In the last three days, my blog has had over 6,000 hits.
The attention has been generated not by the heart of what it was about, which was the thought process going into land retreat decisions, and the reasons why that has slowed – it was attracted by a couple of statistics which have caused great debate in our community.
The debate has been about whether the statistics should have been released or not, and if so, by whom.
The blog was reported on the front page of the Press in print, on its website, on the front page of the Herald, led the news on TV1, made it to RNZ, TV3, and I also fielded calls from a number of other stations. I referred them all to Roger Sutton and to the Minister – the media were all interested in their figures, and I had no desire to be used a piece of local colour to pad out stories on a slow news day.
Comments from people who have actually read my blog have been largely but not universally supportive.
People who only heard about it, particularly with TV One’s coverage, have been much less complimentary.
Phone calls to my home (six in total) have ranged from completely in support (reader) to “you’re an effing maggot for terrifying my children” (tv one viewer) and touched all the bases in between.
Feedback on the “retreat” part of the blog has been almost universally positive, and shared with wide numbers of people and groups. The closest to a negative is “not specific enough” or “vague”. As I’m just sharing the information I can’t do much about that.(My writing style also attracted some negatives but the bad news is – it is how it is and it’s not changing. Sorry.)
Feedback on whether or not I should have put those figures in my blog at all is much more mixed. Those in the yes camp were just glad to have them out there. Those against either didn’t want to know or thought I was overstepping my role. One or two thought like mother always said – if you can’t say something nice, you should say anything at all.
In my opinion one of the biggest issues facing the city going forward is how the Council, CERA, and the Crown handle information. In my opinion, it’s neither reasonable nor sensible to expect information to sit politely in a back room awaiting a nicely news release typed by diligent communications professionals.
Whether those in the know like it or not, this is the first major natural disaster in the world which is being reported as much by social media as it is by the old school systems, and the time frame on them is completely different.
We saw it all over Facebook after September, the chatter every time an aftershock rocked us. (One did just then – a tiddler – about a 3.7 I’m guessing, which is what we all did.) We saw Rise Up Christchurch spring up. We saw the twitterverse fly into action. Bloggers have emerged all over the place. All of us have information and experiences, and if the information is public – it’s going to get out there.
People’s expectations about the level of available information are also completely different. Google has changed our world. Links and attribution are non-negotiable.
One of the clear messages I have picked up over the last few days is “even if there’s nothing new to tell us – please tell us there’s nothing new to tell us, or we think information is being withheld.”
Another opinion I am beginning to form is that we have all been barraged with so much information that we forget what we knew, or it misses us completely. People who aren’t from here may not grasp just how hard it is to assimilate complicated information when you are still living through a trauma of this type.
It’s not just the aftershocks that do your head in. It’s the personal stresses of dealing with broken houses, broken homes, broken families, the EQC circuit. Today I had two separate conversations where people have told me their spouse is reducing their work hours just to attempt to progress their EQC claim.
In the middle of that we are consulting on the future planning for our city – which is great, and we need to be doing that, we need to be moving forward – and we are doing that as people are starting to hit the really hard part, where they have simply run out of puff.
I spoke at length to day with a woman who rang me very upset at what I’d written. She just didn’t want to hear that there might be more aftershocks because she has nobody who is supporting her. She is very traumatised by everything that has happened, and her friends, in her opinion, find her anxiety tiresome. She feels a burden. She has stopped talking to them. She’s had enough of Christchurch now, if it isn’t over. She wants to move on.
Now is the time when we who can need to look around us and reach out even more into our community and into our social circles. We need to be looking to support the people who really need us. We also need to be accepting of people whose circumstances make it the right choice for them to go away for a while.
Anxiety is not abnormal in situations like this. What feeds it is a question that I think is at the heart of today’s great debate. For some, anxiety is fed by the absence of knowledge. For others, it is knowing the reality of what is going on. In a democracy, generally speaking, information is provided and people are given the opportunity to filter it themselves.
I think it’s time we had a big community catch up on information, so that people who want it have it, and also have the chance to let the powers that be know what it is they want to know, and get an understanding of when they can have it, while acknowledging that in this dynamic environment timeframes are a bit of a moveable feast.
I heard someone remark yesterday that in the absence of information – you find emotion.
Bring on the information I say. Do you agree?