Wednesday, May 11, 2011

General Debate - Canterbury Earthquake Recovery - Dr Kennedy Graham

I rise to address the situation in Christchurch and the plight of the people of my city as we head into winter.

Two and a half months after the devastation that rocked and racked New Zealand's second-largest city, Christchurch remains in a strange psychological state, essentially one of suspended animation. We have survived, most of us, the immediate crisis of the death and destruction, the liquefaction, and the deprivation of power, water, and sewerage. We have mourned our dead, apologised to other nations, straightened our backs, shut down the inner city, restored basic services, shared education facilities, and established a new Government agency for the rebuild, with extraordinary powers given to the Minister. Now is the time to plan for the rebuild.

That is rendered more difficult and painful by the fact that it coincides with the southern winter. That is always a delightful challenge, but on this occasion it is an excruciating turn of the screw, for there are those out there whose homes are totalled, many whose homes are half-broken yet liveable if one does not mind subzero warmth at breakfast, and others for whom the future is uncertain and unpredictable.

We do not know precisely yet the nature of the land in our brave new world. We have had two massive earthquakes and half a dozen major aftershocks. We have had 6,989 ripples, large and small, as the land reconfigures and settles down to the new tectonic era.

We know that the peninsula has jerked up by a metre, the estuary has gone sideways a bit, and the flat land has sunk by perhaps a quarter of a metre. But is that the end of it? We do not know.

We do not know how many more aftershocks we must endure, or whether they will flatten out within a year, a decade, or more. This militates against our planning. We have a 9-month recovery strategy, which the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority is to coordinate, and a strangely concurrent 9-month recovery plan to be led by the city council. But our ability to plan for two new cities and their surroundings is munted by a lack of surety—the vexing human inability to see the future. Meanwhile, people continue to suffer, especially in the eastern suburbs, through broken homes that will let the winter cold creep in. It is a race against time, with the health of our children at stake.

I know that Earthquake Recovery and Fletcher Construction are doing their best to rectify a daunting situation with the installation of heat pumps and wood burners as fast as they can. I am working with energy Minister Hekia Parata to assist in the warming of Christchurch. I participated this morning with her and the Prime Minister in celebrating the 100,000th home under the installation programme that the Greens pioneered under Jeanette Fitzsimons. There is much more that we can do, especially in Christchurch, and I look forward to cooperating with the Minister in the coming weeks.

We need to engender a sense of hope in the community, a community that is seriously traumatised. We need to develop a positive vision of the city as it might yet be: a 21st century eco-city that has green spaces, walking and cycling pathways, affordable public transport, an efficient and clean energy system, and environmentally sound waste management. A city that has, in short, sustainable living as its core value.

I have initiated a series of public forums to hear from the public what kind of city and what kind of surrounding suburbs they want to have. My "Visions of Christchurch" meetings are designed to achieve an optimal mix of public input with expert advice. They are designed to provide a distinctly Green vision for the recovery strategy and plan.

The first meeting was held in Hagley Park in the netball centre on 20 April. About 200 people braved the cold night to have their say on what kind of city we want. The message was clear, with six themes emerging on what the people want. Those themes were green spaces, architectural beauty, social harmony, sustainable business, environmental sustainability, and risk management.

The second meeting is in New Brighton on 12 June and will focus on the eastern suburbs. The third will be on 19 June in Lyttelton. The fourth and final meeting will be back in the city centre in early July.

I look forward to cooperating with the Government and with Opposition members in rebuilding our city along sustainable and resilient lines.

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