Guest post by Peter Osborne
If the people of Christchurch had been informed at the time that 3 years on from their devastating earthquake their city would have advanced to today’s level of recovery, I am sure they would have rejected outright the plan that was dumped upon them.
We should remember that no one was allowed to begin repair work on their own properties until it had been assessed by a bureaucrat. We should also remember that many business owners had their properties confiscated so that the council could plan the layout, look and feel of the new inner city. Whole blocks were cordoned off on safety grounds and many people were denied the right to retrieve important items and documents.
Soon after the earthquake, the inevitable was gathering wheels. Both governments, national and local, were not about to pass up the chance for a complete takeover. At the time it was sold as a “rescue package.” Only a few recognised the illusion; and worse, many could not envisage anything that differed to the standing plan.
So here we are 3 years on.
We see a Council that is hopelessly in debt. Yet the taxpayer has bankrolled a conveyor belt of money into the so-called recovery.
We see a government trying to entice unemployed people to move to Christchurch using taxpayers’ money, even though there is an accommodation shortage in Christchurch (as no one is allowed to build anything without first going through the permission process).
I wrote an article soon after the earthquake in anticipation of the extreme burden we were all about to inherit, outlining an alternative plan in the hope that people would recognise a power grab when it is happening.
I can only hamg my head at what might have been in Christchurch, in contemplation of what they now have instead.
I suggested that Christchurch be granted a tax free status for 3 years. That the only burden placed on the rest of New Zealand be a burden we took voluntarily as individuals. That all planners and building inspectors were to be bussed out, allowing property owners to do whatever they deemed worth doing to their properties. That removing the minimum wage was also required.
I understand that this plan would never have flown, as it goes against every instinct that encompasses a politician, and most voters. The very real possibility of exposing the drag that government, in its current state, has on our lives is too much to risk. Thus an alternative freedom-based reality will be cut off at every pass.
But it is worth imagining how things might have been otherwise.
After all, there is no incentive like a tax-free incentive to throw in your money and set up shop.
There is nothing so inspiring than to see people building the things they wish to see and live in, when those next door and down the road are free to bring to reality their own inspirations.
The sheer eclectic nature of such spontaneity that can only come from the freedom to live so organically would have taken Christchurch in its own direction. In its truest and most honest direction.
I bring myself back to the reality of today however, and thus I must ponder the future as it is currently directed for Christchurch.
I can only hang my head.