Red Alert

Archive for the ‘Canterbury Earthquake’ Category

So much for Hekia Parata’s word…

Posted by on February 20th, 2013

Today in Parliament I questioned the Minister of Education Hekia Parata on her decision to close Branston Intermediate School in Christchurch. I singled out Branston because Parata had given them a specific commitment that they wouldn’t close before the end of 2014 and she has now reneged on that commitment. Here is an excerpt from the Hansard (video):

Chris Hipkins: Did she, or her officials, give Branston Intermediate School an assurance that any students enrolled for 2013 would be able to finish their 2 years at Branston Intermediate School before any closure?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did not.

Chris Hipkins: Did she write to Branston Intermediate School on 28 September stating that she had made “a proposal about the closure of Branston Intermediate School to be implemented for the end of 2014.”, and did she tell a public meeting at Branston Intermediate School that the school would definitely be open in 2014, as parents have written in to say she said; if so, why is she now changing that proposal so that students who have only just started school this year will have to change school next year?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did provide Branston Intermediate School with a proposal, and in the meeting with the Branston community I repeatedly said it was a proposal and that they were free to make submissions on it, as indeed they can on the proposal they now have.

Chris Hipkins: At the public meeting with Branston Intermediate School did she give them an assurance that Branston Intermediate School would still be open in 2014?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I made it clear, repeatedly, that it was a proposal, that they had the opportunity to give a submission on that proposal, and I got their submission, and they now have a further opportunity.

At that point we then had a lengthy series of points of order about whether or not Parata’s answer actually addressed the question. Ultimately, the public will be the judge of that, but I can’t imagine she would’ve gotten away with that under Lockwood Smith.

Hekia Parata can try to hide behind the words “interim decisions” and “proposal” all she likes – but the fact is she has gone back on her word. Her word is worthless.

Is it any wonder that 71% of those polled in Canterbury want Hekia Parata sacked as Minister of Education? They don’t trust her, and don’t want her anywhere near the education of their children.

The Christchurch schools announcement

Posted by on February 18th, 2013

Today Hekia Parata announced her decisions concerning the proposed closure or merger of 31 schools in Christchurch. 12 schools will remain open as they are, while seven schools will close and 12 will merge (13 fewer schools overall).

Overall there is good and bad in today’s announcements. Nobody doubted that change was always going to be necessary, but this process has been a shambles. Instead of getting community buy-in and support, Hekia Parata has eroded all goodwill. This could’ve been really positive for Christchurch. Instead it’s yet another example of Nationals heavy-handed, we know best, approach to the Christchurch rebuild.

Today’s announcement will be welcomed by the 12 schools who will stay open. For the others, it’s worse than they might have expected because the timeframes for closure and merger originally proposed have been shortened and most will now take effect from the end of this year.

The decision to shorten the timeframe doesn’t make sense, particularly for the intermediates. Kids who started intermediate this year will face another change next year. The original proposal would’ve seen the intermediates stay open but not take in a new cohort, meaning the kids already there wouldn’t have been forced to switch schools twice in two years. There are also concerns that this new rushed timeframe won’t allow enough time for the necessarily building projects, or for schools to integrate their teaching programmes.

The data that Parata relied on when making her decisions was also clearly flawed. MOE projections showing falling rolls for some of the schools being closed or merged don’t match with reality. For example Philipstown School’s roll has actually grown this year not shrunk as the Ministry predicted.

The problem for Parata is she jumped the gun last year and put forward closure and merger proposals too soon. The government had started well, with a wide-ranging discussion about what the future of schooling in Christchurch, but then they lurched into a specific set of proposals without giving the community a chance to talk about what the actual shape of schooling might look like in the future. The population is still really fluid too, and it’s not yet clear where people will ultimately settle once things have all calmed down.

Parata could’ve started today with an apology. She didn’t. My thoughts are with the schools in Christchurch who are grappling with the decisions. They deserved to be treated with more respect than this.

