How easy it is to repeat the sins of our fathers? Our history is fraught with the trickery of the powerful over the powerless - a few trinkets and beads for a slice of Godzone. Europeans took advantage as they grabbed land from Maori. How can we allow a hint of that past to revisit us?
In 2011-12, the Government has gone about acquiring land from its own people using power and spin. The red zone is little more than land clearances by Cabinet decision to avoid the Public Works Act, which would give all people market value for their homes and the right of first refusal to buy it back if it was sold in the future.
By creating an all powerful body in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, and an all powerful minister to oversee it, the Government has been dictating terms without any reference to the people on the land.
No consultation or dialogue has ever taken place with any people or groups being forced to leave. Instead the Government used a rateable valuation to buy homes, knowing many would not gain the equity from their properties.
The authority is clear, and I quote: "It is unfortunate that some will benefit from the Government's offer and others will lose some of their investment." The Government has always known at least a third would not get the equity from their land, especially in low rateable value areas, and where there was little damage.
Recently I went to Kaiapoi and saw streets with less quake damage than in Fendalton and Redcliff, where there are high rateable values. These Kaiapoi streets had no liquefaction, lost no infrastructure services and suffered almost no damage to homes. One house had earlier this year won the prestigious garden of the year award, but soon it will be demolished. The elderly couple had no damage, so the insurance company would not honour full replacement policy, and they could only take rateable value - $180,000 less than a similar Kaiapoi home.
This injustice can happen because the country believes Gerry Brownlee's "all is extremely fair" spin. Most alarming is people's total powerlessness to question any decision. There is no right of review for anyone who disagrees with zoning decrees, no right of judicial review on any decision.
Letters have been written to the ombudsman, earthquake minister and prime minister, but there is nothing but flowery responses.
The Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network (WeCan) drew up a crisis paper highlighting the main areas of struggle for people, and suggesting ways forward - issues of housing, insurance, EQC, zoning and deadlines. It was backed by community groups and placed in Parliament by Lianne Dalziel. National blocked it being tabled. A report prepared on the housing crisis was released by Housing Minister Phil Heatley, with 95 per cent blocked out as too sensitive.
Recently, despite an Official Information Act request, the EQC refused to release details of the scope and costings on my red zone home. What Third World dictatorship are we living in?
Powerless people use desperate means to fight for their families. The new land wars have only just begun. Groups like Brookland Stayers are adamant they will not move, and Kaiapoi Red Zone people will battle the bulldozers. Petitions are being drawn on all manner of issues, class actions are appearing against insurance companies, with another to challenge the Government.
Transparency, democracy and human rights are being abused, but people have succumbed and left their homes. Others will fight back regardless of how much power one group has. History shows when people realise their strength they can battle great odds.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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