We can be grateful

March 22, 2019

We can be grateful that, by and large, the response to last week’s massacre has been the opposite of what the killer intended – unity instead of division.

We can be grateful that Muslims in Christchurch and the wider New Zealand Muslim community reacted with forgiveness and inclusiveness.

We can be grateful that by and large, the horror of last week’s massacre has been met with compassion here and overseas.

We can be grateful that, by and large, the response from politicians has been appropriate and non-partisan.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern invited Opposition leader Simon Bridges to accompany her to Christchurch on her first visit, following the example set by then-PM John Key who invited the then-Labour leader to accompany him to the city after the earthquakes.

Since then the PM has shown compassion, empathy and resolve and the Opposition leader has offered support when it’s been appropriate but otherwise left her to it, as he should.

We can be grateful that the changes to gun laws announced are reasonable.

We can be grateful that today those who choose to can observe a two-minute silence in honour of the 50 people who died.

We can be grateful that this will provide a prompt to the media to reduce the saturation coverage so they don’t cross the line from news to voyeurism.


We remember

February 22, 2017

Six years ago at 12:51 Christchurch and the Canterbury hinterland were struck by an earthquake.

It’s easy for those of us who don’t live there to underestimate the on-going impact of it.

Friends are still arguing with their insurance company, the centre of the city is only very slowly coming back to life and the physical, emotional, and financial impacts are still being felt.

Today we remember Christchurch, Canterbury, the 185 people who died, their family and friends, the people who helped, and those who are still helping.

Kia Kaha.


Politics Daily

June 3, 2014

New Zealand Politics Daily is taking  a break.

I don’t have the time or inclination to provide the same service of a reasonably comprehensive list of links to news stories and blog posts on issues of the day.

However, I’m willing to start with a few and invite anyone who has read anything I’ve missed to add a link to it in a comment.

I won’t pretend to be balanced – there will be more links to blogs of a bluer hue. Anyone who wants the red and green end of the spectrum better represented is welcome to leave links.

John Key in Samoa

BeehiveNZ to invest $1 million into Samoa’s tourism sector:

Prime Minister John Key has today announced New Zealand will invest $1 million to help boost Samoa’s tourism sector. . .

Tova O’Brien – Pacific voters warming to National:

With large sections of New Zealand’s Pacific Island community now gravitating towards National, the battle for the Pacific vote has gone offshore. . . .

Immigration

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – So what will Labour cut?

is claiming that it will cut migrant numbers by somewhere between 20,000 and 35,000 to get net migration from 40,000 to somewhere between 5,000 and 20,000. . .

Pete George @ Your NZ – Cunliffe still vague on immigration:

Cunliffe was interviewed about immigration on Q & A on Sunday. . .

Housing

Hannah McLeod @ Southland times – State house sales reap $4m:

Millions of dollars from state housing sales in the south could be going towards new homes in Auckland. . .

Catherine Harris @ Stuff – ‘Holistic’ plan for housing sought:

New Zealand needs a wider discussion about housing affordability and the issues that surround it such as migration, say senior figures in local government. . .

RadioNZ – Fast-track housing plan for Taruanga:

Tauranga City Council wants special rules to speed up housing developments.

 Labour Party

Andrea Vance @  Stuff – Labour MPs not happy with Mana Internet:

Senior Labour Party MPs have used social media to attack the alliance struck between Mana and the Internet Party. . .

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – White-anting in Labour? Surely not…:

Is David Cunliffe being white-anted again? You’d have to wonder after reading Andrea Vance’s story on Stuff: . . .

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Things are falling apart in Labour:

When something happens that isn’t going the way a political party particularly wants, they need to get together, work out a strategy, and communicate that coherently. . . .

 Isaac Davison @ NZ Herald –   Labour looks at changing $10m-for-residency scheme:

Labour is looking “very closely” at changing the rules for foreign investors who can get residency in New Zealand by paying $10 million. . .

IMP

Chris Keall @ NBR – Laila Harre NBR interview part 2: Baboom offshoring jobs; getting paid; the UFB; how she rolls:

Chris Keall – Where’s all the Baboom development taking place? . . .

Cameron Slater @ whale Oil – Internet Mana Party “a joke from the far left” – Key:

Unlike our media, John Key is refusing to take the Internet Mana Party seriously. . .

Josie Pagani @ Pundit – Say no to the cup of Te:

No way should Labour do a ‘Cup of Te’ deal.

Labour should stand up for its own strong values. . .

Danyl Mclauchlan @ Dim Post – On the logic behind a strategic loss:

Rob Salmond makes fun of Bomber, which is something we can all enjoy. But I do think that Bomber’s theory that a faction within the Labour Party would prefer a National victory in 2014 if the alternative is a Labour/Greens/New Zeland First/Mana/Internet Party government is pretty plausible. . .

Q & A @ TVNZ –  Laila Harre   interviewed by Susan Wood:

SUSAN: Long time unionist and left wing politician Laila Harre is back, she’s been a member of Labour, New Labour, Alliance, and the Greens, and now she’s taking the helm of the Internet Party, she joins me now good morning. Most political parties are built on something positive, on a movement, on beliefs. How can the Internet Mana Party which is built on yes, wanting to change a government, but an almost pathological dislike of the Prime Minister work? How can it be a force for good? . . .

