Archives for posts with tag: Brownlee

While I was off-duty last weekend, my friend and some-time contributor to this site Barnaby Bennett wrote a blog about Gerry Brownlee, listing ten good reasons why he should go. After sharing it on Facebook, it led to two City Councillors getting themselves in a spot of bother by passing it around too. One of Barnaby’s main points was this: why are we putting control of the organisation that is tasked with cleaning up the mess in central Christchurch in the hands of the man who was in charge of the organisations that created the mess? That is effectively the situation with Regenerate Christchurch – the CCDU by another name. Barnaby’s blog post documents the miss-steps made by the minister, and argues that any new organisation should not be put in his control.

There could be no clearer demonstration of Brownlee’s unsuitability for the role than this story from yesterday:

Since 2012, Brownlee has hosted drinks in Christchurch the week before the All Blacks play a test in the city, inviting members of the media, business and sports communities. The event was sponsored by Fletcher Construction; the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) managed the invitations.

Just last week, Brownlee announced that Fletcher Residential has won the tender to lead the $800m East Frame project. And yet, Brownlee seems to think that to suggest there was a link between Fletcher hosting a free piss up for him and a group of media and business people, hand-picked by him is some sort of conspiracy theory. We’re not talking about chemtrails or lizard people here. We’ve got the company who has got a bunch of the biggest government contracts regularly throwing a party for the minister who gives out those contracts. Imagine, if you can, the CTU throwing a party for a Labour Minister, who then goes and introduces something akin to a responsible health and safety legislation. The right would blow a gasket.

CERA has given out billions of dollars in contracts, and that’s what they’re meant to do. But due to the Byzantine structure of CERA, and the paucity of investigative journalists* in this city, it is very difficult for anyone to find out anything about how those jobs have been allocated. For Brownlee to throw a tanty about this shows just how unsuited he is for a role that will increasingly require complex negotiations between a series of organisations that don’t necessarily share the same interests. This man is not fit for that role. Or, as MvB put it:

It is simply not a good look to have the party garnering the major slice of rebuild business funding entertainment for the minister that has the most influence over the very decisions that deliver the business in the first place.

Brownlee should hardly be surprised at the turn of events and should not act hurt and indignant just because he has been called out.

If Brownlee insists that he has done nothing wrong, then why did he cancel the party? I guess we’ll never know, as he has gone into his usual sulk and is refusing to answer questions from the media:

A spokesman for Mr Brownlee said he would not be commenting and was not under any “statutory obligation” to answer Radio New Zealand’s questions.

It’s simply unacceptable for a Minister to continue to behave like this.

* I know there are good journalists in this city trying their hardest to get to the bottom of what is happening at CERA. But there just aren’t enough of them. And I’ve talked to some of them in the past who were genuinely psyched to go to this party in previous years. Gerry is the most powerful man in the city, by some distance. It’s like getting an audience with Caligula. So even if they were joking, I was saddened to see tweets like this:

“Power Lists” are the pre-Buzzfeed listicle that publications fall back on when they don’t have enough news for an actual story. They’re an arbitrary list, comparing people in different professions, walks of life, levels of influence, and giving them a ranking that can’t be justified. Having said all of that, as I watched the council debtate over the Town Hall last week, I couldn’t help but think: Lianne Dalziel is now the most powerful person in the city.

In ordinary circumstances, it might not be a surprise that the Mayor is the most powerful person – but these are no ordinary circumstances. Gerry Brownlee has dominated the political environment in the city since the quakes, completely emasculating the previous mayor, sidelining any opposition MPs, and marginalising his ultimately doomed Chief Executive Roger Sutton. But the decision over the Town Hall may be the point at which we look back and say that the Council took back the power.

Brownlee’s grasp on the city has been waning since before the last election. During the campaign, the Prime Minister announced that CERA was to be brought within his own Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet – a sure sign that Key and English no longer trusted Brownlee’s handling of the recovery. While Sutton departed under a cloud, we’ve also seen a number of other high profile exits – Warwick Isaacs and Reid Stieven have also left CCDU and EQC, respectively. 

