AS EVERYONE IS AWARE, CHRISTCHURCH was hit by another big quake on Sunday. Since then, we've had a series of strong aftershocks. While, thankfully, no one was killed or injured and damage to property appears to be minimal, the quake has come as a big psychological kick in the guts.
In an editorial, The Press comments that the quake has come at a time when the city is far from being given a clean bill of health. It points to the city's poor state of mental health:
"In May last year, Canterbury doctors said the city's mental health - once on a par with most other districts - was approaching crisis. Emergency mental health cases had risen by more than one-third. The number of children and teenagers needing psychological help had leaped two-thirds.
While some continued to suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress, the more widespread impact of the quakes was on rates of anxiety, depression and substance abuse."
It also points to the ugly reality of the increasing number of people in Christchurch and Canterbury who have attempted suicide . I wrote about this in another column. This attracted a good deal of flak from some readers who, when they weren't abusing me, felt I had some kind of 'obligation' to be more 'positive' about Christchurch.
But while The Press recognises the impact the quakes have had on the city and regions' mental health, it is only telling half the story. We can lay the blame on the quakes for the adverse psychological impact they have had on the community but that absolves human agencies of any responsibility, or - at least - minimise their culpability.
We could - and should - talk about how people have been put through sheer hell by the indifference and intransigence of the insurance companies. We can talk about the impact that the housing crisis has had on the thousands of people forced to live in overcrowded conditions, in substandard housing, in garages and cars. We can talk about how National's Nicky Wagner said, in 2014, that there were only thirty genuinely homeless people in Christchurch. We can talk about how the Minister for Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, denied for over three years that was a housing crisis in Christchurch. We can talk about families that have anguished about finding somewhere to live as rents have skyrocketed. We can talk about the level of anger and disillusionment in the neglected eastern suburbs as people watch the politicians and business leaders focus their attention on the demands of the central city rebuild. We can talk about how the Christchurch City Council is intent on soaking an already financially stressed community for even more rates in order to fund some grandiose and inappropriate central city 'anchor projects'. We can talk about how the Christchurch City Council is embarked on a project of privatisation which will we see some council workers lose their jobs. We can talk about how mental health services in the city have suffered government funding cuts.
The Press says that 'we are in this together.' The newspaper, one of the chief cheerleaders for the government's botched rebuild, wants us to believe Christchurch is one 'big neighbourhood' we're we all 'muck in'. I'm expecting Jim Mora and his team to be knocking on my door any minute now, ready and willing to fix up my garden.
No, we're not all living in one 'big neighbourhood'. No, we're not all 'mucking in'. We're not all 'in this together'.
We should not allow this quake to obscure the fact that it is local people who have been forced to carry the burden for this botched rebuild. It is local people who have been forced to make the sacrifices. Local people are paying for it not only economically but also in terms of their health and well being. The level of stress might of been ratcheted up by this new quake but the level of stress within the community was already high - as it has been for the past five years as this disastrous corporate-friendly rebuild has dragged on.