Archives for posts with tag: CERA

Today, Dave Cliff was appointed as the new head of CERA, from now until when it is disestablished next year.

Former Canterbury district commander Dave Cliff, who became the face of policing after the Canterbury earthquakes, started his new role last month as head of Cera’s change management office.

Now, I don’t have anything against Cliff. But the appointment itself just shows the remarkable lack of diversity in the government’s appointments to leadership positions in the rebuild. It’s another white, middle-aged man. That’s not Cliff’s fault, but it has got to be beyond a series of improbable coincidences that there have been no women in positions of power. From the top:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister

Gerry Brownlee

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Obviously the most important single figure in the rebuild, he’s increasingly concentrated power into himself. You can’t imagine a female minister behaving in the same way, calling heritage buildings “old Dungers”, or calling people “carpers and moaners”. His leadership is fatally masculine, like a grumpy middle-aged bloke who’s taken the car onto a back road, and steadfastly refuses to consult the roadmap that his wife is offering him.

CERA

Roger Sutton

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Headhunted for the role, he started as the “great white hope”, but ended up leaving under a cloud after claims of inappropriate behaviour.

John Ombler

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Respected public servant who wrote the CER act that created CERA, was it’s foundation Chief Executive until Sutton was appointed, then filled the role again after he left.

Dave Cliff

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CCDU

Warwick Isaacs

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After playing a key role in the demolition of the CBD, Isaacs was then given the job of heading the CCDU, the Central City Development Unit. He left that job, to run a company that makes franchise houses. This sounds like the plot to a particularly bad boring movie – but I swear it is all true.

Baden Ewart

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Ewart was a planner during the emergency response phase, then moved to CERA. He became CCDU deputy director in 2013, and is now the acting head, following Isaacs’ departure.

Don Miskell

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Co-leader on the “Blueprint” document that Brownlee commissioned in 100 days, after sitting on the CCC’s plan for 5 months without doing anything. Moved to CCDU in 2013 as a deputy director.

EQC

Ian Simpson

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The Chief Executive of the EQC, the government department that has a reputation similar to the shit that came out of the ground in the eastern suburbs during liquefaction events. Despite the security breaches, the tens of thousands of complaints, the shoddy workmanship and so on, still maintains the confidence of the Minister.

Reid Stiven

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The EQC home repair programme manager, Stiven was “the face of the commission and its Christchurch recovery work.” Left EQC in April.

Again, I don’t have anything against any of these guys personally. But you would think that in almost five years, they government would have appointed at least one woman into one of these roles. I mean, really, they should have appointed 5 women to these roles. And before all the MRA’s descend and tell me it’s about merit, are you legit saying that a woman in any of these roles could have failed any worse than any of these guys?

Documents released today under the Official Information Act (OIA) reveal the size and scale of the CERA’s covert “money pit” operation. Whilst the secret project has been a topic of frequent whispers around Worcester St, these documents are the first hard evidence that has come to light of the scheme. Located between Armagh and Gloucester St, the pit is approximately 12 metres in diameter, with an unknown depth. CERA engineers launched a series of recognisance missions into the pit, but these were abandoned after a 3-man team was lost somewhere between 270 and 280 metres below the surface.

A statement from CERA attempted to deny that the pit existed. “The money pit that you refer to is in fact a metaphorical money pit, not a literal money pit. And I mean “literal” in the “literal” sense of the word “literal”, not in the “figurative” sense of the word “literal”. This is literally a metaphorical money pit. A figurative money pit. No actual pit exists.”

However, documents released under the OIA to Rebuilding Christchurch today clearly indicate that the money pit has been included in plans for the central city since as far back as 2011, when a number of prominent Christchurch property developers started lobbying for the inclusion of the money pit in the Blueprint. When a black circle first started appearing in planning documents, it was initially believed that this was because part of the map had been redacted. However, we now believe that this black hole is in fact the symbol for the money pit.

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Business advocate and legendary rock guitarist Pete Townsend was enthusiastic about the money pit project. “This is good news for the rebuild, good news for Christchurch, good news for New Zealand taxpayers. This will create jobs, with up to 15 people required to shovel money into the pit, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For every 100 dollars hurled into the pit, 1 dollar will go into the wider Canterbury economy. This is a good deal for Christchurch.”

