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A win for the people

Posted by on October 20th, 2011

A surprise announcement delighted more than 100 people who gathered tonight at the Mairehau Primary School hall to fight a liquor store proposed at the entrance to the school.

I was able to tell those present that I’d just been advised the licensing application had been withdrawn late that afternoon. The hall erupted in applause. People were delighted to know that in the space of less than a week, we had defeated this outrageous proposal.

My office had in the last four days printed hundreds of submission forms for people to lodge their objection. By this afternoon, more than 189 objections had already been lodged. A liquor licensing officer told our meeting it was the most he had seen in such a short space of time.The Ashburton-based liquor retailer advised he was pulling the application.

This illustrates the power of a community which is galvinised and ready to work together. The school, parents and local businesses all rallied, getting submissions signed and alerting their networks.

The rapid response was needed as current liquor licensing laws favour the applicant. The Government inherited a bill which would have given communities much more say in granting such licenses. It chose not to pass any such legislation before the election. We have won this battle but the sooner Parliament passes saner liquor laws the better it will be for all communities


The full Monty

Posted by on October 20th, 2011

First candidate meetings last night, two of them, and the second, a Forest and Bird forum had me in fits, it was so like a Monty Python skit at the start and at intervals with one party’s representative.

Stalwart F+ B campaigner Lesley Shand first introduced me  as the ACT candidate - profuse apologies followed – before time-signalling our comments by squeezing on a stuffed cloth kea.  There was more to come, admittedly interspered with some serious questions  to us on issues like DOC staffing, marine reserves, water and mining. 

Three of us – myself, Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson and the Green’s Eugenie Sage, had considered, often detailed answers for audience of about 60. 

United Future Wigram candidate Ian Gaskin said he’d been given a clean slate by leader Peter Dunne to speak.

He then variously stated that:

We could solve our fuel needs by growing seaweed and turning it into oil

that DOC was not needed and should be folded into the Ministry of Agriculture or perhaps Tourism NZ

and that fracking Canterbury’s landscape with pressurised water and chemicals may not extract enough gas or oil so perhaps a nuclear device might assist

I wonder if these are official United Future policies?


Incident in Parliament

Posted by on October 5th, 2011

Extraordinary events in the House minutes ago. A man got over the rail in the public gallery above where some of us sit and appeared all set to drop into the chamber. Some of us leaped out of our seats. Somehow, someone, perhaps a member of the public, pulled him back, assisted by staff, one of whom may have been injured.

The man was yelling about John Key and Work and Income. John Key looked across at Phil Goff and Annettee King and said something like “You should be ashamed of yourselves” – as if Phil or Annette had engineered this.

When the House returned to business, Phil made reference to what Key had said and suggested he should apologise.  Key sat there looking embarrassed but said nothing.

Then some Nats took exception to what Phil had said! A group of them left the Chamber shouting at Labour MPs. We responded.

Point is: the man was clearly acting beyond self-control. Security did a great job. We all got a fright. It should have stayed there. To suggest responsibility lay with Labour is a disgrace.


Buffett for cap gains tax

Posted by on August 18th, 2011

BTW, Warren Buffett also backs capital gains taxes and says it doesn’t harm job growth in his NY Times post Stop pandering to the rich…

“Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.


Another gift for the rich

Posted by on August 17th, 2011

Just as Warren Buffet (see Darien’s post) calls for the super rich to pay their share of taxes, the Nat/ACT Government has tonight used its majority to force through a bill which includes the abolition of gift duty. Not a big revenue earner but a brake on some of the avoidance excesses, now removed and comes on top of two rounds of tax cuts skewed to the wealthiest.

Meanwhile, here was this gem in the bottom end of Bernard Hickey’s column in last weekend’s  Herald on Sunday http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10744940 entitled Capitalism, Top heavy and toppling. Hickey noted that in the US the 1 percent of top earners like Buffet now collected 20% of national income.

“In New Zealand, the share of income going to the top 1 per cent also more than doubled after the mid-1980s to nearly 14 per cent of income by the early 2000s. Last year’s tax cuts will have worsened that,” wrote Hickey. “The trickle-down theory will not be enough to save capitalism. Even the biggest capitalists are realising that now.”


