THE PEOPLE ARE ANGRY


The Earthquake Commission is reaping the consequences of its own incompetence and inertia.

While the government and its political allies in Christchurch continue to pitch to the nation that its all going  swimmingly well in Christchurch, unfortunately for them  the facts continue to  upset their fiction.

Barely a few days after The Press was reporting that there  was no housing crisis in the eastern suburbs,  this particular fairy tale was  exploded by news that the hostility between the Earthquake  Commission and the good people of Christchurch had escalated to the point that the EQC had initiated new security measures; it has  increased  the size of the prison-like  fences around the twenty EQC hubs  and the public  counters have been  made higher 'so people can't jump over them so easily'. What next?  Windows or wire grills between EQC staff  and members of the public?  A quick fondle by security staff at the entrance before being allowed to enter?

These confrontations are not  new and we can now consider that we have now reached a stage where the victims are going to be cast as criminals by those who seek to profit from Christchurch's misfortune. Disaster capitalism demands that they can only be one winner and it isn't the people of Christchurch.

These EQC hubs  do look  like fortresses. They  are  fortified  government  outposts in the 'badlands' of the eastern suburbs. You can easily imagine Gerry Brownlee or Bob Parker being helicoptered in to inspect the troops.

It comes as no surprise that the Christchurch police have been  quietly increasing their presence in the eastern suburbs and  will be the first police in the country  to be wearing tasers on their belts.

This is the escalation of a conflict that, at the coalface,  has  been provoked by the incompetence, the corruption and the arrogance of the EQC.

We have certainly come a long way from the community 'pop-up picnics' of Canterbury Earthquake Recovery chief, Roger Sutton. Although this has failed to register with Mayor  Bob Parker who appears to be living on the planet 'I'm A Rich Git' when he advocates such lunacy  as  a $20 tax on  the embattled people of Christchurch  just to build a cycleway.

Last year  EQC staff were having their photos and names posted on the internet with the warning that they should be denied access   to anyone's property.  The  site alleged that  this 'rogues gallery' of EQC engineers were  telling people that  their quake damage was pre-existing, when home-owners knew it was not true.

We have moved  on from that to a growing number of physical confrontations between  EQC staff and homeowners who are under considerable stress and who  have simply  run out of patience with  an intransigent EQC.

According to the EQC some behaviour has forced staff out because 'customer interaction had become unbearable'.

If the EQC thinks it will receive sympathy from  people in the eastern suburbs and elsewhere  then it is going to be sorely disappointed.  Any  community goodwill toward the  EQC has  long since evaporated.

With another winter approaching, the government would be very  foolish not to recognise that the confrontations will continue to escalate.

But this is a  government has allowed  this situation to worsen, month after month.

It has deliberately cut local communities out of the rebuild process  who rightly believe they are being  sacrificed   so that   government can focus on reconfiguring  central Christchurch in the interests of vested property and financial interests, most of whom are allies of the National Party.

Gerry Brownlee, Roger Sutton and Mayor Bob Parker have left the people  of the eastern suburbs  to  fend for themselves  while they have canoodled  with property developers about over-sized sports stadiums,  too-big retail complexes and bloated convention centres.  None of which the people of Christchurch have agreed to.

As well the EQC is an organisation riddled with incompetence and corruption. But, as Sarah Miles has pointed out,  Earthquake Commission chief executive Ian Simpson has received a pay rise of about $70,000 in the past year.

This is in  despite of  the fact that Simpson has been in charge of an organisation  that  has hired untrained people who have done what have been simply inept and inaccurate assessments of quake-damaged homes.  He has been in charge of an organisation that has hired the sons and daughters of EQC staff  for no other reason than they are the son and daughters  of EQC staff.

Despite EQC's  abject failure the Minister for Recovery, Gerry Brownlee , has sat on his hands and done nothing. Worse than that he has flatly denied that there is an escalating social and economic crisis in the eastern suburbs. So why the fortified EQC outposts?

Graphic: Porcupine Farm

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