Brownlee 'needs to be like Sutton'

JOELLE DALLY AND MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 13/09/2012

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Gerry Brownlee needs to be more like Roger Sutton in public, a mental health expert says, after the minister apologised for hitting out at the "moaning" of some Christchurch residents.

Brownlee, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, relented to public pressure yesterday and apologised for offending some people by saying he was "sick and tired" of their moaning.

In yesterday's Press, hundreds of technical category 3 residents aired their frustrations about the lack of progress in the earthquake recovery in an online survey.

Brownlee accused respondents of "carping and moaning" about their situation and said complainers were likely to be those who had time to "buggerise around on Facebook all day".

Readers demanded the minister apologise. At first, a Brownlee spokesman said the minister had "no further comment", before issuing the apology in a statement last night.

"I empathise and sympathise with those people, but I'm also extremely angry at the way some people are characterising the Government as not caring or doing nothing for residents on TC3 land," Brownlee said.

"I know [progress] is not fast enough for many frustrated residents, but if we make poor decisions in haste because of this pressure, then it will still be our fault in the long run."

Mental Health Advocacy and Peer Support general manager Sue Ricketts said Brownlee's comments were "unfortunate" and he could learn from Sutton, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive.

"Every time [Sutton] says something it does come with compassion and respect, even if it's bad news,'' she said.

"When people are undergoing huge life-changing experiences, particularly when it affects the roof over their head and their health ... they need to be given understanding and hope rather than being told off."

TC3 residents' Facebook group founder Kiri Hider questioned Brownlee's sincerity. "He's still putting a ‘but' to that apology."

Brownlee was wrong if he thought frustrations were directed at him personally.

"What we're saying is the recovery is not happening fast enough and there are systematic problems with these organisations," she said.

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