It’s become a well-accepted fact in Christchurch that wealthier areas of the city received a better deal from government agencies and quicker responses to the disastrous earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 than poorer suburbs.
The feeling runs deep in some places – right down to who got portable toilets first when the need was much greater elsewhere in the city.
The west of the city is where the wealthy live while those on the lowest incomes are to the East. This socio-economic division which overlaps the geographic divide has been exacerbated by 30 years of successive Labour and National government neo-liberal economic policies. Add the earthquakes into the mix (the east was much worse affected than the west) and six years later the contrast between east and west is as stark as two different cities in two different worlds.
National’s Minister of Earthquake Recovery Gerry Brownlee is the MP for Ilam which includes the wealthiest suburbs in Christchurch and Brownlee claims that perceptions the wealthy get a better deal are easy to create but have no substance.
But substance was in plentiful supply last week as it emerged that in the wake of the September 2010 earthquake four properties in the wealthiest suburb of Fendalton (in Brownlee’s electorate) received treatment from the National government cabinet which can only be described as obscenely gold-plated.
The story is here.
While other properties were to be covered by a $140 million land remediation fund National’s cabinet agreed to pay five landowners on “isolated properties” individual payouts well above what they would normally be entitled to.
So what were these property owners entitled to receive?
According to cabinet papers the payouts by EQC in place at the time (2010) would have covered re-levelling of the land which would have meant approximately $20,000 per property.
However cabinet decided to pay these wealthy property owners the to the tune of $595,000 each (sic)
Just to make sure readers understand this – here it is again. Four of Brownlee’s wealthy constituents received $595,000 each in government payouts when they were entitled to just $20,000 each from EQC.
Brownlee is trying to create smoke and confusion around these payments saying they were justified based on circumstances at the time – blah blah.
Yet he can’t obscure the brutal truth that wealthy landowners in Brownlee’s electorate were given massive taxpayer handouts for earthquake damage while others in the city have had to fight tooth and nail, through physical and mental exhaustion to get even a few EQC crumbs.
Brownlee makes the extraordinary statement that “The question simply was what is the fastest way forward for people on that particular stretch of river bank?”
“That particular stretch of riverbank” is in Brownlee’s wealthy electorate – so what about the thousands of other riverbank properties similarly affected in other lower-income parts of the city?
From the stuff report:
EQC Fix project liaison Mel Bourke said there would have been numerous properties in Christchurch which had been damaged to the same extent as the Fendalton four.
The payouts were “not a good look”, she said, with many Christchurch homeowners who had land damage believing they were offered insufficient payments.
EQC has said some red-zone stayers, on land unsuitable to rebuild on after the earthquakes, could expect payments of about $1000 to settle land damage claims
In May, EQC said about 5400 Increased Flooding Vulnerability (IFV) claims would receive a settlement using the diminution in value process. The average payment for IFV was $23,000, but some were as low as $2000.
Some small credit to EQC which now feels embarrassed about the payouts saying they are “not a good look”.
That’s no comfort to anyone else.
Behind it all is the cruel truth that, in the words of National blogger Cameron Slater, National regards Christchurch east voters as “scum” and “useless pricks”.