CERA chief Roger Sutton says Christchurch has a bright future - but that's cold comfort for people struggling today.
Roger Sutton, the chief of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) writes a weekly column in the Christchurch Star.
Generally its a unrelenting optimistic column. Not only is Sutton in charge of the rebuilding of Christchurch, he also seems to have adopted the role of chief motivator; the man always on hand with a few breezy words of encouragement. Judging by the many derisory comments made about him on the web, not everyone appreciates being told that 'the glass is half full' again and again.
So in his January 13 column Sutton, against a backdrop of more morale-sapping quakes over Christmas-New Year, is keen to again stress that, while it may be on its knees now, Christchurch has a bright future ahead of it. It lies somewhere over the rainbow. Yes, it does.
Sutton name checks the American magazine Foreign Policy which has, in a somewhat glib photo essay, labelled Christchurch as one of the sixteen world cities to watch.
He then references a Lonely Planet article that claims that Christchurch is 'one of New Zealand's most exciting cities'.
Sutton writes that 'history backs such optimistic views. San Francisco for example suffered a 7.1 earthquake in 1989 causing more than $6 billion of property loss but is now one of top tourist destinations in the world.'
We can argue the validity of Sutton's PR-massaged optimism (and I have real problems with his rose-tinted views, especially with Gerry Brownlee lurking in the background) but there is no disputing that his vision of a safe, environmentally-friendly and exciting Christchurch is a long way from fruition. It will take decades.
But for people who have been hit hardest by a succession of quakes it is cold comfort to be told that a new and better Christchurch will rise from the rubble eventually. People are, of course, having to live their lives now. They can't live on promises of a better tomorrow.
I live on the east side of Christchurch so I've had the opportunity to travel around the quake-wrecked suburbs and I have to say that not a lot has changed. The scenes of quake devastation remain. But the Eastside has largely been forgotten. 6500 houses have basically been wiped off the map. Another 3000 remain in limbo, still awaiting their fate.
How long are people expected to put up with this situation?
And you cannot help but feel the growing sense of anger.
This sense of anger was articulated in a letter in The Press on Saturday.
It was written by Darren Aitken, a fire officer based in New Brighton. He lambasts the Christchurch City Council. insurers , banks and the EQC as 'heartless organisations' who instead of helping people, are simply increasing their levels of stress. He writes:
'I now work a New Brighton Fire Station, and I still see people breaking under the stress - stressed caused by organisations that are meant to be helping. We no longer ask 'how's your day going?' because the answer is that they having a crappy one. 'Just look what I'm living with or in,' they say. My heart breaks again and again for all these people.'
There are numerous horror stories of people getting short shrift from the likes of EQC and CERA.
Similarly the eastern suburbs have been abandoned by a mayor who won't defend the interests and concerns of residents who pay his inflated salary. He has become the tame lapdog of a government that has allowed a social crisis to develop.
This is a council that allows councillors like the self-serving Sue Wells to take holidays in Germany at the expense of the ratepayer. This is a council that gives its CEO a salary increase of $70,000. This is a council whose deputy mayor thinks 'God' will save the city. This is a council totally out of touch with a city it pretends to serve.
On February 1 at midday there will be a protest at the Christchurch City Council offices. It is a ostensibly a protest about Tony Marryatt's salary increase. But it'll also be an opportunity for people to say that they are not going to put up with being kicked around by organisations so clearly out of touch with the immediate needs of people struggling to cope with the impact of the quakes.
Not satisfied with the way things are going in Christchurch? Be at the protest. Be heard.