Why a Bipartisan Approach to Disaster Recovery Does Not Work

Christchurch, New Zealand 2016. I still live in a city that publishes truths too often. I live in a place where much of the issues that should be discussed are not being addressed. I live in a place where politicians, who should be representing the people, seem to have lost their voice. Many are still in pain, while others sit and watch. I feel anger, frustration, and disappointment that five years later, the government, media, regulators, and the majority of the affected population are still silent.

As ‘Christchurch’ becomes the ongoing saga of an unprecedented disaster, with a largely deprived population left to suffer in its own misery, I wait and watch. After many years of involvement in Christchurch, the story emerges as a sad tale of incompetence and dishonesty, professional interests, corporate greed, government complicity, and self-service.

We also have an insurance industry that is left to its own devices and in dire need reform. Insurance companies have done and continue to do everything possible to maximize their profits, delaying claims settlements, which in turn leads to policyholder abuse. Insurance companies can’t be considered normal businesses, even though they are in the business making money.

They are required to protect their customers in both case and statute.

Among those duties is the obligation to act fairly and in good faith. New Zealand’s regulators have chosen to ignore the happenings here. The government reached an agreement with its insurers as part of negotiations. It should not be the people of Canterbury who pay the price for their failures.

Some people believe that political cooperation is necessary for dealing with natural disasters. But the past five and a quarter years have shown that this approach is not effective.

Labour leader, Mr Shearer promised that Labour would “… do all it could to bring these issues to the attention Parliament. However, I believe that we must look at how we can have a bipartisan approach to this.

We do need a government/opposition united approach.” And “as a result of that, I think we do need to be sitting down with the Government and looking at a bipartisan approach to the rebuild in Christchurch and its recovery.”

What is a Bipartisan Approach? Wikipedia defines it as “a political position, usually within the context of a 2-party system in which opposing parties find common ground through compromise in theory.” This would mean that Labour would effectively leave National in its decision-making process regarding matters relating to the Christchurch earthquakes and Christchurch’recovery.

It is easy to see why bipartisanship is appealing. It is a sounding approach that sounds mature and educated. It suggests the harmony pursuit of quick and effective solutions to difficult situations. While it seems obvious in cases of external threats, like war, there is very little evidence that bipartisanship can solve big internal problems. There are many examples from history that would support this. This is especially true when it comes to ‘crisis events’.

Partisanship is essential for democracy. It’s strong, critical advocacy that encourages public discussion and forces parties to clarify their views. This in turn helps voters make informed decisions. Although partisan causes can sometimes be divisive, these ideas can provide citizens with a real path forward.

Bipartisanship, on the other hand, can ‘cloak corruption’ and obscure chasms among politicians and their constituents. It can also agree to give single people absurd powers or indicate that both parties have become a closed group (often with an agenda). A healthy democracy is dependent on a strong partisan political structure. Partisan ideas are essential for liberty, both in principle and practice. Bipartisanship has, however, enabled some of history’s most shameful events, such as American slavery and the Iraq war. It is interesting to note that the USA has a bipartisan approach on ‘climate change’.

Is it not true that a great political leader is not someone who rises above partisan concerns but is someone who can clearly articulate and defend one party’s interests? Can present a different view or propose alternative solutions to broaden the options for the affected population. The government should be elected by citizens who live in democracy. Clear choices produce better results. The political parties’ decision to “demote” political representatives raising questions about ‘punishment for not following the bipartisan line’ is worrying.

I am aware that disaster preparedness, mitigation, response, recovery, and prevention are all the result of complex political and administrative interactions. These results cannot be controlled or predicted. There must be other solutions, and they should be presented by all political parties. To ensure democracy and assistance for those who are in need, it is important to end bipartisan approaches in disaster-affected cities. Those affected should voice their disapproval of bipartisan approaches and the dangers they pose.