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The wrong man for the job

Written By: - Date published: 12:07 pm, June 19th, 2011 - 46 comments
Categories: accountability, disaster, Gerry Brownlee, leadership - Tags:

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:

  • Category A land will be rebuilt with any damage funded by EQC and insurers and doesn’t need land remediation,
  • Category B land will be rebuilt the same but with government investment in remediation of the land,
  • Category C land bordering land to be abandoned will be the same as B but with compensation for loss of land value too,
  • Category D land will be abandoned with the government topping up any loss not covered by EQC or insurance and unlocking new land for suburbs in the east.

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.

46 comments on “The wrong man for the job ”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Sad for Christchurch 🙁

    National can’t even be bothered to put the city on life support, and is instead turning it off 🙁

    • side show bob 1.1

      What a twat, I really don’t give a fat rats arse about National but you people are starting to sound like full blown flushing idiots.Bloody hell do you want Gerry to make the sigh of the cross and say it’s all right and there shall be peace on earth. I’m sorry for the people of CHCH but they don’t need tosspots blaming someone in charge because of some political leaning, grow up, what children you people are. The only thing that will fix CHCH are the people of CHCH with the help of the rest of us. Screw the politics, the people of CHCH want answers but sometimes there are problems that we just can’t sort. and the only thing that will help is time. I’m sure the people of CHCH want to know where they stand but how can anyone make a valued judgement on a situation that chances day by day. To blame the government or one single person is down right stupid.Oh and by the way I would make exactly thee same comment on KB.

      • ropata 1.1.1

        I’m sure that really helps the people of East Christchurch who are suffering their own version of Hurricane Katrina while the politicians fiddle about and their supporters try and shoot the messenger. On behalf of all my Cantab friends, please tell your mate Gerry to start being useful or f*** off. I agree it shouldn’t be about the politics, but it was the incumbent government who invented CERA and made Gerry the king.

  2. ianmac 2

    Maybe the East of Christchurch has no electorates worth anything to a National Government? On the other hand repairs were rapid on the Fendalton/Ilam side of town.

    • ropata 2.1

      Aaron Gilmore is often styled as “National MP for East Christchurch” which is false, he’s a list MP, and lives in the swankier northern suburb of Parklands. Lianne Dalziel is the widely popular MP of the electorate, really engaged with the situation, and she’s been trying to get something useful out of a dysfunctional CERA and an inert Brownlee.

    • Zetetic 2.2

      they won’t be worried about a few thousand labour voters heading to aussie, either.

      there may be a real issue with voter population in some of those electorates by november.

      for ones that move elsewhere in nz, could potentially impact some of the electorates they’re moving too. but they’re probably too diffuse to have much influence.

  3. ropata 3

    Another reason benefit numbers haven’t moved much is because people are leaving.
    A more accurate figure would be job numbers or amount of PAYE collected. I’m guessing a decline by ~30%

    Even Brownlee’s corporate backers must be embarrassed that their lapdog is just a useless ornament.

  4. Portion Control 4

    So you admit you didn’t see the full interview, and then launch into a lengthy commentary on it.

    [One of the rules around here is that you don’t get to tell the authors what to write on their own blog. Have another go, and try and ask your question a bit more politely this time. r0b]

    • Zetetic 4.1

      it may be controversial, but my view of Christchurch and Brownlee’s performance isn’t entirely based on one interview on The Nation.

      • Portion Control 4.1.1

        I think you are wrong zetetic, in case you missed it there was a large earthquake last week. The situation in Christchurch is changing all the time. Every time there is a quake then insurers and assessors have to assess the damage to individual properties. Bronwlee has made it clear that it is unlikely that many whole suburbs will be laid to waste, it will depend on what is economic for the individual property.

        It is very easy for labour party people like Lord Burns of Marlborough to criticise the government’s efforts but he doesn’t have the tricky job of deciding what to do and where to prioritise resources. Given this is the biggest natural disaster we’ve ever had and the situation has chnaged so dramatically so often, I don’t think there’s a public mood to try and make political capital out of it as the snide labour party are trying to do.

