We’re a Bit Late, Due To Events Beyond Our Control

Life In “The New Normal”

- Murray Horton

This issue should have been out in April but has been delayed, firstly because I spent most of that month on the road doing the New Zealand Is Not For Sale speaking tour through the North Island (the South Island leg was completed in May and June) and CAFCA prioritised that over getting Watchdog out as per schedule. The second reason is, of course, because of the catastrophic February 22nd Christchurch earthquake. We’re all still alive and uninjured but there were some close shaves – I was in the CTV Building that morning, being interviewed in an upstairs room. The 25 year old reporter was one of the 116 people killed (including 16 CTV staff) when it pancaked a couple of hours after we parted company. Lynda Boyd is one of the committee’s “distance” members but she was in Christchurch that day, got whacked in the ear by a hunk of falling steel and endured the nightmarish horror of being engulfed kneedeep in sewerage when a central city street suddenly opened in front of her and her mother, Cass Daley, who is in charge of the Watchdog Website. Other friends and colleagues had family members caught in the thick of it, with buildings falling down around them and the ground opening up.

All of the committee sustained a greater or lesser degree of damage to our homes but they’re all still habitable (in our case we have been assessed as having “moderate” damage, that is, in the $10,000-$100,000 range). All of us went without power, water and toilets for varying periods of time (five days in our case, during which time Becky and I lived in our dining room and slept under the table as wave after wave of aftershocks slammed into the house. They still are, only not so frequently – and so far our plain but strong old house has taken everything thrown at it, with no structural damage, just a lot of cracks. Everything old should have wrinkles). We’re still subject to power cuts without warning and “the new normal” means that what was straightforward, like doing the CAFCA banking, now becomes an expedition. Other friends and colleagues have not been so lucky. James Ayers, who writes up the Overseas Investment Office Decisions for us, has suffered severe damage to his eastern suburbs house, and his central city shop (which is his livelihood) is still off-limits, and he has, understandably, had priorities other than writing for Watchdog. He still managed to write half of his usual amount for this issue, which is remarkable. Bob Leonard, one of my closest friends and veteran Anti-Bases Campaign colleague, had his hillside house destroyed (having seen inside it I’m amazed nobody was killed) and he and Barbara are now earthquake refugees, having fled to Wellington for the indefinite future.

It’s not easy, by any means, but both CAFCA and Watchdog have been able to function throughout as near to normal as is currently possible. There will be months, if not years, of disruption to the daily lives of everyone in this city and there definitely will be some direct disruption to my ability to work. When our house gets repaired (and we’ve been told that it will be soon) we will be able to live in the newer, undamaged, end while the older and damaged end gets fixed (we’ve already had a chimney, two fireplaces and a wall removed and the latter replaced). But it will involve, at a minimum, the temporary relocation, to somewhere else in the house, of the CAFCA office - a former bedroom - or, if that proves impossible, the complete cessation of work until the repairs are finished and everything is put back together again. The builder has told us that the job will take several weeks (and I’ve heard that one before). Comparatively speaking we have bugger all to moan about and any disruption to our home/my workplace will hopefully kept to a minimum (we had some experience of what is involved when we lived in the house for the three months it took to get one end of it renovated, back in 1998).

I assure you that the CAFCA team here in Christchurch is in good spirits and is quite determined not to let this literally destabilising experience deter us from the vital work that we do. And I thank you all for the huge numbers of messages of concern and offers of help that we received in those dire first few days after the disaster, even from the most unlikely of people (such as my old adversary, the former head of what was then called the Overseas Investment Commission, who now works for the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC). We ask you to bear with us while we deal with the issues that arise from rebuilding our city, our homes, workplaces and lives. We’ll get there, and we’ll do so in the style for which CAFCA has become known for decades. And in the meantime, you can enjoy the unexpected side effect of Watchdog actually being a bit smaller than previously. Who knows, it may become a habit.

It takes a lot of work to compile and write the material presented on these pages - if you value the information, please send a donation to the address below to help us continue the work.

Foreign Control Watchdog, P O Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. August 2008.

Email cafca@chch.planet.org.nz

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