Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Brownlee backs down from 'insulting' comments

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee. File photo / NZPA
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee. File photo / NZPA

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has backed down from comments he made about frustrated residents in damaged Christchurch homes and apologised.

"I'm sorry people are having to wait, and having to live in uncomfortable conditions - we're getting on with the job and doing our best to provide enduring certainty for everyone''

He said he empathised with the people who were still facing difficulties but said he was extremely angry at the way some people were characterising the Government.

He said it was incorrect the Government did not care about residents on technical category 3 (TC3) land.

"We and many others are doing a great deal.

"'Hundreds of people in insurance companies, the Earthquake Commission, engineering firms and building firms are doing all they can to provide certainty to the estimated 10,000 residents on TC3 land in Christchurch who will need foundation rebuilds or repairs.

"3Land is being assessed, homes are being fixed, and every day clear insurance pathways are being identified,'' said Mr Brownlee.

He conceded that it was not fast enough for many frustrated residents,

"If we make poor decisions in haste because of this pressure then it will still be our fault in the long run.

"No one will thank us for making bad decisions."

Earlier today, Mr Brownlee was blasted for comments that quake-hit homeowners whose future remains uncertain are "carping and moaning" about their plight.

Red-zone resident Sue Holmes said she hates only two people in this world - her ex-husband and Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

Mr Brownlee was added to her list after he said he was "sick and tired" of hearing quake-hit homeowners complaining.

More than half of respondents said they were still living in quake-damaged homes and were fed up with being ignored.

"I'm a TC3 resident myself and I'm sick of these people carping and moaning," Mr Brownlee said.

He said the survey wasn't a true reflection of the problem. It was "self-selecting" because it was accessible only to those who had internet access and time to "buggerise around on Facebook all day".

When asked to clarify the minister's comments, made to The Press newspaper, Mr Bryant replied: "They were pretty clear, weren't they?"

But the comments sparked fury from Christchurch residents still living in quake-damaged homes.

Mrs Holmes, who is still living in her badly damaged red-zone home in one of the worst-hit streets in Christchurch, was disgusted.

"Brownlee is an absolute idiot," said Mrs Holmes, who is still forced to use a portaloo in her front garden more than 18 months after her house sunk, snapped, and cracked in the February 22, 2011 quake.

"With the way he's acted, and by making comments like this, he must be the most disliked man in Christchurch.

"I only hate two people in this world - my ex-husband and Gerry Brownlee."

She said she was "lucky" that her house was written off so quickly, despite the decision leaving her tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

But at least she had some finality over her future, and had until next April to move out, unlike those left in "TC3 limbo land".

"They can't go look at sections, or new homes. They can't do anything but sit and wait and that's the most stressful thing. They just want a decision so they can get on with their lives."

She said Mr Brownlee needed to "get in the real world" and engage with the desperate people in his home city.

Many others echoed those views on internet discussion forums today.

On a Trade Me thread, Mr Brownlee was described as a dictatorial "plonker" whose comments were "insulting" and "uncalled for".

But one said residents shouldn't be surprised by his attitude because Mr Brownlee was "arrogant" and "abrasive" when he was a woodwork teacher at St Bedes boys school in Christchurch.

"He shouldn't be in charge of anything if this is the opinion he holds of the people he's supposed to be helping," one angry poster said.

On the Christchurch Earthquake Journal facebook page, he also earned the ire of residents.

"The guy is an idiot - simple! Disgusting attitude from a minister who should know better."

Another said: "As a highly paid politician, he should more sensitive."

Labour's earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel called on Mr Brownlee to apologise for his "astonishing attack".

"To tell TC3 residents that they don't understand the magnitude of the disaster in the own city is nothing short of insulting," she said.

"It's his job to listen to and support all Cantabrians. We're all in this together but the minister seems to think the only ones that matter are those who suffer in silence.

"He accuses others of losing sight of the problem, well Gerry Brownlee is losing sight of the people. He is way out of line and needs to say sorry."

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