I heard John Key this morning saying his shiny new Earthquake Recovery Authority (to provide "leadership and co-ordination of the ongoing recovery effort in Canterbury”) will make recovery faster, easier, better and more “sustainable.” In short, he foresees a steak on every plate, and a car in every new de-liquified driveway.
It’s certainly put an even larger steak on Gauleiter Brownlee’s plate, even if he is yet to find a permanent chief executive to share the new meal with him.
What power does the new Earthquake Recovery Authority have to deliver all this largesse, and make Christchurch’s post-earthquake recovery possible? Basically, they have all the powers the Earthquake Recovery Gauleiter has, with only a committee or two to limit them. As we have already seen, these include the power to
- demolish other people’s buildings; and
- requisition other people’s land; and
- ban people from their own property; while
- spending months deciding what people will be allowed to build where.
Basically, it’s an authority charged with “getting things done” that will continue doing everything in its power to make it impossible for entrepreneurs and property owners to get their own things done.
Want to rebuild your damaged commercial building? You’ll have to wait at least six months until council/government/the new authority decides what (if any) new building standards it needs to be built under.
Want to rebuild your damaged house? You’ll have to wait at least twelve months until council/government/the new authority decides what (if any) houses can be built or rebuilt on liquefied or unstable land.
Want to build new housing on the outskirts of town? You’ll have to persuade council/the new authority to relax their ring-fencing of the city, and wait at least eighteen months for the council’s damaged (and uninsured) services and infrastructure get to you.
Want to start building a new commercial heart to the city away from its now-devastated centre? You’ll first need to persuade the author’s of council’s “Strategic Plan” that there’s no way the city is ever going to “sustainably” (or affordably) the way the city is ever going to develop NOW, post-earthquake, the way they thought it would before the earthquakes struck.
In a nutshell, the new authority rests on the philosophy that it will be big government that “gets things done,” with all the costs, authority and powers of confiscation that requires.
So there will certainly be certainty here with which folk in Christchurch can begin planning their own recovery. It is the certainty of uncertainty—full-on regime uncertainty—the certainty that no personal planning or investment will really be possible for months (if not years) to come; and that one’s land or property may be requisitioned (or made off-limits) with barely any notice whatsoever.
Oh, there will be “consultation.” Oodles of it. Whole committees and “advisory boards” full of it.
But there is a world of difference between folk making their own choices about their own advancement, and other people making those choices for them—however much “consultation” with them is carried out.
And the choice that already appears to have been made for everyone is that Christchurch will be rebuilt largely where and how it was before—oblivious to the fact that city has gone for good—with you and I and every other taxpayer for decades to come picking up the tab, rather than relying on the rebuilders themselves to make their own choices about where and how their own land, property, resources and money are best used.
UPDATED: “Brownlee” changed to “Gauleiter Brownlee,” as was appropriately suggested by a commenter.