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Christchurch Earthquake bulletin edition 102

Christchurch Earthquake bulletin edition 102

The Labour Party's Christchurch electorate MPs, Clayton Cosgrove (Waimakariri), Ruth Dyson (Port Hills), Lianne Dalziel (Christchurch East) and Brendon Burns (Christchurch Central) have started a regular bulletin to keep people in their electorates and media informed about what is happening at grass roots level.

CLAYTON COSGROVE: Tonight in Kaiapoi the first round of CERA meetings for those recently red zoned will begin. Judging by the meetings I've had with my constituents in Kaiapoi since the latest zoning announcement there will be a number of explanations demanded of CERA officials. Firstly, why is the Government still refusing to release all information to all residents who have had their zoning confirmed? This would allow residents some insight into the rationale behind the Government's decision. Secondly, why it is that Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee went back on his word when he promised that home improvements such as kitchen and bathroom renovations ---where receipts and evidence of the work could be produced--- would be included in the Government's buy-out deal? His reversal of that position means the only renovations eligible for inclusion are those which increase the housing footprint of the property. These are just a couple of questions constituents want answers too. There is a feeling that the government's goal posts keep shifting, advice keeps changing and commitments keep changing. The reality in Kaiapoi is that these are commitments which in many cases constituents have literally banked on. It's going to be a tough series of meetings. People are very distressed about their situations and uncertain about their future. They need to be treated with respect, sensitivity and care.

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RUTH DYSON: Minister Gerry Brownlee's refusal to let EQC representatives attend community meetings over the past six months has angered me for a long time. Their presence after the September quake and early on after the February quake, at meetings and briefings was very helpful. But since then the information flow has stopped from EQC, the frustration levels have increased dramatically as people keep getting pushed from one person to another with conflicting responses to questions. Now EQC has set up mobile offices at various sites around the city to speak with people face to face. Good move! But let's make sure that this is not just another person who gives a different answer, but in person rather than over the phone. We have a brilliant system in our EQC model. It risks being destroyed through incompetence Engagement directly with the community, albeit late, is a good move. I hope that it is a genuine attempt to give people the information they are seeking. Speculation and conflicting information in the media about zoning in Redcliffs and other areas of the Port Hill is rife. I am hoping to garner more information at the upcoming cross party MP forum next week. Facts would be good, about the process and the timeframe.

LIANNE DALZIEL: When listening to Kerry O'Neill from the Victoria Bushfire Reconstruction & Recovery Authority (VBRRA) at the International Speaker Series (which finishes today) I was struck by her commitment to openness and transparency, especially as she said the VBRRA had adapted their model from New Zealand's model. The pillars of people, environment, economy and reconstruction, with the community at the core, match our social, natural and economic environment exactly. In Victoria, Community Recovery Committees covering each of the affected areas give a structured voice to communities, provide valuable local knowledge, ideas and solutions and identify emerging issues (e.g. mental health).With this in mind, why did the New Zealand Government ignore our own model of recovery planning entrenched within the civil defence & emergency management regime, when our closest neighbour has seized the benefits of our planning? There is no obvious answer to that question, but it is clear what it has cost us. Some take home messages for me included the recognition that engaging with communities to generate ideas for renewal will inevitably generate expectations, so the process needs to be framed in terms of what is realistic, including an open discussion about costs. Kerry repeated the need for information to be provided in a timely fashion and to dispel rumours as soon they were identified. This helped build trust and respect. A senior bureaucrat was allocated to each affected town to ensure that all agencies were coordinated. The VBRRA understands that community engagement builds partnership & trust; builds capacity & skills; supports recovery; and shapes a place where people belong. The Christchurch communities need their government to understand this too.

BRENDON BURNS: The timeframes for any real start to economic recovery in a city centre can be longer than imagined or hoped for. Charles Eadie, an international speaker in a commendable series at Canterbury University, helped rebuild the Santa Cruz CBD after the San Francisco earthquake in 1989. One of the fundamental factors in initiating recovery that he identified was the return of investment money. In Santa Cruz, the turning point was five years after the disaster when a nine-screen cinema opened. If Christchurch's CBD sees an equivalent, that means new investment starting in 2015. Eadie says we need to expect change and accept some failures. None of the main department stores returned to Santa Cruz. One did in nearby Watsonville. It opened in 16 months with the biggest-ever government support loans. The store went upmarket and closed in eight months. A presentation of the Christchurch CBD plan last night to MPs appropriately had economic recovery as the first of the ten key points. The council's planning staffers have brought together a 20 year plan in three months. It needs to be supported and to work New Orleans went through three or four recovery plans after Hurricane Katrina and is still without around 20 per cent of its earlier population. My key question last night was what we can do to encourage investment by business. One of Eadie's observations was that if a building can be saved, it allows business to resume earlier than building a new one. Once a building is demolished, the capital it holds is mobile. I think we are still too focused on demolition in our CBD rather than saving buildings, heritage or otherwise.

Authorised by Clayton Cosgrove, MP, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

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