The closure of many Christchurch schools will become a rallying point for dissent.
The protest in Christchurch against the planned closures was the public expression of a widespread sentiment against the closures.
Well, yes, against the closures, but really against “everything”.
After two years of stress, mental fatigue, slow recovery, administrative barriers and talk-fests, the school infrastructure plan will become the vehicle for all these frustrations.
It will do this because schools are central to personal and community identity. The closures are more definitive and conclusive about the end of the life they used to have, than was the demolition of the CBD.
In public life issues conflate into a simple story. Problems become linked. When we talk about one problem, we’re often being motivated by many.
Thus, a plan which is largely see as necessary will be resisted by the locals. It will become a long term popularity sore for National.
Government’s miss this conflating effect because they compartmentalise operations, they act slowly, and because they try to control.
Compartmentalising - seeing tasks as separate matters - is the biggest error. The Government would have known the announcement would cause a large reaction. But it would not have linked to the closure all of the other issues that live in the minds of Christchurch people. If it did, it may well have decided not to do this as one big plan, if at all.
Acting slowly means that Government’s lose the opportunity to link and time operations and plans with public mood and events.
The central control rubric undermines these sorts of plans because it makes Government responsible. Government is easier when it acts as a catalyst or collaborator with the public. The Government could have been far more open and strident a long time ago about the challenge of school infrastructure in Christchurch. It could have facilitated ideas and options and communicated each step of the way.
The Government’s focus could have been on opportunity back then; the promise of a fantastic rebuild and upgrade - and a community driven implementation of a very modern education asset and system.
Instead, it is now doing something to the parents and student of Christchurch, rather than giving them something wonderful that they long knew was coming, and needed to come.