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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Creation of community forum welcomed

Creation of community forum welcomed

Last updated 05:00 30/03/2011
A community forum to help rebuild Canterbury is a "promising start", but must be truly representative, community leaders say.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee announced yesterday that 20 people from a cross-section of interest groups would be appointed to the forum within three weeks.

The forum would provide information and advice to the minister and the new Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera).

Hagley-Ferrymead Community Board chairman Bob Todd said the forum seemed like a "good start" for rebuilding Christchurch, as long as it was representative of the community.

"I've said all along that certainly the community has got to be involved in the process ... I think that's a promising start that they are going to engage with community groups."

Todd said some elected councillors and community board members could be appointed to the forum.

Spreydon-Heathcote Community Board chairman Phil Clearwater said the forum was a positive development. He hoped community boards would be involved.

"This city has 40 elected community board members. They're able people, they're already paid for by the ratepayers ... so it's really how we can harness that potential."

Riccarton-Wigram Community Board chairman Mike Mora said community board members would be "ideally placed" to consult with their communities and give feedback.

However, they had been "pushed aside" after last month's earthquake.

"It's very, very frustrating. In fact, we feel like cheats, because we can't do the job we've been elected to do."
Community board members had extensive knowledge of their areas, but none had been asked to help plan the rebuilding process yet, he said.

"I've been on the community board for 20 years. There's nothing in this ward I don't know about."
Burwood-Pegasus Community Board chairwoman Linda Stewart said Cera would not fully understand communities' immediate needs.

"We don't know who will be on this community forum, but I'm happily optimistic that they will include community boards.

"We're the ones who know what our communities need."

Lyttelton-Mt Herbert Community Board chairwoman Paula Smith said Cera needed to ensure local interests were met.

"I hope it will act as a conduit between central government and the community."

Action for Christchurch East organiser Angela Wasley said quake victims had already suffered from too much red tape and bureaucracy.

"Three weeks for them to be announced, another month to find their feet ... it's a positive step, but I do have doubts."

Wasley suggested Christ Church Cathedral's Dean Peter Beck would be an ideal candidate for the forum.

The forum should also include experts from the health, building, legal and insurance industries, with those appointed needing the skills to "hit the ground running".

"We can't have time wastage and, heading into winter, we've got some real urgency to get people sorted. We need experts and we need it to happen fast."

Tom McBrearty, chairman of quake support group CanCERN, said it was difficult to comment on the forum until names and roles were announced.

"I suspect CanCERN will be recognised and asked to perform a specific role. I know nobody from our organisation has been approached personally; it's more a case of `watch this space'."

- The Press

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