Should the people of Christchurch prepare to kiss goodbye once and for all to the vision they expressed for their city through the massive Share an Idea consultation back in 2011? It appears vested interests, impatience, fear and political ill-discipline are aligning to scupper the last pieces of the ‘An Accessible City’ plan for Christchurch’s central city transport network.
It’s no surprise Gerry Brownlee appears to be cheerleading this betrayal of the community’s vision, as he has long placed the wishes of his developer-constituency above those of the people. What’s more surprising and troubling is it appears for the first time city councillors are also now poised to abandon the people of Christchurch as they prepare to capitulate on the An Accessible City plan.
Recent reports indicate that the majority of frustration with the plan comes from the disruption currently being caused by roadworks. This is an understandable frustration, but it is also a temporary effect. In essence, we see the Council preparing to let go of a long-term vision that will define the shape of the city for decades to come, in order to mitigate the nuisance of current road works. That is short-sighted in the extreme. We all knew recovering from the earthquakes would take time and patience – how many times did we hear that it took 20 years it took to rebuild many European cities in the wake of the blitz – but now, as patience wears thin, it seems some Councillors are getting the jitters. To his credit, even Brownlee has recently acknowledged the need for patience as many of these problems will resolve themselves as works are completed
Our leaders may tell us they’re not abandoning the plan altogether, just looking at compromises. They forget (perhaps unsurprisingly given how many of them were not there when the people spoke clearly through Share an Idea) that the current An Accessible City Plan is already a compromise. It has been compromised and watered down through successive iterations. The City Council had developed an admirable central city transport plan, based on Share an Idea, in 2011 which was bolder than the current version. This was later taken over by Brownlee under the auspices of CERA, turned into the transport chapter for the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, and amended to give much greater weight to the developers of the central city – at the expense of the democratic contributions of the thousands of citizens who had shared their ideas.
This watering down led to a greater focus on car parking and car access. Of course once it become a Recovery Plan, Brownlee had the final word and further contributions from the people were stymied. It follows then, however disappointingly, that as CERA has morphed into Otakaro Ltd, the developers have found a new lever to further bend the ear of the Council and apply further