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The reality is we’re pretty relaxed about fixing Christchurch

Written By: - Date published: 9:53 am, June 28th, 2014 - 26 comments
Categories: christchurch earthquake, john key, labour, national - Tags: , , , ,

Various excepts of John Key’s hagiography have been doing the rounds in recent days, in the lead up to it’s release. There was one line that particularly stuck out for me, as a Cantabrian and South Islander:

His problems continued to mount during 2012 – the most difficult year he has faced during the 12 years the former investment banker and money trader has been in Parliament.

Woah, what? 2012 was his most difficult year? Has he been totally asleep at the wheel? In case he has forgotten, here’s a recap:

  • September 4th, 2010. 7.1 earthquake hits Christchurch, does significant damage but thankfully no-one dies
  • on the same day, a plane crashes on the West Coast, killing 9
  • November 29th, 2010. Explosion at Pike River mine kills 29 men. At time of writing, bodies haven’t been recovered.
  • February 22nd, 2011. 6.3 quake hits Christchurch, destroying much of the CBD, killing 181, and leading to 12,000 homes being deemed uninhabitable.

The events listed about all happened in just over 6 months. The biggest natural disaster in New Zealand in living memory. The biggest workplace accident in years. You would think that a leader would wear those incidents, that they would have some impact. Apparently not. For Key, his dark place was a series of poorly received and poorly executed policies – Novopay, class sizes, the Sky City deal, the cup of tea with John Banks. Not insignificant issues, but seemingly trivial compared to the destruction and subsequently shambolic recovery of New Zealand’s second city.

This is from a speech Key gave the day after the February quake. I quote it often, because it shows that what was promised and what has been delivered are two entirely different things:

On behalf of the Government, let me be clear that no one will be left to walk this journey alone. New Zealand will walk this journey with you. We will be there every step of the way. Christchurch; this is not your test, this is New Zealand’s test. I promise we will meet this test.

For so many of the people in this still-broken city, they feel that this is a journey which they have been left to walk alone. More than that, it is a journey which they are walking alone, into a howling headwind of government bureaucracy and ineptitude. Too often they find themselves fighting against the state, rather than working with them. One gets the impression that for all the visits and photo ops, Key just doesn’t get the situation down here. Last year, when the Quake Outcasts group won a judicial review against the Government’s red zone offer, Key made this flippant remark:

One option is the Government says: ‘Thanks very much, it’s been a lot of fun. If you don’t want to take the offer, that’s where it’s at’.

For people having to take the Crown to court, there has been nothing fun about this. And yet their struggle continues. On Monday, Labour announced that we would pay these people 100% of the 2007 value of their properties. We think that it is only fair. Brownlee was out immediately to muddy the waters with misinformation, and called it reckless. We think that a Minister who is bowling over a swimming pool to build a $30m playground should think twice before describing things as reckless.

I’m proud of the Kickstarting the Recovery package of policies which Labour is currently rolling out in Christchurch. We’re making it clear that if people want to be treated with respect, fairness, and care, that Labour is the party to choose. We’re making it clear that while Key and National may have failed to keep their promise to the people of Christchurch, Labour can and will rise to the challenge.

26 comments on “The reality is we’re pretty relaxed about fixing Christchurch”

  1. blue leopard 1

    Hi James Dann,

    Thanks for the reminder re Christchurch (Chch) for those of us who don’t live there.

    It is something I have noticed about the news; that an event/issue initially is reported far and wide – becomes ‘flavour of the month’ – and then disappears and very little follow up occurs and for those where the issue doesn’t directly affect them – very little is learned about the how the issue has been resolved – or hasn’t and it is largely forgotten. To be fair, this isn’t quite the case with Christchurch because there has been some follow up – (not least because of that flooding issue) but, yes, there could be more to keep us all aware of what it is like for Chch people now, and therefore I think what you are doing here is a very good thing.

    I didn’t know who you are so followed the link in your name which linked to your last post on the Standard and I read it. I am glad you mentioned that Labour lost the election in Chch in your last post because that actually was my perception and I was pretty shocked that was the case. I would have thought that a left government would be far more likely to address issues for people in Chch rather than a right one – the right wing are far more prone to taking advantage of a disaster in order to benefit the small section of society that the right-wing appear to work for (disaster capitalism – ‘The Shock Doctrine’ explains that well). It is good that you appear to be attempting to raise peoples’ awareness of the advantages of a left-wing government in this respect. Regardless of who gets in I hope that things start shifting in a good direction and quickly for Chch people.

