Illustration by Porcupine Farm
One of Roger Sutton's new proposals is apparently 'bold and exciting'. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority supremo wants to supply every person in Christchurch with a pair of sunglasses. Why? Because Christchurch's future is so bright, we'll all have to wear shades. This is true. But seriously...WHILE I RESPECT and understand that many people wanted to commemorate the third anniversary of the devastating Christchurch earthquake, I wasn't impressed by the opportunism of the usual suspects who tried to get some 'ideological mileage' out of the occasion. If I had been at the ceremony in the Botanic Gardens I might of had to be forcibly restrained from giving Gerry Brownlee the middle digit. I can't stand cant.
The familiar refrain from Billy Bunter and his sidekicks Roger Sutton and Warwick isaacs is that 'we' can all look forward to an 'exciting future' in Christchurch. That's right - we're apparently all heading to a classless and egalitarian Christchurch where property developers, politicians and the poor will all be living the good life and drinking expensive drinks in one of Antony Gough's swanky Oxford Terrace bars.
Brownlee and co remind me of those dark medieval days when the wealthy priests told the poor and oppressed to put up with their lot in life because it was 'God-ordained' and, anyway, there would be treasures waiting for then in heaven. (The ultimate con-job? Discuss).
In Christchurch the much promoted 'exciting future' will not only never arrive it looks it'll take a very long time not arriving. Last year it was estimated by the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce that barely ten percent of the development had been done - this figure came from an organisation which is one the government's biggest cheerleaders in Christchurch. Even a former National cabinet minister, Philip Burdon, has been sharply critical of the lack of progress and thinks that the 'future' Christchurch may be distinctly underwhelming.
It's not surprisng though that the government wants us to put our hope in the future when the present is an ugly place for many people.
There are over 7000 people who are homeless in the city and the level of poverty has risen considerably . Much of this has been driven by what amount to extortionate rises in rents. Missing in any of the feel-good speeches given by Brownlee is the fact that rents have risen some 35 percent in the past year and that he assured us all that 'market competition' would drive rents down.
And let's not forget the war of attrition that continues between ordinary folk and the insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission.
A friend of mine finally gets her turn in court this week to fight a decision by the EQC that would leave her in a totally unacceptable position. She has had to spend money not only on the services of a solicitor but also for an independent survey of her land. It is money that she can ill-afford to spend but the EQC have driven her to this. She is one of thousands of people in Christchurch who have been kicked about by the insurance industry and the EQC - and are still being kicked about.
Unfortunately much of the political opposition to what is happening in Christchurch has evaporated with the election of a Labour mayor and a generally Labour-friendly council. It's almost as if the opponents of the previous Bob Parker regime think 'the job' has been done. It's less than attractive that the plight of so many people in the city has been sacrificed on the altar of electoralism.
Given the failure of Mayor Lianne Dalziel and her council to present an alternative vision for Christchurch that isn't based on the present 'top down' approach we're going to be asked, again and again, to wait for the 'exciting future' which, like Godot, will never arrive. All the while, the profit-hungry developers, the insurance companies and the politicians squabble about who gets what.
And, just to rub it in, the good people of Chritschurch are being told they will have to foot the bill. The corporations rake in the profits and we get to pick up the tab....