Another Parata communication triumph

Posted by on February 8th, 2013

Within the next two weeks Hekia Parata will be charged with announcing the fate of several dozen Canterbury schools. Consultation on merger and closure proposals ended just before Christmas and Parata  supposedly spent her extended summer break reading them.

While all of those schools wait on tenterhooks to hear their fate, Parata decided today to announce the government’s plans to open six brand new schools in Christchurch. Talk about a slap in the face to all of the schools still waiting to hear what the future holds for them.

Nobody doubts that significant change is required. The population has moved around in Christchurch, and as a result some schools have shrunk to the point where they are no longer viable while others are bursting at the seams.

But there is a way to do this. It starts with respect for the school communities affected. Shepherding all the principals and BOTs into a hall and giving them colour-coded name badges to indicate whether they were closing, merging, or remaining wasn’t a great start. Announcing the opening of new schools before telling the existing schools of their fate rubs further salt into the wounds.

Hekia Parata has a difficult job to do, but she seems determined to make it even harder for herself. Her handling of the Christchurch schooling situation has demonstrated arrogance and a total lack of respect. The people of Christchurch deserve better.

Hands-off and Half-baked

Posted by on January 4th, 2013

NICOLE MATHEWSON reports in The Press (4 January 2013):

A proposal to shift to a 10-year census could seriously affect Christchurch’s recovery, critics say.

Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson said in July 2011 the Government was considering holding the census once every decade.

Currently conducted every five years, the census helps determine electoral boundaries and funding for services like district health boards, schools and the police.

I agree with our Earthquake Recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel:

“Christchurch was already living with the consequences of a delayed census …I’d really want to see a good case put up for a delay. We’ve had the schools shake-up landed on the city without the benefit of knowledge about where the settlement patterns are going to fall and that’s wrong.”

Green’s Eugenie Sage cited as an example that one of the reasons for not closing Belfast’s Ouruhia School is potential roll growth from the Prestons and Belfast subdivisions. “Five-yearly census information will help confirm that.”

Labour statistics spokesman Raymond Huo said a 10-yearly census would reduce costs to Statistics New Zealand, but it was “not that straightforward”.

“I think Williamson’s idea is half-baked at best because it’s not that simple,” he said.

“The key drivers are cost constraints and the demand for more frequent detailed and accurate statistics. Particularly for the Christchurch area, we need more frequent and accurate data.”

Indeed. There are at least three issues as Statistics NZ noted:

  • Continuing cost increases (due to population growth and inflation);
  • Not keeping pace with potential cost savings arising from technological changes;
  • Increasing availability of administrative date.

NZ could learn a lot from international experience. Australia has developed its eCensus system and one of the goals for its 2016 census is to further increase internet uptake. At its 2011 census 34% of households completed forms online, already.

Canada is researching methodology options (based on existing administrative registers plus a full-enumeration field census with yearly updates).

France’s approach is unique: a full-enumeration of population and dwelling every five years plus 8% sample conducted every year in large municipalities. Date are released annually as moving averages.

US also changed census model. In 2010, its 10-yearly long-form census was replaced by ACS – a large annual survey of 3 million households.

Statistics NZ in its Transforming the New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings: Issues, options, and strategy gave a detailed analysis of each option/approach.

Statistics Minister Maurice Williamson could simply read it and talk to his officials. His approach has so far been hands-off and his idea, half-baked.

Parata battening down the hatches

Posted by on November 11th, 2012

Hekia Parata now seems to be working on the premise that the less information she gives out, the less accountable she will have to be. After making such a hash of her proposals for school closures and mergers and Christchurch, Parata and her Ministry are now refusing to release the information and advice she received when making those decisions.

I understand officials presented the Minister with several alternative options, but requests for that advice to be released are being refused. That is wrong. In refusing to release that advice officials have argued it would compromise the consultation going on at the moment. How could releasing more, and extremely important, information undermine a supposedly ‘genuine’ consultation?

Similar requests directed to Ms Parata have not been actioned on the basis that she is too busy visiting schools in Christchurch to respond to them. That’s a bit rich coming from a Minister who has refused pleas from those very same schools to give them extra time to undertake consultation.