Carbon Tax

Andrew McMartin @ TV3 – Carbon tax means nothing without Labour – English:

The Green Party’s carbon tax policy “means nothing” without Labour support, Finance Minister Bill English says. . . .

Peter Cresswell @ Not PC – The Greens cutting taxes?

Let’s start with the good news. . .

Lindsay Mitchell – Support for the Greens carbon tax surprises:

The Taxpayer’s Union has come out in support of a carbon tax that is revenue neutral. On balance they find it preferable to the Emissions Trading Scheme.

I wonder why we need either. . . .

Mark Hubbard @ Life Behind the Iron Drape – Green Naivety: Carbon Tax:

Julie Anne Genter is a New Zealand Green MP, and promoting the NZ Green Party policy this election year of a carbon tax, including on agriculture – dairy, initially, with other livestock to follow presumably. . .

Election

Rob Hosking @ NBR – Election 2014 – The Minors’ Strike:

The Green party must be quite relieved its conference was this weekend . . .

Scoop – Northland Leader Backs Kelvin Davis in Te Tai Tokerau:

Northland Kaumatua Rudy Taylor says Labour MP Kelvin Davis has the heart and the mana along with total support to win the seat of Te Tai Tokerau in the upcoming general election. . .

Scott Yorke @ Imperator Fish – How to win an election:

It’s all about the party vote. Electorate contests can be distracting, because in most cases they will be irrelevant to the result. A few electorate results will be critical, but only where they would allow a minor party to enter Parliament. . .

Scoop – iPredict Ltd 2014 Election Update #19: 30 May 2014:

Key Points:
• Internet Mana forecast to win 3 seats
• National expected to sneak in with minor parties’ support . . .

Christchurch

Beehive – Vodafone to anchor Innovation Precinct:

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today released the spatial framework for the Christchurch Innovation Precinct and announced that Vodafone’s new South Island headquarters will anchor the precinct. . .

The Christchurch Innovation Precinct will bring together some of our most innovative people to help create an exciting and vibrant future for Christchurch. http://ntnl.org.nz/1oq447h

Education

Beehive – Budget 2014: $28.6m investment in ICT Grad Schools:

The Government will invest $28.6 million operating funding (including $11.8 million of contingencies) over the next four years in three Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Graduate Schools to help address significant high-level skills shortages in the rapidly growing ICT industry, Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce says. . . .

Beehive – $359m boost for student achievement moves forward:

Education Minister Hekia Parata has welcomed advice from sector leaders on the Government’s $359 million initiative to raise student achievement, saying it maintains momentum and strengthens the path forward. . .

Other

Trans Tasman – Trans Tasman Announces Government Department and Government Department CEO of The Year:

Trans Tasman’s 5th Annual Briefing Report – New Zealand Government Departments People and Policy, 2014 Edition , has announced its top performing Government Department of the Year and the best Government Department CEO. The pair is chosen by a 16 strong Independent Board of Advisers . .

Hamish Rutherford @ Reserve Bank governor named top chief executive:

A former top international banker, who stared down the Beehive with lending restrictions and official cash rates rises months from the election, is this year’s public sector chief executive of the year.  . .

Matthew Beveridge – Green Party AGM:

Queen’s Birthday Weekend was also the weekend the Green Party held their annual conference. As one would expect, there were a number of policy announcements, free doctors visits for up to 18 year olds and a change from the ETS to a Carbon Tax system. . .

Bob Jones @ NZ Herald – A message to screaming John Minto: Shut up:

If Parliament proposed a nationwide synchronisation of clocks and watches, then at a given date and time, invited everyone who’s had an absolute gutsful of the screaming skull, otherwise known as John Minto, to go outside and jump up and down for two minutes, imagine the reaction. . .

Lindsay Mitchell – More welfare changes on the way:

The government has announced a rewrite of the Social Security 1964 Act, which is a massive maze of dated legislation. . . .

Cameron Slater @ Whale Oil – Political porkies:

It seems the minor parties are able to get away with making stuff up, or flat out lying.

As a new service we will now start calling out these ratbags. . . .

David Farrar @ Kiwiblog – The new blockbuster:

It’s a poster of Dr No, you’ll have to pop over to see it.

Adam Bennett @ NZ Herald – Peters rubbishes claim he paid Harawira’s protest fine:

Current and former MPs and “ordinary people” banded together to pay the $632 fine Hone Harawira received last year for defying police at a 2012 Auckland housing protest. . 

Inventory 2 @ Keeping Stock – Pay your own fine Hone:

Hone Harawira is in trouble over trouble he was in last year. If that sounds confusing, hopefully the Herald will explain: . . .

NBR – Labour might revisit MMP’s ‘coat-tail’ provisions if elected — Cunliffe:

David Cunliffe says Labour may revisit MMP’s “coat-tail” provisions if elected . . .


Leaked flood report hints at big problem

May 12, 2014

Labour leader David Cunliffe wrote an open letter to Prime Minister John Key about the Christchurch floods.

A council report on the issue is due to be released today.

At the weekend’s National Party Mainland conference Christchurch Earthquake recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said Cunliffe’s letter appeared to show he knew something about the contents of the report which could suggest he’d seen it although the government and those affected by the flooding hadn’t.

The Minister said that hints at a big problem.

That problem would be that someone with access to the report is playing politics with a very serious issue  and demonstrating a greater loyalty to the Labour Party than the city.

The Minister was careful to say it could suggest.

He was right to be cautious. After all the letter could have been written without any knowledge of the report.