        • r0b

          The “snide labour party” – and just about every newspaper columnist of the last week? Not to mention, you know, the people who live there…

        • Colonial Viper

          I don’t think there’s a public mood to try and make political capital out of it as the snide labour party are trying to do.

          National is going to lose this election based on their non-plans and non-action on Christchurch.

        • Zetetic

          as I pointed out in the posts, Brownlee could have at least told us what the process is and what the hold ups are. He could have ruled large areas in or out. It’s only the marginal areas where decisions are hard.

        • Jum

          What is blindingly obvious are the areas where the damage is increasing with every quake and shake and where nobody has yet reported that the liquefaction is actually returning to the ground, the bricks resticking themselves to houses and giant boulders flying back to the place from whence they came.

          So what Brownlee knew was blindingly obvious some time back is even more blindingly obvious now. The more worrying factor, as always with this government of business molls, is what is in it for them and business to delay the decision making on any number of these houses or streets or even suburbs.

          Christchurch will not be the same as it was. ‘Christchurch City’ is moveable. People are what is important.

          I don’t care what spin Brownlee is putting on it; I still remember back in September when a family member was shocked to hear that damage had been occurring in the suburbs not just the CBD because we have friends and relatives in several suburbs. That was because all Parker and Key and Brownlee were interested in WAS the CBD. And that was all the media was interested in as they followed blindingly behind the NActs. It’s been a disgrace from the start.

          The delayed decisions with red stickering houses (or not) and sorting insurance in the September quake; there was no reason why that could not have been dealt with sooner. Did the government know something Cantabrians didn’t?

          All New Zealanders have given their time and or money and so much palpable empathy to the people of Canterbury who have undergone so much suffering but now want decisions made. Most Kiwis offered to pay a levy to help with Christchurch but oh no. Key/English/Brownlee wanted to keep borrowing so that not only the people of Canterbury will have the earthquake fallout to deal with but their and other New Zealanders’ children will be paying for Key and Brownlee’s bad decisions for decades to come. This puts the average New Zealand worker in dire straits and that’s my reasoning for Brownlee’s delays and obfuscations.

          We know too that English was lying when he talked up the urgent borrowings. One Hundred Million borrowed that was not needed. It no doubt affected the value of the NZ Dollar. This government has done nothing but lie to Kiwis. How long before Kiwis start to react?

          I sincerely hope that NAct is involving all political parties with representatives in the area equally in order for them to work together and those representatives must be told everything about the situation. Word will soon get out if they are not.

        • DS

          Unfair and unwarranted attack on Burns, PC. He’s the MP for Christchurch Central, and I’ve never seen anyone else work as hard as he has. He’s always out ready to help and talk to his constituents. Doing a bloody good job of it too. Would you prefer it if he shut up and didn’t make our voices known??

          The only comments I’ve heard him say on television are exactly the same as those which we’re all asking. Which is a request for more information. If you’re going to set yourself a public deadline and you can’t make it – like Brownlee did – don’t then ignore it completely. At least have the grace and respect to come out and apologize.

  5. Homer G Simpleton is doing a great job. He is staying inside his job ‘parameters’, which is the delay everything as long as possible, Gerry is doing exactly what Key and co have asked him to do, so lets keep that in mind when we are giving the fat fuck a hard time … he is only carrying out orders …. mind you that wasn’t much of an excuse when they were chucking babies into the gas chamber.
    Alas a chance of a Nuremberg trial is remote, as the Nazi Party is running the whole world now.

  6. SHG 6

    In an alternate reality where the best person for the job gets it and screw the politics, Key would have given the Christchurch job to David Shearer.

  7. ghostwhowalksnz 7

    Brownlee could even keep in with family.
    Before parliament , before the job teaching woodwork at St Bedes, there was the job at the Brownlee family timber company. For some reason- we can only speculate it was personalities- he was booted out of the company and it was a new career as an unqualified school teacher. Then politics beckoned …..

  8. What has he ever accomplished in his political career that gives any confidence in his abilities?

    It’s more what he did outside of his political career. Remember Gerry the Hut was a woodwork teacher. That’s gotta count for heaps in Key’s books cos he’s minister for tourism and he used to be a banker.

