Yesterday was the official opening of the Avonside photography project Thx 4 the Memories.
I was invited to speak on behalf of Avonside, and the following are my notes which were pretty closely followed. What was said didn’t cover everything, but seemed right for the day. The things left unsaid are raised further down.
To Tim Veling, Bridgit Anderson and Glenn Busch (who is in France)
For your integrity, insight, perseverance, sacrifice, ability and especially your circumspection you have no equal. Thank you very much.
What you have achieved is a revealing, sensitive and intimate record of individual participants in a tragic event. Each record is an eyewitness account of the earthquakes and their aftermath. Collectively these accounts are something that will soon become tomorrow's history. An important part of the historical record.
Having said that, history is a perverse thing.
Understanding other peoples' history, in a different place or a different time, seems reasonably clear-cut. You can read about it, or watch a documentary. Important facts are laid out, key figures make their explanations, conclusions are easily reached.
When you live in the middle of an historical event nothing is clear.
We who live in Canterbury are experiencing the unfolding events quite differently to the way others measure or describe them. The important facts, key explanations and easy conclusions seem very distant from what we see and experience.
So, what is the truth of our earthquake aftermath?
Please look at the photographs and read the stories. For every Barbara, Judy or Shane, or any of the people who took part, there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of similar stories from those who have struggled in the Red Zones, and are struggling in the Green Zones and on the hills.
Please read the stories, look at the people and where they lived. Hopefully you will find for yourself some of the truth of the times we have shared since the first earthquake.
Of course there is much more to the truth of what has been experienced than that alluded to above. Many of the stories raise additional issues which I will try to summarise here.
The first distorter of truth was the Christchurch City Council with it's arrogant ineptitude, and inability to see past a ‘business as usual” approach in a culture of non-disclosure. Insurers, their assessors, and the Insurance Council of New Zealand have espoused values and views we cannot understand from our perspective. Many of their truths are a dismissive contradiction of actual experiences.
The government, Minister Brownlee's office, have delayed and withheld, and continue to delay and withhold the release of information. At times there was the pretence we should be able to work it out for ourselves because it is "blindingly obvious". Yet, what we can clearly see, what we experience day after day, the things that at times harm or destroy us, are carefully and wilfully unnoticed by them. Being unnoticed, there is no need to correct problems, or support those who are struggling. Being unnoticed there is no need to talk with communities about what is needed for a successful recovery. Their truths too are a dismissive contradiction of our experiences.
Then there is EQC, the great Satan in our midst.
What can be understood of all this? What is happening? Time and again, in my struggle to understand, the words of the late Justice Peter Mahon come to mind: an orchestrated litany of lies.
So, what is the truth of our earthquake aftermath? Again, please look at the photographs and read the stories. That is where the truth is.