Christchurch recovery timeframes

Posted by on August 10th, 2011

Westpac’s chief economist Dominick Stephens has visited Christchurch and given what I consider a somewhat brutally realistic assessment of the timeframes for recovery. (Came via email, can’t see it on Westpac website)

Stephens sees very little residential construction currently going on – insurance issues and wariness of further aftershocks. October this year will see the earliest repair work on houses on stable land damaged in February, along with roads and sewerage. A little commercial reconstruction is forecast next year but in the CBD is unlikely to begin before 2013. Stephens says demolition will take another year – just the first of a long series of hurdles before CBD reconstruction can begin. Only once the city plan is confirmed by Government next January will individual owners know their zoning and be able to design and obtain consent for an appropriate building (or sell the land), let alone start construction work. 

 Stephens says “..one suspects that early 2013 is an optimistic start date for reconstruction in the CBD.”  That’s a dark prospect. The council will in coming days unveil its draft plan for the CBD. There simply has to be some capacity for parallel processes to allow the planning and consents for new or reconstructed buildings to start moving. If we don’t see a serious start to CBD rebuilding for more than 18 months it will prove too long for many businesses.


Stadium’s future still uncertain

Posted by on August 9th, 2011

Part demolitions and uncertainty continue for AMI Stadium, home to the mighty Crusaders and perhaps the most important centre for morale in Christchurch.

Tonight’s  TV converage of the city council’s announcement today said it all. Chunks of concrete strewn everywhere; a hallowed turf which looked lunar; walls at jaunty angles.  The Hadlee Stand is worst hit and will be demolished.  The future of the Paul Kelly Stand and the new Deans Stand, the opening of which I attended last year as local MP, appears uncertain, although repairs are being suggested. Both have dropped around 300-400mm. If repairs ensue,  one method would be driving piles down 25 metres to reach solid ground.

I hope that AMI Stadium might be repaired but it feels a bit like those delays after February 22 before the RWC Games were confirmed as not proceeding. Engineering reports and costings are due at council by October.

Interestingly, todays’s announcement on AMI’s uncertain prognosis  (and on the other blow  - the looming demolition of the Chch Convention Centre) was made by Cr Sue Wells, resplendent in her pink flouro jacket.  Mayor Bob and CEO Tony Marryat were on this morning’s flight to Wellington.


Battle over CEO appointment

Posted by on August 4th, 2011

As if we need this, an extraordinary battle is going on in Christchurch over the appointment process for the city council’s CEO – a crucial role at any time but most especially now to lead  the rebuild of the city. Tonight the council has announced it is postponing interviews of three candidates for the job due to have been held next week.

That’s because this week, affidavits have been filed in the High Court by an unlikely trio - Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce CEO Peter Townsend, Solid Energy CEO Don Elder and Wigram MP Jim Anderton. Each says Cr Aaron Keown cannot remaining on the CEO appointment panel when he has made public and repeated statements in support of current CEO Tony Marryatt, who is seeking reappointment. Mayor Bob Parker  stood down after making similar supportive comments.  Keown, an ACT candidate at the last election but whose ideology often leaves people confused, has already refused to stand down in the face of advice to do so from legal supremo Mai Chen and a majority vote of council itself.

He  is now contesting the issue (who pays legal fees unclear) in  court by the end of the month.

Today as it happens, the Office of the Auditor General was in front of the Local Government select committee on a report it’s done on  local authority members and, yes, conflicts of interest.

In response to my questioning, the OAG said issues of bias and pre-determination arise quite frequently in local government and required careful management. It said that such issues risk legal challenges being made to the courts, especially where a vote is close. (It is in Christchurch).The OAG said it is looking at how to respond to a number of  complaints about Cr Keown.

The last thing we need in Christchurch at this time is an on-going wrangle about the CEO appointment process which leaves the council dysfunctional. The OAG’s guidance on these matters is explicit and deserves to be heeded. You can’t sit on a determination if you have already determined.

Ironically, the updated guidance from the OAG on conflicts of interest was sparked by a complaint I lodged against four then-Environment Canterbury councillors who voted against part-charging farmers for water management when they had water rights interests. The complaint was upheld but fed claims about ECAN being ‘dysfunctional.’  This view was  promoted by some, including senior figures in the government and Christchurch City Council.


