We’ve been told so many times that Christchurch has a once-in-a-million-years opportunity to rebuild after the earthquakes. We’ve been promised a vibrant city centre; a pleasant place to live, work and play. The suburbs, too, will be thriving communities, with "quality infrastructure and services."
Yet one evening last week, with a southerly tearing across the vacant carparks, the central city was anything but a pleasant place to be. In fact, it was downright depressing, and nowhere near to what we keep on being promised.
We’re being asked to buy into an impossible dream, although arguably a very attractive one. Gerry Brownlee and the staff at the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority decided that the City Council’s plan wasn’t “ambitious” enough, so they’ve taken over the responsibility. Our heroes! Oh...wait...what?
The newest “artistic impressions” of our future city show lots of healthy, Pākehā, good-looking people going about their daily business in the glorious sunshine. Everyone seems to be thirty-five or younger, on a professional salary and happy with a lot of latte sipping and milling around for no apparent reason. Poverty, illness, grey skies, they’ve all been waved away.
That might be life that the multitude of MPs, CEOs and CFOs expect us to live in, but it’s just not realistic. We’re not all young and fit and wealthy, and we certainly don’t all want to be Pākehā. The Crusaders don’t always win the rugby. The sky isn’t always blue. The sun doesn’t always shine. Christchurch is a cold place in the winter, and the majority of people have got plenty on their plates, so it’s not like they can sit around outside cafes, enjoying the ambience.
Which is probably why most people haven’t taken a good look at the plans and realised what's up. And when the CERA Draft Transition Recovery Plan was released, pretty much everyone didn't know and didn't care.
Which is a shame, because this could be a big opportunity. Soon after the earthquake, the Government rushed through a piece of legislation called the CER Act. It gave Gerry Brownlee the permission to do almost whatever he liked with this city. Amongst other things, he could tell the elected City Councillors what they could or couldn't do and could force people off their own land. He wrote the rules.
But as of next year, the law that lets Brownlee writes the rules expires. And so, the Government is currently asking us who we think should be in charge of recovery efforts from next year onwards. Don't worry, we're on to it. The Youth Council has responded -we've written a formal submission- based on the information we've gained from talking to hundreds of young people over the last year. You can read the submission on our facebook page when we've put the finishing touches on it. We've called for our elected councillors to be ultimately responsible for the rebuild, for there to be more action on housing and revitalising the Centre and East of our city, and for more community engagement. We'll keep you posted on what happens next!
You can keep up to date with what we're doing for young people in Christchurch here. Join in the conversation!