Looking back: Webinar 'Hard ground for Groningen'

On June 26, 2020, the Knowledge Platform Leefbaar and Kansrijk Groningen, together with the Knowledge Platform Building and Strengthening, held the webinar 'Fixed ground for Groningen'. From the studio of Stadslab Groningen, table host Janine Abbring led the 150 viewers through the state of affairs in Groningen gas extraction file. Scientific director of the Knowledge Platform Leefbaar and Kansrijk Groningen Tom Postmes discussed the current situation with the director of BuildinG Rolf Koops.

Originally a recorded speech by Minister Ollongren was on the agenda, but unfortunately she had to cancel. The text of her speech has been shared with us. Rolf Koops: 'The minister is full of praise for Groningers who take matters into their own hands and also make plans on their own initiative to strengthen their homes and villages. That is very positive.' Tom Postmes: 'safety first has always been the motto, the motto of Kamp, the motto of Wiebes and now the motto is, and it is explicitly stated: safety and clarity.'

The Critical Review by Derksen and Gebben, which was published early at the request of the minister, was frequently discussed ( Read the Critical Review here). The contrast between where Groningen is, in the swamp of institutions and regulations, and the solid ground it needs to get out of this crisis could hardly be greater, says Janine Abbring.

Speaking about the reinforcement tasking and how the models used (such as the Dutch Practice Guideline

and the Hazard and Risk Assessment) have become an unfiltered part of the policy, Koops said: “It is a technocratic reality that makes sense on paper, but which is socially unacceptable in my view.” Tom Postmes answers a question about how he expects the reinforcements to get under way: “It is crucial to learn to have trust in each other, especially between all those institutions, it is all about the trust of the Groninger in The Hague, but I think that is less important.”

In a table discussion about the future of Groningen with Reinalda Start of the NOS (also co-author of the book De Gaskolonie), Herman Rinket of the Gasberaad and Adriaan Geuze of the architectural firm West8, and involved in the Toukomst program, Start first refers to the website Het Verdwenen. Groningen where all the buildings that have been demolished for gas extraction are located. "Then you see houses disappear that are Groningen to me, you shouldn't want that either, it is also a very bad idea that all those houses should be demolished because they are not strong enough and cannot be reinforced." After questioning Abbring, Start added: "The question is not whether they cannot be reinforced, but they are too expensive to reinforce, they are actually a total loss, they are not economically worth strengthening."

Rinket, himself a resident and entrepreneur in Loppersum, brings another aspect to light: “As an entrepreneur you fall outside most regulations. Most things that are provided for residents and not for entrepreneurs. There are few or no regulations that have to do with your business operations when everything has to be taken up again for reinforcement but also for damage repair.” When asked what he sees at other businesses in the area, Rinket said: "If you have a business where you have staff working, you should keep in mind that if you know that serious damage has occurred to your property due to an earthquake that you are actually not allowed to let your staff work in that company.”

Adriaan Geuze indicates that Groningen's problems are complex and layered: "There is a longer tradition of not understanding each other, not listening and feeling disadvantaged." Yet he is not pessimistic about the possibilities for the future of Groningen. “We are going to spend half of our time with Hanze University students and RUG students to explicitly announce us to the youth, because we want to talk to you: Where do you live? What is going on in your community?” This has resulted in a reflection on the relationships, contradictions and hope in the communities through role play.

In the meantime, Toukomst is in the process of bundling the submitted suggestions and analyzing what is feasible and what is not. “We will introduce that to a panel, a citizens' panel, which will have sensible discussions about it and make decisions in the hierarchy and how the money is spent. That is a form of self-governance (self-government ed.), not giving up, so people who are part of the society of Groningen, who have a social function, they are going to talk about it, which is of course also very good because also brings reconciliation, bridges are built there.” What is now happening in Groningen within the framework of Toukomst is quite unique. Geuze: "It's all mess and we have to mess in the right direction and we have to hold on to each other, we have to try to achieve that atmosphere."

Talking about the complexity of the file and the complex political game that is played to please the interests of the government, the NAM and the people of Groningen, Rinket observes: “The further in time we get, the safer, everyone shouts. want to say something about it. Yes, in numbers, but security isn't just a house standing up for those ten minutes to get out. Safety is also for people who don't have to worry about growing up their children who only know these kinds of things.” Referring to the strong earthquake of 3.5 near Westeremden in 2006, Rinket said: “Generations of children were born and left home in a time when there was always misery, uncertainty, uncertainty, insecurity and the like. That is something you should be terribly ashamed of if you, as a politically responsible and economically responsible, keep putting it off.” Reinalda Start blames the knowledge institutions that they paid too little attention to this at the time. It has only been since the Huizinge earthquake in 2012 that greater national attention has been sought from Groningen for the problem.

