Multi-billion dollar aftershocks
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.