Like a bad infomercial that just won't go away, the good people of Christchurch are again being told that this year will finally be the year that the Christchurch rebuild really takes off...

IT HAS BECOME A FAMILIAR part of the Christchurch silly season for local politicians and their media friends to tell the good people of the city that, yes, this will be the year that the Christchurch rebuild finally takes off. Really. You can trust us.

But what is really silly is that the political elite and their media allies think that folk, after five long years of a botched rebuild, will actually be convinced by the hype. Like the boy who cried wolf, the politicians have made this claim so many times before that people are simply no longer listening to them.

This year Michael Wright drew the short straw and was forced to compose the annual Christmas-New Year hymn of praise to the rebuild.

So in an article published in The Press on December 27 we learn that "2017 is looming as the year Christchurch may finally break out of earthquake-recovery mode as major roadworks near completion and key rebuild projects get under way."

The article was obviously prepared long before Mayor Lianne Dalziel headed off on her summer holidays because the article contains several carefully manicured quotes from her.

""I honestly feel like we've turned a corner," gushes Dalziel . "It's really just been over the last few months that I've started to feel it."

Perhaps Dalziel is feeling the same good vibrations that Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch told her he was feeling last year. Shortly before Xmas in 2015 he told Mayor Dalziel that he "could feel a positivity in Christchurch that wasn't there before". According to Lynch, there was a "seachange" happening in Christchurch.

In The Press article Dalziel talks up the work of Regenerate Christchurch. That's probably because she claimed that Regenerate Christchurch would be a far different beast from the much loathed Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), which it replaced.

When the organisation was launched in 2015 Dalziel claimed that it represented a "real partnership between the council and the Crown and it represents a real opportunity for the city." While she was saying this, 100 CERA workers - from a staff of 170 -- were moving over to Regenerate Christchurch. A game of bureaucratic musical chairs hardly amounted to the transformation that Dalziel suggested was underway.

And subsequently there has been precious little evidence of more community involvement in the rebuild. With little to show, perhaps that's why Dalziel suggests that 2017 will be the year that the neglected eastern suburbs, and New Brighton in particular, will finally come in from the cold.

Dalziel waxes lyrical about the exciting future ahead for struggling New Brighton: "It's our opportunity to focus on the destination. It's a journey from city to sea, and the destination is New Brighton. It means we get a chance to fix what's fundamentally holding New Brighton back from the wonderful environment that it can be."

The folk of New Brighton, not particularly fond of Dalziel in the first place, will  not be partying up quite yet.

But as the rebuild grinds on and on, a failed top down bureaucratic nightmare, the unrelenting message from the political elite and its media allies is that the rebuild is making steady progress.

Back in the day, former mayor Bob Parker told Christchurch that 'the rebuild was ramping up'. In 2013 the CEO of the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce, Pete Townsend, claimed he could 'smell the money pouring into Christchurch and the editor of The Press, Joanna Norris,agreed with him. She wrote: "Developers are pushing ahead with a flamboyance and ballsiness that is to be admired. Our city is booming. As Peter Townsend, told The Press in October: "You can smell the money."

But the only people who have been "smelling the money" have been the mayor and her jolly band of councillors on their bloated six figure salaries.

And it was about this time last year that deputy mayor Vicki Buck boasted that the rebuild was absolutely 'wonderful'. She said : '"Lots of things are going to happen .... it's going to be a great year."

The Press, the very same newspaper that says 2017 will be the year that Christchurch emerges from the rubble, said that 2016 was "..set to be the year that Christchurch emerges from the rubble."

And on it goes.

But, unfortunately for the political establishment, reality has the annoying habit of upsetting their best laid PR fantasies.

On 28 December The Press reported that Iconic, a central city bar and restaurant, had closed its doors just nine months after reopening. Manager Amy Cooney returned from holiday to find she and the other 14 staff no longer had jobs with the fixtures, fittings and wine cellar auctioned off in early December.

The Press also reported that there were "predictions of tough times ahead for the city's hospitality businesses."

Hardly compelling evidence of a rebuild that is set to "take off".

My prediction, for what its worth, is that 2017 will be exactly like 2016. And 2015. And the year before that, and the year before that...


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