Groningen says Netherlands must provide money to help residents affected by earthquakes
Groningen residents must be able to count on the fact that there is enough money for the region. And that goes beyond just repairing earthquake damage and strengthening homes, King’s Commissioner Rene Paas said on behalf of the regional governments in response to the parliamentary inquiry into gas extraction. “Recovery of the physical, mental, and social damage in Groningen” is paramount, he said.
The government’s implementation of schemes to help Groningen residents must also be “impeccable.” The government must provide sufficient funding for those schemes. Groningen residents shoud no longer have to make do, Paas said. The commissioner, together with Johan Remkes, who heads the National Program Groningen, and Groningen mayor Koen Schuiling, seized the parliamentary inquiry results as an opportunity to propose measures to the national government.
“We don't want to lose this moment,” said Paas. The handling of the earthquake area in Groningen has resulted in “broken lives,” he said. “We want to take a step forward today.”
A cultural change is needed at the government, Schuiling said. “A whole generation has grown up in distrust.”
Both men asked the government to invest in perspective for the region, from which the Netherlands earned many billions of euros for decades. It is important that “children have a future in the province in which they can develop themselves,” Paas said. They called for investments in education, sports, and culture.
Groningen has had enough of natural gas and wants to be the first Dutch province to be completely off the gas grid by 2035, mayor Schuiling said. “Ideally, it would cover the entire province,” said the mayor. “It cannot be the case that the residents of the energy province Groningen has always been, have the greatest energy poverty.” According to him, costs incurred due to the lagging earthquake damage repair and strengthening operations have meant that homeowners have not always been able to make sustainable choices.
It would, therefore, be nice if Groningen were “the first province where natural gas is no longer extracted and no longer used.” He realizes it won’t be easy. There’s a big difference between a terraced house and a detached farm. But it is still a “very good ambition,” Schuiling said.
“We did what we could”
The parliamentary committee of inquiry concluded that Groningen politicians “have not succeeded sufficiently in standing up for the residents of the earthquake zone.” According to Paas, that is due to a “closed stronghold” of the national government and oil companies and a lack of information. It was not due to their best efforts, Paas said.
“We negotiated, we drank coffee until it gave us an ulcer.” But “all those mayors, all those aldermen, all those deputies, and all those commissioners of the King” encountered a wall from the oil companies and State keeping their ranks closed. “We really did what we could,” Paas said.
Remkes also said that the failures in Groningen were not due to a lack of effort from the local and regional politicians. The parliamentary committee said that the regional administrators were “unable” to stand up for the residents well enough. “I don’t read that as a reproach,” Remkes said. The Groningen politicians had limited opportunities to make an actual difference, he said. "Should Groningen have proclaimed the free republic of Groningen?" he wondered jokingly.
Reporting by ANP