Christchurch – Making Progress

I’ve sat down a number of times to write about what I saw, felt and thought on 22 February 2011.

I was in town having lunch…I crossed it to get back to work and check on staff … then trekked out again on foot to get home and deal with flooding and liquefaction.

I saw things I’ll never forget.

I can’t or won’t watch a great deal of footage – it’s still way too raw. But really I think I’m just sick of the damn day, and I’m especially sick of the media treatment of it, as though that’s the bit that matters. So I’m not going to inflict another overwrought account of that day on you. It’s not 22 February that truly matters – as a progressive, it’s what comes after that matters.

Following the quake “munted” quickly became the word of the moment; hell it became the word of the last year. But as a friend reminded me when he visited from Melbourne, “munted” just doesn’t cut it.

There is no other way to say it: Christchurch is fucked.

We need Christchurch to work. Calls to abandon it, move it, or supplant it are idiotic and ill informed. The nation needs an effective alternative to Auckland and for all sorts of reasons that place is and will remain Christchurch.

But I’ve spent much of the last year angry, upset, and generally frustrated with what I see as the failure of many, and especially our leaders (local and national), to engage with what’s actually happened in Christchurch. That goes double for those who ought to know better – those on the left.

Plenty of people have been working hard – I don’t accuse anyone of laziness. But way too many continue to confuse heat with light, energy with results – just because you’re busy, doesn’t mean you’re doing any good.

What I’ve found particularly frustrating is that Christchurch is a city full of need and opportunity. It’s a city full of fear and anger – crying out for those of us on the left to turn that into hope and action.

Certainly, I have my own views about a large number of policy issues including Transport, Environment, Housing, Health, Small Business, Arts, and Local Government to name but a few. I’m sure I’ll write about them over the next year.

But, on this the anniversary of the quake that broke my city, I want to issue a challenge:

To the Labour Caucus – every one of you.

You have a year – a year to understand how rebuilding Christchurch presents a challenge to our nation and an opportunity, in your portfolio, for our party and our country to advance our progressive agenda.

In a year’s time I expect all of you to be able to articulate and advance policy that will help rebuild Christchurch, and build a stronger more progressive nation.

You will need to come to Christchurch regularly. It is quite clear to me that one cannot understand what is happening here without seeing it in person.

You must not accept the government’s notion that this can and should be managed through one Ministerial portfolio. Lianne is doing an excellent job of holding the Minister to account, but she alone cannot fix the problems or seize the opportunities before us. You must come to see your portfolio through the lens of Christchurch.

Ours is a city of new horizons, it could be the most progressive city in the most progressive country in the world. We can build it back green, and progressive. We can throw away old models and ways of doing things. It’s simply up to you to grasp this opportunity – every one of you.

I look forward to hearing from you in a year.

Letter from Christchurch – Local Government Frustration

Local government seems to be rising up the ladder of issues people are taking an interest in.

Patrick posted earlier in the week about the Shape the Future group in Wellington.

Aucklanders got briefly interested in how their city’s governed over the last couple of years, but it seemed like a passing fad – and sadly far too few Aucklanders engaged, or continue to be engaged, with what were and are extremely important issues. A pity – the Royal Commission papers and report were fascinating.

Local government has certainly occupied the minds of many residents, ratepayers and citizens here in Christchurch for a number of years, and it’s been a large part of our frustration (still growing btw) with how things have been managed since the earthquakes began. (For those keeping count we just passed 10,000 quakes since September 2010 – here’s the map)

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USC, Article II, Section 3 – 2012 update

In case you missed it, President Obama delivered his third SOTU address yesterday afternoon (NZDST).

As the US Constitution requires:

[The President] shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.

and as political theatre goes, the nearly hundred year old tradition of addressing a joint session of the US Congress in January to deliver the State of the Union (SOTU) address is a pretty good one – well at least for junkies like me.

I enjoy them greatly – even the really bad ones – though they are not often inspiring speeches.

The SOTU is an opportunity for the President to use his position to set out the case for his legislative programme, and then over the next year try to get it passed. Something this Congress will make very difficult. It’s not the same as our Speech from the Throne, which much more clearly states what the government will do.

So why all the attention and bother if nothing much is going to come from it? Politics of course.

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