The Government has set up new single authority, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), to lead the earthquake recovery effort in the city and across the region. But will the people of Christchurch be kept in the loop during the rebuild?
Mayor Bob Parker seems to think so, claiming that the Government has demonstrated a commitment to retaining local democracy and community engagement. However, this is the same Government that fired our democratically elected regional council. Now I was never a big fan of Ecan, and I wanted to see some big changes in Christchurch’s local government make-up, but that was clearly the wrong way to go about it.
This precedent, and the fact we will be having appointed bureaucrats wielding so much power over the future of the city, really gives me some worries. What could have been a great opportunity for the local community to create the city they want and lead the process through the Council is compromised in my view. Now I know that any recovery will require central government support, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to take away too much control from local authorities. Visions of a strong, attractive, vibrant, forward-thinking and sustainable Christchurch suddenly seem to come under threat.
My hope is the political risk will be too much, and the central government will back down from imposing any kind of ‘grand vision’ it might have and leave it to the community to decide through local authorities. Mayor Parker certainly feels confident about this. I hope he is right.
“Our ultimate goal is to build the most earthquake safe city in the world” – Mayor Bob Parker
In addition to this announcement it was also revealed by the Mayor that:
- he expects the Council to ‘resume its democratic role’ within three weeks
- the Council and Government are expecting a finalised plan for the CBD within nine months, and;
- he hopes to announce details of “what we’re planning for the first stage of our community engagement in the next week”.
We will have to wait and see.