The Government should be approaching this process in an open, transparent and democratic way. Instead the Minister and her officials are promoting a culture of secrecy. In turn that cloak and dagger secrecy around the release of information is simply creating an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion.

That’s not a responsible way for the government to behave. I urge Hekia Parata to openly release all of the information and advice she has received regarding school reorganization in Christchurch. Any refusal to do so will leave people rightly asking what she is trying to hide.

National Promotes Divide and Rule – One Size Fits All for Christchurch

Posted by on September 28th, 2012

The National Government appears to have adopted the age old tactic of divide and rule in Christchurch. Proposing sweeping education reforms of schools closures and merge options totally contradict the message that the Government will ‘consult with’ and ‘listen to’ the community. Yeah Right!

Unless you live in Christchurch it is very hard to comprehend the daily stress families cope with to carry on in a ‘new normal’ scenario. Many continue to wait for insurance claims to be confirmed, rebuild projects to commence, and for some greater certainty about job security. This is just a surface snapshot as there is so much more happening in peoples lives.

Instead of listening and working with the community constructively, the Minister of Education bowls her way though with an inefficient consultation process, questionable data and shallow analysis of submissions to justify broad sweeping changes. This is a trend that should worry any community.

There is no coherence to the network provision of education from early childhood options, through to schooling and tertiary pathways. This is a problem. The rebuild in Christchurch will be done over a number of years, if done well, the city will be an attractive place for business, to live, raise a famility and pursue tertiary education offerings. It doesn’t seem like the Minister has her eye on the future. Her short-sighted cost saving approach will lead to an educaiton network that is ill-equipped for 21st century learning or the prospect of coping with an influx of people prepared to rebuild and possibly live in the city.

What is particularly disturbing is the Economic Recovery Plan for Christchurch has not been revealed. It doesn’t make any sense to address the education issues without having a clear picture of the economic growth potential of Christchurch.

More cause for concern all the way around! The good people of Christchurch deserve more than political window dressing and opportunistic point scoring. Childrens futures hang in the balance. They need a well thought through system of education network provision.

Things can be done differently. The community want to be engaged in 21st solutions for the city rebuild. Parents want greater assurance that their aspiration to have a world class education for their child is not thwarted by the Government using the earthquake as an excuse to save money. Children in Christchurch deserve more – how different will the final proposal for Christchurch schools really be? Your thoughts?

Genuine consultation – yeah right!

Posted by on September 28th, 2012

Yesterday John Key tried to ease the concerns of Cantabrians by saying that final decisions hasn’t been made about school mergers and closures in Christchurch. Today Hekia Parata formally wrote to school boards of trustees to formally begin the closure/merger process. Cantabrians can be forgiven for thinking that the fate of their local schools has already been sealed.

Schools have been given until 7 December to provide feedback on proposals for closures and mergers, the first two weeks of that time will be school holidays and for senior students, exams will dominate the rest of the school year. In that time boards are expected to run a formal consultation process with parents, students, and others with an interest. It’s a sham.

We know from the Dotcom case that John Key and Bill English have a breakdown in communication. It’s clear now that the Prime Minister and his Minister of Education are also completely out of step. John Key is out there trying to tell Cantabrians that the consultation process is a genuine one, yet his Minister of forging ahead with the legal process to implement decisions that appear to have already been made.

This consultation charade would be funny if it wasn’t about something so incredibly important to the families of Canterbury. The Government needs to get this right but it’s a turning it into a bigger shambles than their plan to increase class sizes.

Another Hekia Parata train wreck

Posted by on September 26th, 2012

Today in the House I questioned Hekia Parata about the consultation process around school closures and mergers in Christchurch. It would be fair to say it took quite a few attempts before I got any answers, and even then I’m not sure I’m any clearer after her comments such as “I consulted the submissions that had been submitted”.

The government’s current consultation process around the future of schooling in greater Christchurch is a total sham. Hekia Parata began an ‘open consultation’ on 13 September but confirmed in the House today that she will be writing to school boards within days to formally begin the legal process to implement her plan to close and merge schools.

