The release of the government’s CGI-powered plan for the ruined centre of Christchurch has got many people talking excitedly about living in a CGI city, but (apart from this story, for which kudos to the John Campbell Show) little attention to the 840 property owners who are to have their land taken for the forthcoming fantasy land.
I asked a thoughtful Christchurch friend to respond….
As a loyal Christchurch resident for most of my life, here’s my view on what was presented the other day.
The plan is misguided. Not just misguided, but expensive and well beyond our means. Not just expensive and well beyond our means, this “plan” is economically suicidal.
Where do they think the money will come from in a ruined city to pay the bill for the grandomania? How on earth could it ever be repaid. Is Christchurch to be on welfare for life?
This “plan” will be devastating to ratepayers in Christchurch, and to taxpayers nationwide. In short, it is a disaster.
But it gets worse.
What about those unnoticed and unrepresented souls who have been and will be paying the greatest price for this “plan”? I mean those land and building owners whose property will be taken from them to pay for a dream conceived in a bureaucrat’s office. Land and building owners, in many cases, who will now have done to them by government and council what the earthquake couldn’t manage: enforced confiscation, with the value of their “compensation” to be determined by the Gauleiters carrying out The Plan.
What does this do to the property rights land owners thought they once enjoyed? They’ve gone. Completely and utterly.
And what does the dismissive attitude by so many people to the wholesale destruction of property rights say about who we have become? I’ll leave that for you to answer.
Because rather than respecting property rights as one of the single biggest achievements of civil society, in this plan and the talk around it, property rights are treated as just a minor inconvenience for those in power to trample on. This is just the culmination of virtually every stage in the recovery process which have deteriorated the institutional integrity of the country.
Where is the outcry?
There is a word for a system of government that rides roughshod over property owners in the name of the greater good. It was a system great men went to war to destroy. Now, it’s accepted for the price of a new stadium and a few trees.
That public sentiment accepts this—is unconcerned that this blatant fascism is now the new normal—is scary. It’s frightening. People casually look at the plan and debate whether they like it or not. Whether the “frame” should be one block further north or south; whether there should be more cycle paths or trams. What the public discourse totally ignores is the owners of the land on which these pretty pictures are based—and what it totally avoids is that this is going to be the biggest forced confiscation of private property* since the Maori Wars.
Have we learned nothing?
I never thought my fellow citizens would embrace outright fascism, but they have willingly done so on every occasion since the earthquake. This casual embrace of fascism is frightening. Anyone that is against their idealistic plan for a new order is just “not getting behind recovery.” They’re not a good Cantab. They’re not working towards the “greater good.”
This is sick.
And take a look at who gets to define this “greater good”? They are far from uninterested outsiders. Two of the biggest players in the plan, with their mugs all over the report, are Ngai Tahu and the Christchurch City Council. These are not passive players in the game. They are very the two biggest landowners in the city, with significant pull already in setting the rules of the game. Forget Graham Henry’s theories about Wayne Barnes, this is a fixed match. And on the losing team will be 840 private property owners and the long-suffering taxpayer.
And how ironic that Ngai Tahu, whose current fortune was built on restitution for alleged confiscations of the past, are now up to their meres in having carried out for their benefit a broad-based confiscation of the present.
Pastor Niemoller’s warning has never sounded so ominous in New Zealand:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak.
* Under the guise of ‘negotiation,' but confiscation no less—at prices determined by the confiscator.