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Friday, July 22, 2011

CERA - Having a say on the Recovery Stratgey

Everyone has until 5.00pm today to make their submission to CERA, on what CERA considers to be the key points for recovery:
  • What is your vision for the recovery of greater Christchurch?
  • What are the priorities for recovery in the next year? Two years? Five years?
  • How can everyone work together towards recovery?
There is time now only to do this via CERA's website here.

I made an on-line submission last night. For what it might be worth here it is. As is often the case there are lots of words so click on the continuation link below to see all of it.

Q. What is your vision for the recovery of greater Christchurch?

For safety reasons a low-rise city with essential, social, business and corporate services and activities distributed across the urban area. A city needs a heart but too much concentration leads to vulnerability. Using the internet as a model it is possible to build along the same lines as long as the communication between nodes is suitably implemented. We need also to mindful of storm, flooding, and tsunami risks. We must not fail to plan for them.

Distributing services and activities also allows for employment and commerce to be closer to where people live and reduce the need for tides of traffic flowing into and out of a central point.

For aesthetic reasons that also bolster safety, greater use of wood will be encouraged. Wood can be used for multi-story buildings, often beautifully so. It is a renewable resource that can be produced in Canterbury as well as the rest of the country.

We should leave most of the physical reminders of the past behind. They are expensive to maintain and potentially dangerous as we still do not understand the long term effects of the shocks to URM buildings and their foundations.
What was great that needs to be brought back goes beyond september 2010. In earlier decades Christchurch was a city of low density and low intensity living. To a certain extent this can be achieved by juggling the need for population growth and the jealous protection of green spaces, especially with the city area, and most particularly where people live.

Also best left behind is the recent passion for developing Christchurch as a tourism destination to the exclusion of the  use and enjoyment of those who live here. Tourism is important, but alienating residents from the inner city renders it irrelevant (hence the growth in malls).

Q. What are the priorities for recovery in the next year? Two years? Five years?

Transport, especially public transport. Many are isolated from the rest of the city because they lack transport, especially safe and efficient transport.

Sewerage networks are essential for health, safety and comfortable living, as is water. Organising this so it does not interfere with movement around the city, and especially public transport, is critical.

A timeline. Soon we need to see a timeline of what is to happen, where and when. This is crucial to decisions about where people can live to fit in the mix of work, family, education, and social obligations and opportunities.
Employment and job growth is also critical, along with retraining to enable those who lost jobs to re-enter the workforce. Probably above all other factors this will be the key to short and medium term recovery. People with money can buy groceries, rent or buy houses, pay mortgages, educate their kids, and have discretionary income to buy or save as they choose. Freedom from debt and relative poverty will have significant health and social benefits.

Business support is less critical. Although the concept of "the market" is frequently discussed in the context of business support, the market is actually the buyer rather than the seller. Consequently the precondition to recovery in the market is to boost the number who are in paid employment. They, as "the market", will be the ones to determine what businesses are supported. In the post-February 2011 world it cannot be assumed that the business and businesses of the past have any relevance to the future. Each and every one of them needs to justify its continued existence, and the best people to decide what is wanted and what can go are those who spend.

Q. How can everyone work together towards recovery?

Before CERA can think about working with stakeholders, it needs to ensure that the right conditions are in place.
A greater transparency would be the best place to start. So many meetings and discussions seem to occur unannounced and in private, or in venues closed to the public.

More information is needed. Much information remains restricted (e.g. detailed information about land decisions - why specific decisions were made, when White and Orange decisions will be made) and that which is available has little meaning. Recent transcript and videos on the CERA website are a great start but are useful only to the extent that they are timely.

Quicker responses to issues. Time is dragging on the release of information about the land zoning appeal process. The details of both this and the issue of limited information are specific to now, but arise from a culture that should not be continued when future issues arise.

Assuming the above is fixed, then CERA needs to identify who are the voices of Greater Christchurch. Ultimately a city is its people and existing networks are likely to have the most legitimacy. Determining this legitimacy seems to be difficult. During the aftermath of the last two earthquakes there was a move toward seeing the Student Army as an important voice, but not the Farmy Army. Yet many of the the latter have a local and enduring connection with Christchurch.

Determining which voices should have the greater influence is difficult, and political. For instance there is a noticeable trend to major involvement with business leaders and organisations (numerically small) and less involvement with people organisations (numerically large). From the media at least there seems to be little involvement of those who represent the biggest populations e.g. unions and potentially marginalised communities such as the un- and under- employed, tenants and the elderly. Yet, as mentioned previously these are the city, and the market upon which businesses depend.

The Community Forum is a convenient, if unrepresentative, group that has a statutory rather than political or social mandate. There is no reason why any individual or group should feel they are being represented by members of the Forum, that the Forum has any knowledge or insight into the issues that are important or most pressing, or any feeling of commitment to what arises from Forum meetings or undertakings.

CERA needs to get closer to the community, either directly with community groups, or through umbrella groups such as Age Concern, CanCERN, childhood groups, tenants groups, and taking the concept of Greater Christchurch to the full extent of its boundaries - Federated Farmers, Women's Division of Federated Farmers.

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