To make matters worse, documents from the Ministry of Education tabled in the House today suggest they only envisage a formal consultation process of five to six weeks, which just so happens to coincide with school holidays and senior student exams.

There is no way the Government can get meaningful information from teachers, parents and children during the exam and holiday period. This whole process looks like a sham and sounds like a sham, because it is a sham. Hekia Parata has clearly already made her mind up.

This is another classic Hekia Parata botch up. The people of Christchurch have been through enough trauma in the past two years. Rather than engaging in a meaningful way with those affected, Hekia Parata seems determined to add to the stress.

Opportunity plus Innovation??? Christchurch school closures and sums that don’t add up

Posted by on September 19th, 2012

Last night I attended the Board of Trustees meeting at Manning Intermediate in Christchurch. It was a difficult meeting, and just as difficult as the school visits and talking with parents, teachers and students that I have been doing since last Thursday’s education bombshell was dropped on our communities.

In the last few days I have seen a look in people’s eyes that I recognise only too well. A look I have realised I have not been seeing for a few months now – one that comes with each major quake or aftershock. It is a look that is a mix of fear, anxiety, helplessness, and an inability to control what is happening around us. Last Thursday’s education announcement double act by Ministers Brownlee and Parata has been as destablising to communities and neighborhoods as any aftershock.

Manning is one of the four intermediate schools across the city earmarked for closure. It is one of ten schools in the Wigram electorate directly impacted by last Thursday’s announcement – two are to close (Manning and Branston Intermediates), one is to relocate to a new site (South Hornby), two are to merge with another school (Gilberthorpes and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Te Whanau Tahi) and a further four to recapitate,or move from being years 1-6 to being years 1-8 (Hoon Hay, Spreydon, West Spreydon, and Rowley Avenue), and Hornby High is to move from catering for years 9-13 to catering for year 7-13 students.

Inevitable, some might say? Christchurch has suffered major damage and,while there is no doubt that some changes are needed, there is nothing inevitable about what has been proposed. The schools in my electorate earmarked for closure, merger and relocation are in some of the least physically damaged neighbourhoods in the City. Many have had very little earthquake damage. In fact, under the proposal, South Hornby is to move on to the site vacated by Branston. Communities spared by the earthquakes are now being destroyed by the Government’s decision to close their schools.

Already much ink has been spilt and many keys pressed on how badly the Government handled the announcement. None of the school communities in my electorate saw this coming. They thought that being in projected population growth areas (due to the relative stability of the land) they would survive. This is not the case.

These communities have had no input into these decisions and initially read the Minister’s “firm proposals” as pretty much final decisions.

Here is some news for Hekia Parata and John Key. These communities are not battle weary, rather the last two years has made them battle hardened. They are not going to take these assaults on their communities without a fight. They have read your proposals and they say “thanks but no thanks”. They even have some ideas of their own that make sense in their neighbourhoods that they would like you to listen to.

Simply, they want their voices heard and they want a chance to have a say on the kind of education that is offered to their children. The document issued to schools is entitled “Opportunities plus Innovation: Education Renewal in greater Christchurch”,  but I struggle to find either opportunity or innovation in shutting communities out of decisions about their futures. As their local MP, I will be there standing with our communities across the electorate as they make their views clear. As will my Labour colleagues across the city.

If you are outside of Christchurch reading this and thinking “poor Christchurch” and “look what the terrible earthquakes have caused”, think again. In fact, be afraid, very very afraid, because the Minister has made it clear that Christchurch is to be the exemplar for the rest of the country. This treatment could be coming to a community near you no matter where you are in New Zealand.