Post-election, Brownlee was also given the Defence portfolio, which has been an important but low-profile Ministry for some time. His handling of the deployment to Iraq has been a return to the cartoon buffonery that he was associated with pre-quake. I’d argue that his behaviour in the defence portfolio – arrogant, ignorant, bullying – is no different from his rule over the recovery. The difference seems to be that while he can get away with it in Christchurch, he can’t pull the same tricks in full view of parliament and the Press Gallery.

On the Town Hall, Brownlee has shown the disdain he has previously expressed for heritage buildings. He remarkably dismissed the independent report into the facility, whilst admitting he hadn’t read it. Back at the Council Chambers on Thursday, and Mayor Dalziel cross-examined her own council staff who presented the report, showing that not only did she read it, she understood it. She understood the heritage, the cultural, the environmental, and the financial implications of the decision. She could see that a full restoration of the Town Hall was the right call, in spite of the campaign from the Press, who repeatedly used their editorial and opinion pages to present a very one-sided case against it. Her experience and determination moved the windvanes of knee-jerk reaction – with two former talkback hosts sensing the changing breeze. Concillor Ali Jones voted for restoration, whilst her former NewstalkZB colleague Mike Yardley wrote on Friday that he too had become a convert after watching the Mayor’s performance.

This is but one decision, but bodes well for the campaign to bring control of the city back to the people who live and work in it. At the end of the month, the “transition plan” will come up for discussion. And there may be a transition of another kind; rumours abound that David Carter may be relieved of his terrible reign in the Speaker’s chair. The bad news is that his replacement may be none other than Gerry Brownlee. If this did come to pass – probably not before late this year or early next – then it would be left to Nicky Wagner to turn the lights out at CERA. It is into this void that Dalziel and her council are reaffirming their role as the primary determinants of the broken city’s direction. 

Yesterday, we had some rare good news about a heritage building: an independent business case supported the Council’s plan to restore the Town Hall. The numbers add up – in fact, it’s the best value proposition. That didn’t stop the sad but predictable chorus of opposition. Gerry Brownlee doesn’t think it’s a goer – but admits that he hasn’t actually read the report.

“It does have a ring of ‘it is too good to be true’ about it,” said Brownlee, who acknowledged he had not read the Deloitte report.

So the man responsible for the destruction of Christchurch’s built heritage doesn’t think the restoration is a goer, and he is basing that decision on literally nothing, as he’s too lazy to read the report. Why is his uninformed opinion even being quoted then?

But Brownlee’s opinion is uninformed and easy to dismiss. More concerning is the undying resolve of the Press Editorial to have the Town Hall demolished. In this editorial, they again question the decision, and back it up with a series of factual inaccuracies and half-baked agendas. Firstly, they muddy the figures about how much money is or isn’t available.

Under its insurance policy, if the building is repaired the council could get a payout of up to $68.9 million. If the building is not repaired, the payout would only be the indemnity amount of just over $32 million … But something other than full restoration may be possible. Restoring the auditorium and the foyer alone would cost $91 million. Restoring and reconfiguring the James Hay as a venue for symphony orchestra performances and the like would cost $109 million.

So the total cost for repairing the complex is listed at $127m – and yet the Press is advocating for two options which would see only half the building repaired, but cost much more than half of the full complex? This is also seems to be based on the assumption that if you knock down half the building, you get half the insurance money. If we’re generous, and assume that demo’ing the Town Hall but leaving the James Hay, results in a payout halfway between the repair and indemnity values, that puts the insurance payment around $50m (I think this is on the high side, but let’s play along). The council would still have to find $60m to restore the James Hay. Compare that with the difference between the full restoration cost ($127m) and the payout ($69m) and you find a similar sized gap ($60m). So the city ends up demolishing half of it’s best building for no apparent financial reason. This isn’t how the Press sees it:

Both of these lower-cost options would leave more for whatever is left of the idea of the performing arts precinct.

This seems to be the main reason for all these financial gymnastics.

The original plans for the precinct have long since evaporated but the council is still publicly committed to spending $30.5 million there. That is clearly not enough for any theatre or venue of any distinction, and probably would not be enough to lure the Court Theatre back to the centre of town.

So is the main goal of this exercise to “lure the Court Theatre back to the centre of town”? What no-one has sufficiently explained to me about the “Performing Arts Precinct” is why the ratepayer should be stumping up cash – in part generated by knocking down civic buildings – to try and lure a privately-run company to move their business back into town. The Court Theatre and the Symphony Orchestra might be Good Things®, but they are private businesses. Private businesses, which in the case of the Court, are doing very well in their new locations. The people who write the editorials at the Press, as well as the people who lobby for the Court like Felicity Price, don’t seem to think there is anything out of the ordinary about this.

More than anything, this reflects an ambition for those in power to see a privatisation of public space and the advancement of select private interests. The civic functions of the Town Hall complex – which was, on the 22nd of February, hosting two giant PPTA meetings – can be pushed to one side as the Right aim to frame this as an argument about “poorly used performance space”. The social and cultural benefits of a public space are near impossible to monetise, and thus don’t factor into the calculations of a Minister who will dismiss reports without even reading them.

I can only hope that the Council stays strong, and continues with the full restoration of the Town Hall this Thursday. Despite the best attempts of the Minister and the Press to make this a live issue, their arguments don’t stack up. A full restoration makes financial sense, it makes architectural sense, it makes cultural sense. More than that, it makes sense symbolically, in both showing that the Council still has the power to control the direction of this city, and that in the face of so much needless destruction of our built heritage, Christchurch can pull together to restore one of our greatest buildings.

The tensions between the government and the council have flared up again, for the first time under the new council. This time it stems from the obsession with a few developers for the provision of car parking, and the council’s resistance to bankroll them. Yesterday, Georgina Stylianou revealed that the earthquake recovery minister Gerry Brownlee had used his “special powers” to fast-track a car parking building for Phillip Carter, the brother of the Speaker of the House, National MP David Carter. This was followed by a chorus of down-on-their-luck property developers piping in that they too needed more car parks, and that could the government please build some for them.

The sad, bizarre situation in Christchurch right now is that there are more people lobbying for the rights of cars to sit motionless than there are trying to house human beings. I don’t believe that this is what the city asked for, through Share an Idea, but it’s what we’re going to get when the people with all the power are ageing white men for whom the keys to a luxury European car is the most important symbol of status. Even the Press is buying into their narrative, with Stylianou, one of their best reporters, jumping across into an opinion piece that could have been ghost written by the Carter Group. Never mind that here’s a story from less than a month ago about a 400-car park in the central city that sits virtually empty every day. No, the demand for carparks is so obvious and necessary that the developers and their man in charge are going to war with the council, again, to ensure that the ratepayer stumps up for the facilities that they’re too cheap to build. For the citizens of the city, they get hit twice; not only will we be lumped with these dead zones of urbanism, best suited to the 1950’s, but we’re going to pay for it too.

As happens on too many occasion’s under National’s supposedly free-market management of the economy, the risk of development in the Central City is being socialised, whilst the profit is being privatised. This understated quote from the CCC CEO describes it perfectly:

Decisions made by developers, including notably the justice precinct development by the Crown, not to provide car parking on site is creating additional pressure.

These developers are building their buildings, not factoring in enough car parking for their tenants, then going cap in hand to the council and asking them to stump up. When the council tells them to get stuffed, they turn around to their mate Gerry, who overrules the council and the developers get their way. Once again, it’s the taxpayer and the ratepayer who are left to pick up the tab.

So it’s been a long time between posts. That’s a little to do with me having a proper job, and a little to do with post-election exhaustion. I’d like to think I will be writing a bit more regularly in the coming months, but I’m not going to promise anything. However, a few thoughts have been rattling around in my head, so I thought I’d put pen to paper, and words to blog.

The best of the rebuild 2014:

The deconstruction of the Pallet Pavilion

In the same way it went up, the Pallet Pavilion came down in an orderly fashion, with assistance of hundreds of volunteers. After hosting scores of events over two summers, Gap Filler knew that the pavilion had done it’s time, and as proactively as they put it up, they pulled it down again. The pallets, veggie bins, plants, and pretty much anything else was put back into use. Even in it’s deconstruction, the Pallet Pavilion set a great example for the projects going on around the city.

