Former Christchurch mayor Garry Moore has a point.
On the second anniversary of the September 2010 earthquake he says it is time to shine the torchlight of democracy on the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA).
CERA chief executive Roger Sutton dismisses Mr Moore, who he says sounds like someone who has been “left out in the cold”.
Mr Sutton has hit the nail on the head.
Mr Moore, an acknowledged community leader and a businessman in his own right, has indeed been “left out in the cold” – like most other residents in Christchurch.
Mr Sutton says “get real” and that someone needs to dictate the path of recovery.
But from a planning perspective the recovery was already well under way, with the adoption earlier this year of the city council annual plan via the Share An Idea series of public and submissions.
Christchurch people came up with sensible proposals, and the majority asked for relatively modest projects. For example, they chose a $200 million uncovered stadium with seating for around 30,000, ample for most rugby matches these days.
Prime Minister John Key then launched CERA’s Central City Development Unit blueprint amid hoopla and pr-bolstered cheerleading.
It foisted an architect’s fantasy of massive buildings that could bankrupt a small city of about 350,000 residents.
Property would be seized by the state and sold to new developers to construct massive civic edifices.
Instead of saying – “Yes, we like the blueprint but of course we must tweak the architect’s imagination”, CERA, ministers and various business leaders adopt “TINA”: there is no alternative.
This includes the madness of bulldozing functioning buildings and businesses, some of them brand new.
Glimpses in local newspaper reports suggest the Central City Development Unit is pulling back from its scorched earth policy.
But CERA’s Mr Sutton and the CCDU’s Warwick Isaacs communicate none of this to residents.
Mr Isaacs is invisible to the public except on rare occasions when Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee holds a breakfast or cocktail briefing to outline the work that has been done.
This regurgitated speech is based on a missive put together a month ago by EQC public relations folk, aimed at explaining the magnitude of the event.
The same tired functionaries and “leaders” attend each briefing. Familiar faces take the top table to hear the message yet again.
Meanwhile, Mr Sutton’s energies are largely engaged in mollifying the anger and resentment at the 20-odd public meetings being held around the city this month. Hundreds attend each meeting to vent their frustrations.
The disconnect between the platitudes and the reality is palpable at these meetings.
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