Stand up People's Republic of Christchurch

23:52, Feb 12 2012

Voting rights of Cantabrians have been trampled in recent years.

In 2010, the elected leaders of Environment Canterbury were overthrown by Parliament.

In 2011, the elected leaders of Christchurch City Council lost control of our central business district, first to satan, then to Civil Defence and now to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.

Something has to control the rebuilding of Christchurch, but that doesn't mean Cantabrians must quietly accept decisions made by these temporary masters.

Let's work with these people where we can, but we must also quibble and quarrel, organise and object, scheme and sue. Gerry Brownlee, Roger Sutton and Tony Marryatt must lose a few arguments to we the people.

Getting half of Marryatt's pay rise back is a good, if symbiolic, start.

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But take the future of the residential red zone - those vast hectares of Bexley, Dallington, Horseshoe Lake and so forth that are being abandoned. A group of regular folks calling themselves the Avon-Otakaro Network (AvON) dreams of a ''once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a magnificent ... park in which the wetlands and natural river environments are restored ... a park running the length of the red zone, with river walks, bird sanctuaries, BMX and horse-riding tracks, sports fields, picnic grounds, natural swamps and marshes''.

Sounds fantastic and it will perhaps be a more treasured memorial to the earthquakes than a sculpture somewhere in the central business district.

However, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee doesn't share the vision.

''It's not our intention that it will become a park,'' he said in June.

''We still consider that remediation is a long-term option.''

In other words, the Government will wait for memories to fade, make the land ''habitable'' and sell it for housing.

And you can see his hope. The nation is spending millions buying up this land and wants the money back some day.

There's sort of a precedent: the US Treasury made a profit bailing out Wall Street a few years ago.

There are other examples of Cantabrians wanting things and many of them have Facebook pages: Keep QE2 in the East lobbies for a major sport facility in the eastern suburbs, Save Christchurch Historic Buildings wants what its name says (good luck with that), Rebuild Christchurch facilitates ''the communication of information ... between the residents and businesses of Christchurch and the official agencies in charge of rebuilding the city'' and has almost 14,000 Facebook likes (roughly speaking, members). There are dozens of others.

This bubbling of activism needs a name and one arises from our recent history: The People's Republic of Christchurch.

It was coined in 1998 by Auckland businessman Douglas Myers, who thought it an insult.

But Cantabrians co-opted the phrase (if not its geopolitical or anti-monarchist meanings) and turned it against people from elsewhere who had plans for our city. It was about independence from their grand schemes and upholding democratic values in Christchurch. That's exactly what we need now.

Re-behold the People's Republic of Christchurch! Stand tall o Cantabrians. We must fight for what we want. We must quibble and quarrel, organise and object, scheme and sue. The People's Republic of Christchurch captures the spirit exactly.

See you at the Say No rally at noon on Wednesday February 1 in the Christchurch City Council building, 53 Hereford St.

The Press