When asked about whether a money pit was part of National’s “Brighter Future” campaign, Prime Minister John Key responded that it was the ultimate realisation of his vision. “What we have here, actually, is a future that has shined so bright that it has collapsed in on itself, creating a black vortex that will suck in money and ultimately end all of life on earth. We’re pretty relaxed about it.”

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee assured the residents of Christchurch that the money pit is safe, although it should not be approached without the appropriate hi-vis safety equipment. He said that the current plan was to continue throwing money into the pit, and added that they are also investigating the practicalities of trying to house some of CERA’s expanding communications department in the entrance to the depression.

At the end of June, the Prime Minister came to Christchurch to announce what is probably the most important document for the city’s recovery since the Blueprint. It’s the Draft Transition Recovery Plan, and it’s about the transition of power from the government (via CERA and CCDU) back to local authorities in Canterbury. It’s so important that the government decided the public only needed 30 days to read it, think about it, and make submissions on it. The full document is here, and I’d recommend that you try and give it a read. I don’t just mean Christchurch residents. Everyone in the country should have an interest in this, and anyone in the country can make a submission on it. There are some good bits in the document, like this:

International research shows that, for recovery to be sustainable in the long term, it needs to be ‘owned’ and led by local communities and institutions. Central government leadership and coordination of the recovery, through CERA, was needed in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, but the time has come for central government’s role in the recovery of greater Christchurch to evolve.

It is hard to resolve the intentions of the paragraph above with the recommendations of the report. Though advocating for local and community ownership of the recovery, the main thrust of the Draft Transition Recovery Plan is to give CERA a change of name, to Regenerate Christchurch, then put that in charge for another 5 years. The responsibility for the Residential Red Zone will go to Land Information New Zealand; another lot of powers currently held by CERA will move across to MoBIE. While saying things like “the central city is at a critical point and requires a step-change in approach to ensure its recovery”, this document suggests an entrenchment of the status quo. It’s a recipe for disaster, with Head Chef Brownlee being joined by Sous Chef Joyce.

We’ve got just over two weeks to make submissions, and tell the government that this just won’t do. I’m sure they will try and ignore us; we need to get thousands of submissions in on this, so they can’t ignore us. While none of the suggestions put forward in this document are ideal, a group of us have formed around the idea of Option 3+. Option 3 suggests that the to-be-created rebuild entity be led by the Christchurch City Council, not the Government. We’ve started a campaign to get as many people are possible to submit in support of this idea. We’ve called it Option 3+, as we think that while Option 3 is the best of the three proposals, we would like to see more than that. If you’re submitting, you might want to say you’re submitting in support of Option 3, plus additional community feedback, or plus an additional focus on the suburbs. You can check out the Facebook group to see what other people want for the city.

There are a number of ways you can provide feedback, including via email, going to the website, or hitting them up on Facebook. You’ve got until 5pm, Thursday the 30th of July.

This week, Christchurch will find out about the governance arrangements and the transfer of power from CERA to someone else. It’s meant to happen on Thursday:

Prime Minister John Key is expected to outline new power arrangements for the control of Canterbury’s quake recovery in a speech to city business people on Thursday. This will likely set the framework for how the Government hopes to run the recovery past April next year.

The first people to know about these proposed changes for how the city will run aren’t going to be the people who live here. Nope. It’s going to be the business people. Yeah, sure, this is just a lunch, and a safe place for Key to announce the changes. But it is so symbolic of the way this recovery is being handled, and in whose interests. If National cared about the people of the city, they could have held a joint announcement alongside the Mayor at the Council building. Or better yet, they could have gone to New Brighton and stood in front of the people who have been most affected by both the quakes, and the government’s handling of the aftermath.

But no, it will be done in front of a bland group of rich white men, who have been the biggest supporters of the government’s direction. I’m not surprised, but that doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed as well.

About a month ago, the incredibly useful FYI.org.nz website was relaunched with help from the NZ Herald. I had a few ideas for OIA requests in my head, and once the site was up again, I fired them off. One of these requests was about the app produced by Future Christchurch, call “Chch Story“:

Chch Story, a brand new mobile app packed full of inspirational stories from real people who’re making their mark on the city, as well as anchor project updates and interesting facts and figures about the rebuild and recovery. Stories are geo-tagged, so when the app is opened, viewers will automatically see a map with the stories that are closest to them.
“Initiatives like Chch Story are bringing to life the stories behind the bricks and mortar and giving people the opportunity to see what’s happening in the medium they like best,” says Mr Ombler.

