The Labour Party’s Christchurch electorate MPs – Clayton Cosgrove (Waimakariri), Ruth Dyson (Port Hills), Lianne Dalziel (Christchurch East) and Brendon Burns (Christchurch Central) – are today starting a regular bulletin designed to keep people in their electorates and media informed about what is happening at grass roots level in their electorates.
Here’s the brief accounts from the Labour MPs on how they and their communities are coping with the disaster:
Yesterday spent time at Ngā Hau e Whā Marae in Pages Road with Annette King, other Christchurch MPs and Te Tai Tonga candidate Rino Tirikatene. This has become a hub of the community. TPK, Red Cross, Ngāi Tahu, Social Welfare and IRD are operating the equivalent of a one-stop shop, helped by other agencies and a large number of volunteers. Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt drove up unnannounced the other day in his mayoral car, with a trailer behind and a carful of students, and without any publicity they mucked in and helped clean up the street. There is an elderly couple there who have driven up from Timaru in their campervan, and who are there for the long haul because they want to help. And there’s a young bloke whose house has been destroyed, and who has shifted back in with his foster mother, and who’s rolled up his sleeves to help because he’s sick of sitting round doing nothing. The spirit is amazing.
I’ve also been visiting small businesses. They are still finding access a real issue, and there are genuine misgivings about the appropriateness and cost of the Christchurch day off. They say they would release staff for a memorial service anyway, but an official day off will create admin problems with pay etc, and people who have lost so much won’t be able to sit round anyway and put their feet up.
Today I will be talking to civil defence HQ about the agenda for the next MPs briefing. Portaloos and sewerage top the list. We are almost at the end of week 3, and people still don’t have timelines. I am also meeting the Wizard of Canterbury today. He’s here to help people in his own inimitable way.
Extensive visits to local recovery assistance centres and welfare centres for meetings. I have visited all fish and chip shops, hairdressers and dairies with fact sheets — specific to this electorate — with information specifying who to ring and for what. Linking people to agencies like the Salvation Army.
Went to a Pacific Island community meeting with a number of Pacific Island NGOs at Nga Hau E Wha Marae.
Today I am focusing on helping local business owners gain access to their businesses in the electorate. A number of these have businesses which are not damaged but are still cordoned off. I aim to help those who can safely access their businesses do so. In a number of cases buildings three doors down are damaged, but their businesses are okay. These people need to get onto their sites and assess their own situations.
Spent a day with Phil Goff in the eastern suburbs. Met a trust that has been set up to focus on families as the foundation of rebuilding in Christchurch. Simply direct crediting money to families in need. This trust allows anonymous targeted personal assistance for families in need. I have helped Cantabrians connect with two needy families in the hard hit area of Bexley http://www.adoptachristchurchfamily.com. I know that many people want to help but don’t know where to start. This is a way to give practical support to families facing an uncertain future. They won’t know who you are but they will know someone cares and that means more than you will ever know. Make it personal and make it real – adopt a family.
Yesterday I attended three community meetings. Constituents were “disappointed” they were “just being told stuff- without the opportunity to engage that they expected- there were no timeframes given for water and sewerage.” Many families now have power but are still without water and sewerage. Residents need timeframes so they can plan ahead- they want best/ worst case scenarios but they are in awe of the work that is going on. Power companies have been fantastic with communications and people on the ground, working night and day.
Today I am attending a meeting at 11am with constituents at Switch Coffee in Brighton.
Today I will be helping deliver portaloos I have sourced from a friend in Marlborough who has rounded them up from Marlborough vineyards. Nine have arrived in Christchurch so far. I am getting them delivered to Avonside, one of the worst-hit neighbourhoods in my electorate. They arrived on Tuesday and have now been cleansed etc, and are ready for Avonside.
I put out an issue of my newsletter to constituents today passing on information and helpful advice from officials. I am still receiving anguished calls from Avonside residents after Tuesday night’s report on television suggesting three Christchurch suburbs may be abandoned following the February 22 quake. It is causing much distress and anxiety. The report identified the suburbs as Avonside (in my electorate) Dallington (shared with Lianne Dalziel) and Bexley (where Lianne herself resides). Sure, these suburbs include hundreds of houses that are so badly damaged they may not be rebuilt; there may be particularly affected streets where it’s better to make a park than turn it back into housing once the bulldozers have been through. That is not the same as abandoning whole suburbs. The spur for the story was the Prime Minister saying 10,000 homes may have to be bowled, a figure he later said was not an official estimate. The figure itself is not a huge surprise when you consider more than 3000 were in that category after September 4 and that quake was a tiddler compared to February 22. But the process for communicating such information – and the geo-tech reports which fed it – is with the communities involved and their representatives; not a post-Cabinet news conference which then leads to unacceptable extrapolation that has pole-axed some of my constituents. It’s not as if there aren’t enough stresses here already.