Leadership needed to champion rebuild plan

Posted on April 16, 2012 by

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Helen Lochhead, an expert on sustainable cities from Sydney University, has made a positive remark about the draft Central City Plan, saying that it has all the components you would expect in a sustainable city. A promising statement, and a positive endorsement of the direction this city has indicated that it wants to go.

Lochhead, talking at a lecture on Thursday, made a call for the need for a champion to push the sustainable city agenda, noting that you can have all the componentry, but a clear design and vision was required with someone to lead it. I tend to agree, and find it worrying that we currently have a mish-mash of leaders involved in the recovery and rebuild of the city. We have the document in place, but beyond there I think we fall down. I think this situation could have a really negative impact on the rebuild, as we have no clear, democratically elected leader and no clear framework within which the recovery will be made.

We effectively have Bob Parker, Roger Sutton, and Gerry Brownlee as leaders. Regardless of your views on the personalities of each individual, we have a mayor elected by the city itself at the head of an elected council – whose power has been significantly reduced; an unelected head of an unelected authority (CERA) with unprecedented powers, able to pretty much do as it wants to; and an MP elected by the people of Ilam, a higher than average socio-economic electorate, who can do as he pretty much pleases over and above CERA and the CCC. No wonder there is so much confusion out there! Whats more, what one says or decides can be overruled by another, even when the former has a clear mandate!

Rather than jumping in after the earthquake and setting up this mess, achieved by scarmongering and claiming that it was all for the sake of “progress” (but at what price?) it would have been so much better to take a breather and set up the framework for a local governing authority that could democratically lead the city through the recovery and rebuild period. At the time CERA was set-up, I remember a lot of people saying “good, let’s get on with it”, but that kind of approach can often lead to unpopular and flawed decisions being made. Decisions the city will be stuck with for decades to come. The city overwhelmingly said what it wanted, but there is no guarantee that we will get it.

When you are dealing with something as important as the future of 400,000 plus people, the future of a city and region, can you really afford to just “get on with it”? Over the last year, I have seen pretty much nothing but mess and confusion. Who does what, what gets done? Will the City Plan go ahead? One year on, people still have no idea because the three leaders all seem to have different ideas (the rumours of replacing the CCC with appointed commissioners, and the latest saga of a “rebuild leader” being good examples – poor communication and conflicting statements). It is a worry, but not a surprise, that these three leaders can’t agree on much (although Roger Sutton seems to really like the City Plan – Brownlee remains conspicuously quiet), the framework is a shambles, and now we might have another (central government) appointed leader for the rebuild of infrastructure! Why? And why don’t the CCC seem to have a clue who it is? This is crazy stuff.

All this leads me to have some serious doubts about the future of the rebuild. No one elected by the city actually seems to have any power, and I fear that the direction of the rebuild will be imposed upon the city by Wellington. We have the vision, but no leadership to convert it to reality.  I still hold hope, but the framework and leadership is missing. In fact, it is a gaping hole right now. I think Lochhead makes a very good point, it is all great and well to have the dynamic components of a sustainable city, but what you really need is the leadership to get it done properly.

On an unrelated note, I will take this opportunity to say that my time contributing to this blog is coming to an end. It is not really by choice, but I think it is as good a time as any to finish up. A blog like this is hard work, and I have simply not had the time to do as in-depth posts as I would like, nor as often as I would like. Time (and work – I do need money to live)have also prevented me from developing the blog into something a bit more interactive. Nevertheless, it is not for these reasons that I am stopping, I would continue to contribute in some form if I could, but work related reasons. I plan to do a few more posts over the next couple of weeks, but will cease from 29 April. I am not the only contributor to this blog, so it may continue in some form or another, but if you would like to contribute , feel free to contact us through our email.