Platitudes rub a raw nerve

03:37, Sep 02 2012

Occasionally I get unfathomably angry.

Like the time a woman reversed into my new car. My memory may be somewhat clouded by fury, but I'm pretty sure I was yelling before I'd even got out of my car. If swear words had been individual food items, they would have looked like a string of sausages flying through the air, shooting out of my mouth faster than bullets from a machinegun.

The scene was similar on Monday afternoon when I checked The Press website to find the main story: "New Zealand mayors take city tour".

Twenty-two of the country's mayors and chief executives had come to Christchurch for a Local Government New Zealand metropolitan sector meeting and here they were, dutifully pointing and looking at the central Red Zone.

It hit some dark, atavistic nerve. The swear word sausage factory revved up and the sausages loaded themselves into the gun.

Seriously? Are we really more than 18 months down the track and people are still touring rubblesville saying they are "shocked"?


Is it really still "gut-wrenching" to see the damage to Christ Church Cathedral? Do we really all deserve "a pat on the back" for the progress?

I suppose media must take some of the blame. What were the hi-vis wearers supposed to say in the face of a reporter's "how do you feel"?

To state the obvious, Christchurch is a very different place since the quakes. Not just its physical appearance, but in the sense of ownership its people now feel.

I do not wish to see a group of local government officials pointing and looking and saying they are shocked and sobered. I couldn't give a flying sausage string what they think about the central city. Step the heck off our turf.

When Rachel Hunter took a Red Zone tour a very long 500 days ago, she was here to raise money and awareness. Six days ago?

That was just Bob's Tour Party for lack of anything else to do in Christchurch (despite his urging that we should be telling people how fantastic it is here).

To be fair, when I have guests, I take them on a quake tour of my own. I skip the central city because it is not in my power to organise Red Zone passes for my guests. I take them out in my (now dented) car through the Residential Red Zone.

I tell them the Government buy- out system was a relief for some but that it was fallible. I show them houses still dangling from cliffs and shipping containers protecting us from rockfall. I try to explain how widespread the damage is. I show them the beach and the hills and promise that on a clear day, there is much natural beauty left in the city of Christchurch.

Then I take them to my own rotting quakehouse and show them what "progress" means to so many of us.

A better and more realistic tour for government officials would be to open a phone book, pick 10 numbers out at random and simply ask how their residential or commercial claim is going.

This tour should also provide a phone, a claim number that is 18-months-old and the number 0800 DAMAGE so they can see how long it takes to speak to a person who can provide an answer more fulsome than: "I'm sorry, I can't give you a timetable on that."

After that, take them into the central Red Zone, give them a skein of red tape, a blindfold and spin 'em around until they become dizzy and tangled. They shouldn't be "shocked" or "sobered" by Christchurch's Red Zone. That's not the thing to be shocked at any more.

Do us a favour and do something real.

The Press