This app cost the best part of $80,000 to develop (GST exclusive). I also asked for the number of times the app has been downloaded, which was 1447 times. That works out as $54 per app. Try and find another app in the app store which costs $54. CERA is throwing money and people to get their version of the rebuild story out to the public, with their rugby-team sized communication department, and this well-meaning but expensive foray into the digital world. The paltry number of downloads shows just how interested the public is in the official take. It’s hard to reconcile the brightly coloured, optimistic version portrayed through the official channels with the empty sites and road cones of the central city. Throwing good money at an app is clearly not the way to generate any meaningful engagement.

UPDATE: to quote Barnaby:

$80,000 on an app 1500 people have downloaded. Thats twice as much as we spent making and printing 2000 copies of the 500 page our book on the rebuild.

Last week, I looked up the Live Central Christchurch website, after a giant billboard for it went up opposite the Commons. It is a remarkable piece of propaganda from the CCDU, and the homogeneity of it has caused a few, much deserved, heckles.

A reader who contacted The Press called it “outrageous”.

“Look at how white and middle-class they seem to think the people who will be living in the future Christchurch are. It’s really quite offensive how narrow this demographic is,” he said.

This was followed by some sensible comments from Cr Johanson, and some idiot utterances from Cr Gough:

Cr Jamie Gough, who lived in the central city until recently, took the reader’s point but said the promotion deserved credit for avoiding “social engineering”. It did not offend him.

“This is just real-life people enjoying living in the central city. Sometimes, real isn’t always the most politically correct,” Gough said.

Gough said some even stupider things on his Facebook, which Moata has rightly skewered, and you should all read along. What Gough fails to understand, whilst he bandies about comically-meaningless terms like “PC gone mad” and “social engineering”, is that Live Central’s vision, and his support for it is social engineering. This is someone with a history of bigotry, who famously slagged off a large proportion of the city’s population as bogans just because they went to the beach at the same time as him. Asking him for a nuanced take on socio-political issues is like milking a cow and expecting to get eggs. The people in the picture might be real people who really live in the CBD, and he may not see a problem with that.

He should.

That the people selected for the campaign are uniformly white, middle-class and largely in the same age bracket is the problem. We know that New Zealand has a very diverse – and diversifying – population. We know that there are significant numbers of people with disabilities. We know that we have an ageing population. So to have a subset of people – even if they do really live in the CBD – which doesn’t acknowledge any of these things is ‘social engineering’ in itself.

I disagree with Moata on some things though; I don’t think this is a good campaign. Aside from presenting a white-washed view of living in the CBD, it white-washes the reality of central city living. I’ve lived in the CBD since December 2013, and I’ve got to say, it’s pretty weird. I’m not the only one who thinks that. While you would expect a promotional website to be bullish, some of the claims are closer to bullshit. The purpose of the site is to attract people to live in the CBD; to encourage that, they have listed a bunch of residential developments. None of these projects seem to be at the “affordable” end of the scale, which makes you wonder whether there are enough upper middle-class people who wanted to live in the CBD for them to be able to reach their 20,000 person target.

As a central city resident, I’d love to see more people live here. It would improve my quality of life markedly; more people would mean more shops and cafes. It’d mean that we’d be more likely to be listened to about issues that directly effect us. But this half-hearted, homogenous campaign looks to be a reflection of the CCDU’s commitment to making this happen; a poorly thought-out attempt at making something happen through marketing. If CERA genuinely wanted more people to live in the central city, they could address the main factor preventing this happening – the cost of land. Maybe then we can see a campaign in another 5 or 10 years that more accurately reflects the diversity that makes up 21st century New Zealand.

As I write this, the World Cup opening ceremony is about to kick off in North Hagley Park. On Saturday, the Black Caps will start the tournament against Sri Lanka at Hagley Oval. I’m excited about the World Cup, about it being on New Zealand soil, and about our chances. I love cricket, but I won’t be going to any of the matches. On the eve of the tournament, I thought it was worth recapping why. There are two, related reasons for my stand. I realise it is all in vain, but hey, a moral stand is a moral stand. The first reason is the process that created the oval, and the second is the political significance of the oval itself.

