Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker is very upset and angry because he thinks he is being unfairly criticised for ignoring the eastern suburbs of Christchurch. He says its unfair that people think of him as deliberately choosing to ignore the poor areas because they don’t have any money. He has a point. Sort of.
He isn’t actually deliberately going around thinking “Oh those areas have no money so I will ignore them”. No. What is actually happening is that his priority is making media appearances when he can look good, fobbing off the media onto others when he can’t look good, planning bailouts for his dodgy property investor mates, hanging out in wine bars, planning extravagant holidays for himself and his staff, booking overseas trips for his dodgy councilor mates and spending taxpayers money on them, shaking hands with visiting royal parasites, and other vital stuff that the mayor has to do. He simply hasn’t got the time to deal with low priority stuff like fixing up Christchurch’s failing sewage system and water supply in the eastern suburbs.
Remember how the system works. Local government is actually run by bureaucrats and chief executives. Every three years we have local body elections, which most people don’t even bother voting in due to the low quality of the candidates and the fact that the results make absolutely no difference to anything. The only people that get excited about the local elections are wannabe politicians making their way up the political party career path (after their stint as a student politician but before you start in National Politics), property developers wanting a pliable mate on the local board, or ex radio talkback hosts who want a new careers where talking shit and being a sad old bigot can be an asset. The mayor is a different story. This is usually seen as PR job for someone to promote local business and tourism. Which makes the position perfect for a has-been ex celebrity whose television or radio talkback career is over. This is why the Christchurch business community backed Bob Parker, and this is why most Canterbury people didn’t care about the local body elections and didn’t bother voting. Why should they? When they voted in a regional council that actually tried to do what the voters wanted, the National Government stepped in and sacked the elected representatives and replaced them with appointees.
In September last year Bob Parker was a few weeks out from an election he was going to lose. He was surrounded by scandal and deeply unpopular. A major earthquake in the middle of the election campaign meant Bob Parker was in the news every day for the rest of the campaign and his opponents couldn’t get a word in. For the first time in years the local election turnout passed 50% (only just!) and Bob was back!
The problem was that for the first time in decades the City Council actually had important stuff to do, like rebuilding the city. After six months of floundering around they achieved almost nothing, and then got hit by an even bigger quake.
Now Christchurch is worse off then ever before and even those who haven’t been paying attention are starting to realize that Bob and the local council, and the National Government, still haven’t got a plan. The Regional Council has been sacked, the city council has been sidelined by the Mayor and the Minister of whatever the fuck it is that Gerry Brownlee does, and Christchurch is quite literally a dictatorship run by an idiot.
The next elections will be in 2013 (unless they cancel those too!) and I suspect the business class of Canterbury are already discussing who they are going to replace Bob Parker with. For sure a few of them who are property developers are probably quite happy with the way things are at the moment, but the majority of the business class in Christchurch will be thinking long term and realising that local government is important and that they need competent, experienced people with a vision to rebuild Christchurch.
We need to help make life difficult for Bob Parker and try to get rid of him, but we also need to build our own organisations and not rely on business leaders and whoever they put forward at the next elections. Rebuilding Christchurch is going to take a long time and working class people need to have say in rebuilding our city. This has already started in a small way with neighbourhood meetings and more of these are planned.
Another useful blog on Christchurch: