Tuesday, 15 November 2016

John Key has learned nothing from the Christchurch disaster


I was struck to read this comment by the Prime Minister in the wake of the Kaikoura quakes:

Key said it was important to show the international community that New Zealand was well equipped to withstand earthquakes and cope with the aftermath.
    "We need to make sure those people … say as terrible as it was, the New Zealanders were brilliant. And that was the experience out of Christchurch."

Frankly, my jaw dropped. That looks as if he’s learned nothing from the experience out of Christchurch. From day one, when brilliant New Zealanders were banned even from rescuing people from the rubble, they have been shut out. From that, this Prime Minister has watched but, evidently, learned nothing

Nothing at all about having locked brilliant New Zealanders, by armed force, out of their own businesses and their central city for years; nothing from the hydra-headed debacle of EQC; nothing at all from how in refusing to tear up their pre-quake plans town planners did their best to shackle the rebuilding that was going on; nothing whatsoever from the lesson never learned that central planning a city actually delivers (and has delivered) the very uncertainty that ‘planning’ was intended to avoid. (The tale of Joplin holds in capsule form the lesson neither learned nor understood by the PM.)

So it looks as if he’s learned nothing at all from the experience out of the Christchurch earthquake how government both central and local has hindered rather than helped the recovery of what was New Zealand’s second-biggest city. So I fear the worst for those seeking to recover from this one.



  1. The most terrifying words in the English language. I'M from the gov't and I'm here to help. R Reagan.Says it all.

  2. The immediate emergency response to Christchurch for the most part was good, perhaps even 'brilliant' in some respects. I recall for instance a fear we would run out of clean water and ability to flush toilets, but for the most part urgent solutions were found. It's what happened after that as the bureaucrats started to impose their 'order' and cover their backsides that things started to go awry.

    1. Mark, how much of the initial response was carried out by volunteers rolling up their sleeves and doing their bit.?

    2. Don - A lot of it certainly was that, but given the scale of the event, the Council and Council owned companies such as Orion (under Roger Sutton) also did very well in getting water, sewer and power back quickly with temporary solutions. In fact knowing what I do about Roger, the fact that he was so widely respected and competent at Orion, and then so ineffectual at CERA shows that it's not primarily the individuals that are the problem in these situations, but the bureaucratic system they have to work within.

      It may fit the libertarian narrative to say that it was all due to volunteers and everything the authorities did was incompetent, but it overstates the case and doesn't fit what I saw on the ground, at least in the immediate emergency phase. That doesn't change my view that the less government involvement the better, and that what followed the emergency phase was an abortion, but it's a good reminder that we shouldn't cherry pick our facts to support our case. The narrative should never override the facts, even if the narrative is better than our opponents.

  3. Wife has a couple of rentals in Lower Hutt and the EQ did nothing but the rain has been a bugger lately. One backs onto a gully and the saturated soil at the back of one section stopped holding hands at lunch time. The house is not in immediate danger in my view and the tenant is unconcerned which is great. We will see how EQC go but its going to be an expensive wall whoever pays. C'est la vie.



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