Posted by on September 18th, 2012

I went to a briefing when Anne Tolley was Minister of Education about the Christchurch education review. It was great, as a local MP, to get a briefing in advance of an announcement. The Minister was really clear that this was a review looking at taking positive opportunities from the earthquakes to improve educational outcomes. I remember a phrase she used which was that it was about how education was delivered, not where. She talked about collaboration and innovation. Well, we are certainly up for that conversation. But instead of innovation, we have had bizarre mergers and school closures. The new Minister has talked about earthquake damaged land and buildings and about depopulation in areas. These factors don’t apply to the six schools that are merging in my electorate. The population in four areas is stable and roll numbers increasing. In the other two, the residents are returning as their homes are repaired and rebuilt. I think they will bring their children home with them. None of the concerns the Minister talked about fit my schools. These schools are the heart of their communities. They have been the one place of stability for staff, students, their families and the broader school community over the last two years. They have been lifesavers. And now three of them are proposed for closure ( which is what merger is). The centre of our communities are going to go. The Minister said not one word about improved educational outcomes for our children. That’s what this should be about. And she hasn’t answered so many questions. Like is this a backdoor way of pushing more children into our classrooms? Or about selling land to fill the hole in the Budget caused by the backdown on the increased class size issue? But if it’s not about improving education then why do it? We have had enough change, hurt, dislocation and disempowerment. Our teachers and our local schools have been our rocks. We want them to stay. Leave them alone to do the fantastic job they have been doing. Listen to our communities. And put our children first.

National Government failing Women

Posted by on May 3rd, 2012

Today’s unemployment figures show the female unemployment rate to be 7.1% – the highest it’s been since 1998.
This bad news follows hard on the heels of the Government’s announcement that they will veto extensions to paid parental leave; their mother-bashing proposals under the so-called “welfare reforms” banner and the news that Police will no longer report family violence data in their annual report.
So it’s time to ask a few questions.
Why is Minister of Women’s Affairs, Jo Goodhew, sitting on her hands while her Government fails the women of New Zealand?
Why have two CEO’s resigned from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the three years that National has been the Government? (MWA CEO Rowena Phair has just announced her resignation this week)
What does National have against women and mothers in particular?
They can’t say they didnt know women were suffering. In March, EEO Commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor warned that the cuts to public service jobs; the disproportionate loss of retail, accommodation and food service jobs in Christchurch and the reliance on construction in Christchurch to lift employment would all lead to increasing unemployment for women.
Women are bearing the brunt of the Government’s inability to pull the economy out of recession.
Not only are women losing jobs, but they bear the brunt of the emerging housing crisis, the fire-at-will bill and short-sighted cuts in early childhood and tertiary education.
And as the economic mismangement puts financial pressure on the family budget, guess who cops it then? Shockingly, sometimes in a physical way.
But of course the Police annual stats will hide that fact and we can all go back to pretending that domestic violence doesnt exist.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Women’s Affairs sits quietly outside of Cabinet and that’s just the way the National Party like it.

‘Beautiful’ petition gets warm welcome

Posted by on May 2nd, 2012

Petitioners who marched on Parliament today to support turning the Avon River Red Zone into a reserve and river park can take heart in the cross-party welcome they received.

The Avon-Otakaro River Park petition signed by over 18,000 people was greeted by Labour, Green and National MPs at lunchtime today, a rare and symbolic sight.

The petition asks Parliament “to work with the people and local authorities of Christchurch to turn the Avon River red zone into a reserve and river park when the home owners have to leave the area”.

I want to congratulate the organisers for the inspiring journey the petition has taken up the Avon River and all the way to Wellington. The Table office at Parliament said that the petition was the most beautifully presented petition (two hand bound books) they had received.

I was very pleased to be able to sign the petition today – not as a petitioner, but as the MP sponsoring the bill.

The petition represented a vision for the future and that this would help people in the red zones move on.

There have been rumours about government intentions to sell the land to developers who will rebuild exclusive riverside homes. I am hoping that the government will commit to the Avon-Otakaro River Park – essentially gifting our personal interest in the land to Christchurch’s recovery.

This looked promising in Parliament today with Assistant Recovery Minister Amy Adams assured petitioners that it will be given ‘full consideration’. The petition has been referred to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee.

Today was another important step in the journey to recovery and I was pleased to be joined by so many of my colleagues to welcome this progress.

