Press Release – New Zealand Labour Party
The Labour Party’s Christchurch electorate MPs, Clayton Cosgrove (Waimakariri), Ruth Dyson (Port Hills), Lianne Dalziel (Christchurch East) and Brendon Burns (Christchurch Central) have started a regular bulletin to keep people in their electorates and …Christchurch LABOUR MPs
Thursday 31 March MEDIA STATEMENT
Christchurch Earthquake bulletin edition sixteen
The Labour Party’s Christchurch electorate MPs, Clayton Cosgrove (Waimakariri), Ruth Dyson (Port Hills), Lianne Dalziel (Christchurch East) and Brendon Burns (Christchurch Central) have started a regular bulletin to keep people in their electorates and media informed about what is happening at grass roots level.
CLAYTON COSGROVE: The Government consistently says it wants input from community groups, local MPs etc, but in terms of the old saying about the proof of the pudding being in the eating, it’s a very low-fat pudding. The list of government responses to letters and requests from Labour MPs that I know about has so far been zero. I wrote to Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Civil Defence Minister John Carter two weeks ago about the process for demolition of commercial premises within the red zone. Response: None. Phil Goff’s office has written twice to John Key about the new earthquake recovery authority, one with suggestions about the way it is set up and one concerning consultation. Response to the first letter: None. Response to the second letter: None. Three weeks ago I requested a briefing from Gerry Brownlee about the time frame for mapping land in Christchurch. Response: None. Two weeks ago I wrote to Mayor Bob Parker and the Christchurch City Council about a rent freeze for council tenants. Response: None. So much for consultation. Although the earthquakes have shown how important regional health services are, there is also still no response from the Government to significant local concerns about the axing of after-hours GP services in Rangiora. The after-hours service was cut just before the September quake, but events of the past few months have proven how short-sighted this is. The Bealey Avenue after-hours clinic has been under extreme pressure since 22 February, not helped by the loss of similar services at Rangiora. Today I am visiting local health services at Rangiora and Oxford with Labour’s health spokesperson Grant Robertson, with a particular focus on the Government’s failure to respond to community concerns. It is an uphill battle. Some 8000 people signed a petition to the health select committee about Rangiora, but the Government’s done nothing about it. It will be interesting to see if the quake is used as an economic excuse for permanently cutting regional health services when this particular service was actually cut before the first quake, and the quakes have proven just how vital such services are. The Rangiora cut was not an election issue — and the Government happily shifts responsibility to the Canterbury DHB without lifting a finger itself. Tomorrow I will be meeting the Civil Defence controller and again raising the issues of progress on emergency housing and on ensuring there is adequate autumn/winter home heating, particularly for elderly people. I’ll let you know if there’s a response.
RUTH DYSON: Following February’s quake seven rest homes in Christchurch were totally or partially closed due to significant damage. This led to the relocation of many elderly people to facilities in centres as far away as Nelson, Hamilton and Auckland. While it was fortunate that relocation was possible, it was always seen by families as an interim measure. It is now apparent that this was a one-way ticket and families are furious. The DHB has now said that those relocated will not be able to return, even when vacancies become available. These spots will go to new clients. While my colleagues and I understand the DHB have a huge job ahead of them, and that the care of individuals comes before preference of location, this displacement is really cruel for families. A compassionate resolution must be found. Some have said they visited their relatives daily, but without any financial support for travel this is no longer viable. My colleagues and I will try to meet with the DHB as soon as we can. With the elderly and their families already fragile after the quake this issue must be dealt with swiftly.
BRENDON BURNS: This morning Lianne Dalziel and I will attend a MSD community support briefing in the Avonside/Dallington area. At 2pm I will attend another meeting of retailers looking at the future for retailing in the CBD. Following my recent visit to Napier I have a number of ideas that have been tried and tested which could be adapted in Christchurch. For example turning centres like Latimer and Cranmer squares into temporary retail spaces or ‘tin towns’ to get retail in the CBD up and running in this interim period. Time is of the essence for retailers now. They can only survive so long without timeframes for assistance. I met with them a few weeks ago when they raised questions around extensions to the wage subsidy—which we now know will be reduced markedly, issues around reinsurance and systems in place for relocation. I expect these issues will be on the agenda today and I will push for their urgent resolution. I am concerned about the Civil Defence controller’s comments in The Press today which state that parts of the city centre may not reopen until they are rebuilt, with traffic flow being cited as an impediment. As the MP for Christchurch Central I am fully aware of the extent of the damage in the CBD. However, we have to be careful to ensure that where buildings can be propped up, they are. Facilitating business access for those who have waited over a month should be the priority. I doubt that traffic levels will return to their pre quake levels for some time, and where they do we can work on rerouting. Traffic must take a backseat as business owners navigate their future.
LIANNE DALZIEL: Yesterday I attended a meeting with a group of senior citizens at the Wainoni/Avonside Community Services Trust (WACS). Normally a spot where people come together to attend community fitness classes, the focus yesterday was turned to a discussion on the impacts of the earthquake. This age group were attuned to the phrase ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ and recovery for them is a process with quite a different historical context. Their immediate concerns are very close to home- while we talked about the importance of recovery and rebuilding in the CBD their primary concerns are housing and essential services in the suburbs, as the hubs around which their daily lives and many of our daily lives revolve. We talked about the many positive things that the future holds for Christchurch. An important notion was that there is not a single recipe book for community recovery. Each community is made up of different ingredients and the recipes for success will differ. Although there is genuine stress, concern and anxiety within this community there is hope too. We agreed that recovery is not about bouncing back but about bouncing forward. The other significant event yesterday was a meeting with local school principals. There were some real concerns about the circumstances in which schools reopened and Brendon Burns and I intend to bring these up with the Ministry of Education as soon as possible.