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School closures handled badly - Parker

Monday 25 Feb 2013 9:45 a.m.

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Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says the Government's handling of school closures and mergers in his city were handled poorly, but had to be done.

Mr Parker told Firstline this morning there probably was no "right" time to do it.

"People have been through so much here, and you need to understand the trauma that comes, or that was centred around schools because so many of those small communities, schools, after that dreadful day on the 22nd, became community centres," says Mr Parker.

"I think what we accept as a community generally is that there obviously needs to be changes. You've got a population shift from the east through the west, which is massive. It involves many, many thousands of families, and I think the timing – and certainly that initial discussion with the communities – seemed to be poor.

"But it has to be done."

Last week marked the second anniversary of the February, 2011 Christchurch earthquake which killed more than 180 people.  Two years on the city still faces an uphill struggle to get back on its feet.

Mr Parker says time will heal many of the city's wounds,

"There will be a day when we can all look back and say, 'Well, that was yesterday, now everything's okay.' It's not here yet, we're very aware of that and we're very concerned to get as much resolved as quickly as possible."

One of the primary concerns residents have is the city's lack of recreational and cultural facilities. Mr Parker says the council's annual budget – a massive $1.4 billion, more than twice what it normally is – will go some way to fixing that.

"A huge amount is focused on improving community facilities, adding new facilities... People have been at the beaches, they've been outside in the parks, community groups have clumped together to sort out tennis clubs. I've seen a lot of positive stories right across the city. But it will never be fast enough for all of us, and one of the reasons for that is most of us thought at some point we were going to die in those tough early days.

"Time, and community and those values are much stronger, much more valued, so time itself is more precious when you have a very intimate understanding of the temporariness of life, if you like… things cannot be fixed overnight."

A 3 News poll released on Friday showed most residents backed the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority's work in the city, while support for Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee was split. Insurance companies were rated poorly.

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