I asked a friend who lives and works in inner-city Christchurch to send me his thoughts. Lacking his laptop, which is damaged, this is what he typed out for me on his mobile phone.
Since Saturday’s earthquake, life in Christchurch has give me an insight into how a community functions—strangers helping strangers; Facebook groups of students providing random acts of assistance; drivers co-operating at out-of-order traffic lights. People have got on with the essential tasks, and exercised their judgement in their safety and property.
One of the less impressive aspects of community life exposed to view however has been the response of local government. Their perspective has been that anyone other than themselves are a problem rather than a solution. Their view of the public as incompetent, dishonest and stupid has made a bad situation very frustrating to those effected in the inner city. People walking around creating lifelong memories, or just trying to comprehend the destruction of their city, are denounced as “rubberneckers.” The odd vandal becomes a “looter.” Businessmen seeking access to their own buildings must first seek and ask the permission of a person with a clipboard—and a power complex.
All of these “trouble-makers” making “trouble” reinforces their view that they need to assert more control over us. It’s for our own good, you know. (Meanwhile, the only “rubberneckers” allowed into the inner city by the clipboard wielders are those with a title. Like “prime minister.” Or “mayoral candidate.”)
Finally, the view has already been advanced that the building regulations enforced by local government played a major part in their being no loss of life. Those advancing this view have overlooked something altogether too obvious to mention, but I will. Contrary to this simplistic view, the buildings that have collapsed in the inner city were virtually all the very listed and historically protected buildings the council insisted must be preserved. These were buildings that, without the intervention of the council, would in most cases been replaced long ago with something much safer. Only timing and luck has spared the council of direct responsibility for the death of their constituents.