So where's the 'blueprint' for the eastern suburbs of Christchurch, then? Guess what? There isn't one....
The Monday night launch of the Christchurch's central city redevelopment blueprint was very much designed for national - and possibly international - consumption. With the Prime Minister in attendance to provide his Government's blessing, this was very much a show about Christchurch moving into a bright new future - 'The Rebuild Starts Here!' Not Right Now! But Soon! Don't Worry About Who's Going To Pay For It!'
Key of course was backed by the usual crowd of Government cheerleaders - Mayor Sideshow Bob (he just loves the media spotlight, doesn't he?), Pete Townsend from the Canterbury Chambers of Commerce, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all. Peter seemed very happy - he was probably dreaming of all that cash his business mates would make once the council's assets got sold off to pay for the rebuild.
Of course the invited audience - mostly from the business sector ( no surprises there, then) lapped it all up. They were going to get their CBD back!
Not having any of the wine and canapes were the approximately 300 protesters standing in the rain outside the Christchurch City Council Civic Offices. It wasn't a new protest - just a continuation of a protest that has been going on for months and months.
And the usual questions were being asked. When are the eastern suburbs going to receive the same kind of focus and attention that has been lavished on the CBD? When are people's homes going to be repaired? How much longer are people going to have to call a caravan or garage 'home'? How much longer are the insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission going to be allowed to trample roughshod over people's lives?
No answers were forthcoming from the happy soiree going down inside council HQ.
Nearly 30,000 houses lie on damaged land and people are having to endure what are intolerable situations - while the Minister for Earthquake Recovery continues to insist there is no housing crisis.
What most folk resent is that the new CBD is being planned while the plight of the eastern suburbs is deemed to be of low priority. The concerns of business have been given precedence over the concerns of local communities.
Sideshow Bob might be hailing the proposed new white elephant / sports stadium and the extravagant new convention centre but the fact remains that people in the Eastside have been waiting to have their houses repaired for over two years. There is no 'bright future' awaiting them - just more financial hardship, stress and anxiety.
The failure of Mayor Sideshow Bob and his council cronies to promote the concerns of the eastern suburbs has meant that organisations like WeCan (Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network) ) and Action for Christchurch East have been the grassroots organisations that have given voice to the concerns of the eastern suburbs. People like the Reverend Mike Coleman of WeCan and Kiri Hider of Action for Christchurch East have been real heroes but I doubt they'll eventually get a mention in the Queen's Birthday Awards - unlike Sideshow Bob, the faithful lapdog of Gerry Brownlee.
While Sideshow Bob did not get round to talking with the protesters he did pen a few thoughts in his column in the Christchurch Star this week.
The relevant paragraph is this: 'In the short term , I acknowledge we need to focus on getting people's homes fixed and help them rebuild their own lives to ensure that they are part of the new city that will evolve in the coming years.'
But folk have heard these kind of platitudes from Mayor Bob and others for over two years. The time for empty rhetoric is long gone and people want to see some significant action now and not at some vague time in the future.
For the Eastside, the future never seems to arrive.
Kiri Hider and Action for East Christchurch organised the Monday night protest and WeCan have another protest scheduled for next Wednesday (August 5) at midday. There will be a march to the offices of the EQC and then on to the offices of the insurance company IAG.
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