Put Canterbury at policy heart

Last updated 05:00 05/02/2014

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Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel is urging restraint.

Don't use Christchurch for political point-scoring, she says. Don't exploit this city for political gain.

As a seasoned politician she knows better than most the hot-button issues likely to gain political traction.

She understands the matters her former parliamentary colleagues are likely to clutch at as they move through the hustings in a steely march toward voting day.

Now, with her mayoral chains securely around her neck, she stands with other city and regional leaders warily anticipating this year's politicking ahead of the general election.

Dalziel, who has represented this city in one way or another for more than two decades, is counselling caution as the political machines crank up to ensure the needs of the people of Christchurch are not lost in fray. She is right in doing so.

Already this election campaign has resulted in a startling, albeit at times entertaining, loss of decorum at a national level, with red herrings such as dress sense and our national flag wriggling into the discussion.

It would be deeply disheartening and damaging to see the urgent and long-term needs of this region used flippantly or as self-interested political capital.

There are too many people, too much property, still damaged by the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 for this to be an appropriate political strategy.

However, every party leader and the bulk of their members and aspirant members needs to understand Canterbury.

They need to understand that this is a region still hurting with many pressing needs including, but not confined to, building and housing cost escalation, insurance delays, construction delays, labour shortages and rising mental health issues in both adults and children.

The impact of these should be considered by this country as a whole.

Put differently, the rapid rebuild of Canterbury should be at the heart of policy, because this is in the economic interest of the whole nation.

For too long many political parties have been silent on Canterbury with no substantial policy designed to address the unique needs of the city mired in a slow-motion rebuild.

Labour Party leader David Cunliffe says the focus for his party will be on "concrete policies that will get the recovery moving". The detail on this cannot come soon enough.

The Greens, according to co-leader Russel Norman, will focus on sustainability and heritage - both worthy issues deserving of a discussion sooner rather than later.

Prime Minister John Key, meanwhile, has restated his party's position that Canterbury has and will remain one of his Government's four main priorities.

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This message will bring comfort to many, but must be supported by fresh policies that deliver new hope to those frustrated by delays and unconvinced the rebuild is on track.

This is certainly not the time for political football, but it is the time to place New Zealand's second-largest region at the heart of the political agenda.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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