Coincidences do happen and that would be much better for Christchurch than the alternative divided loyalties anywhere in the council.

 


$3k sweetener for Chch job seekers

May 7, 2014

The government has announced a $3,000 sweetener for job seekers who move to Christchurch for work.

The Government is providing further support for the Canterbury rebuild with $3.5 million of new operating funding for 2014/15 in Budget 2014 to assist beneficiaries to take up work in Christchurch.

“We’re offering up to 1,000 beneficiaries a one-off payment of $3,000 each if they have a full-time job offer in Canterbury and are ready and willing to move there,” Social Development Minister Paula Bennett says.

“The rebuild is creating thousands of jobs in Christchurch, and there are people around New Zealand ready to take them up, but who don’t currently have the means to get there.

“With an unemployment rate in Canterbury of 3.4 per cent – lower than the 6 per cent rate nationally – there are plenty of opportunities. There is demand not only in construction, but in hospitality, retail and many other industries too.

“Work and Income will be working closely with employers to connect them with beneficiaries who’d be suited to work for them, and I’m confident this incentive will provide a boost for the rebuild, and for the employment prospects of beneficiaries,” Mrs Bennett says.

The $3,000 payment will help beneficiaries with the move to Canterbury, sorting accommodation, clothing, tools and any other purchases they might need to make when getting settled.

This offer will be open to beneficiaries of all ages, but a particular focus will be placed on young people aged 18-24 years, as the rebuild provides the opportunity for them to gain employment skills that will set them up for life.

To qualify, the job offered must be for over 30 hours a week, and for longer than 91 days. The payment will be non-taxable, and exempt from an income and asset test.

If the recipient goes back on benefit within three months of the payment without a sufficient reason, then the payment must be repaid.

This initiative will cover jobs within the geographical areas of Ashburton, Hurunui, Selwyn, and Waimakariri District Councils, and the Christchurch City Council.

Christchurch needs more workers.

People in other places need work but might not be able to afford the costs of shifting.

This initiative will help solve both problems.

Another way to move off welfare, and into work. It helps Christchurch with its rebuild and gives a hand up to someone in need of a job that wants to work.


Chch one of world’s 33 resilient cities

December 4, 2013

The Rockefeller Foundation has named Christchurch as one of the world’s 33 resilient cities.

It says:

Three years ago, Christchurch experienced a sequence of earthquakes, which included an aftershock that produced the highest peak ground accelerations on record. The initial earthquake had a devastating effect on residential suburbs affected by liquefaction and lateral spread. Hundreds of commercial buildings have been demolished and thousands of homes have had to be rebuilt. Extensive damage was caused to schools and hospitals, and essential infrastructure. Yet, the city was able to re-establish essential functions quickly. The economy did not suffer as would be expected, due to the well-planned location of revenue-generating activities. The aftershocks continue today—the city has experienced more than 12,000 since 2010. And residents’ mind-set has changed following the shared experience. The city and its people are an example of a city “bouncing back.” Developing a resilience plan is a priority for the city’s recovery so communities, buildings and infrastructure and systems are better prepared to withstand catastrophic events.

Those of us who visit occasionally have some understanding of the challenges faced by, and still facing, the city.

But only those who live there can appreciate what the city and its people have gone, and continue to go, through.

You can not blame those who have decided to move elsewhere. But nor can you fail to admire those who have stayed and are doing their best to rebuild the city, not just in a physical sense but as a community.

Their resilience is an inspiration.


Parker pulling out

July 6, 2013

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker has announced he’s pulling out of the contest for mayor of Christchurch in October’s local body elections.

As difficult as this decision is, I have decided that I am not going to stand for Mayor at the upcoming election in October.

I have to think of my own well-being, and those closest to me, and I don’t believe I have the energy to lead this city for another term. I feel exhausted having worked non-stop over the past six years in office and I know that I can’t sustain the pressure and stress of this job for another three. The people of this city need a fresh face to lead them over the next three years, when there will be so many great things happening with the rebuild of this city.

I really love the organisation I work for and I’m incredibly proud of this city and the people I work alongside on a daily basis. They’ve taken a pounding since the earthquakes and they have continued to perform outstandingly against much adversity. I’ve put my heart and soul in to this job, as I know they have, and I thank them all from the bottom of my heart for their loyalty and support.

It’s taken a great deal of self-examination to walk away from this job. The people of this city have stood beside each other since the earthquakes and have faced extremely demanding challenges. Their strength astonishes me and I know they now deserve to move forward with their lives with a new Mayor at the helm. Everyone deserves a fresh start and this city needs to be led by someone who has the energy and drive to take them on this journey.

The future is so bright for this magnificent city and I know there are many tremendous things already starting to happen here. I was born here and truly love this place, so I hope to find a new role where I can continue to contribute to the future of this city.

Extraordinary events require extraordinary leadership.

Polls showed Parker was likely to lose the mayoralty to Jim Anderton in 2009 but his performance after the September earthquake saved him.

He was again a voice of calm after the February quake.

But once the crisis was over,  the city and its people floundered.

The loss in the past week of the right to grant building consents and the news that some recently consented buildings didn’t meet building codes and the loss of insurance cover for claims which may arise under the Building Act reflected poorly on the council and its leadership.

How fair it is to blame the mayor may be moot, but the buck stops with him and not standing again is the right decision.

