This recovery has been 'done to us'

01:07, Sep 19 2012
August 8 protest
PROTEST: Now is the time for Christchurch people to stand up and be heard, says Mike Coleman.

Now is the time for Christchurch people to stand up and be heard, writes Mike Coleman. 

'N ihil de nobis, sine nobis' is an old Latin phrase used by the disability community in the 1990s. It means 'nothing about us without us'!

For too long decisions about a person with a disabilities future were decided by people who did not understand their concerns and the nature of their life. They wanted to take their lives back and feel empowered.

Some European parliaments have used this phrase as a backbone to their own decision making processes, 'no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of the members of the group affected'.

My number-one struggle in our earthquake recovery is knowing I am not listened to. Feeling a total lack of consultation about what is going on in Canterbury where decisions are made for me and our city without being heard.

I now understand why the United Nations World Disaster Conference in 2005 stated the best practice in disaster recovery is to fully engage with the local communities you are trying to recover and involve them in the decision making.


The Hyogo Framework for Action was formed with this as a key priority. New Zealand is a signatory to this document.

In the early days of recovery, WeCan tried to explain to the Government the impact on families of not allowing a review system on rateable value. A simple system where a home owner paid $400 for a valuation would have maintained their equity and not put a family in massive debt for generations. Cera and the Government would not listen.

We tried to explain that the impact of temporary accommodation insurance money on the rental market would create enormous increases in rental prices. We need a rental cap of, say, 10-15 per cent so prices could not go from $490 to $800, as one landlord tried to negotiate with me.

They refused to hear these sensible concerns. They will "not enter the housing market" was the catchcry, even if people are hurting.

We tried to explain the need to create sections for people desperately in need of affordable land so they can have their homes rebuilt by their insurance company. They would not enter into the market - it will work for you, they said.

The result: few red zoners will get their houses rebuilt and full replacement policies truly honoured.

We tried to explain to our city council that people need rates relief as they are paying mortgages, rent, insurances and full rates. They refused to listen, even though millions sat in relief funds.

We tried to explain the need to care for vulnerable people and homes before we paid out millions on stadiums and convention centres. We tried to explain we can't afford rate hikes of 8 per cent to pay exorbitant salary increases, trips overseas for our leaders and build "castles" from a blueprint plan which will load us ratepayers with debt for generations.

We are battling to get our houses fixed. We are fighting with EQC, insurance companies and the daily grind of our streets. We asked them to listen to us and fight with us. Now they tell us we could be waiting until 2016 before homes are repaired.

We tried to tell them the land zonings do not make sense. How can parts of red zone Kaiapoi that never liquefied nor lost any infrastructure services in any of the thousands of earthquakes be worse than Parklands that has horrific liquefaction in every major quake? Your science does not match our community eyes.

They refused to release geotech reports. Now the reports are out, the science does not match their own decisions.

It was disappointing to read in a review document on Cera stating, 'Some of us are concerned that the decision to zone land into different categories was undertaken with insufficient consultation, was not based on clear criteria, has proven to be divisive of communities . . ."

Since the first zoning announcements there has been little or no consultation with affected communities on how the government decisions will affect them.

Even the community forum set up to give feedback to the Government did not know its purpose until after the first zoning announcements. Gerry Brownlee and Roger Sutton have attended only a handful of times and members I have spoken to question the forum's usefulness.

Last week's announcement of school closures, mergers and relocations is the icing on the cake of disconnect and lack of consultation. It defies belief these decisions for Canterbury schools came as the biggest shock to the ones running the schools.

Principals of the most- affected schools in these Government proposals had no idea of the decisions about to be announced. There was zero consultation with principals, teachers and parents and the impact on their communities. Bombs from Wellington were dropped last week and Cantabrians had no idea they were coming.

How can a principal of a school about to be closed not be part of decisions on its future? Communities like Philipstown are going to be decimated by this decision.

Philipstown School is the hub of the community. This is where the social life of the community exists.

How can a school like Chisnallwood, where my own sons attended, considered a jewel in the crown of eastern schools, high functioning with superb teachers, facilities and an excellent principal be terminated?

How can Manning Intermediate School with a new million dollar technology facility get shut down so easily?

Nothing about us without us! This recovery has been done to us. Some good decisions have been made and plans sorted but how much more could we have achieved with communities on board where genuine consultation and listening took place?

Even Share and Idea was usurped by the Government's blueprint plan.

We had a wonderful opportunity to have a non- partisan, Canterbury-led recovery of our earthquake- affected lands with leadership from our region enabling effective consultation with communities across the city.

Instead the recovery was made political and the Cera colours were changed to blue.

People are divided on party lines in this recovery and often when I have questioned the process I get called political.

But there is still time. Now is the time for us as a city to stand up and be heard. Our communities from Burnside to Halswell, Lyttelton to Parklands still have time to look at their own community needs.

To date there is no recovery plan for the suburbs. Why can't we as Cantabrians draft an overall plan for the suburbs in 100 days?

The central city blueprint had 75 people working on it over 100 days. Couldn't we find 50 highly skilled, professional and community connected Cantabrians to draw up a general plan for the suburbs with each particular community/suburb contributing their ideas and needs for recovery?

This would be a genuine, community-led recovery for our suburbs. We would need the full co-operation and participation of our city council, Cera, other government departments, and all community and residents groups but we would be doing recovery together.

Wouldn't it empower us to take hold of our recovery? Wouldn't it tap into the creativity and ingenuity of our people and finally mean we were fully embracing . . .? Nothing about us without us!


The Press