Snow and spam

Posted by on July 24th, 2011

It’s snowing here in Christchurch, so doorknocking cancelled. Time to catch up on the emails. Clearing spam is a pain. Endless Nigerian (and other) deposits/loans; Viagra ads; enough lottery wins to pay our national debt.

My brother Paul who lives in London (aka Fred Bear) got a spam help letter recently from “John” and decided to have a bit of fun…

From: JohnXXX287@yahoo.co.uk Sent: 21 July 2011 06:06

To: undisclosed recipients: Subject: Help!!!

I’m sorry for this odd request because it might get to you too urgent but it’s because of the situation of things right now, I’m stuck in Madrid, Spain right now, I came down here on vacation with family, we were robbed, the situation seems worse as bags, cash, cards and my mobile phone was stolen at GUN POINT, it’s such a crazy experience for me, I need help flying back home, the authorities are not being 100% supportive but the good thing is i still have my passport but don’t have enough money to get my flight ticket back home, please i need you to loan me some money, will refund you as soon as I’m back home, I give you my word. John

From: VF V Subject: RE: Help!!!

To: “JohnXXX287@yahoo.co.uk Date: Thursday, July 21, 2011, 3:35 AM

John, How terrible! How much do you need and how do I get it to you?

Is Nonsensica OK? Fred

From: JohnXXX287@yahoo.co.uk Sent: 21 July 2011 08:41

To: VF V Subject: RE: Help!!!

Please I need you to loan me 1000 euros, I will pay you back right as soon as I’m back home, I promise.

John

(more…)


Generation Zero

Posted by on July 21st, 2011

Catching up on emails I noted one from a new advocacy group, launched this week, Generation Zero www.generationzero.org.nz.  

I would have thought it deserved some media coverage but despite a cute photo op outside Parliament, it looks like this only appears to date on their Facebook page.

Good on them for putting the effort into getting up the website. Generation Zero are calling for zero carbon emissions by 2050 and binding targets en route.  NZ’s current goal? 50%. of 1990 levels. On current tracking we have about as much chance of reaching that as our 2020 commitment of reducing to 10 or 20 percent below 1990 emission levels. (In fact we are increasing.)  Across the ditch, Julia Gilliard’s carbon tax has set a 80% reduction target. And Britain’s Tory government has a similar goal. In fact there, it’s bipartisan.

Yet Gillard’s plan is going down like a bucket of sick under the constant attacks of Tony Abbott (who bowled former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull because he tried to back Labor’s earlier wider-ranging, less subsidising ETS.)

Generation Zero’s guru is James Hansen, who visited here recently. I’m currently reading the book he has devoted to his grandchildren – effectively Generation Zero.

As Australia illustrates, the politics and potential outcomes of this debate are horrible. Attempts to encourage/require change from our carbon-fueled lifestyles are politically fraught; not doing so puts the very existence of Generation Zero – and their grandchilren – at extreme risk.

If you want examples of our own Julia or Tony choices, look to the differences between Labour and National on agriculture in the ETS or whether lignite mining in Southland should proceed.   


Double-Dipton’s dipstick poll

Posted by on July 21st, 2011

Quelle horreur. On July 9, Bill English’s minders decided to do a poll on Labour’s emerging Capital Gains Tax proposal.

Given the database, they must have expected a resounding No.

But that’s not what happened. Quite the opposite. So the poll was quickly taken down.

But not before someone did a screen-save…

 

 

 

You think?

 

Do you support a capital gains tax?

 

No

 

37%, 1849 Votes

 

Yes

 

64%, 3205 Votes

 

Total of 5054 votes.

 

 


The fairness test

Posted by on July 19th, 2011

My electorate team was delighted last night to have our revenue spokesman Stuart Nash as their guest speaker. Stuart’s presentation filled in some of the knowledge gaps around the tax package announcement.

• The stark choice. The one-off $6b in revenue from flogging off state assets or a rising $2b+ annual stream from CGT.

• Most Kiwis won’t pay it. Only one in ten New Zealanders own more than one property and given Canterbury is exempt for a five years or more and family baches can be handed down without involving CGT, most will be unaffected by this part of the Labour tax package other than gaining $5000 of exempt income.

