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Puddleglum on Christchurch

Written By: - Date published: 1:21 pm, June 19th, 2014 - 17 comments
Categories: christchurch earthquake, election 2014 - Tags: , ,

There is a very long but worth reading post over at The Political Scientist. If you’re serious about campaigning in NZ at present, then it is definitely worth setting aside the time to ponder it. In particular the demographics and the occupational changes across Christchurch that may affect this years election outcome.

I’ve ‘borrowed’ the new-fangled abstract that Puddlegum is testing as our teaser (and that is long enough!).

One of the interesting questions waiting to be answered on 20 September this year is how Christchurch voters will respond to the government’s efforts over the last three years in the earthquake recovery process. A significant feature of the 2011 election was the collapse of the Labour Party vote. When the voting patterns of that election – and the 2005 and 2008 elections – are examined in detail it’s clear that a significant number of previous Labour voters simply stayed home, right across the city from east to west.

Since 2011, the government and its institutions (e.g., CERA, EQC, CCDU) have come under immense criticism; red-zoning decisions, including over bare land sections, have led to court case losses for the government and huge stress for individuals and families; insurance payouts have ground out slowly and ground people down in the process; the central city ‘blueprint’ has been fraught in its implementation, increasingly unpopular, has scared off some investors and has been interminably delayed; the cost-sharing agreement reached with the previous council – and which includes significant costs for highly controversial ‘anchor projects’  in the central city such as the stadium and convention centre – has strapped Christchurch people into a financial strait-jacket; there have been accusations of mismanagement of asbestos during the demolition and repair process; rents have headed skywards and there’s been repeated flooding.

But some people have benefited: those who have bought cheap rentals and benefited from the hyper-inflated rental market; businesses and workers involved in the repair and demolition process and, now, the rebuild; some major central city landowners who have effectively had their sunk capital in the city centre bailed out by the imposition of the Central City Recovery Plan. To state the obvious, what’s happening in Christchurch is complex.

But it’s hardly a brave prediction to suggest that, electorally, the National Party reached its high water mark in Christchurch at the 2011 election – the only question is how much, and how fast, the tide has changed since then.

Looking more broadly, there’s also the other as yet unanswered question; a question that, if it was possible to answer, would shed light on the nature and values of New Zealand society: To what extent will the government’s performance in Christchurch since the earthquakes affect what New Zealanders outside of Christchurch and Canterbury do in the privacy of the polling booth? And, the really provocative and revealing corollary: To what extent should it affect how people outside of Christchurch vote?

Tony Milne also has a good post at The Daily Blog “The moment the housing crisis in Christchurch could have been averted” that deals with the incompetence about housing that Gerry Brownlee has been displaying down there.


17 comments on “Puddleglum on Christchurch”

  1. Ad 1

    What I would hope for is a massive and public distinction between the National-led recovery plans an an alternative.

    The alternative that would raise people’s imaginations would align local and central government plans together and seek to give effect strongly to the initial public consultation that Christchurch citizens went through. Bring back the democracy and civic engagement to the whole thing.

    There would be a great big poster war all over the city that illustrated what this new Christchurch was going to look like, where the ideas came from, and when they would be implemented.

    I believe there is a missing built vision between Labour’s “build 10,000 houses a year” promise and the original people-mandated plan of Christchurch . If it was illustrated and filled out, and built, I think people would see how their democratic voice actually makes stuff real. That would begin to overcome the cynicism and distrust so many voters have of politicians.

    And before I lapse into mario Cuomo’s “City on A Hill” speech, I think an aspiring vision that had sustained democratic mandate would show leadership to the whole of the south island. I would want Phil Twyford to work with Mayor Dalziell and make that a centrepiece of how Labour would roll out its housing policy: to transform not onoly the housing stock and home ownership, but to revive and transform whole neighbourhoods, cities even, in an endiring partnership between central and local government.

    “Tell him he’s dreamin.'” Well that’s what political inspiration should feel like.

  2. hoom 2

    No fast tracking of land or State help for people pushed out of their homes, but Lyttleton Port gets fast tracked ‘repairs’ that consist of a big expansion…

    And by ‘fast’ they mean write a plan by 5 years after the first quake…

  3. swordfish 3

    The evidence on changing political sentiment in Christchurch over the last 12 months has been ambiguous, one might almost say contradictory.

    On the one hand, Labour did far better in last year’s Christchurch East By-Election than most people / commentators realise. The result suggested either a significant Nat-to-Lab swing or a significant mobilisation of former Labour voters who had stayed at home on Election Day 2011.

    I remember there was also some discussion early last year in the MSM and on social media about a poll breakdown (think it was a Herald-Digi from memory) that recorded a strong swing to the Left in Christchurch (albeit on a fairly small base of respondents).

    And, of course, the very pleasing Local Body Election results in the Garden City.

    But, on the other hand, the Fairax-Ipsos Polls have been suggesting for quite some time that Canterbury (admittedly, a larger geographical area than just Chch) remains Right-leaning on not only the party-vote question but even on the Mood for a Change of Government question. Impossible to know, though, precisely what proportion of the Canterbury sample were from Chch (roughly two-thirds, I’d estimate).