    • KJT 8.1

      Calling Brownlee a woodwork Teacher is an insult to woodwork Teachers, most of whom have been successful and competent trades people and small business owners before they took up Teaching.

      Many “woodwork Teachers’ would be very capable of consulting and moving things forward in Christchurch.

      Brownlee is a failure who went to the last refuge of the incompetent. The National party!

      • Jim Nald 8.1.1

        # gwwnz, pollywog & KJT

        The “woodwork Teachers” and their colleagues at the schools joined the timber family company in expressing collective relief when he left.

        Most fascinatingly, he is the creme the la creme of the current National MPs and has been honoured by being made Leader of the House.

        Can you imagine what the rest of the box of chocolates is like with the National cabinet?

  9. Brownlee has more power over anyone when it comes to Christchurch. Brownlee commented yesterday that up to 10 insurance companies may be involved in the same street. Is Brownlee afraid to put pressure on the insurance companies incase they do not have the capital to pay out the residents? Some of these insurance companies have been around for decades and when it comes to the big one they may be short on funds. Is this why English has borrowed 5 billion more incase he has to bail out in surance companies?

    • rosy 9.1

      Brownlee commented yesterday that up to 10 insurance companies may be involved in the same street.

      Ah yes, the pleasures of a competitive marketplace in essential services.

  10. Janice 10

    Brownlee has got all this power, why does he leave the eastern suburb clean up to volunteers when he could also call out the army to help? With the powers that he has he could probably even call back the troops from Afghanstan where they are supposedly building schools, which get blown up regularly, to help with the rebuild of Christchurh were they would be far more usefuly employed and wouldn’t have to be armed to the teeth to do the job. BTW I am always intrigued by people who think Simon Power is the bee’s knees. I used to live in his electorate and he was so totally useless we used to refer to him as ‘Simple Simon’. He just had a very good electorate secretary who made him look good, and no doubt now has good staff in parliament to do the same.

    • Treetop 10.1

      It would have been a nice gesture when the septic toilets were handed out, to have offered a wheel barrow and a shovel. Some residents do not own a wheel barrow or a shovel.

      Coordinating the army to clean up the liquifaction etc the logistics of accommodation may have been the reason the army were not deployed.

      • Treetop 10.1.1

        Burnham military camp is in the area. I did hear that prisioners are invoved in the clean up. Brownlee is holding the purse strings tightly or he is being ordered to.

    • Jum 10.2


      I do not think Simon Power is the ‘bees knees’. He is retiring from Parliament at this election because Key has promised to sell off our SOE assets and they need a guy to organise it. He’s a lawyer and made it quite clear to the Herald that he did not want a ministerial role in SOEs because it would cause a conflict of interest for him. He talks about holding things upside down to see what falls out in his new ‘private’ job.

      He conveniently forgot to mention, however, that New Zealanders – you and me, Janice – are the fallout.

      It’s time we started wearing hardhats. The nastiness has only just begun.

  11. seeker 11

    “Like Key and Bennett, Brownlee has substituted spin for action.”

    That’s why Key likes him in the job. They all spin to each other which makes them feel better about themselves – keeps the fantasy going. Meanwhile, in the real world that is New Zealand and Christchurch, your headline is perfectly correct. Brownlee is totally the wrong man for the job, but then so is John Key, so no help there. Thank God for the armies of volunteers!
    November needs to see these incompetent Nat.self servers thrown out of office. Real Kiwis need them like a hole in the head.The way they have handled the Christchurch and Pike river Mine disasters are nothing short of disgraceful. I am so ashamed of them, and deeply saddened.

  12. John Dalley 12

    The Christchurch “Winter of Discontent” is very likely to be thdeath of this National Government.
    As was pointed out on The Nation, Japan has built 30,000 temp houses and at this stage it appears that National has as yet to get out of bed little own actually reveal a plan.
    Surely there is areas of Christchurch that they could be steaming ahead with construction of new houses and moving people out of the more destroyed areas until at least the fuller picture emerges about the central areas of Christchurch.

    • Kevin Welsh 12.1

      Try ‘let alone’ rather than ‘little own’, John. Makes more sense.

