Marching for democracy in Christchurch

Kia Ora

Today I joined about 1000 other protestors at a rally in Christchurch. Numerous organisations such as the National Council for Women, the Wizard of New Zealand (Ian Brackenbury-Channell), the Green Party, the Labour Party, the Alliance Party, New Zealand First and even the A.C.T. Party were present. We were marching against the sustained assault that this National-led Government has waged on democracy in Christchurch and around New Zealand. We were marching in support of the communities that are at risk of losing their schools. We were marching in support of the restoration of elected councillor’s at Environment Canterbury. We were marching in support of the Christchurch people being given a fair and respected hearing by our mayor and Members of Parliament, who say they all support democracy.

There is nothing wrong with our protest. It is symptomatic of a people who are determined to have their voices heard by politicians in Christchurch and in Wellington. It is symptomatic of a city that is sick and tired of being treated like a laboratory guinea pig for grotesque social experimentation by Government ministers with an agenda that they are too scared to announce because they know it will come to haunt them. Around the world, when a disaster hits, governments often take the opportunity that is presented by a distracted populace who have more immediate problems on their hands, to reduce the effectiveness of locally elected officials. Unfortunately this is not something that is unique to countries like China, where authoritarian regimes exist, as evidence of similar events in Christchurch have been recorded too.

The Government has broken one of the fundamental rules of carrying out a disaster response effort by not actively committing to letting the community affected have a say in running the response.  Yes the Christchurch City Council had a session where people recorded their ideas over two days for how they wanted the city to be rebuilt – new parks, the creation of a river reserve running through the central city and options for a biofuel powered power station or other facility running off our waste stream, and creating electricity or fuel that could power a vehicle. But where was the commitment of the Minister of Mayor Bob Parker to making sure that this went ahead in the face of the Government having other ideas?

Where is the accountability in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority? Two years ago, Roger Sutton was the Chief Executive of Orion, who are responsible for the electricity grid in Christchurch. He was a very highly regarded man across the city as a result of the stellar work that Orion did in the days following the magnitude 7.1 on 04 September 2010. Along with the crews of City Care repairing sewers and water pipes, the Orion crews were heroes. His charisma and ability to radiate empathy with the people made him a popular person to take up the Chief Executive role in C.E.R.A. That was then. Now he is nowhere to be seen. And C.E.R.A. continues to demolish buildings with scant regard for the owners input, which has been voided by the legislation under which this brutalist organisation is governed. When C.E.R.A. makes a decision, despite their assertions to the contrary, that decision is normally final with no right of appeal. Where is the democracy in that?

Do David Carter and Amy Adams not trust Cantabrians to make their own judgement on how Environment Canterbury is governed? It would appear not. By putting the re-election of Environment Canterbury councillors back to 2016, another three years on top of the nearly three years that the Commissioners have already served, the Government is signalling it has an agenda other than to make Environment Canterbury a more effective Regional Council.

These complaints are not the result of a fussy or attention demanding community. These are the complaints of a community that just wants to be treated with respect and allowed to have a fair say on matters of fundamental interest to their well being and ultimately the long term well being of New Zealander’s. Stop treating Christchurch people like laboratory gunea pigs. We are human beings with rights under the New Zealand Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights amongst other legal instruments. If the Ministers, Roger Sutton and the Mayor Bob Parker are unable and/or unwilling to show respect for our founding democratic principles, they should resign. Now.

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