• This is not Death Duties in drag. If parents want to pass on the family home to their offspring on death or even earlier, so long as it is not sold, it is not subject to CGT, allowing the parental property to be occupied or tenanted

I was also heartened to have dinner on Saturday night with friends Pam and Rob who own a couple of investment rentals.  A small part of me thought their Labour commitments might be tested. Not at all. As working people they agree all income needs to be subject to tax, whether its their wages or any profits derived from property investments. Like most Kiwis, they believe in fairness.


Assets and losses

Posted by on June 29th, 2011

Two big issues of concern in The Press and/or Stuff website

One, the question of whether the Christchurch City Council (+ Selwyn and Waimkakariri councils) are  even more likely now to be pressured or positioned into selling public assets given they are unable to reinsure $5 b+ worth of assets. The three councils are looking to Government to provide some assurance; and although it tut-tuts the idea it would force counicl asset sales, this is a Goverment with a stated position in favour of selling down public assets to retire debt.  http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/5204807/Insurance-woes-spark-sale-fears

 Secondly, the accompanying  Stuff poll which suggests half of those polled will leave Christchurch or would if they could. Personally I am not experiencing anything like that number. People are fragile at the moment. The quakes of June 13 have drained residual energy; many people are just coping, no more. Winter is starting to bite and the gaps in last Thursday’s house/land announcements are becoming clear. Hopefully things are at their lowest ebb…


First fishhooks in the Red Zone

Posted by on June 24th, 2011

Let me first say that yesterday’s zoning announcements for Christchurch from the Government were a welcome step forward for many, if not all. As always, the devil lurks in the details.

Today saw the first of the CERA community meetings held after the land information release yesterday. I raised the case of a constituent who bought an Avonside Drive property in 2007 for $560,000; the RV is $470,000. The other option – having government buy the land and negotiate with insurance, may not work either as this similar case explains http://publicaddress.net/southerly/tower-insurance-have-some-bad-news-for-you/

So no isolated example. The CERA answer today was no answer, yet. The only hope is Key’s pledge that no one would be worse off.

Another major issue today was an Avonside Drive gent who has no insurance but who is in the Red zone and will be forced to leave. He wanted to know what help was available. No easy or early answer there either.


Stuck in limbo

Posted by on June 23rd, 2011

Gerry Brownlee was a half hour late arriving yesterday at the Finance and Expenditure Committee for his Estimates on Canterbury Earthquake Recovery. The reason? He and others were stuck in a Beehive lift. It was rather apt. People in parts of my electorate like Avonside and several other suburbs have been feeling stuck in limbo for nine months.

At FEC, Gerry confirmed the, er, blindingly obvious; that today at 1.30pm he and Key will announce some details on the state of the land.

Some sources suggest he remains reluctant but the PM has called the shots, noting the growing community (and political) pressure for some signals of what will happen to their land.

I trust that hopes will not be dashed tomorrow. Last night I popped along to Close Up’s set, beaming life from beleagured Keller St. Mark Sainsbury was getting muddy silt on the winkel pickers and asking what people were hoping for. Essentially the view is anything is better than nothing. Already the questions emerge. Would a government buy-out be at GV/RV or at the prices some people bought their houses prior to the market flattening?

More info, whether correct or not,  is already emerging. TVNZ and TV3 were last night reporting far more than the FEC was told hours earlier – a Government offer to buy people out of  land that had to abandoned, a 9 month time to consider, only 5000 homes involved…

Far be it from to suggest that MPs, including those like myself representing affected constituents, be given as full a picture ahead of or even alongside media. My wish is perversely being granted. Our weekly cross-party MPs forum - delayed from Tuesday last week – is now taking place today- but as part of a media lock-up prior to the announcements.

We await the details anxiously. Not just what is being released but how. I’m advised MSD is providing counselling at hastily called public meetings and even the churches have been alerted.  Hopefully it will give us all a lift – not makes us feel like we’ve been caged in a metal box with a Minister and his heavyweights.


Sizing/seizing Christchurch’s assets

Posted by on June 8th, 2011

Bill English today declined to rule out the sale of Christchurch City Council assets to help fund earthquake recovery.

Appearing before the Finance and Expenditure Committee on the Budget estimates, he deflected my specific question by saying this was a matter for the council.

