Regular readers of this blog will well know that I've been writing about the economic and social crisis in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch ever since the first big earthquake hit over two years ago.
I'm not the only one who has been blogging about it - so have other local writers. And community groups have protested. And local councillors and MP's have raised their concerns. We have all raised our voices in protest and we all have protested on the streets - and outside the offices of the Canterbury Earthquake recovery Authority (CERA), the Earthquake Commission and Gerry 'Crisis? What Crisis?' Brownlee. Some of us have also been vocal about the government poodle that is Mayor Bob Parker and his abject failure to defend the interests of the eastern suburbs.
This is what the Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network (WeCan) said back in April last year:
The situation in Canterbury is getting worse by the day. We are seeing:
People living in garages.
Rental accommodation prices forcing people onto the street.
Unaffordable house prices selling $50 – 100,000 above rateable value.
People battling insurance companies and EQC with little satisfaction.
Bizarre land decisions but no right of review.
Red zone residents forced from their homes before alternatives are available.
Unreasonable deadlines on red zoners creating enormous stress.
Little new land on the market inflating existing prices.
WeCan! believes the crisis is deepening and impacting Christchurch, Kaiapoi, Brooklands and neighbouring areas and will only get worse in coming months and years.
Nine months later The Press has reported, surprise, that nothing much has changed.
Horror stories of Christchurch families living in garages and tents continue to surface almost two years after the February 2011 earthquake.
Some families are still stranded in sheds or illegally overcrowding friends' and relatives' houses.
Meanwhile, rental housing prices show no sign of abating, and welfare agencies believe this year could be worse than 2012.
Demand on Christchurch's social services continues to increase. People who have never needed help before are queuing up at food banks, and many families still face impoverished living conditions.
City Missioner Michael Gorman said the unprecedented demand for the mission's alcohol and drug services, food bank and night shelters "has not eased at all".
"There is a lot more money going into rent and a lot less money going into living."
The number of people approaching the mission suffering from poverty or mental health issues was rampant, he said.
The voice of the Eastside has not only been ignored - we have also been told repeatedly by Gerry Brownlee that there is no crisis. At this point we could have reasonably expected that Mayor Parker would of told Brownlee , in no uncertain terms, that he is wrong. But Parker, the snivelling coward that he is, has remained silent. As has his Council groupies like Sue Wells, Barry Corbett and Ngaire Button.
But it is worse than this. The voice of protest has been systematically and deliberately drowned out by government propaganda about a so-called 'economic boom'.
In October last year Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend told us that the rebuild was 'officially' under way and he could almost "smell the money" being poured into the city. This is the man who wants the Council to divest itself of its assets and sell them to his corporate mates. and then has the cheek to say that he 'believes in Christchurch'.
Townsend is the embodiment of all that is wrong in Christchurch. He equates the revival of Christchurch with the rebuild of the central business district. And there is no money being poured into the eastern suburbs. That money is all going to the likes of Ngai Tahu Property who will make vast profits out of building corporate monoliths that Christchurch doesn't need but will get lumbered with.
There is no 'grand plan' for the eastern suburbs and no 'brighter future'. We have been left to be preyed on by the vampires - landlords, real estate companies, insurance companies the Earthquake Commission, CERA.
Back in August last year I wrote:
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?
The corporate cheerleaders like Gerry Brownlee, Mayor Parker and Peter Townsend not only remain silent but by their inaction they have given the Eastside the one finger salute. But just us proles live in the eastern suburbs so who cares?
Our response to the disaster capitalists should be that will be no rebuild of the central city while the eastern suburbs remain devastated and people's lives remain in limbo, while people remain in poverty and hardship.