Last night a number of us went to a very useful televised meeting on the corner of Retreat Road and Keller Street. TV One's Mark Sainsbury was interviewing Gerry Brownlee with local residents, followed by a short interview with Roger Sutton.
We have had meetings in this area before, and ages ago there was one on a hot, dusty afternoon where Roger Sutton rolled out his now famous diagram of Orion's issues in getting power through the city and into our homes. Organised by local MP Brendan Burns it was a very useful meeting, complete with a side show. The mayor turned up to take part and get into the photographs. An unnecessary distraction, he arrived in an army vehicle, an armoured personnel carrier I think, accompanied by army personnel and a small contingent of Australian police. Brendan Burns came in his little electorate car bearing gifts of dust masks, bottled water and hand sanitiser. Legend has it Roger Sutton arrived on a bicycle.
A lot has happened since then. So many have wanted and waited to see the way out of the misery that parts of the city have become. The package announced yesterday is intended to provide that. A huge amount of effort has gone into preparing it, and the government has done what it can to balance the needs of Christchurch with those of the rest of the country who are helping to pay for it. Behind all this no-win situation has been Gerry Brownlee. While some Redzoners will not be happy with the government's offering, and many Orangers are wishing it was all done, it does not detract from the fact it is a pretty good package. For the first time in nearly ten months the hardest hit of homeowners have options to restart their lives.
Last night the dignitaries arrived quietly by car. Despite the possibility of an unfriendly reception the Minister arrived with just two of his staff and, if there were any security people present, they were invisible. No fuss, no pomp, and as direct to the point as a politician is able, the minister answered questions about the land package as best he could. When his turn was over he hung around for questions from those present. Having worked in central government I know how hard, unrelenting, unappreciated, and unrewarding working life can be for a politician, let alone a minister with an incredibly difficult portfolio. So thank you Gerry.