Mar 272012
 
 March 27, 2012  Posted by at 4:52 am Finance
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Russell Lee It's All Over  June 1939 "Veteran migrant agricultural worker camped in Wagoner County, Oklahoma. He has followed the road for about 30 years. When asked where his home was he said, 'It's all over.'"

We are in Lyttelton, a suburb (albeit through a fairly recently built tunnel) of Christchurch, New Zealand's second largest city. The entire city center has been cordoned off, and the vast majority of buildings have either collapsed or been condemned. Much of it can never be rebuilt, since there is no way to assess the real risk of further collapse of either buildings or even foundations.

Now, ever since we got to Australia and, later, New Zealand, I've had the impression that the main priority of the respective federal governments is to sell off any and all domestic resources as fast as they can, and for short term profit only (or, well, maybe to cover the deficit losses they've run up). New Zealand is actively trying to sell some of its most productive farm land. What's more, it's attempting to raise revenues from the sale – though the government claims it's actually a form of public-private partnership – of a portion of its hydro infrastructure and -power.

This morning, we were having a conversation with one of our local hosts, and I said that in the light of the above I was sure that the aftermath of the devastating February 22, 2011 earthquake would be the next chapter of the Shock Doctrine. I had no proof of this, but a strong gut feeling; some things just can't be any other way.

Up until just a few decades ago, New Zealand was a very rich (about 2nd globally per capita) and, relatively, very egalitarian society. None of this is still true: income inequality has risen enormously, and per capita wealth has plummeted. So the Shock Doctrine has been in the works for a while. The earthquake 13 months ago was simply the event the disaster capitalists were waiting for, and were ready for, ready to act while the population was still in shock.

As I said, when I said I expected the next chapter of the Shock Doctrine this morning, I had no proof, just a suspicion. Then Nicole sent me this article below, which dates from February 2, 2012, written by Lyn Williams. Now I have proof, as well as suspicions. I'll let the article speak for itself, and thank Lyn for writing it.

A Tale of One City

This is a tale of a city that outlived its usefulness.

The problem for the city was it sat at the centre of a region with vast natural resources that the central government wanted to exploit. There was considerable and varied local opposition to this largely because of the effects on the environment.

 

This was a wealthy city that had developed as a light industrial hub for the traditional rural economy of a wealthy region. Clever manipulation of national laws aimed at privatising the public sector had enabled the local government to maintain effective control of much of its assets.

But the concentration of population and wealth was seen an obstacle to the Government’s plans to exploit the region’s natural resources, and to sell off the city’s assets.

The Government’s first move was to declare the elected Regional Authority to be incompetent and to install commissioners selected by, and answerable to, it.

The region’s elected Mayors, organised by the City’s Mayor, all actively collaborated with this.

The government’s next move was to support the re-election of those city and district mayors who would work with them in the exploitation of the region’s natural resources.

Plans were well under way when nature stepped in and gave the Government a helping hand in the form of natural disaster.

The shock of this disaster, and an effective PR machine, ensured the election of government friendly mayors right across the region. More importantly, it gave the Government the justification for creating even more swingeing legal powers.

A second, even more catastrophic disaster, resulted in the Government creating an overarching authority run by people selected by them – which had complete power to do whatever the government deemed necessary. The powers given to the central government and bureaucrats were unprecedented in peacetime.

The city’s re-elected Mayor proved to be a very popular figure in the aftermath of the disaster and was very useful to the Government in managing the public response to it – but he too was to outlive his usefulness.

He continued to work in the way he always had, doing deals behind closed doors and colluding with the CEO to reduce the effectiveness of the council.

The Mayor’s power base in the city council began to be challenged by a group of councillors who attacked the way the council was being run. The dissidents presented themselves as champions of the people whilst, probably unknowingly, actually doing the work of the Government. The Council split into two opposing camps.

The local press started a campaign which seemed to be about demanding greater accountability and democracy but which had the effect of further undermining local confidence, not just in the Mayor and CEO, but the whole council.

