There is significantly good news coming out of Christchurch from this week just passed, for which we can all be grateful for. After several long months of continuing shakes, the announcement of Roger Sutton as the new head of the CERA is a waft of fresh air that even the government ministers must have been holding their breath for. It sounds as though the ‘powers that be’ have been hanging out for him to make a move, and from his brief interview last week, he sounded like a person that can not only talk about getting things done, but that he actually might get them done too.
Sutton is a youngish chap, of an age that we would once have called middle aged (he’s just 46) but he certainly comes across as being young and energetic. Goodness me – he rides a bicycle! noted all the media outlets, mouths agog that such outlandish behaviour could be countenanced by someone purporting to be a CEO of a Major Electrical Company. Probably more to the point however, is that there is no reason why everyone in Christchurch does not ride a bike all day long, with the possible exception of those on Banks Peninsula. Christchurch is, after all, a very flat place. Well, flat with little mounds of silt now, but nothing that should stop anyone from strapping themselves onto a 10-speed.
In the further news from the weekend, the actions of Cantabrians over the weekend, where they pinned up 10,000 ideas for the city rebuilding, fills our Architectural Centre hearts with joy. Following on from out last AGM, where Peter Beaven spoke to an adoring throng, it has become clear that the only way to run a rebuild of a city like this is with the resounding support of the people. A top-down, government-led, Nanny-knows-best approach from Minister Brownlee was always going to strike ire into the hearts and minds of the few Cantabrians remaining unscathed down there.
As the old joke has it, the most scary words in the world are “I’m from the Council and I’m here to help” – normally setting off a chain of events that bring about the complete opposite. The news that “Council staff will be engaging with the community in a number of ways during the weeks and months to come,” as Mayor Parker said, is a welcome response, but the best line of all also belonged to Parker:
“This central city plan will only truly be successful if the people of this city are behind it.”
That’s the game-changer right there. And with 10,000 ideas pinned up on post-it notes, and council staff frantically combing them to see if there is a common thread, there is hope yet still to come. Ideas such as those of the Eye of the Fish, who suggested that perhaps Christchurch be closed down and abandoned as a ghost town, were clearly just rumour-monging and troll-like – clearly there is no way the Cantabs are going to go quietly into the night, and they intend to rebuild a city finer than before. Different, and not as old, but fine, none the less.