THE WEEKEND PRESS COLUMN – 29/12/12
How sweet it has been to revel in the Christmas season in Christchurch, without it being marred by one of Mother Nature’s mad crackers. With the seismic sequence continuing to taper off, CERA’s Roger Sutton has declared 2013 the Year of the Rebuild. The year in which reconstruction and repair supersedes the stream of plans, pop-ups and demolitions. There are encouraging signs that the insurance industry is hitting its straps on the road to residential recovery, although Southern Response – the giant tortoise amongst insurers – is really going to have to lift its game if it seriously intends honouring its completion targets. Meanwhile, the Fletchers Home Repair programme continues to make solid in-roads, with 30,000 full-scope home repairs completed. However, alarm bells are ringing over the quality of work, with more and more homeowners refusing to be pressured into signing-off the work, amid a growing clamour of complaints about repair deficiencies. Just before Christmas, a friend of mine returned home to discover every single room in her house had been painted the wrong colour. Quality assurance must be a top priority for Fletchers in 2013, to ensure its work programme is executed with care and efficiency.
As 2012 draws to a close, some headline moments stand-out for me as Hits and Misses. In what has been an annus horribilis for the Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews spectacularly compounded her perception of being out of touch with the public pulse, with her eyebrow-raising call for an artificial beach to grace Cathedral Square. But it’s the beleaguered Education Minister and her hapless Ministry who take out the gong for biggest self-inflicted public relations disaster of the year, with their ham-fisted mishandling of the Christchurch schools shake-up. It still beggars belief that Hekia Parata and her officials allowed the barking mad idea of merging our four single-sex state schools to grow legs, before it was finally knocked on the head in November. Look for Tony Ryall or Nick Smith to be handed the education portfolio, next month.
In a city riddled with so much transition, turmoil and complexity, Christchurch is blessed with remarkable people who send our spirits soaring. The gap fillers, rubble greeners, crate creators and communal gardeners have spritzed our city with frissons of urban soul. The young and entrepreneurial resolve from the likes of C1 Espresso’s Sam Crofskey and the heritage-loving benevolence of CERES, pledging to restore Peterborough Apartments, help fortify our city’s future fabric. I greatly admire Ngai Tahu’s Mark Solomon for steadfastly refusing to support the litigious luddites from the Maori Council. And I believe the city’s exemplary leader in 2012 has been the CDHB’s David Meates, keeping our health services afloat under extreme circumstances.