Even with a mayor and councillors who were prepared to stand up to the government, the Council would have struggled to represent the people of the city and stop the plundering of the city’s and the region’s assets. In the political and managerial void left by the increasingly dysfunctional council and CEO, the Government’s new Authority rapidly expanded its role.

And then came the proverbial straw – an action by the Mayor and his supporters that outraged his opponents and, when it became public, also outraged the population of the city.

People had had enough and many disparate interests coalesced around the understanding that, while this Mayor and CEO were in charge, their city was never going to be rebuilt into a vibrant modern version of what had been destroyed.

The calls for the sacking of the CEO and Mayor began. Normally compliant and conservative city dwellers flooded the local media with their angry views and began to stage protests.

Councillors who had approved the action that had sparked the outrage called for the dissolution of the Council and blamed the dissident Councillors for the mess.

The Mayor, despite having colluded with the sacking of the democratically elected regional authority, put his grave, pro-democracy face on and warned the population to be careful what they wished for.

The CEO who had always stayed out of the media limelight for the very good reason that he was PR-challenged, tried to make amends and made matters worse.

The government appointed a single observer and claimed not to be interested in the dissolution of the Council – unless it had no alternative.

Central to the Government’s long-term plan was the depopulation of large areas of the city and key satellite towns. These happened to be the areas occupied by people likely to be troublesome to the government’s plans for the region. the effects of this diaspora had already been felt in the national elections.

Many people had been left to camp out in their ruined homes and neighbourhoods for months before the government declared swathes of the city as uninhabitable. The months of anxiety, inactivity and uncertainty were followed by offers for resettlement that appeared to be fair and generous but which actually made it impossible for many people to stay.

This was a forced resettlement. On the surface people were given a choice – the government appeared to be generous by offering to buy people’s homes and land from them but, leaving the development of new land to the market resulted in a free for all – and land, rents and building prices sky rocketed.

Many people found that they had to increase their mortgages to afford to replace like with like. Others, unable to afford larger mortgages or refused loans, had to downsize – or ended up renting or were forced to leave town.

The Government’s writing off the land also gave the insurers an out. They not only saved money on some payouts but they avoided future liability by the Government forcing large numbers of people away from a region that was deemed no longer worth the risk of insuring. And behind these actions lurked the spectre of bigger commercial interests, the exploitation of the region’s water and oil resources.

A government of the people, for the people, by the people would have stood up to the insurers and forced the insurers to meet their legal and ethical obligations. It would have purchased land and created new subdivisions and sold them at prices that enabled people to replace what they had lost. It would have leased land on 999 year leases and given the freehold titles to the Council or community housing associations. It would have assisted in relocating whole communities that wanted to stay together. It would have invested in land remediation leaving only those areas which should never have been built on to be turned into nature reserves and parks. It would have given people security and choice by buying the mutual insurance company it had already underwritten, merged it with its own earthquake insurance bureaucracy and created a state insurance option for domestic dwellings and local and central government infrastructure.

And it would have more wisely and circumspectly managed the vast reserves of taxpayers’ money that had been built up over decades in the national disaster fund.

But, this was a government of big business, by big business, for big business. It not so much got into bed with the insurance industry, as bought the best bed on the market, made it up with fine linen and a goose down duvet, tucked the industry in, made it a mug of milo and read it a bedtime story.

What happened to the city? Well, it ended up less than two-thirds of its original size. Its political structure had changed forever and much opposition to the government was wiped out as formerly cohesive and well-organised communities were fragmented and dispersed.

Go there today and it’s a pretty sad place. The city centre still has great gaping holes where buildings once stood because there’s no incentive to build. Vast swathes of its suburbs are weed-ridden wastelands. The region’s once glorious rivers and waterways are polluted and depleted by the intensive agriculture that exists solely to feed an increasingly unsustainable international neutraceuticals industry.

Its oil resources are being exported and the promised wealth has not trickled down to the populace although some have become even richer and retreated further into the safe confines of their gated communities or moved north.

No doubt I’ll be labelled a conspiracy nut or accused of being unhelpfully negative and pessimistic by painting this picture of Canterbury but I think that the people of this region need to wake up and smell the fertilizer because this is what has been and is being done to our region.

