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Christchurch Earthquake bulletin edition 103

Christchurch Earthquake bulletin edition 103

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: Last night's red zone meeting in Kaiapoi was attended by a packed hall of close to 500 people. As predicted people were very anxious and wanting questions answered. The key questions were focused around why the Government won't release full information to residents about why land is zoned either red or green, why the Government has backed down, without explanation, on its promise regarding factoring in home improvements (i.e. kitchen / bathroom renovations), to the price paid for the property. And why residents are faced with a shortfall between the Government's offer--- based on the rateable valuation of their land --- and the price of a new property, which is increasing by the day. How are residents expected to cope with these outstanding issues? Of particular concern was a question around the process of accepting the Government's offer. At present when a resident accepts the offer they can gain a deposit of $50,000 upfront from the Government with the rest paid to them when they vacate their damaged home. A distressed community member quite rightly asked why the Government wouldn't let them stay in their damaged home, providing they wanted to and be paid the full amount on the condition that they vacate the home, as they would anyway, once the new house is built. This would allow them to pay down the mortgage faster, lessen the need for emergency accommodation, minimise demand for the accommodation allowance, and lessen the financial and personal toll on quake victims allowing them to move directly into their new homes. The question remains -what is the problem here? CERA CEO and public servant, Roger Sutton, made a valiant attempt to address all of the aforementioned questions but could only say these are Government decisions. That is no criticism of Mr Sutton, in his capacity as a public servant he was simply unable provide answers. But what was astounding was that these questions could have been answered by Cabinet Minister and member of the Government's Ad Hoc Cabinet Committee on Canterbury Earthquake Recovery (ACE), Kate Wilkinson, who was present at the meeting. The Minister sat there for two and a half hours and said absolutely nothing. Instead she left it to Mr Sutton who as a public servant cannot be a mouthpiece for the Government and explain the rationale behind its decision. It will be interesting at tonight's second major red zone meeting (7:30pm, Kaiapoi High School Auditorium, Ohoka Road, Kaiapoi) to see whether the Minister is present again and if she is prepared to front up to questions posed by those attending and be accountable as a Cabinet Minister should be.

RUTH DYSON: Today is the last day of winter, officially, and I am certainly hoping that we are going to avoid the latest predicted polar blast. It is hard to imagine how miserable it is for those with little or no heating, and with temporary repairs of plywood to their walls. We need progress on the declaration of green zone areas as soon as possible, rather than Gerry Brownlee's previous view that he would wait until the whole area is determined before making any announcements. I am hearing of builders and joiners with no work! It is unbelievable when we have so much to do, but getting homes repaired or replaced while they are I'm the white zone is a very hard job, let alone getting insurance cover. If we are serious about keeping our skilled workforce in Christchurch, then our tradespeople have to be very high on the list. And work is a great retainer! I haven't heard anything further from the Council around the puzzling decision to keep residents from their homes even after the recommended work is done to remediate rock fall risk. Residents will still not be able to move back into their homes, safe though they are, until the zoning is done. This is a frustrating decision and hard to make sense of. I certainly haven't been able to see the logic yet, nor have the residents!

BRENDON BURNS: The huge jump in the EQC's estimates of the number of Christchurch homes needing major repairs reinforces the need for a seismic lift in skills training in Christchurch. We are now facing 30,000 homes with work beyond the $100,000 cap. When the estimate was 12,000 such homes, there were estimates of 30,000 jobs being created. Even at that time, the response in trade training wasn't approaching what was needed. I visited Christchurch's major centre for trades training, the CPIT trades training campus with Phil Goff a few weeks back. It was working to lift its training for hundreds more apprentices and other learners. We are going to need thousands not hundreds more. While there was a Government lift in funding for Christchurch trade training it came against a backdrop on much bigger national cuts. We are now confirmed as seeing Christchurch as the building capital of the nation for most of the next generation. We owe it to that generation to provide them with the opportunities to help rebuild their own city, rather than importing most of the skills from elsewhere. So far, the response has been woeful.

LIANNE DALZIEL: Further to my comments on the International Speaker Series, which was held at Canterbury University over the weekend I want to mention the contributions of Douglas Ahlers from Harvard. He talked about the need to commit investment early or we would risk losing it. He commented how vital it was that the Government speak to the reinsurers. I am pleased that the Minister is planning to do this but I wonder if he is the right person to lead the delegation. We need to be taken seriously and I hope the delegation includes the head of the Treasury, the Chair of EQC and the head of GNS It is New Zealand's future insurability that is at stake - not just Christchurch. It has to be a high powered delegation as we only have one chance to get this right.

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

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