He said it was mischievious to say the Government can force such sales under the CERA legislation. In fact this entirely possible under Clauses 21 and 22 of the CERA Act which allow the Minister (Brownlee) to make any changes to Recovery Plans for the city “as he sees fit.” While the bill was being debated I put up an amendment to stop such sales; the Government defeated it. I have several times raised the issue in the House and challenged Canterbury’s National MPs to affirm that no such sales will happen. They look uneasy and never respond, reflecting the huge public sentiment in Christchurch against such sales.

My proposition to Mr English was his Budget outlined the Government’s case to reduce debt by selling assets, so why wouldn’t it do the same to the $2.2b in assets held by Christchurch City Council’s holding company (and those of the Waimakariri and Selwyn councils to boot.) Our lines company alone, Orion, has repaid nearly $1b back to us as ratepayers over the last 20 years – around $1m a week.

English said the Government “is getting into a conversation with the city council about the cost sharing arrangements.”

  And, “..its important in the context of Christchurch that the city council has a stake in the process including meeting a share of the costs to ensure value for money from the investment”

And, “..in the end how the council meets its contributions is going to be up to the council”

And, “They’ve got some real challenges as a council to try and work out how to best employ their resources given the needs they face.”

Of course beyond these blatant hints, English kicked for touch. As did Mayor Bob Parker who branded it a ‘beat-up’ when the assets sales idea first aired last month; he then talked about the need to be ‘flexible’ in  how the cost of recovery was paid.  http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2488277/fate-of-christchurch-council-owned-assets  CCC CEO Tony Marryat said it was “premature’ to start talking about asset sales.

“Premature?” “Beat-up?”  “Mischievous?” Sounds like the agenda is decided. Just requires a certain event in November before it’s formally unveiled.


A treasure of an interview

Posted by on May 29th, 2011

Outgoing Treasury secretary John Whitehead gave an extraordinary and revealing interview on Q + A this morning.

First, challenged by Guyon Espiner on the 170,000 jobs/4 percent p.a growth forecasts, he claimed Treasury had a second to none record for such predictions. The Parliamentary Library confirmed for me this week that Treasury has got its growth forecasts wrong for 28 of the last 30 quarters. (Sure some differences are minor but some are .5% or even 1%+ out)

 Secondly, he confirmed that Treasury had supported Michael Cullen in building surpluses rather than giving tax cuts and that these stood us in good stead for the current downturn. (So much for National’s continuing rhetoric about Labour’s economic mismanagement.)

 Then he talked about Treasury’s concerns about growing inequality in New Zealand (we are now lag at 26th in the OECD on this measure). What has this Government done to address inequality – tax cuts skewed to those on high incomes? Increased GST? Assets sales?

 And Dr Whitehead talked about how the way to address inequality is lifting skills. We’ve just had a budget that cuts such funding by $90m.

 Finally, he defended state asset sales as a way to boost wealth. For whom?

Filed under: treasury

One Tory PM serious about climate change

Posted by on May 24th, 2011

John Key attacking our reinstatement of agriculture in the ETS to fund R +D is predictable enough for a former?  climate change doubter.

But contrast him saying agriculture can only come in when others bring it in with his good friend, British Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.

Last week, the Conservative government unveiled the UK’s fourth carbon budget, announcing it wanted to be the “greenest government  ever” http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/news/pn11_41/pn11_41.aspx  , positioning the UK as a leading player in the global low-carbon economy, creating significant new industries and jobs.

The UK is now on  course to cut emissions to 50 percent of 1990 levels by 2027 (the National Government’s target is 20 percent by 2020.) And it vows to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050 (National’s target 50% by 2050.)

This from an economy once built on coal and heavily reliant on North Sea oil. The point is that the Brits are committing to make changes to the difficult to tackle sectors of its economy and focussing on a low carbon economy and high-tech future. 

David Cameron is effectively making a mockery of John Key’s promise of the National Government being “fast followers” in responding to climate change. The Conservatives in the UK have laid out an actual plan on how they hope to transition to a green economy.  Meanwhile we are stuck with a government that has no real idea, no real plan, and continues to kick the climate change can down the road for the next generation to deal with.

John Key says he’s been in touch with David Cameron every week by phone or text since meeting in 2009. You have to wonder if he ever questions Cameron’s commitment to address climate change or  is that just reserved for domestic politics?


Big Australia

Posted by on April 30th, 2011

You may have heard of the Big Australia policy – a push for Australia’s population to stretch from 22m to 35m by 2050. One of its key advocates is demographer Bernard Salt who yesterday addressed ACPAC, the conference of Australasian public accounts committees, meeting in Perth, which as an FEC member I am attending with chair Craig Foss.