We do not have a vote in local regional democracy until 2013; in all likelihood the people of Christchurch soon will not have a say in the running of their city as it may be a matter of time before the CCC is dismantled. Every action and inaction of the council combined with the low public profile and high pay of its CEO are more nails in the coffin of local democracy.

 


Local councillors were powerless enough before – they are seen as a waste of public money now. The wealth of ChCh and Canterbury as a whole is about to be sold off to the private sector, not to rebuild the city and region, but to be milked for as much short-term profit as can be extracted from it.

I do not believe that this government has any loyalty to Canterbury. It doesn’t want a big, bold, wealthy city guarding and drawing on the natural resources of the Canterbury plains and seabed.

It wants to sell the best stuff to its mates -the people in whose interests it governs, which – let’s face it – isn’t ordinary folk. Some will profit – the vast majority will not. In fact, an awful lot of us will be impoverished, left further in thrall to the banks and/or forced to relocate from the city and region we call home.

I have a big emotional investment in Canterbury – I never knew how much until I saw it threatened. And I’m not talking about the threat of the 9000 or so earthquakes since September 2010– I’m talking about the political and economic quakes. They’re what will destroy NZ’s second city and take most of the Canterbury we knew with it.

 

Home Forums The Shock Doctrine has come to New Zealand

This topic contains 0 replies, has 0 voices, and was last updated by  Raúl Ilargi Meijer 2 years, 8 months ago.

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March 27, 2012 at 4:46 am #2095

jamesC

We used to have an elected dictatorship. The shock doctrine began in 1984.

I don’t know about oil in Canterbury, other than one sentence here:
http://www.nzog.net/Exploration

Does someone want to tell me about it?

March 27, 2012 at 4:52 am #8576

Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Russell Lee It's All Over  June 1939 "Veteran migrant agricultural worker camped in Wagoner County, Oklahoma. He has followed the road f
[See the full post at: The Shock Doctrine has come to New Zealand]

March 27, 2012 at 6:34 am #2097

NTB

Would never have thought TAE would come to my home town and suburb, welcome. Enjoy the stay.

March 27, 2012 at 7:00 am #2098

backwardsevolution

TPTB certainly knew the bubbles wouldn’t last; in fact, they even bet against them in some cases. Makes you just wonder if this world crisis wasn’t one big planned “shock doctrine” from the get go. Bailouts and rule changes for TPTB, austerity for the masses, assets picked up for a song, privatization wherever possible. It’s always easier to loot when there’s chaos and confusion.

Great article! How sad for Christchurch. These guys are always well-planned and they act quickly; the population doesn’t even see them coming until long after the damage is done.

March 27, 2012 at 7:14 am #2100

backwardsevolution

Some good fascism quotes cited by Charles Hugh Smith:

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group.”
–Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Whenever justice is uncertain and police spying and terror are at work, human beings fall into isolation, which, of course, is the aim and purpose of the dictator state, since it is based on the greatest possible accumulation of depotentiated social units.”
–Carl Gustav Jung

And more…

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002465257

March 28, 2012 at 6:28 am #2124

oilcrash

Its oil resources are being exported?????????
Great article, and after watching SD, I thought what a gift Chch was to TPTB , Lyn’s article sums it up, it is just the above comment, that doesn’t ring true, from what I understand they are still fighting over fracking and non has started yet, as far as oil ???? maybe out in the ocean, but isn’t that further south? And they haven’t started that yet?

March 28, 2012 at 6:33 am #2125

Bukko Canukko

Maybe I didn’t read this post closely enough to detect the words “New Orleans,” but this sounds like a New Zedland version of the post-Katrina phenomenon. So many similarities, right down to the forced removal of groups considered undesirable by the power structure. And look how well that’s worked out for the Crescent City, eh? From Crescent to Christchurch…

April 12, 2012 at 6:55 am #2585

Seemorerocks

Thank you, Ilargi, for posting this article and for your own insight on what is happening to Canterbury. Alas, it is all too true!

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