Sunday, February 26, 2023

Stuart Smith: Coordination, Local Resources and No Red Tape

The scar that Cyclone Gabrielle has left on New Zealand far exceeds the physical damage, it is hard to comprehend the devastation and loss of life and my heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones.

There are some who have lost their homes, and their livelihood, and it will be a mammoth undertaking to get them resettled and back on their feet again.

The enormity of the damage has shocked New Zealand, and the monumental task that lies ahead towards recovery is something that we all face. As we reinstate vital infrastructure, we must also make it as resilient as possible. Quite frankly much of our infrastructure is not up to standard.

After the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes, what worked well and helped speed up recovery was a coordinated response to rebuilding infrastructure and maximizing local resources.

North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery or NCITR, a consortium of engineers and contractors, was set up to coordinate the recovery response; the government made the funds available and freed up the bureaucratic mire that can otherwise drag out large projects.

For instance, the rebuild of State Highway 1 around Kaikoura was completed in two years, without special enabling legislation. It is doubtful that any of the necessary resource consents could have been issued within two years, let alone any road construction.

A similar coordinated approach should be utilized for post-Cyclone Gabrielle recovery efforts and, again, maximize local resources.

Otherwise, we all know that if government is involved, costs go up, productivity goes down and progress slows. And we cannot let this happen; we owe it to the victims to minimise the economic impact as much as possible.

There will be a point when we will have to look at whether the stormwater systems were in the shape they should have been. Were the river fairways kept clear so that the natural gravel could work its way down the river and out to sea as it has for millions of years?

Unfortunately, we saw the latter issue in Canterbury a couple of years ago where the regional council seemed more preoccupied with rivers being in a ‘natural’ state rather than maintaining them to protect adjacent ratepayers’ properties.

Blatant gang looting has further exacerbated an already tragic situation, with gang members emboldened in the belief that their criminal behaviour will elicit little in the way of consequences.

My colleagues Paul Goldsmith and Mark Mitchell, shadow justice and police ministers respectively, have called for a doubling of sentencing for theft and burglary in a state of emergency.

The government’s soft approach to crime and its policy of releasing as many prisoners as possible are responsible for the incredible growth in gang membership and crime.

The prime minister’s announcement of a $50m support package for businesses hit by the cyclone is woefully short on detail, adding to the uncertainty. Four days after the Kaikoura earthquake we introduced a wage subsidy with all the details nailed down.

New Zealand needs leadership and clear messaging, but sadly that is lacking.

Natural disasters are risks that we live with, be they cyclones, earthquakes or tsunamis. All we can do is prepare as best we can.

Stuart Smith is a N Z National Party politician who has been a member of the House of Representatives for the Kaikōura electorate since 2014. This article was first published HERE

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Coming closer to home Stuart, we can count on you to represent the needs of your citizens making do in the storm fractured Marlborough Sounds we hope. We wouldn't like to be relegated to bottom of the list by the North Islanders for whom a natural event has also caused severe disruption to their lives.