A major cultural change must be initiated at the national government in order to compensate those affected by gas extraction in Groningen. This not only concerns damage repair, but also investments. Groningen administrators said this at a press conference in The Hague. It is the first substantive response from the administrators to the damning report of the parliamentary committee of inquiry into gas extraction, which was presented on Friday.
It stated, among other things, that the interests of the inhabitants had been systematically ignored and that gas extraction had resulted in an unprecedented system failure. Earning money was always more important than safety.
The first natural gas-free
To solve the crisis, the government must do more damage repair and also look at other ways in which the region can be supported, the administrators believe. Groningen mayor Schuiling says that Groningen wants to be the first province to be natural gas-free by 2035 and also wants investments from The Hague in education, sports and culture in the coming years.
According to Schuiling, an entire generation of Groningen residents has grown up in distrust. To turn the tide, the government must have more confidence in its inhabitants, think Schuiling and René Paas, the King’s Commissioner. “Residents should always find the government on their side,” says Paas.
No more long lines
“Residents must be unburdened, they must be sure that there is always enough money to solve their problems,” says CvdK Paas. “Where there are compensation schemes, we should not ask residents to collect the money themselves, but it should be brought to them.” With this, Paas refers to the long queues that arose when people could submit an application for compensation at the beginning of last year.
Residents must not only be able to tell their story, says Paas, but the authorities must actually help. “That’s their job and so a culture change is needed for that.” According to him, it still happens too often that civil servants calculate everything to two decimal places and then have to ask “endless” permission from higher up to approve compensation. “That’s often the engine of deceleration.”
The government is not set up properly for this at the moment, Schuiling adds. “The way we are used to dealing with our legal rules, establishing a flawless relationship between the damage and the cause, does not apply here.”
Major culture leap
“Civil servants must be given the budgets and powers to carry out their tasks,” Paas continues. “Someone has to say to the people in Groningen: ‘I stand next to the residents, I will solve it and explain it later.’ That seems like a detail, but it is a major cultural leap.”
Damage repair and reinforcement are essential parts of the solution to the Groningen crisis, say the directors. “So stop with that legal precision work and tackle the problem per village,” says Paas. “It starts with the recovery of the physical, mental and social damage. People must be able to live safely again. It is time to give our region perspective again.”
- Committee of inquiry: gas extraction disastrous for Groningen residents, the Netherlands has a debt of honor
- Relief, but also distrust in Groningen after presentation of a hard report
- Rutte: conclusions about Groningen have come in hard, also for me personally