Wednesday, 1 August 2012

GUEST POST: Who pays for the Christchurch grandomania?

The release of the government’s CGI-powered plan for the ruined centre of Christchurch has got many people talking excitedly about living in a CGI city, but (apart from this story, for which kudos to the John Campbell Show) little attention to the 840 property owners who are to have their land taken for the forthcoming fantasy land.

I asked a thoughtful Christchurch friend to respond….

As a loyal Christchurch resident for most of my life, here’s my view on what was presented the other day.

The plan is misguided. Not just misguided, but expensive and well beyond our means.  Not just expensive and well beyond our means, this “plan” is economically suicidal.

Where do they think the money will come from in a ruined city to pay the bill for the grandomania? How on earth could it ever be repaid. Is Christchurch to be on welfare for life?

This “plan” will be devastating to ratepayers in Christchurch, and to taxpayers nationwide. In short, it is a disaster.

But it gets worse.

What about those unnoticed and unrepresented souls who have been and will be paying the greatest price for this “plan”?  I mean those land and building owners whose property will be taken from them to pay for a dream conceived in a bureaucrat’s office. Land and building owners, in many cases, who will now have done to them by government and council what the earthquake couldn’t manage: enforced confiscation, with the value of their “compensation” to be determined by the Gauleiters carrying out The Plan.

What does this do to the property rights land owners thought they once enjoyed? They’ve gone. Completely and utterly.

And what does the dismissive attitude by so many people to the wholesale destruction of property rights say about who we have become? I’ll leave that for you to answer.

Because rather than respecting property rights as one of the single biggest achievements of civil society, in this plan and the talk around it, property rights are treated as just a minor inconvenience for those in power to trample on. This is just the culmination of virtually every stage in the recovery process which have deteriorated the institutional integrity of the country.

Where is the outcry?

There is a word for a system of government that rides roughshod over property owners in the name of the greater good.  It was a system great men went to war to destroy. Now, it’s accepted for the price of a new stadium and a few trees.

That public sentiment accepts this—is unconcerned that this blatant fascism is now the new normal—is scary. It’s frightening. People casually look at the plan and debate whether they like it or not. Whether the “frame” should be one block further north or south; whether there should be more cycle paths or trams. What the public discourse totally ignores is the owners of the land on which these pretty pictures are based—and what it totally avoids is that this is going to be the biggest forced confiscation of private property* since the Maori Wars.

Have we learned nothing?

I never thought my fellow citizens would embrace outright fascism, but they have willingly done so on every occasion since the earthquake. This casual embrace of fascism is frightening. Anyone that is against their idealistic plan for a new order is just “not getting behind recovery.”  They’re not a good Cantab. They’re not working towards the “greater good.”

This is sick.

And take a look at who gets to define this “greater good”? They are far from uninterested outsiders. Two of the biggest players in the  plan, with their mugs all over the report, are Ngai Tahu and the Christchurch City Council. These  are not passive players in the game. They are very the two biggest landowners in the city, with significant pull already in setting the rules of the game.  Forget Graham Henry’s theories about Wayne Barnes, this is a fixed match. And on the losing team will be 840 private property owners and the long-suffering taxpayer.

And how ironic that Ngai Tahu, whose current fortune was built on restitution for alleged confiscations of the past, are now up to their meres in having carried out for their benefit a broad-based confiscation of the present.

Pastor Niemoller’s warning has never sounded so ominous in New Zealand:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak.


* Under the guise of ‘negotiation,' but confiscation no less—at prices determined by the confiscator.


  1. The other issue here, is that the earthquake is being used as an excuse to allow Public Works Act type powers for urban renewal. This is also what the planners want for their high density / controlled communities /tower block future they envisage for Auckland and elsewhere.
    I don;t know what they are technically proposing re legal amendments, but watch out for a general "urban renewal" power that will apply beyond Chch!

  2. Great post...a real worry though about the complacency of New Zealanders. Exactly one seems to care about anything until it happens to them and then they realize they are all alone and just a voice in the wilderness. We really are a nation of sheep.

  3. I am having these discussions all the time online on a wide range of topics.

    Most people out there only want to consider the cost/benefit part of the equation and never once stop to think about the underlying morals if the issue being discussed. If I raise it, it is conveniently ignored or ridiculed.

    It truly is frightening to be surrounded by so many zombies. People don't deserve the remaining freedoms they enjoy.

    What this drives home is the fact that it is hard to appreciate the things you never had to work for. Be it love, money or freedom.

    The shit generation that I am ashamed to be part of has had it too good and they have no idea what they are throwing away.

  4. Your dislike of a plan to rebuild a city somehow equates to the plight of Jews in mid twentieth century Europe.

    And you wonder why some regard you and your ilk with the revulsion you deserve.

  5. ""And you wonder why some regard you and your ilk with the revulsion you deserve.""


    ""It truly is frightening to be surrounded by so many zombies.""

    mark, you can either see the philosophy behind it or you can't...

    They will eventually come for you, even if you are one of them at the moment!

  6. "equates to the plight of Jews in mid twentieth century Europe."

    So which bit of the government marching in and taking your property with no ability to protest is different Mark? Did you see the police and soliders guarding the perimeter of Chch and refusing access to property owners while approved contractors looted their homes and businesses? How about the government earthquake agency that we'd all paid for over the years withholding payments to property owners until it suited them?

    The "first they came for the socialists" quote is apt because it's exactly the point Niemoller was trying to make at the time. If you don't protest when the rights abuses start, then they'll get worse until everyone is overrun.

  7. No No No! The REAL injustice is that there is no light rail planned. And no public fruit trees! Oh the humanity.

  8. My family owned a building/property in the CBD.
    Once the earthquake occurred we were not permitted to approach nor access our property or building. When we tried we were threatened with arrest.
    Then the government demolished our building without our consent.
    Then they sent us a bill which was far in excess of what we had been quoted by a private contractor.
    Now the government's "Plan" says that our property (which we still cannot access) is in the middle of a proposed green park and they have indicated that they will take our property by force. Our property is not for sale.
    Can anyone look at this chain of events and say that we live in a civilised society?


  9. It's actually worse then your making out peter. Part of the "rebuild plan" includes knocking down the first establiments in large buildings to reopen after the shakes.

    Calender Girls (Strip club) and Lees Mills Gym. Both are in large new multi story building that didn't recieve damage. So there ganna be knocked down to build a lawn.


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