Press: a watchdog and champion

JOANNA NORRIS
Last updated 09:26 04/12/2012
Nihil Utile Quod Non Honestum
GUIDING PRINCIPLE: Nothing is useful that is not honest.
The Press's new building
NEW START: The Press's new home in Gloucester St.

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OPINION: This week Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee made an observation that he believed The Press was an 'enemy of recovery'. New editor JOANNA NORRIS argues a robust Press is critical to the rebuild of a better, stronger city.

Each weekday, The Press runs the same five words on the front page. Nihil utile quod non honestum. Nothing is useful that is not honest.

They are words that have been guiding editors of The Press for generations and have as much resonance now as they did 151 years ago when the paper was founded and our city was being hewn from the plains, hills and rivers.

That Christchurch grew into a buzzing commercial hub admired for its graceful homes, magnificent gardens and economic power.

Now, after catastrophe, The Press has the same ambitions as those in whose footsteps we follow. We want a city that is strong, resilient and innovative.

We want a city that is a great place to live, raise families, have fun and do business. We want a city that is the envy of the others, looks after its people, inspires great ideas.

To do this we need to get the rebuild right. Recovery must enhance that which we have lost.

The Press aims unashamedly to play a critical role in this recovery. We believe no one person has all the good ideas. We believe in transparency and as our motto dictates, we believe in honesty.

This means we must support the rebuild. We have applauded the central city blueprint and will continue to celebrate steps towards achieving the vision articulated in what will become the document of our refounding.

We also celebrate with our community the signs of regrowth, the reopening of businesses, facilities and amenities. We do this every day when we run stories acknowledging the good work of others.

We also do good work of our own through sponsorships of community events and organisations in our city.

I have chosen to return to Christchurch, with my husband and two young children, to play a part in the rebuild.

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Thousands of others have made similar decisions. Tens of thousands more already living here have chosen to stick it out when it has, at times, felt all a bit too hard.

For others, the decision was easy - Christchurch is quite simply a good place to live.

Everyone who has chosen Christchurch as their home has a right to an exciting future. As a mum I want good schools and facilities for my children, a community that fosters culture and innovation and a central city that is a vibrant and pleasant place to be.

But to achieve this we need to work collectively and constructively. Many relationships in the city have become strained, tested by very difficult decisions about our future and grieving for what we have lost.

We do not need feuding camps pitched as enemies. It is time to rebuild relationships, hope and a city. The Press will do all it can to achieve this.

As members of this community we, like thousands of others, support recovery by shopping at Re:START, sipping good coffee and great beer in the cafes and pubs springing up from the rubble. We love the spirit behind the Epic innovation hub and applaud the hundreds of businesses brewing great ideas for our little city.

We were proud to be one of the first businesses to move back into the central city when we opened our new building in Gloucester St in September.

Around us lie the ruins of a CBD - it is a vantage point which puts us in the ringside seat to monitor and comment on the rebuild of the city's heart. Our location leaves us perfectly placed to carry out what I believe are critical dual functions.

We must be both champion and watchdog.

And it is our role as watchdog that means there are times when we print stories that some may view as unhelpful.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act has handed unprecedented powers to an agency of central Government. This has realigned power structures within the city, but it has not changed the role of The Press.

We aim to play an active role in shaping the city and guiding the rebuild, reflect the views of the community, and speak with a clear voice of our own. We will continue to aggressively demand openness from decision-makers in central and local government.

We will investigate allegations of wrong-doing, shine the spotlight on decision-making and provide comment and analysis on the news that affects people's lives. We will also highlight examples of excellence.

Like Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, I believe we should be aiming for "the best little city in the world" and to do this we need to make and advocate for good decisions.

Political expediency, personal ambition, or behind-the-scenes lobbying cannot be allowed to shape our future.

An even greater bogeyman is the prospect of fraud - and international experience warns that this is a real risk as rebuild cash flows through the city.

To counter these risks - or even the prospect or perception of such threats - we must have openness and a frank and robust media.

But openness should not mean cheap shots. My commitment to this community is a commitment to fairness, balance and - when required - an acknowledgement when we get it wrong.

I also expect readers to tell us what you want from us.

And in this spirit, decision-makers should also listen to the community. A transition back to local governance should begin now with a rebuilding of trust, open debate, and a shared ambition of a better, stronger Christchurch.

- The Press

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