    And The Press carried out a party-support poll specifically in Christchurch around the middle of last year. Its results suggested that the Tories / the Right continued to lead the Left (they gave breakdowns by ward and, from memory, just one of the wards favoured the Left, with another relatively evenly split). And this poll was probably a little more robust than most poll figures on Chch given that (because centred entirely on Chch) it involved a much larger base of local respondents.

    So, I have mixed feelings about how well the Left will do there. I wonder if It’ll be a tale of two cities ? – the East of Chch swinging heavily to the Left, the West remaining clearly Right-leaning ? Albeit with the spectre of the non-voter always lurking in the background. (I can envisage the same old MSM ‘Labour is Dog Tucker’ headlines driving erstwhile Lefties to stay at home come September).

    • lprent 3.1

      From what I know, as puddlegum points out, it really does feel like Christchurch is in a state of flux. There are hell of a lot of people who were mightily pissed off. But there has been a influx as the rebuild has finally started.

    • Thanks swordfish. I think you’ve got really good insights into what polls do and do not say.

      I had meant to link to your blog and analysis of polls in my post but forgot – sorry!

      I noticed in the latest ipsos poll that, against the national trend, the ‘Canterbury’ vote for Labour went up by 3.5 points since the previous poll. Of course, National also went up by 8.3 points – another result that no doubt only makes sense once the increase in undecideds is taken into account. The ‘n’ for ‘decideds’ in Canterbury was 98 in the latest poll compared with 112, 122 and 115 in the previous three polls.

      Nationally, the ‘n’ for ‘decideds’ was 777 compared with 826, 845, 815 in the previous three polls.

      Yes, the ‘messages’ about the Christchurch electorate overall are mixed. The polls in particular are hard to interpret. I remember the Press poll you mention. At the time I remember spotting a problem with it but now can’t find mention of it online.

  4. geoff 4

    I hate to be pendantic but…

    it’s puddleglum not puddlegum.

    • lprent 4.1

      Damn you are right. Corrected

      • Puddleglum 4.1.1

        Thanks 🙂

        But what’s in a name/pseudonym?

        • lprent

          Quite a lot actually. It is a handle and a guide to the identity of the thoughts of the mind behind it. Confusion over who is speaking causes a whole lot of flamewars that I’d prefer to avoid.

          There are actually auto moderation rules in place on this site to enforce people using them correctly. For instance when I became aware that even I was calling Matthew Hooton as hooten, I put one in for that to correct everyones behaviour (including mine)

          • Puddleglum

            Makes perfect sense.

            I’m a pedant by choice largely because every so often it actually matters – as you’ve pointed out.

  5. Redzone 5

    Nope , tides definitely out for national in chch and minister for destruction-Brownlie has been caught swimming with out his togs. Wagners skinny dipping too-spare the thought!

    People have had a guts full with the snail pace of the rebuild and the general disempowerment imposed by Cera and co. The callous handling of the School closures is the final straw. Pissed off is an understatement.

    Should be some solid swings left at the GE.

    Do the rest of nz still care and will it effect their voting behaviour to any degree ? I’d say probably not.

  6. Brendon 6

    I hope to have an article published on interest.co.nz over the coming days that has as a major theme -the Christchurch housing market. Look out for it.

  7. vto 7

    Puddleglum, I felt that the main reason National did better in 2011 was similar to the reason Bob Parker swung 180 degrees in the polls and got voted back in as mayor when he was on a hiding to nothing. That reason was incumbency and the desire for stability. People were in a state of complete and utter upheaval – there was the Feb quake, then the June quakes, then the December quake. The city was rocking during that entire year – every day, every day, shakes and quakes.

    People were not interested in the risk around bringing in a new mayor and nor were they interested in bringing in a new government. Amidst all of the instability, trauma, stress and daily earthquakes the people just wanted stability and consistency.

    Whoever was in government at the time would have got voted back in Chch, no matter Labour or National.

    I skimmed pretty quickly through your post (long version) but didn’t see any reference to this phenomenon. I can’t provide any evidence other than what I saw in people in our communities with my own eyes and what they were going through and what they wanted during that time.

    • Hi vto,

      Yes, the ‘stability’ factor could well have been important. The chances are that different reasons had different degrees of effect for different groups of people in different parts of the city (that’s a lot of ‘different’ in one sentence, sorry).

      I think I came close to mentioning your point about “the risk around brining in a new mayor [in 2011, a new government]” with the thought that changing horses wouldn’t have made any difference to most people’s experience given how much it was dominated by ‘recovery’. You’re right that disasters bring out the conservative (with a small ‘c’) in us all.

      Thanks for taking a look at the post.

  8. vto 8

    This time around it will be a different story. The people have been left to deal with their situation with little assistance. They are completely and utterly fed up with EQC and insurers, red zoning problems, the list goes on and on. This time I think they will fight back hard.

    Of course out west where there was little damage they have good roads, ridiculous house prices and functioning infrastructure. They will stay blue.

  9. Brendon Harre 9

    vto -As a Cantabrian I agree with you regarding the incumbent gaining an earthquake boost in 2011 and this will not happening in 2014.

    Poisson -thanks for finding my article.

    Ad -if we could Labour discussing that sort of positive thing rather than scandals then maybe the election could be won….

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