    I passed through Christchurch in summer and it was pretty shocking how unchanged the central district appeared (buildings cleared but still looking like nothing other than that had been done). Whilst I acknowledge that there will have been plenty of planning required (and conducted) in order to build up the central district – for personal circumstances such as insurance and rents sky-rocketing (and other things I am not very clued up on no doubt) the government could have been more active to ensure that a dreadful situation wasn’t made worse. Again, I hope this phenomena shifts very quickly. If governments can’t ensure this much – that disasters don’t become more disastrous due to failing to value peoples’ needs – there is something very wrong about government priorities.

    I shall keep an eye on your posts in future to keep myself updated on what is (or is not) shifting in regard in Chch.

    • Heisenbug 1.1

      By the time the election came around in 2011 many people, myself included, were already experiencing massive delays in getting earthquake damage even inspected. Almost everyone I knew voted National over fears a change in government could lead to a change in the process, which would add even more delays. I suspect things will be different this time. I hope they will be.

      • blue leopard 1.1.1

        I was at a loss as to why people would support National in Christchurch at the last election, that makes so much sense what you say and is very interesting to hear, thanks Heisenbug, for giving me some insight on the matter!

      • Tom Jackson 1.1.2

        Well, Labour looks better on this issue, but all our societies have problems with getting big stuff done these days. The Americans can’t even win wars any more.

        • Colonial Viper

          Despite outspending the next 20-30 countries in terms of military budget

          Makes you wonder where and who exactly that budget is going to.

  2. Martin 2

    I don’t see any National wins in Christchurch in September.
    Yes Blue, Shock Doctrine nails it. Should be a set text for POLS

    • blue leopard 2.1

      At the risk of having my comment moved because it is not on topic – I do wish we had civics in school. Have just been doing some politics papers at University level and it is really good to have more understanding of how our system is organized and some of the theories underlying it. (Not suggesting theory for schools – enough to know how the system works and who represents what)

      I really think it is way past due time to introduce this subject into schools – the more informed in how our system fits together the better decisions we can collectively make, is my opinion. :(

  3. weka 3

    Thanks James, good to see Labour’s plans on this. That “it’s been fun” comment should be plastered all over the election campaign.

    as an aside, it might be good for you to put on the bottom of your post that you are a Labour Party candidate. Disclosure and all that.

  4. NZJester 4

    Of course the two big Christchurch earthquakes where no problem for John Key.
    In fact all that death and destruction was good for him as he was able to use Christchurch as a way to get job growth and lots of photo opportunities. Christchurch is the foundation stone of this ‘Rock Star Economy’ he claims New Zealand has right now and much like Christchurch that foundation stone is on very shaky ground. Most of the job losses around New Zealand have been more than made up for by all the construction jobs created in Christchurch.
    The businesses of Christchurch could have done there own planning and got their own rebuild plans under way quite happily without the government. But no the government moved in and took control over that, meanwhile ignoring those who do need their help, the Christchurch home owners made homeless after the quakes. They do not seam to be to important to National in their rebuild plans for the city.
    Due to Nationals poor performance in helping the average homeowners in Christchurch I will not be surprised if a lot of the City gets Red Zoned this coming election.

    • Lloyd 4.1

      Anther group the government seems to have ignored is the property owners in Central Christchurch as they have allowed business development on the outskirts of town and the central business owners won’t have any tenants if they rebuild. Great planning from Cera. Thanks Gerry.

  5. MrSmith 5

    I’ve been battling EQC from the beginning and still have 3 claims in limbo, off to Court now, what a bloody mess, how many have had the wool pulled over there eyes by EQC., ten’s of thousands!

    You have wonder if National intently undermined and hamstrung EQC from the beginning, with a view to privatizing or handing it over directly to the insurance industry, I mean it fits their MO doesn’t it, the market will provide everything, at a price.

    The other thing that gets me is the missed opportunity to train thousands of Trades people as well, plus Engineers, Surveyors, Architects, etc…. this should have started from the day after the Feb Quake, instead they sat on their hands knowing we would have to import the labour from off-shore, what a sad short sighted bunch National are.

