What is Christchurch supposed to make of Gerry Brownlee?
Residents of trashed suburbs want to know what is happening. They want to know which areas are going to be written off, and which can be rebuilt. Their lives, their emotions, in many cases their finances, are all stuck in limbo. Even before Monday’s quakes it had reached the point where there was talk of street protests. Brownlee was telling people that they had to wait:
I had initially hoped we would be able to give an indication on the state of the land and options for some of the worst-affected suburbs by the end of May. The size, scale and complexity of the issues we are facing means it will take a little more time.
While this argument was unacceptable to many in Christchurch, there was at least some logic to Brownlee’s position. But after the new events on Monday, his line was unchanged:
Announcements on the long-term viability of quake-hit parts of Christchurch will not be delayed by yesterday’s aftershocks, Brownlee said. …. “These two events have simply confirmed the degree of damage in the worst parts of the city.” When asked if the new quakes meant some areas were no longer viable or sustainable, Brownlee said he could not say.
Brownlee needs to recognise that the latest quakes changed the game (see Vernon Small’s excellent piece). People that were on the edge are being pushed over it. There now needs to be certainty for the many, even if mistakes are made for a few. Brownlee then went on to really put his foot in it:
However, he added: “There are some things that I think that are blindingly obvious.”
That is adding insult to injury. It’s blindingly obvious, but the people affected can’t be told? Could he have thought of a stupider way to increase people’s anger and frustration? The blog Action for Christchurch East speaks out:
Brownlee, the EQC and CERA have been awarded the greatest level of authority, they are the judge, jury and executioner of the Canterbury Plains. They have now admitted they know what area’s have to be bulldozed with maps drawn out months ago; the Government, Fletchers, dozens of insurance companies and who knows who else have been aware of what’s staying and what’s going
Why hold on to this information? Why not give us an idea what we can expect and let us move forward?…instead we have a smug Brownlee telling us in recent days, it “should be blindingly obvious” which suburbs will be targeted. We’ve known it, for many since September, for many more since February and yet we’re still waiting to see what’s behind the closed doors. We are simply left to guess. It stinks conspiracy. The recent shakes and the Government’s indifference to people’s concerns may just prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Brownlee’s response yesterday? “Quake complainers are being simplistic”. Yes that’s right, the people of quake ravaged Christchurch are “simplistic” now…