His standing down might make it easier for Lianne Dalziel but it might also open the door for another contender.


What’s in the children’s interests?

February 19, 2013

Watching and listening to reports on the announcements of school closures and mergers in Christchurch I have been concerned about the way teachers and parents have reacted.

The news a school is to close would be difficult to take but the adults appear to be putting their own emotions ahead of the best interests of the children.

The prospect of job losses would be devastating for the staff but major changes whether it is a school closure or merger, doesn’t have to be a tragedy for the pupils.

Children take their lead from adults.

Teachers and parents could make the process much less upsetting for the pupils by putting their interests first.

A couple of schools in Oamaru were told they had to merge by the then-Labour government. Neither was particularly happy about it but they accepted that falling rolls couldn’t justify two schools, got on with the necessary work and took the children with them.

They included pupils in the plans and treated the changes an adventure rather than a disaster.

Education Minister Hekia Parata made it clear why change is necessary:

“The face and make-up of greater Christchurch has, and will continue to change dramatically due to the earthquakes, and the education sector must respond to those changes.

“There were already around 5,000 places available in schools in greater Christchurch before the earthquakes, and 4,300 students have not re-enrolled, meaning there are now 9,300 places available – that’s roughly equivalent to the entire student population of Gisborne.

“The aftermath of the earthquakes has required us to have a look at all the schools across greater Christchurch and see what we could do better.

“We have looked at not only earthquake damage, but also roll size, population movement and projected growth, building issues, and what opportunities existed to create better, more modern schools,” Ms Parata says.

These modern schools are designed to reflect the latest education research and the advice of education experts, to ensure children are being taught using the latest techniques and technology.

“We have a chance to build brighter, more modern schools in better locations, with great new facilities, and to ensure all children are getting access to good, quality education within a close distance of where they live.”

The new schools will be better than the old ones.

The government is making a $1 billion investment building or rebuilding 15 schools over the next 10 years.

The initial announcement of possible closures and mergers wasn’t done well but yesterday’s was handled much better.

It also had far fewer changes than originally mooted but more than 9000 extra places in schools means there does have to be change.

Given that, it is better to accept the proposals and look to the future, for the children’s sake if not their own.


Schools role to educate

February 18, 2013

Education Minister Hekia Parata will this morning be announcing the interim decisions for 31 Christchurch schools marked for closure or merger.

The NZEI has called off its planned strike, which is encouraging but there will be jobs lost and communities changed which will be difficult for those affected.

However, let’s not forget that there are more than 200 schools educating around 78,000 children in Christchurch and more than 4,000 children have left the city.

The Minister said in a Facebook post that the proposed changes will affect 31 schools and around 5,500 pupils which is 7.6 of the entire school population in the region. More than 80 per cent, or 177 of the 215 schools in greater Christchurch, are not affected.

Those figures won’t make it any easier for staff who will lose jobs and children who will have to go to a different school.

But the status quo isn’t a good option. It’s better to have fewer, newer schools where most children are than keep open old schools with extensive earthquake damage and sharp drops in roll numbers.

There will be sad stories from teachers and support staff who will face redundancy; from children in schools that will close; and from their families.

But let’s remember the role of schools is to educate children.

In doing so it provides jobs and a focus for a community and the loss of those is unfortunate.

But the prime consideration is the best educational outcomes for the children and the best use of the public money required to do that.

Apropos of that – there are good news stories about education in Christchurch, such as this one about Clearview – a new school with a growing roll, enthusiastic principal and happy pupils.


NZ First pledges to kill insurance industry

February 16, 2013

New Zealand First has pledged to give full compensation to Christchurch landowners:

All Christchurch uninsured red-zoned land owners who accept the current Government’s 50 per cent compensation offer will get the other half should New Zealand First become part of the next coalition Government.

Ensuring these landowners are treated fairly and receive the full rateable value of the land will be a bottom line in any coalition negotiations. . .

The party obviously doesn’t understand that what it regards as treating these landowners fairly would be treating insurance companies, their staff and shareholders, and taxpayers most unfairly.

This would kill the insurance industry because no-one would bother insuring their properties if they knew the government would pick up the pieces after a disaster.

This policy passes all the risk and costs from private property owners and insurance companies to the government which means taxpayers.


Schools’ purpose to educate

September 14, 2012

Proposals for school closures and mergers are always fraught.

Principals, teachers, other staff, pupils and their families have vested interests in their schools, past pupils will also have views and at the best of time suggestions of significant changes to schools is likely to cause angst.

This isn’t the best of times for Christchurch and it is little wonder that the proposals announced yesterday to close some schools and merge others have been met with an emotional response.

But change is inevitable.

Some schools can not be rebuilt and thousands of children have left the city leaving some schools with much lower rolls.

The government’s response must be based on fact not emotion and with the knowledge a limited amount of money must be spent in the way that best provides for the educational needs of the children in the city and the hinterland.

In announcing the government will invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to restore the education sector in greater Christchurch, Selwyn and Waimakariri, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said:

“As we move from recovery to renewal we have an opportunity to realign services with changing community needs and ensure our investment delivers better outcomes for learners and the wider community.

“In line with community feedback we are taking the time to get this right, because the benefits to Christchurch and wider New Zealand are tremendous.

“Over time the renewed education network can provide greater Christchurch, Canterbury and wider New Zealand with a significantly enhanced asset.”

