For a city recovering from a major disaster like the Canterbury earthquakes, all the evidence suggests that simply rebuilding buildings and restarting businesses is not the end of the recovery journey.
The lasting impact of the trauma of the disaster and the long, grinding recovery that follows can have lasting mental health impacts on our people. And this is especially true for our young people.
I’ve spoken to many parents and teachers who tell me of the real mental health impacts the quakes and their aftermath have had on young people in Christchurch, from anxiety to depression to developmental delays.
That’s why I’m so proud of the Government’s Mana Ake programme, which gives every child in Canterbury access to a trained mental health worker through their schools. This policy was actually a personal mission of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and the Government worked closely with the CDHB and their mental health experts in designing its details.
So far, 2030 students have received help individually and a further 2070 students have received help in a group. That’s thousands of young people getting the mental health support they need. I’ve personally met with some of these young people and their families and heard them talk about what a huge difference having access to counselling, and being able to learn coping skills, has made in their lives. One mother told me of the total transformation in her son and how it has helped their whole family.
The success of this programme shows what we can achieve when we take mental health seriously.
Nine years on from the September earthquake, one of the most difficult issues still remaining for people in our city is the case of on-sold overcap properties.
This is where a home is damaged in the earthquakes, has an EQC claim or repair, and is then on-sold, only for it to be discovered there is still damage that was missed or not fixed properly, that pushes the home over the statutory cap on EQC payments. For years this issue has trapped some Canterbury homeowners in limbo – they can’t get private insurance to cover it as they aren’t the original owner and they can’t get further EQC payouts beyond the cap.
Recently, our government has stepped in to help people who have been trapped for far too long. We’ve put $300 million dollars on the table for ex gratia payments, above the EQC cap, to people trapped in an on-sold mess. This funding will help people be able to finally repair their homes and get on with their lives.
Claimants will have 12 months to get their homes checked and apply for funding. Homeowners will have 12 months to make a claim to EQC for defective repairs or previously undetected damage. EQC will then work with the homeowners to agree a payment amount so repairs can be made.
This will change lives for people who have been trapped for years and help people get a sense of hope back for their future.
A major priority for our Government is getting New Zealanders into warm, dry homes. As part of this, in our first budget in office we announced the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme.
This provides subsidised insulation to low income homeowners to help make old homes warm, safe and dry.
A lack of insulation is a key driver of illnesses like rheumatic fever, which end up costing our health system millions and impacting the lives of people forced to live in cold, damp homes.
As a local MP, I know firsthand how hard it can be for some people to keep their homes warm on a cold Canterbury winter’s night. Through Warmer Kiwi Homes we are turning that around.
Recently, I was able to announce that we have expanded the programme to also include funding for efficient heat sources. The programme will cover two-thirds of the cost of efficient wood burners and heat pumps, up to a maximum grant of $2,500.
To be eligible for insulation and heater grants, homeowners must have a Community Services Card or live in a lower-income area.
Eligible homeowners will now not only be able to keep their homes warmer and themselves healthier, they will also be able to enjoy lower power bills through more efficient heating. It’s the kind of win-win outcomes that sit at the heart of this Government’s wellbeing approach.
By investing smartly, we can deliver big improvements in the lives of New Zealanders, save money in our health system and help Kiwis be financially better off as well.
Recently I had the real pleasure of breaking ground at last on the construction site for the new Metro Sports Facility.
Along with Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson, we turned the sod on the construction of the new indoor 50-metre competition pool and dive well. Canterbury’s swimmers have waited a long time for access to a competition class pool and all of Christchurch has been looking forward to this wonderful new facility.
The five-metre-deep dive well and competition pool tanks are stainless steel and will come from a specialist supplier in Italy. These tanks have been selected as they will be more resilient than traditional pools in the event of any further earthquakes.
An active community is a healthy and happy community and with everything from five hydroslides to throwing cages for our high-performance athletes, the Metro Sports Facility will offer something to people of all ages and stages. The Metro Sports Facility will bring thousands of people into the central city each week, it’ll provide world class recreational facilities for our people, and it’ll boost our local sporting codes.
Working together, the council, the Government and the local sporting codes have got this project back on track after it was stalled and over budget. Now, we’re seeing the results of that work. This will be a fantastic facility for Christchurch and seeing construction begin is just another marker of the renewed progress we are delivering for Canterbury.
One of the things I’m most proud of being able to help deliver as part of our Government is Mana Ake – Stronger for Tomorrow – a new mental health programme that gives every young person in Canterbury access to a mental health worker through their school.
This policy is now fully rolled out, with 219 different primary and intermediate schools in Canterbury now being part of the programme. This offers children who need it one-on-one and group sessions to help them deal with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
We know that mental health is a major issue for our young people. The shock of the earthquakes and the trauma of the slow, grinding years of recovery have seen demand for mental health services amongst young people in our region reach twice the national average.
Teachers and parents will have seen this for themselves – young people unable to learn because of anxiety and developmental delays. That’s why we’ve invested $27m in getting every child in Canterbury the support they need.
In just one year, Mana Ake has supported 942 children individually and 578 children in groups. That’s a lot of children that have been listened to and had their issues taken seriously. We’ve also heard from parents who tell us Mana Ake was a huge help for children in the wake of the 15 March attack.