A day to remember

Posted by on February 22nd, 2012


Today was a day I have been approaching with mixed emotions. It was incredibly important that we marked the day, remembered those who lost their lives and their families, and acknowledged what has been an incredibly difficult year for us all. As a community we needed to confront all we had lost – people, homes, places, and security. Like many people though, I suspect, I saw today as a bit of a milestone – as David Shearer commented, like in any grieving process one year on you have marked all the significant days.

The last 24 hours have been pretty much wall-to-wall with events marking the day. Politicians from all Parties, the families of those lost, diplomats, and the community came together and remembered, commemorated, and acknowledged at incredibly moving ceremonies. There has been much good and sensitive media coverage of these.

Tonight my day finished with a much less formal event at a local school in Hornby. This was a community BBQ organised by the school (Branston Intermediate), a church (Hornby Presbyterian), and a local business (The Gough Group). The people of this suburb in the west had come out on a drizzly and overcast evening to be together and acknowledge what they had been through. Although the streets and houses in this suburb have got off lightly compared to their eastern neighbours, the people in these houses have certainly felt the stresses of the last 12 months. Many have lost their jobs, and of course like people all over the city they no longer trust the ground under them.

This event was much less sombre than the earlier events I went to. Several hundred people came out to remember but also to look forward to what comes next. There was music, a bouncy castle, egg and spoon and sack races, ice-creams and a BBQ cooked by 4 members of the Crusaders (Andy Ellis, Tom Taylor, Adam Whitelock and Patrick Osborne for the rugby fans out there).  This was a community coming together to be together. This was a community doing what we do on a smaller scale in back yards all over the country during summer – having a bbq and a yarn when something happens. A turnout of this scale is not something I could have not imagined before February 22nd last year.

For me there is great hope in Christchurch, albeit a hope that is embedded in frustrations and tensions (but that is for another day). It is this community togetherness with new combinations of co-operation (the school, the church and the business),  this empowered grassroots organisation, and this spirit that are the solid foundation that we will rebuild our broken city on.

Our job as politicians is to make sure these voices are heard and that this collective spirit is part of our new city.

22.2.11- One Year On

Posted by on February 22nd, 2012

Today is a day to think of Christchurch and Canterbury. To remember those who lost their lives, those who were hurt and injured, and to those who lost much that they knew of their lives and livelihoods. The first anniversary of such a tragedy will be tough for many of those affected to handle. Our hearts go out to them.

What we learned in the hours, days, weeks and months that have followed is the incredible strength, determination and spirit of the people of Canterbury. That is needed now more than ever. As is the support from the rest of New Zealand. At 12.51 today I think all New Zealanders should take a moment to remember the tragedy, and re-affirm our collective commitment to stand beside the people of Christchurch and Canterbury.

As Brendon Burns remarked in a post just one week on from the 22nd of February, “There are hard days ahead. Kia kaha to us all.”


Posted by on January 8th, 2012

Just spent a couple of days there. The second time beyond the airport since February. And then in was just for a quick meeting.

We went for a wander around the edge of the central city. Even worse than I had expected from TV and colleagues.

Experienced the 4.7 and 5.2 overnight Friday. And the smaller ones that aren’t reported any more. Frightening.

Talked with a woman whose water connection to the house had survived September and February but broke on Saturday morning. Stoic but scared.

Brilliant feedback on the work MPs are putting in – and have been for 16 months now.

But there are thousands of people down there who are working incredibly hard to make life better for others in circumstances that most of us could not tolerate.

We need to find a way of acknowledging that.

Christchurch in our hearts

Posted by on December 23rd, 2011

Couldn’t believe it when I felt the quake in Dunedin half an hour ago. Immediately knew Christchurch would be worse affected.

It’s a 5.8 magnitude, 8 kms deep.

I’ve texted everyone I can think of in Chch. Am getting responses, but phone lines jammed. I know people are scared. All New Zealanders are with you. Kia kaha

Update: three big shakes, reportedly 5.8, 5.3 and 5.8. The third big quake has been upgraded to a 6.0. Hope thats as bad as it gets. 26,000 people in eastern suburbs without power. This will have disrupted Xmas for so many families. Will be more ongoing issues for people rebuilding their lives. New Zalanders can and should open their homes and arms to support you through these times. Our great strengths lie in our ability to deal with adversity.

