|Source: Projecting Failure As Success by Greg Simons|
WHILE THE GOVERNMENT, THE CHRISTCHURCH CITY COUNCIL, the business sector and the local media have, for the past five years, relentlessly propagandised that the rebuild has all been going swimmingly well, that's not what the local community thinks.
For some of us, that's hardly a relevation, but new research by Greg Simons reinforces what we have been saying for years. Our voices though have been buried by 'good news' media stories, glossy leaflets, tourist commercials, government press releases, and spin, spin, spin.
Simons surveyed some 600 people after he noticed a wide discrepancy between what the Government was saying about the rebuild and what family and friends were telling him.
The results of his survey can be found in his paper "Projecting Failure As Success: Residents’ Perspectives of the Christchurch Earthquakes Recovery", published in the Journal of Cogent Social Sciences.
The unrelenting message from the political elite has been as Simon notes, one of a rebuild making 'steady progress'. Former Mayor Bob Parker told us that 'the rebuild was ramping up', the CEO of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, Pete Townsend, claimed he could 'smell the money pouring into Christchurch.', the editor of The Press, Joanna Norris, wrote that Christchurch was 'booming'. And the Minister for Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, emphatically told us that 'there was no housing crisis in Christchurch' and 'market competition would bring rents down'.
None of this PR BS has gone down well with a local community that has borne the brunt of a botched bureaucratic rebuild, shaped to meet the demands of the corporates.
These comments that Simons received are typical:
"I have had family members die, get sick, suffer from ill health and that is not good when recovery efforts are barricaded by people who are paid thousands to those who are suffering and losing thousands and thousands … Its Heart breaking …”.
"Bridges and road still broken; community facilities that were destroyed have not been replaced; local community looks like a third world country."
"Too much bureaucracy and political posturing. Lies and more lies."
"Insurance companies seem to be accountable to no-one. My experience of them are they are bullies playing games. The Government has stood by, and even joined in the games. They seem to all be in the same club. Lack of democracy. Lack of real public participation. The council, insurance, Government appear to be either extremely incompetent or sociopathic."
But the widespread anger and frustration felt by the local community has never been reflected by the political establishment - its message has been one of progress and prosperity. The propaganda has been Orwellian at times.
And nothing has changed.
Despite vague promises from Mayor Lianne Dalziel that things will be somehow different under Regenerate Christchurch, the song remains the same. Just two weeks ago Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck boasted that the rebuild was 'wonderful' and that 'we' could all look forward to a 'great' 2016. Many of us, contemplating our steeply increasing rates bills, think otherwise.
Simons' research also reveals - again, not surprisingly - widespread local concern about the lack of local input into the rebuild and the lack of accountability and 'democratic process'.
But, yet again, these concerns are being run roughshod over.
The most recent blatant disregard of local wishes has been the Christchurch City Council's arrogant and undemocratic decision to privatise council assets. Of the over 3000 submissions to the council's Long Term Plan, 96 percent of them opposed any form of privatisation.
Also of note is the local community's lack of trust in the local media. Simons notes that "it is felt that mass media tend to toe the Government line and ignore public interest."
It's certainly more than ironic that a news story on Greg Simon's work has appeared in The Press - one of the Government's chief rebuild cheerleaders . The newspaper is presently telling its declining readership that Christchurch is 'a great place to be'.
Similarly, Chris Lynch, a local talkback host for Newstalk ZB, appears to have forgotten what his responsibilities are and has turned into yet another propagandist for the botched rebuild.
Shortly before Xmas he told Mayor Lianne Dalziel that he 'could feel a positivity in Christchurch that wasn't there before'. The relationship between Lynch and Dalziel has become increasingly cosy, with Lynch's regular interviews with Dalziel becoming little more than opportunities for her to tell the audience what a great job she and her council are doing.
But Lynch isn't the only culprit. James Dann and Barnaby Bennett have made some informed and relevant criticisms of the rebuild in the past. Dann, in particular , was particularly critical of Bob Parker's mayoralty. However Bennett and Dann have now fallen silent, having seemingly become part of Dalziel's little fan club.
Despite having written about Naomi Klein's Disaster Capitalism and how it applies to Christchurch, Bennett has had nothing to say about the wholesale privatisation program that the Christchurch City Council is intent on embarking on. His silence can only be viewed as support and entirely hypocritical.
Greg Simons notes that the local Christchurch community, having been failed by both the politicians and the mainstream media, have 'politcally mobilised' in the social media (such as Facebook) and the blogosphere.
But it has to be said this is a less than satisfactory alternative to a strong and organised grassroots movement that could have actively opposed the corporate - driven rebuild that has shut out the local community. If there's one clear lesson to be drawn from the excellent work of Greg Simons is that the good people of Christchurch have little faith in their so-called political representatives. And for good reason.