I think I agree with Lindsay Mitchell and others who feel uneasy about the mawkishness of the widely publicised public commemorations one year on from Christchurch’s February 22 earthquake. As she says,
The commemoration of tragedy, not confined to Christchurch by any means, is starting to take on a strange religiosity in a largely secular country.
To which reaction I add my disgust at the entities grandstanding in the commemoration who have done nothing since the tragedy but get in the way of individuals trying to recover from the disaster.
The earthquake was the first disaster. It has delivered a second one: the political decisions made in the aftermath.
From day one on, the earthquake has delivered to the kind of person who feels drawn to clipboards and jackboots the power over others they could never get in real life. In fact, virtually the whole panoply of government, central and local, has been ranged against those trying to recover—from Gauleiter Brownlee and Boss Parker on down, with the clipboard wielders in the van: standing athwart individuals trying to rebuild staying “Stop!”
Folk in other houses are still waiting to be told by government’s minions whether or not they will be allowed to rebuild, repair or remove themselves, or whether (or not) EQC will bother paying their repairers.
Builders have been left to sit on their hands while all this happens, since there’s precious little rebuilding going on, or allowed to go on. Not just due to the dithering of EQC et al. Right round the city, while people desperately seek new housing and queue for the few rentals around, there is good land to build houses on. But it can’t be built on and it won’t be built on, because the council’s overlords and underplanners have deemed it all off limits: “off limits” because to build here would violate their precious “strategic plan” for the city—after earthquakes strong enough to shake the city to the core, but not strong enough to shake a “strategic plan” drawn up long before earthquakes were even thought about, and dangerously infected even then with the poison of so-called “Smart Growth.”
Meanwhile, those belatedly selected by the government’s mandarins to build “temporary accommodation” for Christchurch’s evicted hordes have finally coughed up around the city what can only be called refugee camps—the all-too predictable sub-standard apologies of places that will quickly become the slums of tomorrow, while helping to kill residents’ dreams of todays. [Read David Haywood talk here about his move into the spirit-killing Linwood Park “Temporary” Earthquake Village he’s photographed at right.]
Touring around the outskirts of Christchurch one year on an outsider can only be impressed at all the energy and activity going on. Going on in all the homes and businesses located and relocated there on the outskirts, frequently over the opposition of planners who wish them elsewhere.
This is where the real business of Christchurch is now being done—in rubble used as concert chambers, garages being used as factories, in factory units being used as offices, in offices being used as shopping malls, in houses being used as shops offices, factories and over-cramped boarding houses. But the council’s town planners and earthquake mandarins haven’t helped any of this process in any way at all; in the days after the earthquake they stopped owners demolishing dangerous buildings, and since the second they’ve done all they can to hinder these necessary and spontaneous “re-zoning” of activities within the city. And it’s fair to say the council, CERA and Gerry Brownlee have treated business owners with property still inside the CBD with nothing but contempt. Little wonder these business and property owners have been protesting for virtually the whole of the twelve months since the second big earthquake, and for four months before that.
So to see all these various lackies and sawdust caesars standing up on their hind legs today spouting about their good works keeping Christchurch on its knees is too much for me to stomach.
One year on Christchurch continues to struggle. What the earthquake couldn’t do, governments central and local have done instead. The first disaster was the earthquakes. The second disaster is the political decisions made in their aftermath.
Give people back their lives. Give them back their property rights. Discard this pathetic idea that only government can do things—when all it does do is either tax, ban or subsidise. Take Christchurch off its knees, take it off welfare, make it an Enterprise Zone for Galt’s sake …. and then get the hell out of the way.
That’s my advice for the mandarins one year on. Just get the hell out of the way.
UPDATE: Auckland council without an earthquake is considering doing what Christchurch council after an earthquake is not considering, i.e., relaxing (albeit only very slightly) the planners’ ring fence around the city.
But even these baby steps are beyond the pale for Christchurch’s planners.