Looking at the future of Groningen, the Toukomst program offers perspective. The first batch of ideas has now been brought together into about 50 bundles, which will soon be linked again. For example, there are many ideas about education and connecting to the labor market through internships and vocational schools. In addition, more than 400 suggestions were submitted about the landscape, which should be greener, more beautiful and with more room for water. In addition, there are many ideas about tourism as a new pillar of the region's existence. Geuze: “There are so many initiatives about landscape and living environment, really so many, that we want to shout out 'note the quality of life is explicitly linked to these types of domains by the people of Groningen themselves, who have participated in this project.' Wouldn't you have to create a local service, which used to be called the land development service, that verifies and improves the landscape you name in all implementation projects and the canals, the banks, the biodiversity and the living environment of the village in all plans." Geuze further notes that Groningen residents and administrators would like to see improvements quickly, but that for plans in the field of education, for example, it can take up to 10 years before they bear fruit. Janine Abbring closes with the correct comment that having a long breath in Groningen is not an unnecessary luxury.

Toch is hij niet pessimistisch over de mogelijkheden voor de toekomst van Groningen. “We zijn de helft van onze tijd gaan besteden met Hanzehogeschool studenten en RUG studenten om naar de jeugd toe ons expliciet aan te kondigen, want we willen met jullie praten: Waar woon je? Wat is er aan de hand in je gemeenschap?” Aan de hand van een rollenspel is hierdoor een reflectie ontstaan op de verhoudingen, tegenstellingen en hoop in de gemeenschappen.

Ondertussen is Toukomst bezig om de ingediende suggesties te bundelen en wordt er geanalyseerd wat haalbaar is en wat niet. “Dat brengen we in in een panel, een burgerpanel, wat daar verstandige discussies over gaat voeren en besluiten gaat nemen in de hiërarchie en de besteding van het geld. Dat is een vorm van self governance (zelfbestuur red.), niet bij de pakken neer zitten, mensen die dus in de maatschappij van Groningen staan, die een maatschappelijke functie hebben, die gaan daar over praten, dat is natuurlijk ook heel goed want dat geeft ook verzoening, daar worden bruggen gebouwd.” Wat er nu in Groningen gebeurt binnen het kader van Toukomst is vrij uniek. Geuze: “Het is allemaal knoeien en we moeten de goede kant op knoeien en we moeten elkaar vasthouden, die sfeer moeten we wel proberen te bereiken.”


Pratend over de stroperigheid in het dossier en het complexe politieke spel dat gespeeld wordt om de belangen van zowel de overheid, de NAM en de Groningers te behagen observeert Rinket: “Naarmate wij verder in de tijd komen worden wij steeds veiliger, dat roept iedereen die daarover iets wil zeggen. Ja, in cijfers, maar veiligheid is niet alleen een huis dat overeind blijft staan voor die tien minuten om eruit te komen. Veiligheid is ook voor mensen die zich niet zorgen hoeven maken om het opgroeien van hun kinderen die alleen maar dit soort dingen kennen.” Verwijzend naar de forse beving van 3.5 bij Westeremden in 2006 zei Rinket: “Er zijn generaties kinderen geboren en het huis uit gegaan in de tijd dat hier altijd ellende, onduidelijkheid, onzekerheid, onveiligheid en dergelijke was. Dat is toch wel iets waar je je vreselijk over moet schamen als je als politiek verantwoordelijke als economisch verantwoordelijke het voor je uit blijft schuiven.” Reinalda Start neemt het de kennisinstellingen kwalijk dat die hier destijds te weinig aandacht aan hebben besteed. Het is pas sinds de beving van Huizinge in 2012 dat er breder vanuit Groningen de landelijke aandacht wordt opgezocht voor de problematiek.


Kijkend naar de toekomst van Groningen biedt het programma Toukomst perspectief. De eerste lichting ideeën is nu samengebracht tot zo’n 50 bundels en die worden straks ook weer met elkaar in verbinding gebracht. Zo zijn er bijvoorbeeld veel ideeën over educatie en het aansluiten op de arbeidsmarkt door stages en vakscholen. Daarnaast waren er meer dan 400 suggesties over het landschap ingediend, dat moet groener, mooier en met meer ruimte voor water. Bijkomend zijn er veel ideeën over het toerisme als een nieuwe pijler onder het bestaan van de regio. Geuze: “Er zijn zoveel initiatieven over landschap en leefomgeving, echt zó veel, dat wij willen uitschreeuwen van ‘let nou op de leefbaarheid wordt door de Groningers zelf, die hebben meegedaan aan dit project, expliciet gekoppeld aan dit soort domeinen.’ Zou je niet een lokale dienst, wat vroeger de landinrichtingsdienst heette, moeten maken die bij alle uitvoeringsprojecten dat landschap wat je benoemt en de vaarten, de oevers, de biodiversiteit en de leefomgeving van het dorp bij alle plannen verifieert en verbeterd.” Geuze merkt verder op dat Groningers en bestuurders graag snel verbeteringen zien, maar dat het voor plannen bijvoorbeeld op het gebied van educatie wel 10 jaar kan duren voordat het vruchten afdraagt. Janine Abbring sluit af met de terechte opmerking dat het hebben van een lange adem in Groningen geen overbodige luxe is.