Chch Labour MPs good communicators

Posted by on November 2nd, 2011

We already know this. But research backs it up.

Story in today’s Press highlights the important role the Chch Labour MPs have played in keeping their communities informed and advocating on their behalf post earthquakes. The ChCh bulletins from the Labour MPs have been and remain an important resource.

The Fairfax Media-Research International poll out today suggests an ongoing rump of discontent.

Some 31.2 per cent strongly agree that the speed of decisionmaking affecting individuals and home-owners has been far too slow. And 44.8 per cent agree or strongly agree that the speed of decision-making affecting businesses has been far too slow.

Labour has long been preaching the need for community buy-in, to soften the blow of inevitable bad news. Its local MPs have kept up a daily earthquake bulletin – up to its 137th edition – and rallied street corner meetings and caravan clinics.

Canterbury University researcher Kris Vavasour has canvassed hundreds of residents about communication after the quakes. A “big issue” for people was conflicting and confusing information, specifically from leaders like Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee or Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, Mr Vavasour says.

Politicians as Commentators: Am I bothered?

Posted by on September 12th, 2011

The great thing about being in government is that you can take action to do things, or stop things or change things that you think are important. It’s the privilege that goes with the responsibility. But the current government seems to approach a number of issues as if they were commentators at a rugby game, saying something about an issue but in actual fact not doing anything at all.

Two examples from this weekend. The first and most transparent being the transport debacle that David has already posted on. On Friday Murray McCully was full of confidence about the state of Auckland transport, and seemed to be taking some ownership of what he saw as a success waiting to happen. It of course did not turn out that way.

Now of course this is not all the Government’s problem. The successful running of infrastructure for RWC was always going to be a matter for both local and central government to manage. Len Brown fronted on Saturday morning and apologised. All we have seen from Murray McCully, the Minister for the Rugby World Cup is comment on how bad things were and that they should be better. Why have a Minister for the Rugby World Cup if you are not going to play your part in making things work, and in taking some responsibility when they don’t?

The more subtle version of this tactic came from John Key in response to the reluctance of insurance companies to pay out for Christchurch homeowners to rebuild. Mr Key is quoted in the Press as saying he was “bothered” by the stance that the companies were taking. Is he auditioning for Catherine Tate or something? If you are bothered you are the one in a position to do something about it. For god’s sake man you are the Prime Minister not some talkback radio caller. Do something.

There are other examples, like the PM saying National could do better in terms of the number of women on on the National Party list. I know, why doesn’t he talk to someone who could show some leadership on this, like the Leader of the National Party?

The Prime Minister and his Ministers are not interested spectators in how our country runs, they are the people who have their hands on the levers of power. They should be held to account for what they do, not just that they have had something to say on the matters of the day.

Dear Canterbury

Posted by on September 4th, 2011

None of us from outside your proud province can really know what it has been like for the past year. We can visit, as I have, and see the twisted buildings, the cratered roads, the empty houses. We can even see the signs of the physical and mental scars that you now have. But we can’t feel the pain, the loss, the frustration or indeed even the thousands of reminders that the shakey ground has given you.

What we do know is that many of your lives have changed forever. Be it loved ones lost, neighbourhoods broken up, precious memories gone or property and possessions ruined.

We also know that your spirit and determination has shown through. You have looked after each other, and worked hard to adjust to that “new normal”. You are re-building, homes, offices, neighbourhoods, communities- literally your lives.

To my Canterbury Parliamentary colleagues, of all parties, we know that you have all worked hard to serve your people. It is hard enough to deal with the damange and destruction of your own lives, families and friends, but to also be there for everyone else is a huge strain. I salute you for your courage and fortitutde. As I do all those whose job it is to rebuild your region.

Life has changed from where it was in the early hours of the 4th of September 2010. But what has not changed is the commitment of the rest of New Zealand to help you rebuild. There will be conflict and debate and frustration as that process continues, but I also want you to know that our small and connected nation will do its best to be beside you every step of the way.

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.