Editorial: A time for making new starts

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee. Photo / Natalie Slade
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee. Photo / Natalie Slade

To their credit, most Cantabrians have accepted with a mixture of resignation and grace the Government's proposal to buy them out of their homes, ravaged by nine months of earthquake and aftershock.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee announced this week that homeowners in the so-called red zone can either sell their homes - or just the land they sit on - to the Government for its current rating value.

The announcement was received with relief by many, but others felt the rating value (the last rating valuation was carried out in 2007) was too low, even though Christchurch property prices were at a peak in that year.

Such reactions, doubtless born of quick calculations in a state of stress, are understandable and it bears saying that the dissenters will have attracted media attention out of proportion to their numbers.

But it is to be hoped that, after more sober reflection, any disgruntlement would fade.

For by any reasonable standard, the people of Christchurch have been well-served by the Government and the taxpayers who will have to fund their decisions.

The nation's sympathies have consistently been with the shaken people of the south since September last year. As news emerged of each aftershock, never mind the killer quake in February and big jolts as late as this week, everyone has been appalled at the strain to which Cantabrians have been subjected.

Equally, no one can fail to have been profoundly impressed by the stoicism with which they have borne their trials or by the repeated demonstrations of community and can-do spirit that the catastrophes have elicited.

Now, though, even as the earth continues to shudder, the time has come to plan for the future, to accept that some of the damage wrought will never be repaired. It is time to speak of making new starts.

Inevitably, few people will emerge from the process without sustaining a cut in their quality of life. That is how cataclysm works. But the final cost to the Government of the buyout will be between $485 million and $635 million, and will be another call on the $5.5 billion earthquake recovery fund, which represents 8 per cent of GDP.

These are not small amounts of money, and the costs of the earthquake are hitting us all hard at one of the tightest times in the country's economic history: the effects of the global financial crisis are far from behind us; the South Canterbury Finance bailout is a present drain on the Government's coffers; the Pike River tragedy has taken a financial toll which does not match the human toll but still has to be paid for; the earthquake seems likely to swallow an insurance company, a risk the Government is underwriting.

The Rugby World Cup in the spring will come with a price tag, although it seems likely that it, like the earthquake recovery itself, will provide a short-term fillip to economic growth.

In such circumstances, it behoves the people of Christchurch to count their blessings. Taxpayers do not seek - nor do Cantabrians owe - a debt of gratitude. They are being looked after as they should be, as we all would expect to be in their situation.

But they know better than any of us that nothing can make it completely right again. What is offered is fair and reasonable, a solid basis for making a new go of things. They will put the silted past behind them with the blessing of all of us.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 25 May 2017 05:34:22 Processing Time: 540ms