Food Trucks

One day, as I left my house for work, there was a taco truck across the road. Literally straight across the road, sitting along in the wasteland of rubble and weeds where McKenzie and Willis used to be. I know that food trucks are very “on trend” at the moment, but here in Christchurch, they are more than just an excuse to sell overpriced burritos to hipsters; they’re a necessary part of the hospitality ecosystem. When cheap rentals are hard to find, and you don’t know where the demand is going to be in a still sparsely populated CBD, a semi-movable truck is the perfect solution. This year saw the rise of the food truck in Christchurch, from Loco’s on St Asaph St, to the Food Collective at the Commons, to the launch of food truck Fridays in the Square, where at least a dozen trucks converge, and bring plenty of energy back to a dead space.

New bars and eateries

In addition to the food trucks, we’ve seen the addition of plenty of more permanent, more serious establishments. While many of the bars will rise and fall, hopefully the eateries will stay around for a bit longer. Johnny Moore’s BrickFarm and the St Asaph St Coriander’s are both excellent, and will surely see a good return on the risk they took to open in the centre of the city.

WORD festival

For a brief period in late August, the centre city was buzzing again. Authors, poets, cynics, journalists, musicians and hangers-on all descended on poor, broken Christchurch for a short period, and made it feel a live again. The programme was so well put together that picking out highlights is almost redundant. But even more important than the people who spoke was the – and I’d like to find a better word, but I can’t – vibe of the event. While it might have only been temporary, it was a reminder of what the city could be at it’s best – and why we should keep struggling on.

The demise of Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton was always the happy face of a bad organisation; now he’s the creepy face of a bad organisation. With him gone, we can stop pretending that CERA are our benevolent overlords, just doing what’s best for the city, and see them are the reactive, unimaginative, bureaucratic brakes on the recovery that they really are.

Free Theatre

The gymnasium at the Arts Centre opened up cautiously mid-year. Free Theatre have been experimenting with the space, with plays and other events. More importantly than that, it shows the success of the forward thinking repair model that the Arts Centre have put in to place. The site is a hive of activity, with dozens of tradespeople going about their business everyday. Parts of the centre will be opened in stages. It shows that heritage buildings can be repaired, and that it can work financially. Other organisations could learn much from this.

The Cricket Oval

Grassy banks, beautiful setting, done on the cheap and in record time. What’s not to like?

The worst of the rebuild in 2014

The Cricket Oval

I’ll probably write more about the rights and wrongs of the oval another time, so will limit myself to this: the fact that the government could utilise it’s emergency powers to get this built in such a short time, for a small amount of money, and using public land, shows just how little they care about those people in vulnerable housing situations since the quake for whom they have done less than nothing to alleviate their suffering. They jumped through legal hoops to get this built, whilst at the same time, forced the Quake Outcasts to take them through the court system just to try get a fair payout for the land which they compulsorily acquired. There is no better symbol for the inequity of the rebuild than the Hagley Cricket Oval.

Council Asset Sales

The City Council’s debt position is quite magical: somehow, it is both So Serious that we must consider selling off profitable assets, but yet Not Serious Enough that we should reconsider any of the monumental anchor projects which the government is forcing on the ratepayers. Whoever the government tasked with softening up the Mayor and the Press has done a great job, so this looks like a done deal now, despite any reasonable objections.

Victoria Square re-development

Nothing shows the ineptitude of the CCDU better than their proposed Victoria Square redevelopment. Take one of the few bits of the central city that isn’t broken, and then propose a way to fix it. I sit down at Vic Sq for lunch, and there are often dozens of others doing the same. Yup, some of the pavers look a bit dated. But when you consider that most of the rest of the city is either gravel or chain-link fences, it’s pretty good. That the idiots at the CCDU would not only consider doing this, but also spend $7m from what we are told is a very tight budget into it shows how totally out of touch they are. It’s a case of the egos at the CCDU wanting to exercise their power over the council – and we’re the ones who have to pay for it.

