The Christchurch earthquakes that violently shook the ground underneath our feet did not distinguish between the rich and poor, East and West.
We all felt fearful and anxious for the future and our only comfort was that we were in it together.
The earthquakes reminded us of the value of belonging to strong communities that cared for each other at the moment of need.
We moved forward united, sharing our ideas about the future of our beloved city with the sort of vigour and commitment that was never seen before.
But the pain and opportunities that came after the earthquakes were not spread equally and today we stay divided as a city of haves and have-nots.
So, how did that happen?
It happened the moment the government decided the city’s anchor projects should be around building big projects like the convention centre rather than rebuilding communities.
It happened while we were too busy fighting the EQC and our own individual insurance companies to realize that our local democracy was under attack.
It happened the moment the mayor we elected to fight on our behalf resigned herself to the fact that her hands were tied by the central government and there was nothing she could do to change it.
Is our mayor passionate and hardworking? Yes, absolutely.
Does she have the best interest of Christchurch at heart? Yes, definitely.
Is she the right person to lead the city into its next chapter? No, not really.
I have sat through three mayoral debates by now and in every debate, Lianne Dalziel, has spent most of her time trying to convince the audience how little power she has.
Yes, it is true that our mayor has only one vote but she also has a powerful voice that she can use to challenge and change the system.
The mayoral candidate, John Minto, is absolutely right to say that the moment to be bold and ambitious is now.
A can’t-do attitude is not good enough for Christchurch. We must set our expectations higher and rebuild a city that will be more than just a “pleasant late-20th century city”.
We need our future mayor to have the courage to seek a clear mandate from the people of Christchurch to put communities before corporations.
Yes, the central government is powerful but so are our collective votes.
The cost sharing agreement must be re-negotiated so that ratepayers do not end up subsidizing loss-making projects that ultimately benefit big corporations.
Why can’t we put our council workers on living wage and make our rivers swimmable? Why can’t we keep our assets?
What’s wrong with free buses that save us money by reducing the cost of roading projects? And finally, why can’t we make sure that everyone has a roof over their head?
All of the above goals are achievable and befitting of a modern, forward thinking city.
The rebuild so far says nothing about the incredible energy and creativity that emerged after the earthquakes.
The concrete and glass monsters rising up in the city centre say nothing about the history of this magical place and the true aspirations of its communities.
But it is not too late to change path.
All we need is a mayor who has the will to dream and the courage to fight.
To achieve more, we must expect more. Our current mayor has no fight left in her.
We need a new visionary mayor to take our city forward and make it a world-leading people’s city.
That mayor is John Minto.