19 Sep 2012

Protesters to campaign for 100 days in Christchurch

10:05 pm on 19 September 2012

Protesters are promising to campaign for at least 100 days for a return to democracy in Christchurch.

About 500 people attended a lively protest in at Christchurch's Bridge of Remembrance on Wednesday evening to express their opposition to some Government policies.

They are unhappy about plans to close several Christchurch schools, the postponement of elections for the Canterbury Regional Council and the zoning of some Christchurch properties.

The protesters say the public should have the right to vote on major changes affecting the city.

One of the organisers, Bronwyn Hayward, says the feeling among Christchurch residents is that democracy needs to be returned to the city.

Ms Hayward says the protest organisers are planning to campaign for 100 days on the suffrage theme.

On this day in 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

Christchurch city councillor Yani Johansen says residents are frustrated by decisions being dictated to them.

"It really feels like Government are using us as a guinea pig in some sort of bizarre social experiment based on illogical ideology rather than working with the community to come up with solutions that make sense."

He says councillors will be briefed on the proposed school closures by Education Minister Hekia Parata on Thursday.

The protesters listened to several speakers, including children calling for their schools to be saved.

A huge petition opposed to the loss of democracy in the city was rolled out for people to sign.

Government-appointed commissioners have been in charge of the regional council since elected councillors were sacked in 2010.

Local body elections were to resume in 2013 but that has now been extended to 2016.

Last week, the Government announced it plans a $1 billion overhaul of the education system in the city and surrounding area due to the recent earthquakes and the number of children that have left the region.

It is proposing to close 13 schools in Canterbury and merge another 18.

Schools meeting

Meanwhile, about 30 principals and board of trustee members from Christchurch secondary schools met with the Ministry of Education on Wednesday evening about the plans to close and merge schools.

Mairehau High School, which is earmarked to either be relocated or re-established, sits alongside several other primary and intermediate schools in an area that has been badly damaged by the earthquakes.

Principal Harry Romana says a lot more discussion needs to happen between all the schools in his cluster before anything can be decided.