Sue Wells – The New Canterbury Tales

April 14, 2011

The night before Wellington #eqnz

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 10:35 pm

Our first community board/council meeting since the Quake.

The agenda (formal) contained the minutes of agendas long since rendered irrelevant.

As per normal, the Board Chairs (there are 8) turned up to address their agenda items. Unusually. today, they were asked to reflect on things outside of the agenda which had happened in their wards.

“We’ve had a community gathering to discuss the recovery plan we are creating”, said one. Others spoke of new business which had arisen – hordes of people arriving in their areas which had never been anticipated, causing problems for long-standing residents and how were we going to fix that.

One spoke of the abandonment of Akaroa – it is open for business, there is no destruction, no debris. Come and play, the message. Don’t be afraid – the roads are fine, you can even flush your toilet there. Bonus!

And then from the conciliatory community board stuff into a debate about trivia.

How I loathe Westminster style debate when it comes to sorting things out. It might be a fun academic exercise – but if you want to talk about listening, communicating, discussing, reconciling -the quickest way to destroy a camaraderie of people is to announce “now it’s time to debate – lets’ see where our differences are.” We need to move to a new form of standing orders, to a board style discussion and understanding of each other’s points of view. (My opinion this and I do have the right to express it here.)

Into morning tea. I took a text – returned a call. A business owner from town. Wanted to re-establish in the burbs. Was fighting bureaucracy. A minute in, burst into tears. “breath, breath, it’s all shit isn’t it. It’s not that we’re out to get you – it’s just shit.”

20 minutes. Straight back in to a different meeting, but with the same people who by now were in Westminster mode.

A couple of hours there, then raced off on my bike to voice ads. Fought the traffic. Raced back, hot and sweaty, to a meeting that was even less inclined to hear or listen. Why bother, I wondered, if when you say something aloud, you get sniped at and bitched at – or if you don’t, someone else does.

We’re human. That’s what happens. But it isn’t right, and we need to quietly say “I felt totally unappreciated and why did I bother wasting my time coming back to be your audience?” Or, “They may be difficult and unpleasant, but I want to hear what they have to say because they reflect a whole lot of people’s opinions.”

I struggled today. I struggled with the phone call I had, and then not being able to go off somewhere and deal with it. It coloured everything else. I took another 3 texts and another 3 phone calls on different subjects but all from grieving people.


Came home. (Had a howl on the way. Had one at council too, in response to someone suggesting a son-et-lumiere entrance would be a lovely way to start our discussion charette we are planning. I don’t think the person concerned would understand just how much I do not want to be taken back and reminded of what I have lost, thank you all the same.)

Was a cow to kids on arrival.

Ran, with dog. 8 ks on foot – 5.50 per k. 20 ks on bike today. Bonus.

Son Chris texted me about 45 minutes later, saying ‘Fire lit. Wine or tea? Five minutes before you get home – just let me know.”

Had another wee blub.

Dear friend came for tea. We have sat and chatted and downloaded and debriefed and now are sitting here and I am writing while they read and it is good.

Tomorrow at stupid o’clock I go to Wellington for the day and I am really scared about that. How silly am I?

We have earthquakes in Christchurch. They only dream about them in the capital.



  1. Thanks for your refreshingly open and honest observations (as ever…)

    Definitely agree with your comments re. ‘Westminster’ vs ‘boardroom’ type discussions. Also, with your earlier comments regarding the way to use new communication channels (such as blogging, Twitter and Facebook) for augmenting the community consultation and communication process; especially as we all get our head round the new local and national government framework that’s now being finalised.

    If we go through the next few years without coming up with a few improvements in the way we go about things then that’d be a great shame in my book… I’m sure there are a lot of things we’re all looking forward to moving on from post-quake, but quite a few we’d do well to keep – including putting aside petty differences, abandoning petty sniping and keeping minor daily irritations in perspective.

    Not many blogs I’m a fan of but this one could be an exception – keep up the good work 🙂

    Comment by Martin Luff — April 15, 2011 @ 2:23 am | Reply

  2. My dad who is a quiet unassuming man said to me, the week after the quake, “when the going gets tough…”. I filled in the rest. I remember it every day when things overwhelm me.

    Chin up, go easy and keep writing!

    You’re doing an admirable job and your blog posts are something I look forward to reading every day.

    Comment by Suzy — April 15, 2011 @ 8:27 am | Reply

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