Education Minister Hekia Parata said schools have been grouped into clusters based on location:

“This will enable decisions about the schooling network to consider housing developments and surrounding infrastructure. It will also facilitate engagement with parents and learners to ensure they play a significant role in deciding the type of education provision that meets their community’s needs,” Ms Parata says.

The clusters have been grouped into three categories based on the scale of work required, the speed at which it can be achieved, and the engagement needed to finalise decisions.

The categories are:

·         Restoration; ·         Consolidation, and; ·         Rejuvenation.

“Of the 215 schools in the greater Christchurch region, we are proceeding to consult on a proposal to close 13 schools. Another 18 schools will be involved in mergers of some kind,” Ms Parata says.

“Our priority is delivering a network that will meet changing community needs and deliver better outcomes for learners.”

The Government also announced the major projects identified for immediate implementation are the rebuilding of Halswell School, and enhancement of education provision at Pegasus Town and Rolleston.

Schools provide jobs for principals, teachers and support staff, they can be a community hub and the location of community facilities such as halls and swimming pools.

Closures or mergers will result in the loss of jobs and facilities.

But the purpose of schools is to educate their pupils and that must be the focus in negotiations over the proposals.

 


State of recovery

August 31, 2012

The second anniversary of Canterbury’s first big earthquake is just a few days away, Earthquake recovery Minsiter Gerry Brownlee has taken the opportunity to update us on the state of the recovery:

I want to provide you with an overview of the recovery process to date and the significant progress that we are making.

But first, I want to thank the rest of New Zealand for the incredible level of support and assistance that the Canterbury region has received over the last two years. From all ends of the country, New Zealanders came to our aid and continue to support us.

Those of us not directly affected by the quakes can’t really understand what the people of Christchurch and its hinterland have been and are still going through. Nor should we underestimate their resilience.

 And we can all be proud of what we have achieved to recover from this adversity. Everyone has had to make sacrifices, to do things differently and to cope with the strain that these events have caused.

The shared experience since then has come to define the lives of this generation of Cantabrians.

Our challenge is that, in five years’ time, the event that by then defines the lives of this generation of Cantabrians is not so much the earthquakes, but being part of the recreation of the magnificent new Christchurch.

Out of the tragedy comes the opportunity to create the best small city in the world, and there are extraordinary opportunities for anyone who wants to be part of it. . .

Some people have left the city and who can blame them when there have been more than 10,000 quakes and aftershocks since September 4 2010 ?

The vast majority have stayed. They and others from outside attracted by the opportunities will make a better city.

. . . I would like to think that the City Red Zone will no longer be “red” meaning danger – it will be “red” because of the high energy activity and building going on there.

We can plan a better and brighter future. The rebuild is gaining momentum. Nearly $1 billion worth of building consents were approved in Canterbury in the first half of 2012, while the amount of ready mixed concrete produced in the Christchurch metropolitan area has more than doubled since March 2011, to 112 thousand cubic metres. Over the same period, the amount of concrete produced in Auckland actually decreased and in Wellington it stayed roughly the same.

As I said at the outset, the challenge I make to you this morning is to ensure in five years’ time, the event that defines the lives of this generation of Cantabrians is no longer the earthquakes, but being part of the recreation of the magnificent new Christchurch.

We have to make it exceptional – we have to have both public and private sectors – focused on creating only the best of facilities.

To be blunt about it, New Zealand has something of a record of doing things a bit half-arsed. . .

He gives examples of Auckland building the harbour bridge without considering the development that would encourage on the North Shore, the eight years it took to build a bridge to the airport which was too small; the Terrace tunnel in Wellington which can’t cope with the traffic and parliament buildings which were never finished then added to by the ‘dysfunctional round building’.

I am determined that this is not how we are going to recreate Christchurch.

The policy has to be that everything we decide to do in Christchurch is going to be the best. What’s more, we need to do it quickly and – to use the jargon – it must be future-proofed. And will benefit New Zealand as a whole. We have the opportunity to now make it happen.

Partly as a result of the shared experience over the last two years, I think that people in Christchurch and Canterbury have a new respect for one another, and an easy-goingness and tolerance that wasn’t always here before. We must hold on to that.

We’ve had our scraps and bitter words, of course. We’ve been under pressure but it’s made us stronger.

Despite misgivings by some, there is now a unity around the future of Christchurch that I doubt any other city, anywhere in New Zealand, has ever had in recent history.

No-one envies the city the quakes but many would like the opportunity to unite to build something better.

The cost of our new city is predicted to be $30 billion dollars, this is roughly predicted to be the size of our region’s entire GDP. But it will leave us a highly productive and exciting place to live. We can’t build all this overnight, but we must not delay.

Our level of investment will create an economic boom. According to the National Bank, Canterbury is already the fastest growing region in New Zealand. We also need to attract private investment and industry.

Money, people and ideas are pouring in. But, we need to develop an economy that is built on a fundamentally strong economic base. A good example is the new Fonterra plant that will open at the epicentre of the September 4 quake – Darfield – at the end of this year. Fonterra is investing $500 million and the plant will process 6.6 million litres of milk a day. This highlights the strength of the agricultural base of the Canterbury region.

That economic base is the primary reason why the Central City will be recreated as the CCDU Blueprint lays out. The business community which drives our economy have embraced that vision of a modern CBD which makes doing business easier. More Canterbury businesses want to be based in the new CBD than were based in the old. The people of Christchurch are equally unified around the Blueprint.

