At the end of last month, the government released the draft transition recovery plan, the most important document for the governance of the rebuild since 2011. While CERA was widely expected to wrap up when its powers expire in 2016, this document proposes a new entity, which will take on a number of the roles CERA had, as well as some of the special powers CERA had, until as far out as 2020.
Despite the significance of these proposals - it will require new legislation to go through parliament, something that hasn't happened since the previous bill in 2011 - the public has just 30 days to comment on it. And while they have an extensive communications department - now employing more than 7% of their total staff - CERA is not hosting a single meeting about the proposals. Not. One. Single. Meeting.
Reading the document, there are plenty of admissions that CERA's time is up:
International research shows that, for recovery to be sustainable in the long term, it needs to be ‘owned’ and led by local communities and institutions. Central government leadership and coordination of the recovery, through CERA, was needed in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, but the time has come for central government’s role in the recovery of greater Christchurch to evolve.
Yet the suggested new entity is almost a complete rejection of this. There is no ownership from local communities and institutions. The plan puts puts forward a government-controlled entity, with special powers for a further five years. It barely even hints at any alternative structures.
Of the options, a group of us have formed around Option 3+. This option puts control of the new entity back in the hands of the Christchurch City Council, with support from the Crown. We're not saying it's perfect, but of the limited options that we've being presented, it's the best.
If one of the other options is chosen, then the government will continue to loom large over the Council until 2020. That's this council term, the next council term, and the council term after that. If you consider that alongside the decision to extend the reign of the commissioners at ECan until 2019, you can see that there is something of a democratic deficit here in Canterbury.
So what can we do about this? Well, we're been trying. Myself, Barnaby, Ryan and Emma edited a book about the recovery, which came out almost a year ago. This Saturday, we're hosting a "recovery clinic", where people can come down to a pub and talk about city-making. We're going to encourage people to make a submission too. We're running an Option 3+ public meeting next Tuesday at the Physics Room. We'll be explaining what the situation is, what you can do about it and why you should care.
But this isn't just about people in Christchurch. We know that the rest of the country is totally over hearing about Christchurch. This is the most dangerous time for us now. Apathy from the rest of the country is what will enable the government to assume that they can do whatever they want down here.
Next thing you know, we will have been forced to sell off our productive, strategic assets - the port, airport and the lines company - whilst being hit with the bill for a stadium we can't afford, and roads that the government have squirmed out of paying for. Economists are saying that the rebuild activity has "peaked", and we still have whole city blocks that look like something out of the Balkan conflict.
People here are exhausted. They've been trying to sort their houses, their streets, their jobs and their families for going on five years now. When we get together in the same room, we know that things aren't right, but it's hard to pick one issue as it's difficult to say what is the most wrong.
But this submission process is open to all New Zealanders, and I'm asking for your help. If we can get thousands of submissions flowing in on these proposals, then the government and the Minister will know that this isn't acceptable. It's a long shot, but given how disenfranchised we've become from the powers who control this city, it's our best shot.
Submissions close at 5pm, next Thursday (the 30th of July). You can submit via the form on the CERA website, their Facebook page, via email or snail mail.