Since the first quake in September 2010, I have been to Christchurch a couple of times. The last visit was a few weeks before the latest deadly quake, nearly six months after the first quake.
In February, everyone was talking about how incompetent and useless the city council and the Mayor Bob Parker were being. A builder I talked to said his company was all ready to go and build stuff, employ people and get on with life but were being held up by the council who were unable to make decisions on rebuilding. A family friend lost her house but had insurance money, but was unable to rebuild or move away because she was waiting on the council to make a decision on her section. The weekend I was there the Christchurch press had a two page feature story discussing the rising anger from all sections of the city rich and poor, business and suburban, all criticising the Mayor Bob Parker, who hadn’t come up with a plan five months after the quake (sorry no link cos I cant find it and I think the Press doesnt put all it’s features online
I saw Colombo Street south of the square, rows of shattered buildings, fenced off and no rebuilding had taken place. Then I drove through Avonside and saw (five fucking months later), streets full of portaloos. Five months without sewage! Some houses had a portaloo each in the front garden, some streets had one at the end of the street for everyone to share. As usual the poor and working class suburbs were left till last, event though some of them were the worst hit in September.
The latest quake was so much worse, probably 200+ dead, the central city destroyed and a third of the city without water and sewage. And yes, it’s the same poor suburbs in eastern Christchurch that are the ones waiting till last before they get the water and power and sewage back on. Meanwhile friends in other suburbs with power and water restored, report multiple visits from the council, police and even a National Party MP in one case (presumably starting the election early) the same friend is busy delivering food and supplies to the inner city suburbs who haven’t seen any council or govt aid all week.
The good news is lots of people are just getting on and organising things themselves. All across the city neighbours are organizing, forming groups and helping each other get food and distribute aid. Some suburbs who were outside the affected area have adopted inner city suburbs and are transporting food and aid in daily.
But capitalism continues because even in a disaster, profit is considered more important then people. Supermarkets in Linwood are closed, with food rotting on the shelves. Some how they can afford to employ security guards to stop people taking food, but they cant afford to employ people to open the shop and sell the food, or better still just give it away. One supermarket opened briefly in an area that had no food for a few days. Someone tried to steal some food and got jumped on by security, there was a near riot and six cop cars appeared to maintain order. The Supermarket closed and that was that. That’s just the bits I’m hearing about and I’m sure there’s a lot more. Anti social looting should be dealt with by large crowds with big sticks, but taking food and other essential supplies from a supermarket (especially if its closed and the food is just going to waste) at a time like this is not anti social, it is necessary.
Anyway, lots of other people have written about this, my main rant is about Bob Parker. Before the September Quake he was extremely unpopular, a shallow right wing scumbag whos only qualification for the job was that he had a TV game show host in an earlier life and was therefore good at getting on TV. He was and is a dodgy corrupt shitbag who spends council money on supporting his even dodgier mates like Dave Henderson, and sends his council mates off on overseas trips including one councilor who took three months off in Bali and claimed a full salary because she checked her email each morning on the beach
Against the Current is a very good blog that has kept an eye on dodgy Bob for years. The September quake managed to turn around Bob Parkers unpopularity and he won the election.
The thing about Bob is he’s not even a competent capitalist. An evil genius with a plan could lead and rebuild Christchurch and it would probably be horrible but at least it would get done. But Bob Parker is not an evil genius, He’s a fucking idiot. He looks good on TV but before the latest quake even the capitalists and business class in Christchurch were sick of his incompetence and inaction. He’s way out of his depth.
Of course none of this stopped him before and theres nothing I can do about it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a move from the Christchurch business class to either get rid of him or sideline him so they can get on with an effective rebuild of the city. We who are not part of the rich business owning minority will of course have no say in any off this unless we fight for it. Hopefully the Christchurch neighbourhoods who have been working together this past week can produce some sort of movement that is strong enough to demand that the future of Christchurch should be decided with mass input from ordinary people, not just business leaders.
In the rest of the country we have to resist the inevitable attempts by National/Labour to make the working class pay for the repair bill while keeping huge wealth for their capitalist mates. There is an election this year and the only choice is between a government that can do what ever it likes, or a government that is scared of resistance.