John Key expresses frustration at the idiotic delays in releasing the names of the Christchurch dead, many of them days after media identification. The Police excuse boils down to – "we will follow our safety first protocols". In this case "safety" though couched as protecting families from the 'horror' of a mistaken identity is no more than "our fear of being accused of a mistake is more important than the feelings of all those waiting, more important than the impatience of the Prime Minister, and more important than any public interest in freedom of speech".
This morning an industry representative says the Sovereign building company collapse is likely to be the first of many because there is not enough work. Not enough work! When there is a city to rebuild, not to mention $10bn of work repairing leaky homes. Why are they not at work? Because owners of properties, with all the incentives to get things underway, must wait for soft handed lawyers and 9-5 planning staff and myriad inspectors to wind through their blood-sucking processes before practical people can work. Of course there should be building codes for safety. There should be inspectors to enforce them. But otherwise all this "planning" talk is code for paralysing ordinary people in fearful respect for their effete masters.
I can't think of many planned cities people want to live in anyway. Canberra and Brasilia come to mind. Let the owners of Christchurch land build what they can afford, provided it is safe. We are becoming beggars. It is too late to pretend we can spend years being choosers. At first what people build may be humble. When prosperity returns, in a vibrant city without planning blight the temporary will come down, and edifices will go up, because that is what people do in their prosperity and pride.
On the last day of February, during a trip to Christchurch, I raised with a Minister the plight of a friend who needed his computer server to get his business back on its feet. He was with a Christchurch business leader. The friend had new premises sorted. The 14 staff were ready. The government was saying it was going to subsidise wages, but they did not need that to forestall redundancy – they needed to know when they could restart work.
The server was in his car, shut behind a carpark gate within the cordon area.
Both men were utterly frustrated, having been bounced back and forth between Civil Defence and the Police. They'd offered to put together and pay a specialist team, including engineers and safety experts to go to premises where critical records could be retrieved. They would distract no rescue worker or other official.
No one could give them a decision or even tell them who would make such a decision.
The Minister undertook to enquire, and called back promptly, I was told I could reassure the business people that a plan would be announced that Monday evening that would cover organised access.
Yesterday the friend dropped in to our office in Wellington. He is still not operating. 10 days later his car is still where it was, ready to drive out from the carpark. He has not been allowed to take his own experts in to retrieve the material. You can read about his efforts here and here and here.
Ministers spend what will be hundreds of millions in grants to help employers keep their employees in Christchurch, yet do not have the courage or the drive to insist that ordinary people get access to their own property and capacity to operate. All are terrified of being held "accountable" should anyone permitted to do so make the wrong personal decision to take a risk in order to get their business going.
This morning we hear that the lords of Christchurch will allow access to a third zone, but not much of the "red zone" of the central city. No one dares suggest there might be a human rights issue at stake. In words of Boris Johnson I've cited previously there is a "new divinity that commands the adoration of the governing classes, as nannying and multiple breasted as Diana of Ephesus. Her name is Phobia and sacrifices are being made at her altar"
Am I the only person to find all this strict control evidence of our national weakness and disgrace? Is anyone else sick of stirring tales of the effectiveness of the control of the city, and "the authorities" plans to look after the helpless people, while those who want to help themselves are treated as the problem.
Many of the stories are thinly disguised boasting about having and wielding the power to boss others around. Politicians on our screens every night talk about their plans and their roles. Meanwhile, the people who must do the reinstatement work, who want to get to work, who are willing to absorb the risks or manage them, if they are not to spend their next few years beholden to others, are supposed to feel grateful and respectful to their masters.
I was sad 10 days ago to see the huge manpower occupied in making the cordon effective. All those able young muscles standing for days and nights just saying "no", when a few diggers and thousands of iron bars and shovels and brooms could have seen a transformation of their immediate neighbourhood. Why are they still necessary? Jane Bowron tells us in her diary articles – because of fear of looters. An army of people employed to stop honest people from getting their own property, out of fear of criminals. Why are the criminals not terrified of the honest, and the law? The answer is simple, the nannies have emasculated the law.
They've also emasculated themselves. They will respond with dramatic gestures – like National States of Emergency, and laws that suspend laws. But they are too scared to do the only thing that will truly restore their manhood – give it back to ordinary people first.