OPINION: Gerry Brownlee has begun the lead-up to the September 4 second anniversary of the first big quake in confident mood. In a speech billed as significant, the Minister of Earthquake Recovery surveyed the past 24 months and looked ahead and concluded that Christchurch had come through the trial of its life and emerged strong and confident.
Cynics will say that Brownlee would inevitably reach such conclusions. It is his own performance he was reviewing and he was bound to give himself more than a pass mark.
But the minister did more than talk in rose-tinted generalities, did acknowledge problems and did acknowledge the community's contribution to surviving and regrouping.
But the main reason to judge Brownlee as realistic is the clear signs of improvement in Christchurch people's lives and the rebuilding of their city.
That judgment will be howled down by the thousands in TC3 no man's land, those still awaiting details of their houses' reconstruction, those living in cold accommodation or looking for accommodation, those without jobs, those fighting the sequestration of their property, and those still grieving for loved ones lost in the catastrophe.
That is a quantum of suffering that cannot be ignored but it needs to be weighed against the reality that all these difficulties are being attended to - sometimes faultily and often slowly - but attended to nonetheless.
Few other of the world's regions recovering from severe natural disasters have received such detailed, comprehensive and generous support as has Christchurch and its environs. The immediate aftermaths of the earthquakes were marked by effective emergency relief, a programme that allowed people and businesses to see how the pieces would be put together was fast put in place, multiple inspections of properties completed, dangerous CBD buildings demolished and a visionary reconstruction plan drawn up. After Brownlee's speech, we know that the Government is committed to a fast and quality construction of a city that truly shines.
If we are to advance that reconstruction it is important that optimism prevails because formidable challenges remain and they can best be overcome by a motivated citizenry.
Those of them still severely disrupted by the earthquakes therefore need effective attention. The uncertainties of the TC3 zone, for instance, should be more rapidly decided, and a messy round of compulsory land purchases in the purposed Frame should be avoided by the Government offering fair compensation. A commitment to the CBD-to-sea park would engage people in a major project in which they could see their suburbs being beautifully transformed.
The danger of Brownlee's stand in his speech is that it downplays the level of dissatisfaction. If he does not grasp its extent he will undermine his grand vision of the future. He should not over-estimate the ability or willingness of people to latch onto a bright future when their present is dark.
That was shown in the public's reaction to the blueprint, which was approving but subdued. Citizens were understandably not prepared to take their focus off their broken homes and lives to contemplate a shiny new central city.
As their homes are repaired and their finances secured, interest in the blueprint and the plans that dominate Brownlee's speech will increase, and with it the confidence of residents.
But the minister is unlikely to lose interest in the basic problems. His presiding over EQC and contact role with the insurance industry will daily remind him that the problems of Dallington Tce are as pressing as those of Cathedral Square. Downplaying the first for the benefit of the second would exact a political punishment.
Punishment, though, plainly was not on Brownlee's mind as he outlined Christchurch's future and neither should it have been. He has done a sound job in appalling circumstances and now he has a vision grounded in timelines and buildings to proclaim. The best little city in the world is his aim - an aim we can and should all enthusiastically support.
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