The people of Christchurch aren't happy about the direction their city is heading in but Mayor Lianne Dalziel has nothing to offer but more platitudes.

IT COMES AS NO GREAT SURPRISE  that a new Press survey has revealed widespread discontent with the direction that Christchurch is heading. It's somewhat ironic that this survey should appear in The Press because, for the past five years, it has been one of the government's chief cheerleaders.

A survey of 359 people has revealed that four out of ten people don't like where Christchurch is heading. They have cited such issues as the uncertain future of the red zone areas and the continued neglect of the eastern suburbs as sources of concern. I live in the Eastside and I often reflect that the rest of New Zealand would be truly shocked if they saw what  many people are being forced to put up with.

Many of those surveyed were also unhappy that the thousands of ideas contributed by local people to the Christchurch's City Council's own 'Share An Idea' campaign have been ignored by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA). These ideas were party of a draft Central City plan.

CERA has claimed that many of those ideas have been included in its own blueprint for central Christchurch. Which is nonsense. What it is not saying is that it was the Roger Sutton-led CERA that, without any public consultation whatsoever, dumped the Christchurch City Council draft plan. It did this after being told it was unacceptable to corporate interests.

 I wrote in 2012:

The NZ Property Council, which represents 'commercial, industrial, retail, property Funds and multi unit residential property owners, managers and investors', was not impressed.

Connal Townsend , the chief Executive of the Property Council, writes in its 2012 Annual Report: 'By September Christchurch City Council had released a highly prescriptive draft Inner City Plan that generated considerable disquiet throughout the country. The release, on 13 October, of the formal letter from CERA to Mayor Bob Parker advising the city that the inner city plan was not acceptable to the crown in its present form as it did “not represent the requirements or aspirations of commercial property owners or investors” was a great relief'.

Connal Townsend, by the way, is the brother of Peter Townsend, CEO of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce.

Instead of protesting about the dumping of his council's own draft plan, Mayor Bob Parker meekly rolled over and surrendered. He said that he was "very excited' by CERA's blueprint. Parker has, of course, been duly rewarded for his loyalty to the government with a knighthood.

Lianne Dalzeil MP though was critical of CERA'S performance. In a opinion piece for The Press, she wrote in 2012:

'The minute the Government decided to establish a government department to run the recovery, as opposed to an independent Crown entity, and exclude the people and their democratically elected council from the process, the recovery was on the wrong track.'

Three years on, in another opinion piece responding to the Press survey, she seems to be grudgingly conceding that the local community 'feel' left out of the rebuild process. I think that's what she's saying here:

'...we need to be honest and admit that many communities have felt left out since what happened after Share an Idea failed to re-engage the very people who had put people at the heart of every word map.'

Note to Mayor: It's not a case of people's perceptions - they have been concretely excluded from any significant involvement in the local recovery.

Dalziel asks: "So how do we re-engage our communities in this important conversation about the vision for our city?

Unfortunately Dalziel is offering nothing but more of the same. She claims that CERA's replacement, Regenerate Christchurch, will "provide an opportunity to re-engage with people about what they wanted for their suburbs and their city."

Actually it won't, but such platitudes are to be expected as Dalziel has, like Parker, decided to take the path of least resistance. She has said that she is looking forward to 'working' with Gerry Brownlee. This is the sort of spin we used to get from Bob Parker. It wasn't acceptable then and it's not acceptable now.

Regenerate Christchurch remains under the control of the government. There is no avenue for real participation by local people. It's full steam ahead with the government's corporate-friendly agenda and for Dalziel to suggest otherwise is absurd.

We also need to take her public pronouncements  about 'local involvement' with more than a grain of salt anyway. It was, after all, Dalziel and her supporters on council that voted this year to massively hike up rates and sell council assets - ignoring the vast majority of public submissions that said that this wasn't acceptable. One step in 're-engaging' with the local community would be by actually carrying out its wishes.


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