The Convention Centre

A completely unjustified waste of public money and public land. A massive public subsidy being given to a handful of cosy developers, who have been pushing for this since before the Blueprint even came out. If this gets anywhere near completion, it will just go to show how docile and complicit the shattered population of the city has become.

Needless demolitions

As we move into 2015, we are still watching as historic buildings are being pulled down across the city. One high profile example was the Majestic Theatre. It was demolished this year, to make for road widening. The block that it was on, bordered by Lichfield, Madras, Bedford Row and Manchester St, now has no buildings on it, and no plans for any buildings to go on it. That sums up the ambitions of the men behind the bulldozers; knock it down, don’t worry if there’s nothing planned to replace it.

Empty new builds

The rise and rise of the glass facades along the Victoria St / Durham St corridor is one of the brightest spots of development in the city. Each week it seems like the soil on a new site gets broken. But if you’re going down there to marvel at the new buildings, stop and take a look at how many of the completed sites are tenanted. You’ll notice that much of the space is yet to be leased. Whole floors, even whole buildings are sitting there, untenanted. The Potemkin Offices of Victoria St may look like progress, but this highly speculative development is yet to even peak.

The Middle Class Rebuild

In the last year, there have been a number of projects which have been celebrated as the “best thing to happen since the quakes”. The cricket oval and the Isaac Theatre Royal are two examples that spring to mind. These are good things, no doubt. But they also speak volumes about who the rebuild is serving. Cricket and opera are two of the most rich, white people pursuits on the face of the planet. Everyone living in Christchurch has had a rough time in the last few years, including the rich white people. If they feel like it’s time to put the rebuild behind them, to enjoy the cricket and the ballet, that’s great. But there’s a danger in forgetting that as the north and west of the city move into a post-rebuild phase, some parts of the city have barely been touched. If you go out to New Brighton, you’d be forgiven for thinking the quakes were 4 weeks ago, not 4 years ago. As we approach the anniversary, prepare for the government to tell us that we’re moving on, that the hard work has been done. Prepare for many, many people to agree with them. But also spare a thought for the people who rarely have a voice, the mute underclass of National’s burgeoning have-nots.

And no, this isn’t about the Cathedral…

John Key was down in Christchurch yesterday, making some announcements about the CBD (which I might discuss later). He did his usual – poorly designed infographic with a picture of him, tweeted out. That’s fine, I’d expect that. What I didn’t expect was that CERA would retweet it.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 10.26.00 AM

Not once, but a number of times. But then, if you look at the CERA twitter account, it seems to spend a lot of time retweeting Key:

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 10.25.21 AMCERA have also, excitingly, just launched their own facebook page, as they took to twitter to tell us, on September 10, 2013. They posted this up on that page:

533717_515724291847327_362440013_nClearly, what the Prime Minister has to say is important to CERA and the recovery; however, CERA is a government department, and should remain apolitical. Posting National Party material through these channels crosses the line into political activism. Remember all those times when Brownlee has claimed that the opposition were “politicizing” the earthquakes? Well, here he is, using a massive government department to do exactly that.

Update: If you want to check the State Services guidelines, they’re here. Front page, it says

We must: – maintain the political neutrality required to enable us to work with current and future governments

Bob Parker’s campaign launch The cost sharing agreement between the Government and the council was finalised today. In a rather jovial meeting, Gerry, John and Bob divided up the pie and told us all what it’s going to cost. The Press has a very comprehensive summary of all the items and what is going to be paid for them. Of the $4.8 billion, central government is paying $2.9 billion, with the council taking the remaining $1.9 billion. All the joking around from Parker is meant to give the impression that the council got a good deal, thanks to the tough negotiating style of our mayor.

 

Someone even more cynical than me has written this for the NBR. The figures break down like this:

A detailed breakdown of the rebuild cost reveals the lion’s share of the money will be for work already under way on pipes and roads – a total of $2.9 billion, with $1.8 billion the best estimate of the Crown’s likely contribution, and $1.1 billion as the council’s share.