    • mickysavage 5.1

      I heard one of the polytechs made an offer to start training carpenters but this was turned down …

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.1

        Why train Kiwis when you can get cheaper tradies fron the Philippines or Ireland?

        Friggin country is imploding under the current “leadership.”

    • The government’s actually been pretty supportive of EQC, and has largely stayed out of our business in terms of settling earthquake claims, and left us to proceed as per the Act. (This isn’t necessarily a good thing, I would have been more comfortable with this recovery happening under a Labour government where the recovery efforts would be better stitched-up, and we’d be utilising this opportunity to insulate or improve the repaired homes, not just putting them back as-was)

      Agree with you on tradespeople too, was a missed opportunity to skill up a lot of people, not that migrants aren’t always welcome in my books.

      As for your claims- I can’t speak for the Christchurch office, but here in Wellington I’m definitely sure we’re all in it to get you settled and done, when we’re legally allowed to. A lot of the issues come from sorting out adequate ways to deal with messy insurance problems, (don’t get me started on Body Corporates, if people followed the law on that we’d be done with all of the MUBs by now) negotiating around cap properties with private insurers, and just generally the enormous scale of the job we’ve had to do. EQC has also not been great at proactive communication when it scaled up- we focused too much on settlement, and it’s caused a lot of distress while people waited. In some ways it would have been better to scale up settlement slower but manage communications much better- I’ve brought some good ideas around integrated reporting of claims to management, and it looks like they were already working on that for post-canterubry EQC, so if there’s another major event, you’ll literally be able to log in on our website and check what stage your claim is at and browse any information we can make transparent to you. :)

      I know the process seems really slow and ineffective to the people of Canterbury and I wish we could be done faster, but the sad fact is, this is actually the fastest large-scale insurance program in terms of getting houses repaired. Japan has settled claims faster, but that’s because they cash settled everyone, and they didn’t do exact costings- they just estimated you to the closest 25% of the value of your house, and the other event of comparable size- Hurricane Katrina- happened earlier and repairs really haven’t even started yet, so I’m really pleased that we have EQC in place on a policy level, as Christchurch would probably be a dead city if it were up to the private insurers only.

  6. Treetop 6

    Journalists have been asleep at the wheel for far too long, they have not held the government to account in fixing the critical state of housing in this country.

    National have missed the point, what a severe earthquake can do to housing.

  7. Brendon Harre 7

    There has been a good discussion about Christchurch and Housing at interest.co.nz

    It started with an article I wrote about the Christchurch rental market, history of urban planning and some discussion of urban planning theories and research.


    A ‘capitalist’ counter attack from Muriel Newman

    Bernard Hickey explaining why it is in everyone’s interest to control house inflation

    Finally Labour’s recent housing plan for Canterbury

    Often the comments are more revealing than the actual articles so for those that are interested make sure you read them too.

    • Treetop 7.1

      “There has been a good discussion about Christchurch and Housing at interest.co.nz”

      Discussion has worn thin with me re housing, unless resources/money is made available to fix the many housing problems, no action will occur.

      Thanks for supplying the links which I will read.

  8. Redzone 8

    Great post James and all the best in Ilam v minister of destruction Brownlie.! Looking forward to Milne kicking out Wagner in chch Central too. She’s toast.

    Keys recent atitude to chch is appalling and patronising in the extreme – The ‘thanks it’s been fun’ insult- WTF!

    Frankly if there isn’t a ribbon cutting sod turning photo op down here Key doesn’t give a shit.

    Revenge awaits at the polls in a matter of weeks!

  9. Still Waiting 9

    The Christchurch quakes have certainly been no fun for me … just endless fighting with the EQC and my private insurer for settlement … in fact they still haven’t settled my contents claim! It’s been extremely stressful, expensive and has been a huge eye-opener for me just how little our own Govt cares about it’s people. I’ve never voted anything but National in my life, but won’t be doing so in the coming elections.

    • Are we still waiting for info from you for your contents claim? Because the only ones we’re supposed to have left are ones requiring clarification either from the customer or with insurance to still be verified, so you should get in touch with our call centre for that and they’ll see what the Hamilton office needs or can do to progress your claim. I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience. :(

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