There’s a large number of reports coming out of Christchurch of businesses that have been demolished without Civil Defence consulting with the owners, as is procedure, and giving them a chance to recover vital equipment and records first. Disturbingly, some of these demolitions seem to have been carried out by ‘cowboys’ without CD approval.
Demolitions are being conducted without the owners having a chance to even know about it first. The wrong building has been knocked down at least once and others have been demolished before owners had a chance to present the case that their experts’ opinion was the building was salvageable.
I can understand that in limited circumstances immediate demolition may be necessary but what is happening here is the gradual, wholesale destruction of red-stickered buildings. There’s no immediate time constraint. If there’s disagreement over whether a building can be saved, have the discussion while knocking down buildings that everyone agrees have to go. If the owners want to go in before demolition, see if that can be done safely or not. But that’s just not happening. And it’s not CD, necessarily, that’s at fault. Blame is being directed at overzealous private demolition companies.
Kurt Langer, who led a protest of 30 business owners outside CD HQ yesterday, calls the high-handed and seemingly arbitrary manner in which things are being conducted “communist”. With respect, that I think he means is ‘authoritarian’.
This is all happening under the auspices of Gerry the First’s CERRA powers and the national state of emergency that National keeps on extending. And it’s so typical of Brownlee’s whole approach to life. He’s like a bull in a China shop but with less grace and patience. His initial call for all Christchurch’s historic buildings to be destroyed has undoubtedly been seen as a licence by people involved in demolition to do whatever they want. It’s well known that Brownlee has strong links with certain developers in the city. They’re probably right to think they can go ahead and destroy property because Gerry can and will exempt them from any legal implications that they aren’t all ready exempted from by the state of emergency.
This lack of subtlety and foresight from Brownlee is why he was such a bad choice for the role of earthquake recovery Minister. Where a bit of thought, planning, and, above all, honest up-front communication with the people is needed on residential housing, he point-blank refuses, preferring to be secretive and autocratic instead. Where a little bit of patience and consultation is needed in the CBD to minimise the damage and save businesses, he unleashes the bulldozers and, in the process, destroys untold value in salvageable equipment and records. His brutishness will only send more small businesses to the wall, destroying more jobs. That’ll only make the recovery even less likely to appear out of thin air, as the Nats seem to assume it will.