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Who will do the rebuilding?

Written By: - Date published: 8:26 am, March 19th, 2011 - 38 comments
Categories: disaster, public services - Tags: , ,

Who will rebuild Christchurch? Of course the physical work will be done by skilled tradespeople, thousands of them, over many years. My question is about who will plan, oversee and administer the process.

Even if you believe (I don’t) that the invisible hand of the market is going to swoop down and accomplish miracles, there is going to be a huge amount of work for Government to do, both at a local and a national level. Who is going to do this work? Public servants. Lots of them. The kind of “back room bureaucrats” that the Nats love to hate.

Like it or not, governments are nothing but a pack of yammering voices without the public service to give meaning and effect to their policies. As the same Tory war on the public sector is conducted in Britain, this point has been very well made in a recent article in The Guardian:

The whole premise of this government, of its NHS policy, of the “big society”, of the “free schools” initiative is that the public sector sucks. The private sector, according to the Tories, beats it for efficiency every time, can be just as compassionate and, at the top, “rewards enterprise”. Meanwhile the top of the public sector merely “pays people more than the prime minister”.

… In difficult times, deft powermongers deliver up whipping boys for the disgruntled. By picking on civil servants, Cameron has made an excellent choice: they work for him, so it’s hard for them to complain; they enforce government policies so if policies fail, he can blame the enforcement; yet if they succeed, he can keep the credit.

As a policy, however, it’s meaningless. He can’t act separately from bureaucrats, he has to act through them. Everything he does – every transparency initiative, every “big society” clarification document, every restructuring of the NHS or the welfare system, creates work for bureaucrats. He also said in the speech: “There’s only one strategy for growth we can have now and that is rolling up our sleeves and doing everything possible to make it easier for businesses to grow”, without acknowledging that it’s the bureaucrats’ sleeves he’s talking about, not his own or those of his party faithful.

Cameron also doesn’t realise, or is wilfully ignoring, how important our large and basically effective bureaucracy is to our place in the front rank of free nations. Without the civil service, acts of Parliament are only words and elections just millions of little slips of paper, like they are in Afghanistan. Civil servants don’t merely oil the wheels, they’re the axles that join them.

Exactly the same arguments apply here. Christchurch is not going to get rebuilt without a significant increase the public service. In short, the needs of rebuilding Christchurch are on a collision course with the ideology of the current government. The Nats are going to need to learn some new ways of thinking.

38 comments on “Who will do the rebuilding? ”

  1. vto 1

    Me, me, pick me. I can do it.

  2. Bill 2

    So the government (ie the taxpayer acting through a proxy) oversees and funds the rebuild. Then the government privatises as much of the result as possible (service provision and administration/control of infrastructure) in order to recoup expenditure.

    And the civil servants, aware of which way the wind is blowing, ‘jump ship’ into the newly created private sector which becomes a paragon of efficiency thanks to the years of experience injected into it by those ex civil servant employees.

    Brilliant. What could ever possibly be wrong with that?

  3. Craig Glen Eden 3

    Rob Rob Rob, you are so naughty fancy expecting National to actually have some policy! Heck man next thing you will be expecting a increase in investment in research and technology.

    This lot have no plan, no idea they even need a plan let a lone the implementation of one. National are stuffed other than stealing Public assets they have nothing.

  4. seeker 4

    The National Government needs to learn how to think ,full stop, and while doing this do an extra course in how to think of others rather than themselves.
    I fear,however, they will continually fail in this arena as they appear to have very poor memories (e.g. BMWs, shares, election promises) and will never remember any learning that may occur.
    They are a lost cause and must never be returned to Government lest New Zealand becomes a lost cause. Just because the Nacts do not have the required standard of thinking skills to run a country well and are not likely to acquire any (unless a miracle occurs) does not mean the electorate must follow suit.
    Wake up New Zealand and see the dunces some of you have put in charge of the country – learn to upskill your thinking too before it is too late.
    One more term of this neglectful (wilfully?), short sighted, shallow thinking, self focussed government (which has the cunning to be able to appear the opposite, ably assisted by many in the media who thereby become as culpable as the government) will make New Zealand one of the saddest places to live on the planet.

    • burt 4.1

      Agree. The short memories of partisans reveling in bagging National for upgrading the BMW fleet forget how they defended the previous lot for switching from Ford’s to BMW while telling us all how we had to tighten our belts because we were heading into a recession. Learn to think indeed.

      • Colonial Viper 4.1.1

        John Key lied about what he knew about the Beamers. While LAB rain surpluses all Key has done is run deficits AND buy new Beamers.

  5. Colonial Viper 6

    This describes how stuffed we are without our Ministry of Works and Development.


    Basically the Government is having to wait for the private industry to get its shit together, an industry which does not have a history of working collectively and co-ordinating together on anything this big, and frankly it looks like a massive expensive, slow, schmozzle in progress.

    Further it appears that the NATs are providing no leadership in this situation at all.

    There are going to be a lot of cold Christchurch families this Winter.

    • pollywog 6.1

      Just as well there’s 3 bright young scions of the construction and property development sector on the Churtown City Council…I’m sure they got this shit on lockdown !

      …but didn’t someone say something about converting shipping containers for temporary accom ?..oh yeah that was me 🙂

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 6.2

      Perhaps we could ask BHP-Biliton or Western Mining to help. They seem to be able to construct large mining towns out of nothing fairly quickly.

      • jh 6.2.1

        Twizel was built in 1969. A thousand houses brought in on the back of trucks and each property laid out so they all got the sun.