The city centre was dying, the rebuild will breathe new life in to it.

According to research used to inform CCDU’s investment strategy, 74% of Christchurch businesspeople, 56% of Christchurch residents and 52% of New Zealanders support the plan, with most others being neutral.

Nearly 80% of Christchurch businesspeople and 61% of Christchurch residents believe things in Christchurch are now heading in the right direction, higher than the benchmark of the 51% of New Zealanders who believe things in New Zealand are heading in the right direction.

Importantly, to get our plan underway and create jobs, 97% of Christchurch businesspeople plan to keep living in the city, and three-quarters of them believe this is a good time to invest.

But a real city will not feel like a business park. The Blueprint is designed to be a place that people will want to live in. It must have the social and cultural fabric that people enjoy being part of.

Not only will the Avon River Precinct attract local and visitor use, it will support the core commercial, retail and cultural activities and become a destination in its own right with cultural, art and historic references.

I want to make it clear we must all agree that these projects and facilities must be the best to be found in any small city in the world.   We should not entertain proposals that fall short of that objective. There are going to be no repeats of the four-lane harbour bridges. 

And we need to act quickly to achieve the vision.

Our city’s children who are five today, were barely three in February 2011 and they will not have full access to their central city until they are perhaps 10.  One important part of the Frame – in the north-east – will be the new children’s playground. We will build them a playground from where they can view the rebirth of their city, through their childhood years. It will be the best playground in the world. Not a fun park, but a playground.

Later in the month, I will announce with the Minister of Education a competition for the children themselves to help envision what that playground will be like and begin to understand what a great place Christchurch will become.

A child friendly city is a family friendly city, what a good idea to plan for and involve those who will be part of its future.

Our goal should be that within a decade, Christchurch is clearly recognised as the best small city in the world in which to bring up kids, open a business, go to an art gallery, study at university, watch the All Blacks, make money, create jobs, build a home.

My officials, and those in the council, have made strong commitments to make all this happen fast. The longer we take, the more opportunities will be missed.

Last year, Christchurch was unable to host part of the Rugby World Cup 2011 and 2011 Festival. In the home of the Crusaders, we missed out on what will be remembered as the biggest cultural and sporting event that New Zealand has ever held. In 2015, New Zealand will host part of the Cricket World Cup. The people of Christchurch can’t miss out again. We need to all go into bat for Christchurch and ensure that not only do we take part – we take a leading role in that event.

Beyond that, our new Blueprint will give us the facilities to be the leading events destination in New Zealand.

My message to the businesspeople and investors of New Zealand; and to the philanthropists who might want to become involved in our new parks, our new arts centres or our new sports stadia is this: Christchurch is the place to be. Everything we do here will be the best.

We have always been a beautiful city, in the most beautiful part of New Zealand; the best part of New Zealand to bring up a family; and the main support centre for the South Island’s most important industries, past and present, including agriculture, tourism, mining and oil, education, the high-tech industries and logistics.

We have a fabulous new airport, a restored port and are building superior roads, connecting us better than ever before with the rest of the South Island and the world.

If we can’t make something extraordinary about the newly recreated Christchurch off the back of such opportunities and such overwhelming public, political and business support, there is something wrong with us.

And we’ve proven this last two years there is nothing wrong with us. We have proven we are among the best and most resilient people in the world, and we can do things fast.

Other parts of the South Island, and New Zealand are watching, some with apprehension – will the city take too many workers from elsewhere? But there are opportunities which can provide work and retain staff outside the city too.

For example, while the city needs tradespeople to rebuild it can’t cope with an influx of people yet so building companies further afield are looking at opportunities for work that can be done elsewhere, for example constructing buildings which can be transported.

There are still hold-ups and frustrations for people wanting to rebuild homes, community facilities and businesses.

But there is also vision, unity and energy.

The sooner that is realised the better it will be for the city and the country.


Chch rebuild gets welcome boost

April 19, 2012

The Christchurch rebuild got a welcome boost yesterday with Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee’s announcement of a new business unit inside the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to focus on rebuilding the CBD.

“The Christchurch Central Development Unit will provide clear leadership for the rebuild of the city and work in a positive partnership with Christchurch City Council, which remains the consenting authority,” Mr Brownlee said.

The unit will be led by Warwick Isaacs, who is presently CERA’s operations manager responsible for CBD access, building deconstruction, and the Cashel Mall restart. “This is a great day for Canterbury as it’s another tangible milestone in the recovery process,” Mr Brownlee said.

“It marks a shift in focus from demolition to building the new, vibrant, distinctive and green central city the people of Christchurch told their council they wanted.” . . .

. . .

The new unit’s first task will be preparation of a blueprint for the implementation of the Central City Plan inside the next 100 days. The blueprint will give property owners, developers and business sectors a lead on how the city will look and how they can be involved.

“This blueprint will be vital to achieving a coherent roll-out of a number of anchor projects such as public buildings and strategic city blocks, and will provide important guidance to the market.

“It will also identify how to streamline consents and look at what, if any, land amalgamation is required to support anchor projects and developments.

“An example of an important anchor project is the city’s new convention centre. Delivering certainty about that project will begin the process of reviving the city’s hospitality and tourism sector.

“Hotel developments are unlikely to proceed until the location of the convention centre is resolved.

“Reviving the central city’s hospitality and tourism sector will attract other businesses in and encourage service sector, retail and hospitality development.

