It has been wonderful listening to the ideas which have been shared at the Tuesday Club over the past few weeks.
The desire to embrace and promote change has been a common theme. This City has experienced massive challenges over the past few years and each time we have said to each other “this will change things”. Then, most things went back to the way they were before. This time we have to avoid this happening again.
The economy has been reset. We need to do the same with the way this City operates, and the way we plan things. We need to plan together as the South Island.
Let us consider overseas observations of New Zealand during the Covid 19 crisis. We are a poster country in the world. In the Guardian on Friday there was this article by Dr Nick Long an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science who is conducting a survey of UK coronavirus lockdown experiences:
The article concludes with Professor Long saying:
If New Zealand teaches us anything, it’s not that bubbles work. It’s something more important: that an ethic of support, compassion and mutual understanding will be key to living well in the coming months.
We should be proud of the fact that we are seen as world leaders by others. Now we need to plan the next steps. We need to support local businesses and jobs. We need to support business owners as they all struggle to get their heads around just how exactly they can restructure their business and retain as many jobs as is possible. This restructuring must also be based on just how we address global warming and the role of each one of us in it. We need to plan how we support those who will be made unemployed.
This City’s residents have developed a resilience, case hardened by our experiences of insensitive bureaucracies imposed on us by Governments. We can still watch bureaucracies wasting scarce resources unnecessarily. We have had to fight EQC and our insurance companies, often on our own. Many of us have been ripped off by supposed professionals and tradies. A section of our community was murdered by one man who reflected an attitude which sickens most of us. The long-term impact on this community of mostly new citizens will take generations to heal.
This all makes us more accustomed to change and challenges. We can get ourselves operating and ready much quicker than most cities and towns.
Last week’s Tuesday Club session, which was really challenging, brought out a number of wonderful ideas. During the week emails have been exchanged with people debating and discussing how to follow up on what was talked about on Zoom. This sort of healthy debate is exactly what we need. This City has the capacity to bounce back from Covid 19 quicker than most.
So, what do we have to do differently?
Firstly, it was interesting to reflect on the fact that there were four old fashioned planners on the Zoom last week. We need to consider that the City has to focus on emphasising the role in our City for properly trained planners, and sensible community advocates within CCC. I have had a wonderful relationship with many planners. Not “effects based” planners who have been the norm in the last few decades. Planners who are deeply committed to their community is what we need. An essential function of Local Government is to have seriously good planners who balance community, and the environment’s, demands and needs. It was interesting to hear Jim Lunday observe that CCC does not have a trained planner at the top table at the Council.
When I was at the Council there was always the a City Planner at executive level. It is one of the fundamental functions of LocaI Government. I remember several chief planners at CCC, John Dryden and Mike Theelen, with great affection. Both trained under the Town and Country Planning Act. Both were more than capable of debating any planning matter. Often with great passion. Both had very good staff planners. John used to walk the streets at lunch time, observing what was happening and keeping his eye on what was changing in the City he loved. It’s time for planners to walk the streets again. Good planners are passionate about where they live.
One theme which continues to be repeated is that this is a city of villages. The Council is the amalgamation of 52 separate Councils. Each of these represented a village. Now is the time for these villages to be rediscovered. For villages to be redesigned. It is time for a consultative journey to be taken with those who live in the village they can relate to. For too long the owners of Malls have driven planning. Of course, the Malls are an integral part of the City. However, in most cases they are not the centres of communities. The centres are often schools, libraries, community centres, sports clubs and locally owned shopping centres.
The Economist in a brilliant article on the 11th of June wrote an article headed:
Great cities after the pandemic
How much harm has covid-19 done to large Western cities?
In it there were some comments which, although they relate to large Cities, are really relevant to this City. I will break them down into sections:
Such quietness (they were referring to how big cities have slowed down) poses a grave threat to cities, especially the big, global ones. Much of the joy of suburban life (for a village) derives from the houses and gardens that are more affordable there. The pleasure of village life is the peace and the countryside. But cities thrive on their busy streets, restaurants and theatres, which are now quiet or closed. That is a loss for urban consumers, and a calamity for the many people, often immigrants, who sell services.
The virus has attacked the core of what makes these cities vibrant and successful. They prosper not so much because of what they do for businesses, but because they cram together talented people who are fizzing with ideas. Americans in cities with more than 1m people are 50% more productive than those elsewhere.
Then the writer analysed the role of Cities:
Cities remain invaluable as places where people can build networks and learn how to collaborate. The brain-workers now logging into Zoom meetings from commuter towns and country cottages can do their jobs because they formed relationships and imbibed cultures in corporate offices. Their heads are still in the city, though their feet are not. Even a socially distanced, half-full office is essential for teaching new hires how a company works. If offices facilitate chit-chat and gossip, they are functioning well. Answering emails can be done from home.
The hope is that, even if bankers and programmers stop coming into town, cities will adjust. Young people, who are at less risk from covid-19 and less worried about crime, could suddenly discover that life in the big smoke is affordable again.
To encourage that, cities need to run themselves for the post-Covid era. They are already grappling with how to move millions of people when nobody wants to squeeze onto crowded buses and trains. Some have bold plans for expanded networks of bike paths, and have erected plastic barriers to encourage walkers to occupy the roads. This is encouraging. But cities that fear commuters will drop trains and buses for private cars, clogging the roads, would do even better to manage demand by pricing driving and parking more highly.
Then the final paragraph summarised the challenge for every Country and City:
National governments and states will need persuading that cities should have more power, especially as many will also be begging for money. They should step back anyway. Great cities are obnoxious, but they are normally big contributors to national budgets. And the trick they perform for their countries is not just economic. Cities are where people learn to live in a modern, open society. They are machines for creating citizens. ■
I think this City should lead the way in New Zealand showing how we could emerge from Covid 19. We must collaborate to succeed. This needs to be led from the top. This isn’t about left or right ideas. I have always been attracted to the political saying “I’m neither left, nor right. I’m in front”.
Lets get in front…
Let’s stop arguing about rating levels. Let’s stop pointing fingers and blaming people. Our elected reps need to share their power with the streets, where we, the ratepayers, live. It’s about requiring our political leaders in both central and Local Government working with their communities encouraging their being solutions for this City, and region, and supporting us getting on with it. We must re-discover the essence of what made us the People’s Republic of Christchurch and create a 2020 version of it.
I’m up to it. Are you? It starts with us demanding change until it happens; and that the ethic of support, compassion and mutual understanding mentioned in the Guardian article will be the key to us living well in the coming months.