This is where most of the money goes – but the Crown isn’t doing it out of altruism. The cost sharing on the horizontal infrastructure was something agreed to between the government and any council (Crown pays 83 percent for roading, 60 percent for sewerage). It’s the following sentence which talks about the CBD spending which is interesting:

The balance will see the Crown fund $1.1 billion of projects in the central business district and the council $765 million.

 $1100 million to the Crown, $765 million to the council. So what is the Crown spending most of that money on? $481 million for the Frame i.e. land banking. Is it really legit for the government to include this money, as though it is an investment? I’ve railed against the frame since practically when it was announced, but this isn’t even about the stupidity of the idea. This is money that is going to be spent on property that the Crown is going to flick on quicklythey’ve already started the process. I think it’s pretty dishonest for the government to use a bookkeeping trick to make it look like they are spending more than they are. This is not $481 million being invested in an asset – it’s money going out of one account but coming back into another. If you take that figure out, the Crown’s contribution is actually more like $620 million – quite a bit less than the amount being asked of ratepayers.

Of that $620 million, the next largest single item is the Convention Centre, which is likely to go to a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), which could mean anything…

The Crown will lead the convention centre rebuild. It is hoping to secure private sector investment but has allocated $284m to the precinct.

While they are “hoping” to find a friend to come on board, it’s worth comparing it with the Sky City convention centre. That project is meant to cost $402 million, which breaks down to $315 million for the building, $87 million for the land. The Auckland one is meant to hold up to 3500 delegates, whilst the Christchurch one is meant to be around 2000. So a little more than half the number of delegates, but for a comparable price? ($284m vs $315m) The council was budgeting just $151 million for the Convention Centre – so getting an efficient PPP set up somehow means it’s going to cost an additional $130 million? Something smells fishy there.

If you take out the Frame and the Convention Centre, the amount the government is paying for projects that it is forcing on the people of Christchurch is actually pretty pitiful.

If you haven’t read Barnaby Bennett’s take on the Town Hall, you really should. It is a comprehensive summary of the argument that is well referenced and provides some much-needed perspective. He talks about the way Brownlee has framed the argument – and this should be something that echoes beyond just Christchurch, as he’s doing the same deceptive dance on Auckland transport. 

I would like us to not get caught up in the framing that Minister Brownlee is making of this.  It is only the CCDU that has set up this weird choice that either we have a Town Hall or an Arts Precinct.  Or as he puts it, ‘You can either have your old broken run down past it used by date Town Hall, or you can have a new state of the art shiny fantastic arts precinct.’  To which I’d reply ‘You can keep your world renowned Town Hall that has served the city so proudly for the past forty years and has some of the best acoustics in the world or you can have an uncosted sketch of an idea with no details, no business case, or no idea of the desired quality.’

My friend and fellow Cashmere Sweater Barnaby Bennett posted this on his Facebook page, and I asked him whether I could re-post it here, for those that don’t have the good fortune of being his friend (or those that haven’t taken a principled stand against the evils of Zuckerberg). Barnaby is working on his PhD, in temporary structures and architecture or something, I can never really pin it down. But he had a look at the CCDU blueprint, in relation to author Jane Jacobs’ four rules. Jacobs wrote “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” in 1961; seems like more than 50 years later, we’re still making the same mistakes. [Barnaby’s comments in brackets afterwards]

I think the Christchurch Blueprint breaks all four of Jane Jacobs’ rules!

“To generate exuberant diversity in a city’s streets and districts four conditions are indispensable:

1. The district, and indeed as many of its internal parts as possible, must serve more than one primary function; preferably more than two…
[they are zoning the city into precincts]

2. Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.
[minimum development size is 7000m2]

3. The district must mingle buildings that vary in age and condition, including a good proportion of old ones so that they vary in the economic yield they must produce. This mingling must be fairly close-grained.
[CERA has overseen the demolition of 80% of the city and seen no heritage plan developed 2 years later]

4. There must be a sufficiently dense concentration of people, for whatever purposes they may be there…”

[Um, yeah. Housing and residential is only dealt with in a superficial fashion in the blueprint – JD]

― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

As seen with his behaviour around transport in Auckland, Gerry Brownlee seems to view “evidence” with an arrogant disregard, as nothing more than a nuisance.