In a recovery littered with shoddy deals, I’d argue that the process that led to the creation of the oval is the shoddiest of them all. The government dropped it into the Blueprint plan, to the surprise of the ratepayers, the council – in fact, to the surprise of everyone but Canterbury Cricket. Canterbury Cricket had been lobbying for years for a new, council-subsidised ground, with little success. After the quakes took out Lancaster Park – a venue that hadn’t been used for test cricket for years, due to the rise of boutique test grounds that are better catered to the smaller crowds the 5-day draws – they saw the opportunity to push for what they had always wanted, but were never going to get: a piece of Hagley Park. The Earthquake Recovery Act and the emergency powers bestowed upon Gerry Brownlee were the perfect opportunity for what was essentially the privatisation of publicly-owned land by a small group of old white men.

The Christchurch City Council – which nominally looks after the land, for the benefit of all citizens of the city – deferred the decision to the Environment Court. Whilst the decision was before the Court, the ICC announced the host venues for the 2015 World Cup. Christchurch was given not only the opening game, but the opening ceremony. However, this was contingent on Hagley Oval being built. So the ICC was prejudging both the Environment Court and the Christchurch City Council, presenting the Oval as a done deal.

Once the go-ahead was given, the cost of the development then became an issue. Budgeted to cost $20 million, Canterbury Cricket only had $500k. It was then revealed that they got $3 million from the Earthquake Recovery Trust, which was funded by donations from New Zealand and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the quakes to help people in need. Canterbury Cricket managed to stretch the meaning of “people in need” to cover building a sports ground. The decision of the Environment Court which gave approval to the project placed conditions on the Oval, which the Cricket World Cup then argued were too strict and tried to have relaxed. My guess is that after the World Cup, they will use the success of the venue during the tournament to argue to further relaxations of the restrictions placed on the development, including more permanent seating.

For the Boxing Day test against Sri Lanka, the ground looked great, and hosted some great cricket. I never doubted that it would. When you put a ground in the middle of Christchurch’s most loved park space, it’s going to look amazing. For most people around the country, they won’t know anything about the political battle over Hagley Oval. The broadcast from Hagley Oval, with a full embankment, BMac taking the bowlers to task, and the commentators full of praise for the ground was just what the government would have wanted. Though they’re sports commentators, not political ones, they were all universal in their praise of the Oval, Canterbury Cricket and Lee Germon. While they might think that they don’t get involved in politics, their normalisation of a locally controversial project was implicitly political. Any mention of the opposition was dismissive, and no-one from the Hands of Hagley group was given a right-of-reply. That’s not the point of cricket commentary – which is exactly why this project is so important to the government. It presents a controversial political development, from a long series of controversial political developments, as an apolitical thing. In a point made more succinctly by Danyl at the Dimpost, this is National’s strategy:

Hooton ascribes part of Key’s popularity to his preeminence as a commentator on light-entertainment shows across New Zealand media. More FM, Breakfast TV, Seven-Sharp, etc. Critically these are (a) news sources for ‘median’ or persuadable voters and (b) they’re formats in which Key can assert his version of any news story unchallenged, and then go on to tell funny stories about the All-Blacks.

While this isn’t an example of Key himself being in the commentary box (John Howard styles), having five days of continual media coverage of a development that was made possible by the government bending the rules is something money simply cannot buy. To have the commentators saying things like “this is the final step in the recovery of Christchurch*” sows that seed in the minds of people who probably haven’t given more than a minute’s thought to Christchurch since 2011. No-one gets to ask the commentators whether they’ve visited New Brighton, or walked through the empty space in the CBD, or talked to a family still dealing with EQC. When the national news media generally only covers one story from Christchurch per bulletin, the World Cup opening has been and will be the good news story coming out of Christchurch for the next week, and will probably overshadow the 4 year anniversary of the February 22nd quake.

Which brings me to the opening match. We will hear worldwide television viewer numbers breathlessly repeated – one billion people around the world! The Oval will look a picture, and the message will be clear: the recovery is over, and Christchurch is ready for business. Which is a great message to put out there – it’s just unfortunately not true. The rebuild is so much more than just one sports ground – but people are already conflating the two:

The government will no doubt be hoping that the launch of the World Cup will convince most people that Christchurch is fine again. The Prime Minister’s message was that “Christchurch is back in business” – business being the highest achievement in the eyes of this government. But “business” doesn’t mean that everyone is adequately housed, or being treated fairly by EQC, insurers or repairers. So by all means enjoy the cricket, and enjoy the Oval. But just don’t think that because 22 men are running around on some nicely coiffured grass that the Recovery is by any means over.