This is a Government that is taking mental health seriously, investing in our children’s wellbeing and tackling the big, long term issues in our community.
Recently we reached a major milestone in the Canterbury recovery, with Christchurch City Council being given back control over their district planning process years ahead of schedule.
I’m a strong believer that the best future for Christchurch is one where we return to local leadership over the future of our city and that’s why I was incredibly proud to announce the return of the planning powers to the council.
Following the earthquakes, special emergency planning processes were implemented that suspended certain RMA processes in the interest of speed and certainty during the rebuild. Eight years on, we are now able to return to the same planning processes that other cities use.
It’s a powerful signal that Christchurch is moving out of its rebuild phase and looking to its future as New Zealand’s thriving second city.
Putting this change in place meant revocation of the Canterbury Earthquake (Christchurch Replacement District Plan) Order 2014 which took effect from 18 March 2019. The council can now revert to normal planning processes to manage its District Plan and it also means that the people of Christchurch, along with the council, will be able to initiate changes to the District Plan. They’ll be able to submit on proposed changes, attend hearings and participate in proposing amendments.
I’m delighted that we have been able to meet this milestone more than two years ahead of schedule. It’s a significant step in the transition back to local leadership and a great sign of momentum in our regeneration.
It was a pleasure to announce in early February the transitional use of several Crown-owned properties in Sumner for a new permanent skate park and the creation of a community green space.
Sumner residents have long been calling for a permanent skate park and new greenspace and it’s great that we can now make that a reality. Up until recently, there has been a temporary skate park that was run by the local community as part of their community-led earthquake recovery.
The Crown has been working closely with local authorities, community groups and individuals to bring life and community back to the residential red zone areas by activating Transitional Land Use (TLU) projects. We’ve granted key red zone land in Sumner as part of an interim arrangement while we finalise the transfer of that from the Crown to the Council.
This will create an acoustic buffer for neighbours and create a new gathering spot in the heart of the village. It also means there are some fantastic new community facilities for Sumner. The Community Board recently approved the proposal for a new concrete skate park and Land Information New Zealand, which manages the red zone properties in the Port Hills, has been working closely with the Council’s project team to make this happen. It was exciting to see such positive responses from the local community and I’m looking forward to seeing it get up and running.
As we head into our second year of office, it’s been great to be able to take some time over the summer break and reflect on a very busy 2018. There have been some significant changes to make sure that people are able to get their homes fixed and get on with their lives, and I have been thrilled to see some of the results that we’ve achieved.
A big step was the Independent Ministerial Advisor’s report in June, which demonstrated the need for a wide range of reforms to speed up the resolution of outstanding EQC claims. It was clear there was a lot of work to do to get those claims moving but some critical changes were made to ensure faster resolution.
As of the end of November 2018, there are only 2,337 EQC claims outstanding, with 72 percent of claims that were on hand at 30 June 2018 resolved. In addition, the launch of the Greater Christchurch Claims Resolution Service (GCCRS) in October was met with a great response and has made a difference for many people.
This year is shaping up to be just as busy. The Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal will be established and the inquiry into the EQC will provide an interim report back by the end of June, but our major focus for 2019 will continue to be ensuring that people are getting their claims resolved as quickly as possible and are able to move on with their lives.
It was exciting to see in November that drilling is now underway at the Canterbury Arena site as part of early work to fast-track the project. Geotechnical investigations began in mid-November to determine the condition of the land as part of the Investment Case being prepared for the Arena. In total, 81 separate tests will be undertaken to give detailed information across the entire site.
The information will allow the Investment Case to consider the most favourable areas for construction, assess options for the arena layout, develop conceptual designs for the form of the arena and its foundations, and evaluate any uncertainties related to the ground conditions.
Early work will ensure we have the best information right from the start to feed-in to the design process. We know that similar ground conditions exist across the city, from other work already underway. These tests will help fill in the gaps and provide robust information for the planning process.
We’ll be discussing the findings of this early work as part of ongoing workshops and forums with key community and interest groups to ensure we get an arena that meets the needs of our region.
This fulfils our promise to get the project moving and to speed up the recovery in the central city. The message we received from people who attended our arena workshop in October was to get started. We heard this call, which is why we’re cracking on with the work needed to get the site ready and get the Investment Case fit for purpose.
It was exciting last month to announce that we’ve begun a series of community workshops with local sporting codes, businesses and the entertainment sector to co-design our city’s new Multi-Use Arena.
As part of the Acceleration Fund that was announced in Budget 2018, the council has requested that $220 million of funding goes towards the new arena and the Government has agreed to earmark the funding for that project.
This funding brings Canterbury’s much needed arena one step closer. It will be a huge boost for the city and it’s important we get it right. That’s why we are bringing the sporting codes, local businesses and entertainment sector together to help us make sure the design is right and the building is fit for purpose. The workshops will allow each of these sectors to hear what they need from the arena, and how it can be made to work best for them. From here a full investment case will be developed to ensure the project is well designed and stacks up financially.
These workshops will ensure the business case is strong and I’m hopeful of seeing early construction work begin in 2021.
We’ve seen with the Metro Sports Facility how working hand in hand with local people can lead to a better result – there we were able to turn around a $70 million budget blowout and get the project back on track. Working with the local community will ensure the arena is fit for purpose and best suited the needs of Christchurch.