  13. Descendant Of Smith 13

    What are the thoughts around the government propping up the uninsured and the under insured if they close down suburbs.

    Is this an inherent contradiction between the moral hazard argument and the need to help people move on?

    If this help is provided should there be a maximum level e.g. EQC + insurance + government help = no more than sufficient to buy a standard 3 bedroom house or a two bedroom unit according to their family size.

    Should home owning uninsured people now have to move back into the rental market and if not why not?

    Should uninsured and under-insured landlords be helped at all – theirs is much more of a commercial decision not to insure and as long as they have their own house to live in that should be sufficient? The priority is surely to ensure everyone is housed not to protect landlords investments.

    If market value was to be used what would this be given houses were overpriced anyway – insured value, G.V., some other figure – current market value no doubt the market will solve everything right wingers would say.

    Should the government own any owned or rental housing rebuilt that was not insured and if top up’s are made should the government have caveats on those properties so the yop-up money is recouped upon sale or death.

    There seems to be little public discussion around these issues.

    • Treetop 13.1

      There will be answers to your questions, but I doubt they will be the answers people want.

      • Descendant Of Smith 13.1.1

        Forgot one while I was writing – what about all those who have transferred their properties esp the one they actually live in into a trust and have had significant tax advantage from this. Should the taxpayer now be expected to help them out – given the reduction in tax they have paid over the years as a result?

        • Jum

          Descendant of Smith,

          I hope that question has been sent somewhere for an official answer.

        • Treetop

          I heard this morning that Civil Defence do the red stickering, BUT it is up to the council to remove the red sticker. Not sure about a yellow or a green sticker.

          What influence will the stickering have on insurance payouts for the dwelling and/or land of residental property?

  14. Sanctuary 14

    I listened to one of the rare appearances of any National party minister on Morning Report this morning when Brownlee condescended to be interviewed by a real journalist. His arrogance, his distain for democratic accountability and his impatience with anyone who dares to adopt an unwelcome line of questioning was a frightening insight into the mindset of John Key’s cabinet.

  15. We just have to thank what ever god we have that we didn’t have a Fukushima in Chch, because if this http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/06/16/985938/-eSci:-Unsafe-Radiation-Found-Near-Tokyo,-Vast-Area-of-Japan-Contaminated?via=siderec is the way the Japanese government treats its people how would our lot of criminals Nact?
    Politicians are ONLY any good in a growing economy, every other scenario they are utterly useless.
    Labour and the Greeds would be equally redundant.

    God save your children

  16. Red Rosa 16

    Chrictchurch – eight months on since the Sept 10 EQ. Four months on since the Feb 11 EQ. A week on from the June 10 EQ. Winter now setting in properly.

    Cleanup and assistance left to volunteers again, after the latest shake. Admirable response of course, but surely this time the professionals can take over?

    There seems to be a real sense, throughout the city, that Parker and Brownlee are just not up to the job. No real grip on the situation, no real leadership and decision making.

    Yet on the rare occasions local opposition MPs demand accountability and action, they are condemned for ‘partisan politics’.

    Christchurch deserves better? But then you get the politicians you deserve.

    • Draco T Bastard 16.1

      …but surely this time the professionals can take over?

      We don’t have any as it’s inefficient to have a functioning government according to the neo-liberals.

  17. A good, good interview of Brownlie by Susie Ferguson on Radion New Zealand is here.
    Brownlee was at his beligerent worst, worrying only about people’s equity in their homes and he refused to respond to requests to give any idea about the timing of release of information.
    He showed his trademark complete lack of empathy.  I hope the people of Ilam vote him out in November.

  18. millsy 18

    I have to say, right from the September 4 quake, I knew that this was going to be a big fuck up. And lo and behold, here we are.

    I have said time and time again, that the Ministry of Works and council works departments (as well as the government owned insurance companies) would have made things a lot easier to sort than the big mess we are having now. But we had to go and flog all them off, and now look, children have to take baths in plastic buckets while the EQC, the governments and the insurance companies sit on their hands.

  19. Sea bandit 19

    I listened to Brownlee talk on for five minutes No answer came forth. The man could not run a bath ,sad,b,stard

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