* Sky’s commentators literally have no idea what they are talking about. When the drone camera pointed out east to show the old Lancaster Park, Craig Cumming said “I had no idea that was still there”.

So last night I was in the front row of the audience at the Press leader’s debate between David Cunliffe and John Key. It was an exciting occasion and great to have so many people interested in politics in the Ilam electorate. I went with my parents, my grandmother and my great aunt – the latter who both live in Merivale, but vote very differently! I think watching it in the room is quite different to what happens on the lifestream. Firstly, it was VERY loud. Both the debaters, and the crowd. Key got a warm welcome but DC’s was louder. The two men talked over each other quite a lot, which wasn’t the most satisfying auditory experience.

James at the debate - photo by Patrick Gower (http://i.instagram.com/p/sb7DqFCA5S/)

James at the debate – photo by Patrick Gower (http://i.instagram.com/p/sb7DqFCA5S/)

Key started really angrily, and talked over David a lot. Most questions seemed to be given to Key for 30 seconds, for him to then talk for 90 seconds, then passed on to David for 30 seconds, at which point Key started sniping at him and not allowing him to answer. While I’ve seen some people comment that they thought the (lack of) moderation was fine, it made for a number of occasions where both men just talked over each other, as if the first person to stop talking was less of a man or something. Key’s question about CGT on houses in a trust did seem to catch David, but he was right to check and see. It’s a complicated issue and it’s worth being right on it.

As with the first debate, most of the commentators seemed to make up their minds about “who won” based on the early exchanges. Key was definitely much weaker in the second half. This was because if focussed on Christchurch issues, and National’s record on this is poor. When he announced that Gerry Brownlee would be CERA minister after the election, this was received with boos. There was laughter when he claimed that the CBD was “booming and almost full“. There was confusion when he started telling Press editor Joanna Norris about an advertorial supplement that will appear in the paper next week. And when he said that the government wouldn’t want to “run roughshod” the Anglican church (when talking about the Cathedral) one was reminded of some of the other institutions that this government has run roughshod over – including ECan and the CCC.

Cunliffe spoke well on these matters, as he has done over the last 3 months of the campaign in the city. He knows that Labour’s policy is popular here, as he has been down here to announce it, and has talked with hundreds of residents who are in difficult situation. Instead of just making light of people’s real hardship like the Prime Minister, Cunliffe has showed an empathy that Key lacks. While the media in Auckland and Wellington might have called it one way, the people in Christchurch were only presented with one leader who understands the issues in this city, and it wasn’t the Prime Minister.

A great, if disturbing, image via felloffasofa:

White Elephant via felloffasofa

Last week, some of the anchor projects – including the stadium – were delayed. The stadium has been pushed out to 2019. That takes it beyond not just the 2014 election, but the 2017. As a political football, it has been kicked for touch. I seriously doubt it will be back in play any time soon.

 

Crocogerry from Porcupine Farm

 

The Press reports that the much-touted surplus was in large part due to reduced spend on the Canterbury rebuild:

A surprise $300 million boost to the Government’s trumpeted Budget surplus relies mainly on a cut to the Earthquake Commission’s insurance bill, Treasury forecasts show … Budget documents show the improvement to $372m was given a $200m boost from “lower insurance expenses after an updated valuation of EQC’s insurance liabilities”.

If you look through Keith Ng’s awesome budget visualisation page, you will also observe that money is being pulled out of CERA. So while the Minister is busy denying that the floods in Christchurch have anything to do with the quakes, his government is putting the squeeze on EQC and CERA so that Key can boast about being “back in black”. The council is in a $534 million dollar hole – in part due to the anchor projects that the Crown has forced upon them – but instead of offering a helping hand, the government is pushing them towards it’s ideological obsession, asset sales.

Remember back to the day after the February 22nd quake, when Key said that this was a journey we would walk together? Well, National has hopped into a Crown limo and sped off, without even looking back to see how we’re doing. The message is clear; if you care about the rebuild of this city, about ensuring that people whose lives have been turned upside down through no fault of their own can get the assistance that they need, that they deserve, and that they were promised, then you need to throw out this government on September the 20th.

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