Salt peppered his address with plenty of NZ references. How we parallel Australia in farm aggregation pushing us to increasingly live on or near the coast, how we face a ‘man drought’ – from about age 22 there are more females than males, peaking at age 35 with a 12% disparity. ( A key part of that being more young Kiwi men than women heading to Australia, in particular, for higher paid work. Salt noted that we have around 550,000 NZers living in Australia and if you tote up the rest, the thick end of one million Kiwis living overseas.

Meanwhile, 2011 sees the first baby boomers turning 65 and able to retire with a pension.  For Australia that means while last year it had a net gain of 250.000 people coming into the workforce, this year it’s only at best 150,000. Maintaining any net gain of workers vs retirees each year can only be maintained if Australia keeps up its acceptance of migrants.

Salt notes that when Japan’s demographic fault line occured in 1994 – more retiring than starting work – the Japanese economy stalled and has never recovered. Baby boomer Australians can now expect to live till 85 on average; 40 years ago it was 72. NZ figures will be similar. My dad died last year at 91; he had been retired 30 years.

Salt argues that Australia needs to actively boost its acceptance of migration to meet increasing life expectancy, to prop up the tax base, fill gaps in the skills base,  meet some humanitarian obligations – and bluntly, because taking 20-somethings that some other country has educated means getting 40 years of work for no earlier costs. (And yes, while this can be seen as “robbing’ third world countries, he maintains that the world is going to get more brutal in competition for resources, and many who chose to live in Australia will repatriate funds home.)

Some big issues here for us to consider. Immigration has long been a key driver of maintaining NZ’s economic growth. I’ve long thought one of the problems is that too many migrants head for Auckland and put infrastructure, the environment and housing costs under further pressure. If there were a mechanism to encourage more migrants into the areas where NZ is depopulating – rural communities, some provincial cities – we would get a win/win; population growth where it’s more needed and better use of public assets at some risk, such as schools and hospitals. I put this to Salt after his address. Turns out he has written recently on the issue and believes there is a case for encouraging migrants who agree to live for a few years in rural/provincial areas. Sure, once they gained permanent residence or citizenship they would be free to live anywhere – but some are likely to have put down roots. Personally there are few parts of NZ which I couldn’t see myself living, if for example, family connections drew me to it.  

I’m not convinced we need a ’Big New Zealand’ policy. I’d prefer to see us drawing back some of those near 1 million expatriate Kiwis. We did get a boost when the global recession happened but frankly, it’s a big ask with wage rate differentials of 30% across the Tasman. Migration tailed off as a result of the recession but will undoubtedly pick up at some point.  

Steering more new arrivals into areas other than Auckland, especially some of our rural towns and cities, would seem to make sense.


Wahine Day

Posted by on April 10th, 2011

Everyone knows something about the Wahine Day storm of 1968. Around 50 lives were lost. Before February 22′s Christchurch quake, the loss of the inter-island ferry in Wellington harbour was, (edited here, thanks for the history reminders) saw one of the biggest losses of life in any New Zealand disaster. The Wahine was left powerless in the face of a huge cyclonic storm before the order came to abandon ship. Its sinking happened 43 years ago today.

When today’s toddlers are middle-aged, they will still be talking about the Christchurch earthquake and not just the event; they will be living with the legacy of redevelopment. That is why it is so important the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Bill, expected to be introduced and passed before the week is out, gets the framework right. As a Christchurch MP, I have been privy to the draft bill and the chance to give some feedback to Minister Brownlee (to the draft, not prior as requested.)

Our key focus is ensuring communities are truly heard; not just ‘consulted’ in the usual post-decision fashion that all governments tend to follow but allowed a real say in shaping their own future. Our neighbouring council, Waimakariri, has shown the way. After the September 4 earthquake it sat down with its constituents and allowed them input into how the council rebuilt the battered suburb of Kaiapoi. Recently the council announced tough decisions – some people will wait three or more years to get back into rebuilt homes. The power of inclusion means people feel bound to decisions if they have been given a say.

If decisions are taken across Christchurch without a genuine chance for input, however rapid, many will end up feeling as powerless and abandoned as passengers on the Wahine.