I haven’t seen the full interview of Brownlee on the Nation. If the clips on the news were anything to go by, it was more of the same. No info for Christchurch residents. No empathy for them either. More haughty bullshit. More vague excuses for delays. More focused on himself than the people who need help. He needs to go.
The people of Christchurch need information. Only some level of knowledge can allow them to begin to see the shape of their future. That should be at the heart of decision-making. But Brownlee has no empathy. He sees the people of Christchurch as a hindrance. An annoyance. He’s trying to plan which suburbs will go, which will be rebuilt. Would be much easier to do it at his own pace, without having to worry about the little people’s feelings. How many times have we seen reports of Brownlee failing to show up to public information meetings? How many times have local MPs complained in the Earthquake Bulletin that letters they have sent seeking advice for their constituents has no even received a reply from Brownlee?
9 months after the first quake. And Brownlee won’t even tell us what the hold up is. Seems to me there’s three basic aspects of the decision-making.
First – what will happen to different categories of land and how that will be funded. Off the top of my head, something like:
Just made up those categories now. Sure it’s more complicated than that. Also sure that, if you wanted to, you could get EQC, council, insurers, and governemnt together for a week and they could define categories. Has Brownlee done that? We don’t know. He won’t say. If he hasn’t done it, he’s incompetent. If he has done it and isn’t telling the people of Christchurch, he’s also incompetent.
Second – work out which land will fall into which category. Some or most of the decisions will be pretty obvious straight away. ‘Blindingly obvious’, even. Others will take longer to work out. Start by revealing the blindingly obvious decisions. Let as many people as possible breath easy with some knowledge of what the future for their land is. Brownlee hasn’t done this either. He hasn’t even revealed the criteria by which land will be judged. if he doesn’t have such criteria yet, he’s incompetent. If he has them and won’t release them, he’s also incompetent.
Third – timeliness. Decisions over which land will be rebuilt and which won’t don’t have to be 100% optimal. In fact, no matter how long you take, in hindsight the decisions will never be absolutely perfect. Expeditiousness has its own value. Better to rule out rebuilding on some land that will later be deemed safe or vice versa than keep entire suburbs in limbo for months on end. Brownlee has revealed no timetable. Either he has none. In which case he is incompetent. Or he has one and won’t say. Which is also incompetent.
Like Key and Bennett, Brownlee has substituted spin for action. He has attacked ‘doom and gloomers’ who said the Christchurch economy would be ruined by the earthquake by pointing to benefit numbers that haven’t gone up much. He doesn’t mention that tens of thousands of people were being supported by the special emergency benefits not included in those figures. Such spin does not a jot for the people of Christchurch. But it buys a smidgen of positive coverage for the government, for a short time. Tells you where Brownlee’s priorities lie.
This is the closest to a war situation that any modern PM has faced. The stakes are huge. So are the organisational complexities. The PM’s man running the show has to be up to the job. It’s worth asking why Brownlee has this job at all.
What has he ever accomplished in his political career that gives any confidence in his abilities? He lost the ‘unloseable election’ as Brash’s deputy in 2005. He was a Maori Affairs spokesman who couldn’t count to ten in Te Reo. He drew the largest protests in a generation against a government at the height of its popularity over Schedule 4. He failed to deliver an economic package for the West Coast after Pike River. He couldn’t even manage the legislative schedule right as House Leader. They repeatedly ran out of laws to pass one day, only to have to go into Urgency the next because Brownlee couldn’t run the show properly. He only got this job because he is the most senior local Nat MP. It should have gone to someone with a record of delivering, like Power. We shouldn’t be surprised that Brownlee has done so badly.
But we should be surprised that he has been allowed to continue doing such a bad job for so long. Would be no shame for Key in admitting he has the wrong man and replacing him. But that it hasn’t happened yet is a reflection on Key.
Good leaders replace incompetent generals. Bad ones don’t.