Multi-bil­lion dol­lar af­ter­shocks

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Right. There’s an open­ing drill you have to share. Count to 10 . . . 8 9 10.

Maybe I should have made it a count up to 100.

That’s prob­a­bly what you re­ally need be­fore dis­cussing the Christchurch re­cov­ery bill with quake vic­tims. Much less crit­i­cise.

But some­one has to say it. How much can the coun­try af­ford on the re­build, never for­get­ting the pain and an­guish, the feel­ing of non-stop mourn­ing for the dead, the needs of the in­jured and the home­less?

And the ever-present shock that the whole process seems to be tak­ing what must seem a ter­ri­ble life­time for those who must bear it – at least three years more.

Per­haps it’s some­thing about liv­ing so dis­tant from the quake cen­tre, but the Christchurch Coun­cil seems grossly ill-ad­vised its quoted top pri­or­ity be­ing a huge, cov­ered sport cen­tre to re­place the beloved Lan­caster Park and a grandiose con­ven­tion cen­tre.

This in a city where hun­dreds of fam­i­lies are ex­ist­ing in houses with rough-tim­bered, bat­tened and glass­less win­dows, sus­pect walls and roofs, sec­tions still re­cov­er­ing from the dreaded liq­ue­fac­tion, some homes with stink­ing por­taloos.

Hous­ing New Zealand has proudly cut the time­frame for deal­ing with more than 5500 state homes dam­aged in the earth­quake.

Af­ter the be­lated ap­proval of a $320 mil­lion in­sur­ance pay­out, Hous­ing Min­is­ter Nick Smith says this re­pair and re­de­vel­op­ment pro- gramme will be cut from five to three years.

Can you blame that pre­dic­tion be­ing any­thing other than a mi­nor and ir­ri­tat­ing change of sen­tence for quake refugees in strange and in­ad­e­quate homes and still look­ing at an­other three years’ wait for their lives, sur­round­ings and well­be­ing to get back to nor­mal?

Lat­est fig­ures from the Trea­sury puts the over­all cost of the city’s re­build at $40 bil­lion – up $10 bil­lion on the pre­vi­ous es­ti­mate.

And the Govern­ment’s con­tri­bu­tion is likely to jump from $13b to $15b.

The coun­cil is putting about $2b above its nor­mal bud­get into the city’s key an­chor projects and the mayor, Bob Parker, says ratepay­ers don’t need to worry be­cause ‘‘the coun­cil’s in­vest­ments are al­most sorted out’’. Re­ally Bob? There’s an un­der­stand­able doubt about that Parker con­fi­dence and over some of the plans.

For­mer mayor Garry Moore wants the coun­cil to drop the pro­posed new con­ven­tion cen­tre and cov­ered sports sta­dium as un­af­ford­able at this stage. The money should be bet­ter spent restor­ing the sub­urbs.

And there’s a warn­ing: John Key says re­build­ing es­ti­mates will con­tinue to go up – he’s not rul­ing out a fur­ther rise. One writer has deep con­cerns. He cites the cost at close to the equiv­a­lent of $10,000 per Christchurch per­son, in­clud­ing chil­dren, un­em­ployed, el­derly and the rest.

‘‘There needs to be a more re­al­is­tic ap­proach to the re­build rather than just throw­ing more money at them and ex­pect­ing them to be hon­est with it. In an­other six months, they will be com­ing back ask­ing for an­other $10b at this rate.’’

And that doesn’t in­clude de­cid­ing what will be done to the bat­tered cathe­dral – who, when, where and for how much?

The writer: ‘‘They are knock­ing down brand new build­ings to widen Manch­ester St, build­ing four brand new trans­port hubs, buy­ing and then knock­ing down the Oaks Ho­tel at a cost of $132 mil­lion so that it can be turned into park­land, when the cost to fix it is only $6m, $100m in over-pay­ments by the EQC are be­ing writ­ten off.’’

Did we know that, as tax­pay­ers we are help­ing pay for de­con­struc­tion as well as construction?’’

Talk­ing about footie (which we weren’t), and a sta­dium (which we are) when is the all-pow­er­ful rugby union go­ing to give a red card – or even a life­time ban – to the man on the pub­lic ad­dress sys­tem at the Shore matches?

Time and again he drowns out the com­men­tary on my steam ra­dio.

What must it be like to sit in ex­pen­sive seats un­der one of the loud­speak­ers car­ry­ing his over­loud and far from clear chat­ter?

Or wings try­ing to pick up the jumper plan for each line-out.

At least I can turn my home ra­dio down.

As it is, that boom­ing voice is a real turn-off! In the mailbag:

‘‘Thank you for tak­ing the time and en­ergy to write your col­umn on water.

‘‘While global cli­mate change has been get­ting the big head­lines, it is water avail­abil­ity that has wor­ried me most over the last decade, due to data sim­i­lar to those you cited.

‘‘Water is go­ing to be the is­sue of the 21st cen­tury, and will start be­com­ing crit­i­cal in 20 years with droughts be­com­ing more com­mon­place and with water scarcity in­creas­ing in­ter­na­tional ten­sions between nu­mer­ous coun­tries (in­clud­ing Spain and Por­tu­gal, Amer­ica and Mex­ico, Pak­istan and In­dia, just to name a few), with some of those ten­sions pro­jected to lead to water wars.

‘‘Mean­while, multi-na­tional cor­po­ra­tions have been water prospect­ing in the de­vel­op­ing world, try­ing to find un­tapped aquifers they can ex­ploit (such as the Guarani aquifer on the Brazil and Paraguay border).

‘‘While New Zealand is rel­a­tively iso­lated from many of the in­ter­na­tional problems as­so­ci­ated with water, the re­cent drought shows that water is­sues are pro­foundly im­por­tant here as well.

‘‘So, I’m happy to see that the is­sue is start­ing to get more cov­er­age. I’m also grate­ful for the vi­su­al­i­sa­tion strat­egy, and plan to use it the next time I teach my en­vi­ron­men­tal so­ci­ol­ogy course.

‘‘Do you know of any New Zealand non-profit groups ed­u­cat­ing the pop­u­la­tion about water is­sues? If so, I would love to know about them, so that I can help them ed­u­cate peo­ple on this vi­tal is­sue.

‘‘Thanks again for the col­umn.’’ Manuel Vallee

Quake dam­age: Some of the dam­age in the CBD as a re­sult of the earth­quakes.

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