By Rev Mike Coleman
On Behalf of WeCan!
and the many Cantabrians who are struggling to be heard. Written in November 2011. The media would not publish it.
From the centre of three earthquakes we write this letter to you, the people of New Zealand.
… Can we ask you to listen to us?
Please hear our hearts’ cry.
We would like you to know what is really happening for the people of Canterbury.
What you have been led to believe is not the reality for thousands of Cantabrians.
There has been dishonesty in the way the Government has portrayed their handling of people affected by the earthquakes. They are not telling the truth.
There were never 11,000 sections ready for more than 5,000 displaced households as stated by Mr Brownlee on a street corner in June. There is no affordable land in Canterbury for many of these people. Our Government, on your behalf, are forcing thousands from their land with no hope of being able to purchase new land. This will become another dark reality in our history and we are the generation allowing this to happen.
Rateable value is not market value. Mr Brownlee’s statement to our nation that ‘the offers are extremely fair’ is dishonest. He has the facts in front of him and he knows for over 2000 people rateable value is not the value of their home’s equity. Yet he persists in telling you the opposite. He is not telling the truth.
The Government knows people throughout Canterbury are in major battles with their insurance companies. The Government has left us to fight these corporates on our own. Elderly New Zealanders are being financially slaughtered by corporate giants; many Cantabrians are in this terrible fight. These insurance companies who have been receiving our full replacement premiums for decades are arguing over fine print to minimise their responsibility. There is a level of dishonesty flowing through many insurance claims. They break their own Fair Insurance Code by failing to act in good faith with openness and fairness in their dealings with clients. Their secrecy and now their escalation of premiums will mean billions will flow from this country in the decades to come. We New Zealanders need to stand up and demand a fair deal from our insurance industry. We need the government to stand up for all New Zealanders in this fight, but instead they collude with the insurance companies in back room deals.
Many Cantabrians now have their land branded and stigmatised. Some areas with homes hardly affected by the quakes are being forced off their land and other areas where most homes are seriously hit must stay on their land. It is reasonable and fair for people to know why. The government needs to be more honest and transparent about the full logic behind these decisions.
Cantabrians throughout our region have been asking, pleading for open dialogue with this Government. There has been and is a systematic shutdown from Mr Brownlee and this government to the people of Canterbury. Key decisions for our future are made without consultation. Our heritage is being destroyed in the inner city. Our houses and magnificent trees are being cleared in the red zone with no thought to the future. We have asked for a Memorial River Park to be created to honour those who have died and those who have left their land due to the earthquakes. This reserve will be a testament to what has happened here in Canterbury. All we get is silence. The lack of listening to our people is frightening. We have zero say or control on what is taking place on this land of ours.
New Zealand, we know this is hard to hear. We know our ‘quake struggles’ since 4 September 2010 have been immense. We know many of you wish it would just go away.
We also know that this letter is the reality.
There is an elephant in the room of this nation and it is Canterbury.
Please do not shut yourself off to our plight.
Please back us when you hear us battling on so many fronts.
We are ordinary kiwis like you.
We are not wanting something we do not deserve.
We want a reasonable outcome considering the premiums and levies we have paid for decades.
We want an open and fair process. This is all any of you would ever ask for.
To make this happen, we need independent advocacy to support us who are battling. The Ombudsman is not resourced or able to meet this need.
We need an independent Advocacy Commission.
We are asking the Government in this letter to implement this body on our behalf. We are asking them to do what they said in their June cabinet papers they would do, provide some way to a mediation and disputes process. This advocacy commission is vital for fair outcomes for all.
Please New Zealand, hear this reality and get behind us. Support us. We are also doing this for you. We are paving the way in case you are struck by a disaster of this magnitude.
From this day on let this be our catch cry,
We will listen to the concerns of people in this nation,
We will strive to seek fairness and justice for every man, woman and child in this wonderful country of ours, Aotearoa, New Zealand.