Any plan to rebuild an entire CBD from what is now mostly rubble was always going to take a while for everyone to get their heads around. But there are now some very good detailed examinations of the Christchurch blueprint emerging. Recommended today is the Political Scientist's A rainy Christmas Day in Christchurch, which has a lengthy but well researched look at who the real winners will be: 'Those with the money to invest in this new 'Core' have now found themselves a Government-edicted, ratepayer subsidised, brand new 'gusher' - with its bore hole right in the centre of Christchurch'. The blog says the new green zones may not be green for long, heritage buildings will be sacrificed, exceptions made for the benefit of a few, and that the deliberate restrictions to drive up CDB land values will keep out smaller retailers who previously provided vital character and diversity to the city.
There are plenty who are still gushing about the plan though. Fran O'Sullivan willingly admits that she has 'drunk the kool-aid' in her praise - see: Inspiring quake-city blueprint a real gem and Matthew Hooton makes a 'once-in-a-lifetime' exception to his rule of not writing about subjects he has a personal involvement in: What makes Christchurch so lucky?. That fortunes will be made as a result is seen as a positive outcome: 'It halves the size of the CBD, making land scarce to improve returns per square metre, creating competition among investors and developers for the best spaces. There is going to be a gold rush'. Both Hooton (in a view echoed by O'Sullivan) goes as far as recommending the same fast-track planning process for the rest of the country: 'why on earth doesn't the government roll out its bold, visionary Christchurch approach on a nationwide basis and just slash all the barriers to economic growth that still exist everywhere but Canterbury? If he did so, Mr Key, in 100 days, would finally have established himself as the bold, visionary Lee Kuan Yew-type figure that so many of us so desperately want him to be, and still believe he could be'.
This has all confused the blogger 'Eddie' at The Standard: 'Has Fran O'Sullivan been replaced by a communist infiltrator? Today, she gushes over a central government plan to use emergency powers to appropriate land and bypass RMA property rights'. The Standard blogger puts forward a less political and more cynical explanation: 'Or is it that this particular piece of central planning is being done to advance the interests of corporate property owners and developers?' - see: Fran O'Sullivan: in praise of central planning.
The story of how the blueprint was put together is related in some detail by John McCrone - see: Plan will change the face of Christchurch. It is a celebratory piece - almost as if the cardboard cut-outs they moved around on the map while making the plan are already built. John Roughan points out that there is still more destruction than construction going on, and thinks 'After all this time we shouldn't be hearing, "what we have to do ..."; we should see him doing it' - see: Plan lacks key element: action.
Other important or interesting political items today include:
* The government is preparing for a court battle over the water claim so it can push through asset sales on time says John Armstrong (Herald): Timing is everything in asset sales plan.
* Two polls showing National reversing their recent downward poll trend (TVNZ's National edges up in new poll and TV3's National up, Labour down in latest poll) have Labour supporters worried. Scott Yorke thinks Labour is relying too much on anti-asset sales sentiment to close the gap Why The Polls Are Bad For Labour while Robert Winter says opposition parties have simply not been able to capitalise on the many opportunties they have had this year - see: Labour and the Polls. And, perhaps more controversially, the Standard plays the 'race-baiting' allegation card in explaining National's gain - see: Race-baiting works, a little.
* Not fronting one of your major policy gains has seen John Banks roundly criticised. Tim Watkin points out some stark contradictions in the Government's views on teacher quality, but thinks National is merely going through the motions with the initiative - see: Charter schools & mixed messages - is this an intelligent design?
* Meanwhile schools are getting connected to the information superhighway as promised - but most can't afford the petrol to drive on it according to Kirsty Johnston's Cost bar keeps fibre dream out of classrooms.
* With New Zealand' longest running war having its deadliest day, the politicians seem united that the troop deployment should stay the course -see Kate Chapman's Shearer: Kiwi soldiers doing us proud. But Gordon Campbell says New Zealand's troops will leave no lasting legacy there - see: On the haste and waste involved in us staying in Afghanistan.
* A proposed 'level playing field' in social housing could see Housing New Zealand rents double writes Simon Collins - see: Review threatens big rent rises for state tenants.
* Higher tax rates didn't increase the tax take on the wealthy according to Treasury - see Pattrick Smellie's Rich paid less tax when rate went up. And, thanks to family tax credits, income tax is paid mostly by the top 10% - see Rob Stock's Figures suggest wealthy carry tax burden.
* 'Economists have proven it's cheaper to let Maori children die than spend money to provide equitable health treatment'. That's one startling finding of an Auckland University study on health - see Marika Hill's Maori children suffer health treatment inequalities: study.
* The debate on gay marriage and equality rolls on, and over the weekend there were a number of worthwhile reads on the issue - see: Rodney Hide's Wed for better, not worse, Michael Laws' Peters has got this one dead right, the Dominion Post's Change the law to end discrimination, David Farrar's Of choice, commitment, sex, desire and love!, TV3's Craig and Wall: gay marriage debate heats up, Tracy Watkins' Christian views not high priority, Joshua Drummond's Perpetuating a nasty myth - gays choose sexuality, and Cameron Slater's Colin Craig fails Political Process 101.
* Finally, for more details on the Maori Council's Felix Geiringer, including his collision with Bill Birch's limo, and his fascinating family history, see Adam Dudding very good profile, More than a lawman.