‘We are not suffering from earthquakes – we have a virus called experts that is

running over people’s lives.’

– Unknown local

Dear Members

Looking forward inevitably involves looking back and this past week has been one for looking in lots of places as we try to dispel our frustration over the Minister’s decision to wipe any temporary use of the residential red zone and find alternatives for continuing our Recycle, Re-use, Relocate project.

Incredibly in all this looking around we have found, once again, our core values beating away as strong as ever. Village values, community heart and local voices have shone through in the multitude of emails, texts and words of support for what we do and utter contempt over the Ministers decision.

It is absolutely empowering to know that so many of you still strongly believe in simple village values of working together (lots of ideas about things we could do or alternative ways to make this project work) showing your community heart (some of the emails were very passionate and blew us away – some were obviously very ‘rich’ in adjectives ) which shows us there are a lot of local voices involved in ‘over the fence’ discussions on this topic.

Simply we would like to thank you all so very much for your collective wisdom and giving us such a boost at a time when the viruses seem to be clinging to our doors.

warm regards

The CanCERN Team

Groundhog Day Mr Brownlee

CanCERN, although unnamed at that early stage, met with Minister Gerry Brownlee on Thursday 21 October 2010 to discuss the need for the resident voice to be acknowledged by decision makers. We pointed out that that was only going to happen if our priority concerns and our community solutions were reflected back to us verbally and by visible action. We gave specifics; it wasn’t ‘fluff’. That was the one and only time that CanCERN has officially met with Mr Brownlee although the requests from us have been numerous.

CanCERN as an organisation is ‘engaged’ with CERA (but not the Minister). Resident voice is given the platform weekly; we are welcomed and valued for the role we play in connecting CERA to the issues and priorities of the most vulnerable people and communities (and of course CERA connects with many other organisations doing the same thing). Sometimes we can see direct examples of the resident’s priorities being actioned but unfortunately this is largely invisible to the resident themselves – they just assume that some staff member got it right that particular time. The resident doesn’t get or take credit for having had a voice that was valued enough to be actioned.

On Friday 19 April 2013, CanCERN is still saying the same thing – silence to a resident says you are doing nothing, you don’t hear us or you don’t care – frankly it is past ridiculous. At the beginning we were told that’s how the recovery would work – engagement was important and resident’s would be involved. Now we get relayed excuses about complexity and competing voices (most of whom seem to be far more important than the lowly resident) and politics and the danger of raising resident hope and expectation by speaking about things not yet signed off and announced by the Minister.

This would appear to lead us to one conclusion – the resident and communities will be invited to engage when the decision maker deems it necessary to progress his own plans. This is actually called ‘consultation’ and is nowhere near achieving the Council’s or CERA’s own ‘engagement’ policies. To do anything more is being deemed to be detrimental to our wellbeing – we wouldn’t want to raise hope that discussions are actually happening that take into account what residents are screaming for.

We (the residents and community groups) can try to engage decision makers with our own plans and sometimes this will lead to great community-led projects being realised but only if we engage with their processes – ‘we can help you wind your way through these (inefficient, exhausting and at times, expensive) processes but sorry, we can’t engage with solutions for making the processes better – that’s not how things are done.’

Who decided that it was better to say nothing to residents; to leave silent voids rather than telling us where things are at, what things are being explored, what complications have to be overcome? This is a decision of leadership – the Waimakariri District Council doesn’t subscribe to this way of thinking. So how can one person leading a massive organisation be allowed to dictate how things will run even when the post-disaster evidence says this stance is detrimental to people’s wellbeing and to the overall recovery?

The research that informed the All Right” Campaign is a great example of people trying to be heard and acknowledged only to be dismissed by Mr Brownlee because what came out of the engagement does not suit.

Not surprisingly his response was that the survey results were ““completely contradictory” to those of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority’s (Cera) 2012 Wellbeing Survey,” (which makes us think he read the summary of CERA’s survey rather than the entire report.) Read the full Press article here http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.stuff.co.nz%2Fthe-press%2Fnews%2F8549887%2FAftershock-of-depression-anger-still-felt&sa=D&sntz=1&usg=AFQjCNFm2-ZAazbX4zv4oXsNjW482u6PvA.

Even if the organisations that conducted this research handpicked the 800 most affected residents in Canterbury (which of course they didn’t), does it make it ok that they are struggling this much? Is this what Mr Brownlee means by winners and losers, highs and lows?

Mr Brownlee, you are sapping residents of hope, innovation and energy. You are systematically dismantling the will of the resident to be engaged in this recovery. This is not a team effort.

Perhaps we could publicly debate this community disaster a little more? CanCERN is not anonymous and has sent you many requests for a face to face meeting. The person most absent for the people is you, Minister.