  6. Ed 7

    Hasn’t Fletchers already got a contract to coordinate a lot of the re-building? If it helps their share price that’s good – Right?

  7. M 8

    ‘The Nats are going to need to learn some new ways of thinking.’

    We need to keep within the realms of the possible.

    New thinking from the moldering edifice that is NACT? Impossible.

    • Colonial Viper 8.1

      Well, they could always sound like they are learning new ways of thinking.

  8. Murray 9

    Are these the same back room bureaucrats who are demolishing buildings in the red zone without consulting with the owners? If so, yea right the rebuild will go really well

    • felix 9.1

      No, those are privately owned demolition companies.

      • Murray 9.1.1

        At the request of Civil Defense

        • Alpha Sud

          Murray you’ve forgotten it’s all Gerry Brownlee’s fault.

          Some of the lunatics on here think that the state is best to build houses and buildings. So all those bureaucrats in Wellington have very good hammer skills it seems. That’s why we need a bloated civil service. To build houses when we have a national disaster.

        • McFlock

          “At the request of Civil Defense”

          Apparently that’s one of the points of discussion

          • Puddleglum

            Civil Defense didn’t seem to know about this one.

            But perhaps it was the council engineers who messed up – still, I wouldn’t call council engineers ‘back room bureaucrats’. If they are, makes you wonder who the ‘front room’ public servants are.

    • Colonial Viper 9.2

      Are these the same back room bureaucrats who are demolishing buildings in the red zone without consulting with the owners? If so, yea right the rebuild will go really well

      This comment is such shit.

      Officials know better than most the strict processes which need to be followed to prevent frak ups. The ‘keep your ass covered’ culture does come in useful.

      Further, these “bureacrats” have no money to gain from willy nilly demolishing structures. The demolitions companies however do.

      Your assumptions are just insulting, typical Right Wing drivel.

      • Murray 9.2.1

        Seeing that the red zone is apparently tightly controlled by civil defense it could be assumed that any buildings being demolished are at the behest of civil defense If not it is apparent that so called frak ups are happening, and or incompetence.
        The protest by building owners was outside civil defense so that who they are blaming.

        Right Wing drivel is better then left wing stupidity

        • Colonial Viper

          Sounds to me like the courts will be full of claims from business and property owners before long.

          Left wing stupidity? Guilty as charged 🙂

    • jh 9.3

      The build didn’t go so great, beginning with the BNZ building. That’s got to be the ugliest building in the CBD and the death knoll to cathedral square. I hope Gloucester Towers is stuffed as it was built through a loophole by Mainstay Properties… an elephant in the corn.

  9. KJT 10

    They will be lucky to get many tradespeople. All the tradesmen under 50 have gone to Oz.
    Fletchers will be trying to use untrained “fly by nights” to keep the costs down and the profits up.
    And 15 years down the track we will have another leaky homes scandal.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      Its OK, by then Key, English and Brownlee will have all washed their hands clean of this country, and sent their children overseas.

      • Anne 10.1.1

        Some of them have already gone CV. I believe Key’s daughter is at a “finishing school” in Switzerland. No further comment…

        • Colonial Viper

          English has a daughter off at Cambridge or Oxford, doing law I think.

      • Alpha Sud 10.1.2

        [That’s not acceptable…RL]

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 10.2

      The govt could step in here. The development authority that gets set up could foster apprenticeships and trade training for young people all over NZ and employ them over the next decade in various projects over the next decade.

      You’d prefer resources go to giving young kiwis useful employment and skills than giving money to overseas constructors to lay asphalt and concrete on the Holiday Highway and Transmission Gully.

      Auckland needs 30,000 new dwellings over the next decade and we have an awful lot leaky buildings that need fixing. Isn’t that how we built the hydro towns in the 60s.

    • Lanthanide 10.3

      On silver lining of this quake is that potentially hundreds of leaky homes, that would otherwise have reared their heads in the coming years and caused nightmares, will have been destroyed and will now be covered under EQC insurance. Other leaky homes may need significant earthquake repairs and so could reduce the cost of fixing just the leaky bits at the same time.

  10. tsmithfield 11

    I would argue that the market is very capable of sorting most issues out with respect to the rebuild.

    Whether or not certain areas are insurable will mean that building companies have little option but to choose carefully where they build. Earthquake safety will be a major concern of buyers of residential and commercial property going forward, so companies that are not building safe houses are likely to go out of business, whereas those that are building safe buildings on solid ground are likely to prosper.

    So the government component doesn’t need to be that intense. Obviously issues such as modifying the building code to ensure standards are met etc are important. However, much of this will be market driven anyway regardless of changes to rules and regulations.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      I would argue that the market is very capable of sorting most issues out with respect to the rebuild.

      Nope. Market actors are not rational, nor will they have any experience in a situation like this. Further the level of uncertainty is high, and markets always slap on a massive premium in high risk commercial situations. Neither NZ nor insurers, will be willing to pay that margin.

      In other words TS prepare for “market failure”.

  11. jh 12

    I think we have to look at incentives. The mining of capital gains has produced an industry that is one step better than the trade in illicit drugs. It’s time to reconsider land taxes. This (I read) was all the talk at the association of economists conference about a year ago (ref Henry James)

    One solution already being mooted by a National Party back door portal is to increase immigration (bring in people with money to buy new houses and let the dregs who can’t shuffle off).

    Note David Farrars obsession with Winston Peters and who bought the “NO” sign?

  12. Just Right 13

    @ Anne sorry wrong. Key’s Daughter is studying Fashion Design in Paris.

    @CV English’s daughter won a scholarship to Oxford

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