from New Zealand’s least liked, least relevant former politician? Maybe this is an attempt by an imposter to derail the Lianne Train?

Mr Gilmore said despite owning multiple properties and being able to vote in multiple wards, he was only voting in Burwood-Pegasus.

Nope, that characteristic lack of self-awareness is definitely him.

So in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes, the government gave itself extraordinary powers, and the rest of the parliament fell in behind. Today, Gerry Brownlee invoked those powers. Given what has happened down here, you would think there were a number of valid reasons for him to do so. Is he going to use his powers to rapidly build homes, to house the people of Christchurch who are in dire need of quality accommodation? Is he going to step in to speed up the EQC process, or to tell the insurance companies that he means business? No, of course not.

He is using his unprecedented powers so he can buy up the buildings in the east frame which refuse to sell to the Crown, so he can knock down those buildings to widen a road. Yes, that’s right. Extraordinary powers being invoked. To knock down buildings. So he can widen a road. Got a problem with that?

Owners who feel they have suffered a loss have the right to appear before Brownlee and appeal for further compensation.

So if you’ve exhausted every other avenue, you can go before the Minister, the wonderful, enlightened Minister, who is so convinced about this that he has invoked his powers so he can do so, and plead your case personally. I know we joke about Lord Brownlee, but this is beyond a joke. Send help. Send help now.

The Press reports that the court case fought by Canterbury Cricket has left them with virtually no money in the bank. Shock. Horror. 

Starting the past financial year, Canterbury Cricket had $505, 245 in cash assets but the cost of arguing its case in the Environment Court and associated legal expenses has reduced the association’s reserves to nearly zero.

So they took their case to court, and won. Now they have no money to contribute to the project that they want built, so they will go cap in hand to the council and ask the ratepayer for the $20 million. What a rort.

Wendell Pierce – who is in Antione in Treme, and was the Bunk in The Wire, just posted this pic from New Orleans:

8 years after Katrina looks worryingly similar to 3 years after the Christchurch quakes.

Incidentally, if you haven’t seen Treme, you really should. It’s a hard but rewarding watch, and there are so many similarities between the depiction in that show and what’s happening in Christchurch (contractors grafting, farcical government bureaucracy, charter schools). The final season starts up again in December.

It has been a year since the Blueprint was announced, and it seems like I am not the only person who thinks that all is not well. There are suggestions that changes are afoot at the CCDU.

With a restructure imminent at the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU), city leaders have called for major changes within the organisation.

I doubt that they will be the sorts of changes that I’d like to see, but it is interesting that these calls are coming from “city leaders” – i.e. developers and other members of the Old Boys Club. The CCDU Blueprint was created in 100 furious days, but since then we’ve had 365 days with very little to show for it. The government will be getting worried, as they campaigned on “rebuilding Christchurch”, but at this stage, it is hard to see how they will be able to back that claim up when the election campaign ramps up in another 365 days. Change at the CCDU is necessary, but whether they have the conviction to give it the shake up it needs is yet to be seen.

This is pretty much me right now. Feels like with the cordon down and the mayor gone, we can take our city back

The Press this morning was dominated by coverage of the end of the Marryatt error, as might be expected. This is the front page article, which describes Marryatt’s fall as him losing an ally.

Controversial Christchurch City Council boss Tony Marryatt has lost his closest ally as his career hangs in the balance, with Mayor Bob Parker no longer willing to defend his chief executive.

What bothers me about this is that Marryatt ever had an ally. He’s a public servant! He runs the council. His position – for which he was paid an astronomical amount of money to do, badly – should be judged on performance, not on political backers. 

Parker’s attempts to try and distance himself from Marryatt are laughable – they were so tied together that someone from out of Christchurch recently told me that when they first saw them on the TV, they thought they were an actual couple! The situation should never have got to this point, and it wouldn’t have, if Parker hadn’t backed Marryatt to the degree that he did. The Press article above contains some of the things that Parker has said about the CEO that you can bet will be trotted out ad nauseum throughout the election campaign. It’s also worth reminding people of the other councillors that renewed his contract and decided he was worth a $68,000 a year pay increase – Button, Wells, Gough, Corbett, Reid, Keown. They – like Bob – should be able to see that the writing is on the wall for them. They backed this donkey, and they’ll pay for doing so at the October local body elections.

Glenn Conway – senior report who has covered the council for years – has a very good opinion piece here, and the editorial is also worth a read.