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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Aaron Gilmore - please stop trying to help

On his blog yesterday MP Aaron Gilmore took the opportunity to explain in a somewhat disastrous fashion why land zoning reports had not been released, and why they would not be released. His blog is here .

Aaron starts in a confusing way, but does his best to explain some of the problems facing the government:
... engineers continue to work out what is the right information and what are the options for Government. Areas like Brooklands and South Shore are in low lying sand spits and are natural hazard risks at the best of times from flooding. It is therefore important to get the right information for people.
This may well be true, but why complicate matters with irrelevancies? The height above sea level of these areas at the best of times has no bearing on the stability of the land under seismic conditions.  

Some information is useful in general and there is an amazing insight into how carefully the zoning is being done:
The suggestion that the government is withholding any geo-tech reports is a red herring being put about by the opposition.  The geo-tech reports which informed and continue to inform government land zoning decisions were area wide ones.  These reports are available on the EQC website; and the land decision presentations and support materials are on the CERA website. Labour keeps saying the government is refusing to release residents’ individual section geo-tech reports, pointing this out is taking a few calls a day from my office correcting the misinformation.
The first thing to note about these is that those reports played no role in the government’s land zoning decisions.
Really? While someone in the middle of a zone may be comfortable with the thought that an individual section report paid no part in their zoning, those on a boundary between Red and Green (e.g. as in Kaiapoi) would be desperate to know that a lot more careful consideration had taken place. They would also want to know why they were Red and the land over the fence, a fence maybe just a centimetre or two deep, was Green. How could this come about? 

Aaron then proceeds to explain why the reports will not be released:
The second is that the government, be it through CERA or any other agency, does not hold or have access to, or have any right to release those reports.  Individual property geo-tech reports are compiled on behalf of EQC, private insurers and the property owners as part of each property’s full damage assessment.  They are none of the government’s business; the government is not withholding them.
The government is withholding the geotech reports - Gerry Brownlee has said so himself.  Detail down to individual property level is being recorded - many in the affected areas have seen the data donkeys taking measurements one property at a time. Most of the geotech work is being undertaken by Tonkin & Taylor on behalf of EQC, EQC is covered by the provisions of the Official Information Act and so must provide the information if requested. There are grounds to delay the release, but none to prevent it.

The matter is more complicated than portrayed because there are a number of factors being taken into account when declaring an area Green or Red. Land stability is the primary issue, but not the sole one. Reading the cabinet papers and minutes on the CERA website would have made this clear (see the CERA site here, and previous items on this blog here and here ). Many property owners, especially those on apparently sound land, want to know why they are Red. Equally there are some on apparently unsound land who want to know the criteria used to put them in a Green zone. The government has to demonstrate that the decisions made, most especially at and close to the zone boundaries, are neither arbitrary nor the result of guess work.

I appreciate Aaron is a junior MP and lacking in experience. Considering the importance of the issue, and the fact he is a government MP with access to all the material needed to do a good job, there should have been a lot more thought and accuracy put into the construction and content of the article.  Why cause additional stress and confusion when we have more than enough?

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