I don’t need to tell you that the two-year anniversary of the quake is coming up. As I wrote about previously, Gerry is well aware of it, and is fast trying to turn what many people from Christchurch would describe as an example of torpid mismanagement into a PR win. His latest attempt is an optimistically titled press release, “Wellbeing survey reveals positive outlook“. Gerry has hand picked some stats that suggest that every thing down here is going just swimmingly. For those of us that don’t just read headlines, you can actually dive in and read the full survey. It’s not exactly as Gerry says.

The key to this survey is in the methodology. It was undertaken between August 29 and October 15 last year. 2381 people responded to the survey. 1156 of them were from Christchurch City, 618 from Selwyn District and 607 from Waimakariri District. So that means that of the people who did respond, more than half (1225) aren’t actually from Christchurch. I mean no disrespect to the people of Rolleston, Lincoln, Rangiora, Kaiapoi etc. I am sure they have had a hard time. But they don’t have the same issues that people who actually live in the city do. They haven’t had to deal with a lack of services, portaloos, red zoning, TC3 land, roadworks to the same extent that people who live in the city do.

The response rate to this survey was barely half – 52%. I would hazard a guess that if you were in the battered East of Christchurch, struggling through two snow falls in an broken shell of a house, answering some questions from CERA were lower on your list of things to do than they might have been for someone living on a lifestyle block in West Melton.

The survey does actually acknowledge this discrepancy, as early as Page 3:

As an overall observation:

Residents of Christchurch City rate their quality of life less positively than residents of Selwyn District and Waimakariri District

Higher proportions of Christchurch City residents have experienced issues as a result of the earthquakes that have had a strong negative impact on their everyday lives.

Yet the survey then merges these three population groups, and continues to extrapolate from the combined population for another 100 pages. If you get to the end of the report, you’ll find the populations of Christchurch, Selwyn and Waimakariri. They are 289,000, 30,000 and 36,000 respectively. More than 80% of the adult population lives in Christchurch, and yet more than 50% of respondents come from less than 20% of the population, a section of the population that the survey shows have a more positive response in this survey. In the appendix to the report, it says that the survey has been “weighted” to factor in this bias. As it does not explain how, I remain dubious.* 

Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

The Herald pretty much ran the press release from CERA without digging down into the numbers. There is this sentence, for example:

When asked about their confidence in Cera’s decision-making, 68 per cent of respondents were very confident, confident or neutral.

Why is “neutral” included with “confident” and “very confident”? The percentage for neutral – 28% – certainly makes for a better headline for the Government. I would argue that if you wanted to, you could just as easily add the “neutral” numbers to the “not very confident” and “not at all confident” numbers, which would then give you 57% of people not confident in CERA. Or you could take out the neutral people all together, and you have 39% confident, and 29% not confident, which would be far more balanced.

This is a flawed survey, which almost half of participants failed to respond to. The government and their cheerleaders will try and spin it as best they can, but most people living in Christchurch want more than just PR. We want solutions to real figures such as 70% of quake claims not yet dealt with 2 years after quake.

* Here is the explanation of the weighting: 

Weighting increases the influence of some observations and reduces the influence of others. So, for example, while 618 or 26% of completed interviews came from Selwyn District, the population of Selwyn actually represents about 8% of greater Christchurch. Thus, the data was adjusted so that 8% of any ‘greater Christchurch’ result reported is based on the responses of Selwyn residents.

UPDATE: If I was to go and hand-pick some numbers from this survey (just look at Christchurch City, not “Greater Christchurch”) here are some I could highlight:

48% of people have experienced additional financial burdens due to the quakes

54% live day-to-day in an earthquake damaged home (22% of which describe this as a moderate or major negative impact)

39% of people have had moderate or major negative impacts on their day-to-day lives due to dealing with EQC / Insurance issues

43% of people have had moderate or major negative impacts on their day-to-day lives due to distress or anxiety caused by ongoing aftershocks

97% of people have experienced stress in the last 12 months that has had a negative effect on them

57% of people have experienced a decrease in their quality of life since the earthquakes

38% of people are not confident that decisions made have been in the best interests of Christchurch

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