So long Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. There were times when Cantabrians so hated you and what you were trying to do with Christchurch that we were on the streets protesting. There were times when your internal machinations were found seriously wanting.
I do not know if your impending demise is for the best or not. But anyway…
Your formation certainly did not get off to the best start, being the product of a badly written Act of Parliament that was rushed through at speed under urgency. No party had the gumption to stand up and say “this needs a second look at”. So, perhaps the appropriate of a hero of the first quake, Roger Sutton, chief of Orion was not so much masterstroke as a very necessary righting of the ship.
No one will deny your purpose was with good intentions (the best? that is debatable), but sometimes you wielded a blunt hammer sculpting Christchurch when you should have wielded a chisel. All them Old Dungers your Minister in charge, one Gerry Brownlee had the gall to call Christchurch’s heritage buildings, should have been a warning shot. You had a monstrous task of transiting from the disaster response phase into the disaster recovery phase, and Mother Nature certainly did her best in 2011 to derail that – 13 June and 23 December quakes as well as the two big snow storms pretty much made the first year all about surviving.
They came and went. 2012 was about consolidating a severely fractured city with a very obvious east-west divide that can still be seen today. It was about determining what type of C.B.D. Cantabrians could be realistically given without a major budget blowout. It was about acknowledging that with the settling of the land much of eastern Christchurch was now prone to flooding. It was about the Christchurch City Council, with whom you had a fractious relationship, admitting it had some major problems with its operation, on top of a nightmarish financial situation.
You thought 2012 with its “carpers and moaners” was hard enough. Perhaps it was. You were in uncharted waters with many a navigational hazard only too keen to shipwreck you. No one said 2013 would be easier. But the resignation of Mayor Bob Parker who finally realized his time as Mayor was up made it colourful. As did the electoral drubbing handed down in the local government elections where four councillors quit and five were voted out.
I thought when Christchurch’s new City Council line up was announced that Gerry Brownlee’s first act would be to haul the lot of them up to his office and read the Riot Act. Fortunately I was wrong. And to yours and their credit, your working relationship seems to have been surprisingly good. Which is just as well because the howls from the many factions that rose to challenge your authority rose to a roar with problems relating to insurance, E.Q.C. incompetence and alleged indifference over the C.B.D.
I guess your year in 2014 was as soggy as that of the rest of Christchurch. How many late nights did your staff spend wondering what to do about land that had been zoned green and now looked a muddy brown under sewerage-laden flood waters? Poor people watching the Avon and Heathcote Rivers leap out of their banks on a 90 minute rainfall instead of a one day heavy rainfall event was hard enough. Finding them inundating properties up to knee deep with flood waters that had God knows what in it was depressing. Roger Sutton’s inappropriate behaviour was a shame because many people thought he was not a bad guy on the whole.
So on we straggled into 2015, the whole “E.Q.C. is incompetent and the insurance companies are bastards” thing no doubt starting to weary on your ears as much as it is wearying for the people of Christchurch. But your Minister in charge had opportunities to ask the Government to look at legislative changes to make E.Q.C. clean their act up and set statutory deadlines for the insurance companies to pay out. And he did not.
When we started 2016, two things were certain: C.E.R.A. had until 18 April to live and someone really needs to get the insurance C.E.O.’s around a table and give them an ultimatim to finalize payouts by a certain date or the Government would see them in Court. Thus far, peppered by aftershocks from a fresh outbreak of seismic lunacy, the first is coming true.
90 days later, C.E.R.A.’s demise is certain. At 0000 hours 18 April 2016, you will disappear into the night. Christchurch will wake up in the morning wondering where to from here – and maybe being (even if people do not admit it), reluctantly grateful for C.E.R.A. and the five very controversial years of its existence.