“The blueprint will deliver the sort of market intelligence the commercial property and business sectors need to invest with confidence. This is all about getting momentum in the rebuild,” Mr Brownlee said.

The news has been welcomed by the Property Council, business leaders and the Insurance Council.

The assurance that consents will be processed within 14 days is especially welcome.

Prominent businessman Bruce Irvine, chairman of Christchurch City Holdings, the investment arm of the Christchurch City Council, said what was needed was an organisation that had more powers than councils did and that was what Cera had.

“It will enable a more effective execution of the plan that the council has come up with. I’m very supportive.”

The unit would consist of up to 25 staff, with some seconded from the council and Environment Canterbury. The team would identify the most important projects to “pave the way forward”.

The unit would also determine how to streamline the consents process with an aim of processing all resource consents within 14 days. It would attract overseas investment, he said. “Private sector capital is very important, because that’s the majority of the money that will be spent inside the central city.”

If those of us outside the city have been thinking that it’s time for action, people in Christchurch must have been feeling even more frustrated.

Yesterday’s announcement is a much-needed sign of progress.

Dare we hope that the determination on how to streamline the consent process might be something  from which other councils could learn?

The Minister’s full speech is here.


This isn’t what Christchurch needs

February 9, 2012

Christchurch needs a council and staff who are focussed on helping people and businesses get back to normal as quickly as possible and systems which enable that to happen.

Instead you have a man with a really good idea to get a business up and running after the earthquake. Then he met the bureaucracy and months later is still jumping hurdles.

You need to read all three posts to appreciate just how difficult making progress has been, and still is, but here’s a taste:

Me: “You need to understand, it’s just a bus and a couple of portable buildings.”

Council employee: “It’s not a bus, it’s a building.”

“Trust me, it’s a bus. It has a warrant and registration.”

“That might be the case, but it’s a building.”

“No, it’s definitely a bus.”

“It doesn’t matter what you think. To us it’s a building.”

“Do you want me to come and pick you up in the building. We can drive around town in the building and see if we can’t resolve this.”

“Don’t be smart with me…”

Half way through our conversation I realised I was getting some use from my useless university education. As far as I can tell this argument could be framed using Aristotle’s ideas of Matter and Form. What is it about a bus that gives it it’s “busness”? Does a bus become a building if it plays the role of a building? If you sit on a table does it become a chair?

I thought “this is interesting, it could be a fun debate”, but I suspect someone who went from a boring degree to a boring job might not have had the inclination to study Greek philosophy. So I told him people like him were killing the city and hung up.

Is it any wonder Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is losing patience with the mayor?

Brownlee said he was “sick and tired of the scrapping” between city councillors, which was sparked by a controversial pay rise for chief executive Tony Marryatt.

Brownlee said the Government was spending $5.5 billion, as a minimum, on Christchurch and that he was working hard for the city while city councillors continued their infighting.

“Dealing with this negative, going-nowhere stuff, I am at the end of my tether and frankly it’s not surprising that the ratepayers are either,” he said.

Negative is not what the city and its people need.

Hat Tip: Credo Quia Absurdum Est.


Politician of year

December 16, 2011

The mood at the National’s Canterbury Westland Christmas Party on Monday night was buoyant.

Amy Adams and Jo Goodhew had been named in the new Cabinet, Minister Kate Wilkinson and MP Nicky Wagner had won their electorates and National had won the party vote in Christchurch.

That was due to the hard work of all the regions MPs but even more so on the government’s handling of the earthquakes and recovery.

The man responsible for that, Gerry Brownlee, was named Trans Tasman’s politician of the year:

Christchurch earthquake Tsar  Gerry Brownlee, the man who is credited for virtually singlehandedly  turning the once Labour stronghold of the Garden City into a sea of  Party Vote Blue in the election, has been named politician of the year by Trans Tasman’s Roll Call, NZ’s number one political newsweekly’s  annual ranking of the nation’s MPs.

Of Brownlee Trans Tasman says – “Without big party-vote majorities in several traditional Labour electorates in and  around Christchurch, National might have fallen behind the  aggregate vote of the parties aligned against it. The man at the  centre of this achievement is Gerry Brownlee.”

He was also Duncan Garner’s Minister of the year.

But this accolade is for Christchurch alone. It is an enormous problem. . .  

It had the potential to sink the Government. It’s a red town – that is now  painted blue.

John Key and Gerry Brownlee got the tone right. Sure there are some  disgruntled people. That happens. But the Government’s rescue packages were bang  on. The initial business rescue grants were extended and that was the right  decision.

The Government’s decision to buy thousands of written-off houses was the  biggest insurance package any Government anywhere in the world had offered its  citizens.

It is a massive extension to the welfare state. The Government acted because  it had to. The insurance companies have been slow to open their wallets. Their  behaviour over the next three years is being closely watched by the  Government.

I called it a silver plated scheme when it was released and I stand by that.

That National won Christchurch Central and Waimakariri is testament to  Brownlee’s work in his home town. I accept some households are not happy, but  given the scale of the disaster Brownlee and John Key have largely got the  Government’s response bang on.

Brownlee was the man at the top and as such he has been on the receiving end of criticism and frustration. The election result is a vote of confidence in him and the government from the people whose city he is helping rebuild.

It is an enormous challenge and he has tackled it while also having to deal with the loss of his home which was one of those severely damaged in the quakes.

