So the long awaited report on land remediation in Christchurch by the consulting engineers Tonkin and Taylor has been delivered to Prime Minister John Key and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee – who incredibly, have chosen not to share the contents of the report with the people of Christchurch. Christchurch residents are not even being given a timeframe for when that crucial information might be made public :
While the Government had a “clear picture” of what land would have to be abandoned, Key refused to name the areas or put a timeline on when the information would be available to the public.
This is the same leadership-from-the rear style of political management that we saw earlier this year, over the decision to move the Rugby World Cup games from Christchurch. Instead of telling people upfront what it knew to be the case, the government chose instead to minimise the political cost of being the bringer of bad news, and let the RWC issue drift on for weeks until people inferred the likely outcome for themselves. That’s what appears to be happening with the fate of suburbs where – apparently– “thousands” of people will not be able to rebuild on their current sites.
Where? Who? The government isn’t saying, not for now. Once again, the over-riding priority seems to be the minimising of political risk to the government, while leaving Christchurch residents to stew in their own worst fears. In Key’s own good time, some will have those fears confirmed, some will eventually feel relieved. This cynical process is what Key calls “standing by the people of Christchurch.” It looks more like standing around, than anything resembling courage or leadership.
Fighting the RWC Media Wars
Rupert Murdoch is not amused, and has reportedly declared war on the International Rugby Board over the restrictions placed on media coverage of the Rugby World Cup. Unfortunately, New Zealand (which has a major financial and emotional stake in the tournament’s success) now faces the prospect of becoming collateral damage – especially if the latest round of gamesmanship leads to a significant curtailing of media coverage of the event in Australia over the next few months :
News Limited is angry over accreditation terms that restrict newspaper websites to running just 90 seconds of World Cup highlight videos, a requirement that they be taken down after 48 hours and a demand for geographical blocking software that prevents overseas-based readers from accessing them.
Group editorial director Campbell Reid said the IRB was effectively trying to censor the media’s coverage of the World Cup and voiced concerns that agreeing to the terms could set a dangerous precedent that could damage the ability of newspapers to cover future sporting events… News says that if it agreed to the IRB’s terms, it would be restricted to offering less coverage to rugby fans than they currently receive around the Super Rugby and Tri-Nations competitions.
What we’re seeing is a collision between those who have paid for rights to Cup material, and the rest of the media who are seeking reasonable terms for covering an event of national importance. And one which moreover, is taking place inside stadiums paid for by taxpayers and ratepayers, and where the RWC tournament itself is being heavily subsidised by the public.
Can and should those who buy exclusive or semi-exclusive “rights” then be able to severely restrict the media coverage available to everyone else? Of course not. Once again – as with FIFA, as with the Olympics – the international organising body appears to be trampling over the legitimate interests of those outside its circle of paid-up customers. At the same time, it expects the host country and its patriotic media to grit their teeth and fall into line with whatever working conditions they are given. All in the name of a national good that comes well down the queue behind the IRB’s profit taking.
Sadly, the reality is that the only power strong enough to stand up to the IRB is Rupert Murdoch. The IRB’s scramble to assure News Limited that it is still open to negotiations is a sign that – however belatedly – it recognises the need to have Murdoch’s media empire onside, and the need to relax the terms of coverage. Does RWC Minister Murray McCully have an opinion about this? Probably not. It seems far too important an issue for New Zealand to be at the bargaining table.