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Christchurch Earthquake bulletin edition 104

Christchurch Earthquake bulletin edition 104

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: We had another packed hall of about 300 residents last night at Kaiapoi's second red zone meeting. Strangely, Cabinet Minister Kate Wilkinson wasn't there to represent the Government. It seems with or without the Minister key policy questions cannot be answered. There was quite a bit of anger from people at the nature of the Government's financial offer. Questions were raised with CERA CEO Roger Sutton including whether the Government had considered the concept of land swaps, and whether it had considered purchasing land, developing it, and offering it back to earthquake victims at cost. Mr Sutton agreed to go out and find answers. The issue of whether people could stay put (in their damaged homes) while their new houses were being built and receive the full government pay-out was raised again to no avail. This option would allow residents to pay down their mortgages faster and alleviate pressure from the rental market as well as demand for accommodation allowances. While Mr Sutton could not confirm this option he did confirm that when earthquake victims receive a part of their settlement (i.e. the $50,000 mentioned yesterday) they no longer qualify for the temporary accommodation allowance. On this Mr Sutton said: "this policy needs to be looked at again---many of these policies were put together in haste." The community meeting was gratified by that comment and we will wait to see the outcome. The other issue that was raised was why the Government continue to refuse to release all the geotechnical data to home owners, especially those who want to appeal their colour coding. How can you appeal your colour zoning if you have no technical information? It is a bit like going to court accused of a crime and the judge refusing to supply the evidence against you, so you can't defend yourself. Again, the question is--- what has the Government got to hide? It's not good enough to say it takes too much time. These are all frustrations based on questions where the Government has provided no answers. Yet again, Mr Sutton did his best as a public servant but again was let-down by a lack of representation by Government. MPs have been advised that there will be a cross-party forum on Friday and yet again I and my colleagues will ask Mr Brownlee to address these issues.

BRENDON BURNS: An editorial in The Dominion Post this week picks up on a letter to the editor from a Wellington resident saying; while "hugely sympathetic to the terrible plight of some Cantabrians...there is rather more to New Zealand than Christchurch." I can excuse one letter writer for experiencing disaster fatigue from the distance of headlines, but the editorial continues the theme. It says while New Zealand sympathises with Christchurch, having endured an ordeal unlike any other in recent time, "personal and financial loss is part of life. Usually, the state does not step in to help. On this occasion, it has - with the support of most Kiwis. But there has to be a limit." Of course there has to be a limit, but I ask whether that editorial would have been written if Wellington had been the epicentre of the last year of quakes which have devastated my city? Would the Dompost have then been proscribing limits? I've just sent a note of congratulations to The Press, which has been named Newspaper of the Year, a well-deserved award because it continues to report and comment comprehensively on the toll of the earthquakes, warts and all. You simply cannot comprehend the enormity of this disaster unless you are on the ground here. Editorials like that in the Dompost perpetuate the simplistic view that the Government's offer is generous. In fact many of my constituents face years of poverty ahead because they will get nowhere near the 'preserved equity' they were repeatedly promised. I have also been approached by constituents who've had insurance companies turning their initial rebuild assessments into repairs. I hope we can get some attention on that, disaster fatigue allowing.

RUTH DYSON: Many within our communities are focussed on what we can learn from the last twelve months and how we can make our communities stronger in the future. Many people talk of the responses within their street, their neighbourhood, and how people look out for each other more than they did previously and how people talk to each other more. I guess our priorities, our thinking about what is really important in life, have changed, and changed for the better. Other people are thinking about longer term issues, like physical access to areas, be it on the Port Hills, Sumner or Lyttelton and the Harbour Basin, when the usual route is closed. And others are working on developing stronger access to locally produced food so that more independence is fostered. These are all important and sensible responses to what we have been through. And they will make a positive difference to our level of resilience in the future. One initiative in Lyttelton post February was to deliver hot meals five nights a week to 45 or so older residents. This was initially in response to the lack of power and water, but was soon recognised for its social value. I have asked the District Health Board to evaluate the health outcomes of the meal recipients and compare them to a similar cohort who did not get the visits and the meals. I am sure it made a difference but it would be great to have the evidence!

LIANNE DALZIEL: Another speaker that made a particularly interesting contribution to the International Speaker Series over the weekend was Sir Richard Leese, the Leader of the Manchester City Council, (our Mayor equivalent). He spoke about the work the Council had been doing prior to the 1996 bombing that had destroyed 4-5 sq km of the central city and how they tackled the challenging rebuild. He made some important points: Regeneration is done with communities not to communities. You need vision, strategic planning and leadership. You need to concentrate investment where it can make a difference. This strategic thinking had led them to concentrate their efforts on their strengths. This meant that when the bomb exploded on June 15 1996 they knew what they had to do. 650 businesses had to be relocated. They knew they needed to get things operational ASAP. They had to build confidence. In terms of symbols, they decided the big international football match would go ahead the following day at Old Trafford. Day 6 - Marks & Spencer said it would not only rebuild, this time it would be its biggest store! Day 11 international design competition announced for the central city. Day 20 saw the Task Force announced and everyone was clear about who was in charge. Sir Richard commented that it was difficult to see who was in charge here in Christchurch. And that has been one of the problems from the start - one year ago on Sunday.

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

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