The rebuild is a very long-term project, it will take at least a decade, maybe two, the magnitude and cost of the task is already impacting on us all. It is very important to get it right from the start and the people most affected, those in Christchurch and its hinterland, voted to show that, largely thanks to Brownlee, the government has.

 


Dalziel not ruling out mayoralty bid

November 30, 2011

Quelle surprise – Labour MP Lianne Dalziel isn’t ruling out moving from central government to local government.

Dalziel said yesterday there were no guarantees the seat would remain within its current boundaries, or even exist, after the March 2013 census.

“I will stay full term but I’m not going to rule out going for the mayoralty because I don’t know what’s going to happen to the boundaries,” she said.

“I’m committed to serving my electorate for the next three years.

“I’m not going to retire from politics early and I will announce if I’m going to stand at the following election when we have the details of the new boundaries. That won’t be until the census has been taken.”

This is not unexpected, there’s been speculation that she would swap a seat in parliament for the Christchurch mayor’s chair for some time.

But what if the boundaries don’t change in the next three years?

The census was supposed to have taken place this year which would have left plenty of time for boundary changes to be worked out before the 2014 election.

But the postponement to 2013 would put pressure on the boundary setting process and even more on parties which wouldn’t be able to begin selecting candidates until the new boundaries were settled.

Parties usually start preparing for candidate selection early in the year before the election which is the year of the next census.

It would be at least the end of that year before boundary changes were confirmed, less than 12 months before the next election.

That doesn’t give parties much time to set up electorate structures, hold the special general meetings needed to form new electorates then select candidates.

The census was postponed because of the earthquake, it might be better to postpone the boundary changes too so they don’t take effect until the 2017 election.


Rebuilding the centre

November 16, 2011

I had a couple of hours to kill when I was in Christchurch last week and decided to do a wee bit to help the economy.

Ballantynes and Cashel Mall between Colombo Street and Oxford Terrace re-opened a couple of weeks ago and it’s looking good.

The photo doesn’t do it justice. There are better ones here. The mall is colourful, welcoming and, most importantly for the locals, feels safe.

The shop at the back is Johnson’s Grocery, relocated from Colombo Street. It’s lighter and more open than the old shop but it’s still got character.

A couple of doors along is Scorpio Books which used to be one of my favourite haunts. It had a particularly good humour section which is wehre I found the complete collection of Calvin and Hobbes. The new container can’t fit the wide selection of books the old shop did but it’s still got the ambience that makes a book-lover feel at home.

Ballantynes which was rebuilt after the fire in 1947 escaped the earthquakes relatively unscathed and looks much as it always did. I told the woman serving me it was great to have the shop back. She replied in heart-felt tones, “It’s great to be back.”

The mall’s not the way it was and there’s still a long way to go but it’s a very good start.

As Student Volunteer Army maestro, Sam Johnson, says: The Christchurch I love is still here.


Central Christchurch reopens for business

October 30, 2011

Prime Minister John Key reopened Project Restart in Cashel Mall yesterday.

“A total of 27 businesses have opened today, including the flagship Ballantynes department store, which is great news for Cantabrians and for retailers who are determined to get their businesses up and running,” says Mr Key.

“This is an important step in re-opening the CBD red zone to residents and retailers alike, and gives more certainty to people as they look to the future of this great city.”

Restart is an initiative to give temporary container accommodation to displaced businesses.

“The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) has done a fantastic job getting Cashel Mall ready in time for the start of New Zealand Cup and Show week,” says Mr Key.

There is still a long way to go in the rebuild.

But this is wonderful both practically and symbolically. It shows the heart of the city, the bit that’s in the red zone, is open for business again.


Surely next year will be better

September 4, 2011

Who would have thought that today, on the first anniversary of the Canterbury earthquake, life in Christchurch would be no better, and for many worse, than it was a year ago?

A friend had gas hot water until the February quake and he hasn’t had a hot shower in his own home since then.

Many people are in far more difficult circumstances than that. Even those whose homes and businesses aren’t badly affected are feeling the emotional strain from the on-going shakes.

One problem is the bottle neck of stalled property sales because insurance companies won’t provide cover for them. Another is the difference in the price of land in much of the red zone and other parts of the city where people might be able to build new homes.

People are living in limbo waiting for decisions and progress and are understandably running out of patience.

In a rare move, Cabinet will meet in Christchurch on Monday. They will be able to see for themselves the extent of the problems and get a better idea of what is needed to help with the recovery.

They can’t stop the shakes but hopefully they will be able to do something to ensure that the next year will be a better one for the city and its people.


What about the uninsured?

June 23, 2011

This afternoon’s announcement on assistance for property owners in parts of Christchurch will apply to those who had insurance.

NZPA understands the offer that is going to be put on the table is for insured houses in the worst-affected suburbs and the payout will be at the government valuation for the houses immediately before the first earthquake in September.

The Government will pay the money upfront and then get most of it back from insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission.

What about the uninsured?

They might be eligible for welfare but they cannot receive compensation without undermining the insurance industry.

They took the risk of remaining uninsured and they will have to pay the price.

That might seem tough, but a conversation I overheard between two supermarket workers explains why that is the way it must be:

“I’ve paid premiums for 20 years and never had to claim. Why would you bother if you knew that those who paid nothing would get something?” one said.

“Well you wouldn’t would you?” the other replied.

 


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