The Christchurch Cathedral has become a symbol of the
battle some Christchurch residents will face in their
lives. Photo from ODT files.
National overwhelmingly won the party vote in
Christchurch and the wider Canterbury area in 2011 by promising
to get the rebuild of the earthquake-damaged city under way.
Despite the Government pouring billions of dollars into the
rebuild, political editor DeneMackenzie finds not everyone is
happy with progress.
Driving into Christchurch from the south, I notice new houses
dominate the landscape from Rolleston, through to Lincoln and
Halswell. It looks like a new city has sprung up like a
phoenix from the ashes of the earthquake-damaged city.
Rolleston, in particular, is meeting the dreams set way back
in the late 1960s by former Labour prime minister Norman
Kirk, who believed Rolleston would become a satellite city,
feeding workers into the central business district and
While Mr Kirk dreamed of a satellite area of blue-collar
workers supporting a growing heavy engineering industry, the
earthquakes have found Rolleston being inhabited by wealthier
residents with the means to escape their damaged or
demolished homes because they had the means to fight for
their EQC and insurance payments.
New schools, shops and houses start in the west before the
reality of the situation greets you east of Cathedral Square,
where the damaged Christchurch Cathedral sits rotting and
crumbling. From the front, the cathedral looks beyond repair
and, in fact, the Anglican diocese wants the cathedral
Two former MPs from opposing political views - Jim Anderton
and Philip Burdon - are leading a campaign to save the
cathedral and have it rebuilt.
And from behind, standing in Worcester St, you can see why
the two men are passionate about saving the historic
building. It appears undamaged from the rear, although
internal damage can be seen from the front.
Back on the road into Christchurch, Lincoln has developed
from a small country town into a suburb with row after row of
similar houses, with colours and roofs almost identical. The
same sight greets visitors to Wigram, where Ngai Tahu, and
others, have developed former paddocks into housing estates.
Talking to people gathered around cafes and malls in the west
of Christchurch, life is going well for many of them. Some
spoken to increased their mortgage to buy in a new, undamaged
area, but most had jobs or had retirement income.
At Hornby, the mood changed slightly standing outside the
Pak'n Save supermarket, just inside the entrance of The Hub.
While some of the shoppers in the packed mall were happy
about their situation, Sydenham resident Daryl Cussak was out
of work, out of patience and running out of time to get his
family rehoused in something suitable.
His house is leaning on one side, and to rebuild piles have
to be driven well below the water table, which he said had
He had hoped normal drainage would suffice but was told he
would need to spend more money than planned on a deep drain
on the street side of his section to capture the water. He is
not alone in waiting to get his house fixed, four winters
after the earthquakes.
However, driving into Linwood, turning across to Wainoni and
along Pages Rd to New Brighton is where reality hits the
New Brighton was already a fading star of Christchurch, but
the circumstances in which many residents still find
themselves living is a shock. Houses are munted, yet show
signs of life as residents in the east make the best of bad
circumstances. Streets have disappeared.
Most do not have the means to fight the authorities for help.
Some were uninsured, and some just despair at anything good
ever happening again.
Danny Yung, who runs a dairy-takeaways shop just off what
passes as the main shopping area, says people get by but he
notices a change of pace when benefits are paid. Some of his
friends and customers live from pay day to pay day. The
overwhelming feeling is National has much to lose on
While some people are doing very well - in fact sales of
high-end new cars are booming in Christchurch - others are
When the Otago Daily Times visited the city in 2011,
Labour supporters were voting National because they believed
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee was going to get
things done. Mr Brownlee is a big person with a bigger
Race-day punters at Riccarton, the few attending the first
day of the Grand National week and ensconced in the public
bar, had a different view of Mr Brownlee three years later.
But Labour is also not doing well. Voters, at least the ones
who feel left behind, believe all political parties have
abandoned them. Labour has been announcing policies around
buying out red-zoned properties in Canterbury of 100% of
their 2007 rateable value. But that could be years away.
The Green Party wants to warm up Christchurch homes, but
voters in the east say they have homes not worth warming up.
They want to shift. Voters in the west already have new
What was particularly galling for some was the Greens
planning to spend $462 million on smart transport solutions
in Christchurch over five years.
Spending $20 million progressing the Avon-Otakaro River Park
and another $15 million on climate change adaptation missed
the point completely with Christchurch.
Houses, houses and more houses are needed, not cycleways,
parks, and light transport options.
At a glance
• Houses - not parks, cycleways or light rail
transport - remain the biggest issue.
• Christchurch Central National Party MP Nicky
Wegner likely to lose her seat following boundary changes
favouring Labour, but will be returned to the list
• Port Hills Labour MP Ruth Dyson is at risk of
losing some of her majority because of boundary changes
favouring National Party candidate Nuk Korako. Ms Dyson in
not on the list and must win her seat to return to Parliament
as Labour's longest-serving MP.
• National's party vote majority at risk because
of perceived inaction over fixing housing problems in
• Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee's
reputation as a man who gets things done has been hurt.