How it all began

First posted on Hortsource in March 2011:

The initial shock is over.  The aftershocks are still happening though, both in a physical sense and as far as getting business life back to normal is concerned.  For some people normally is still a long way to go – and anyone who watched the TV footage of frustrated and desperate small business owners trying to light a fire under the Civil Defence bureaucracy will wonder what on earth is going in Christchurch.

Railway Line Near Christchurch (AFP)

Thirty second video clips don’t always get the message across correctly, the danger being that sensationalism takes over.

Here is a very eloquent way to sum up how a small inner city business inside the no go red zone is – or more to the point – is NOT coping with the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.  Treat it as a guest contribution if you like.  The author, Nicky Arts, owns a small business in High Street, inside the  inaccessible red cordon.

Chch CBD

It is now, 5 weeks since the CHCH earthquake. What has been achieved for the CBD business owners? Well if you are wealthy and “well connected” you will have been into your business and collected your car keys and jacket, maybe salvaged your stock, plant and records, or much more likely, If you are a small SME you will not have heard from Civil Defence for 5 weeks, you probably don’t know officially if your building has been A) demolished B) looted C) standing but damaged D) a variation of above. ( Unless a kind Journalist/contractor/police man has helped you out.) In our case we are RED, but no one can tell me why! Though I suspect it’s my neighbour, who has frontage problems.

You will be checking the Recover Canterbury website every day- don’t bother it’s out of date. Try Paul Lonsdale from the Central City Business Association he is supplying the best information I can find.

You will be ringing your fellow building owners/businesses every day in the vain hope that they know more than you do.

You will be checking the Press every day- don’t bother they are not even publishing cordon reduction maps. (Try checking out the articles in the NZ Herald, they have some excellent comments)

You will have reluctantly told your staff, that have loyally stuck with you, that they are redundant, and that you don’t think you can re open in the same format.

You will spend every day worrying about how you are going to do the accounts for 2010-2011 because you don’t have any records.

You will spend time worrying about finding that document that gives you… in my case- power of attorney for your elderly mothers affairs- she is in a rest home in Auckland because she does not have- power-sewer-water- dangerous house- liquifaction- take your pick!

You spend your day wondering what you are going to do about the February invoices that you can’t get access to and you need the money.

You will be ringing the 0800 …whatever- number every day, and wonder what conflicting story they will give you today.

You will have stood at the portacom at the art gallery, day after day, and been fobbed off.

You will have felt sick when they they changed the cordon dates, yet again.

You will have faced the slick PR machine- which is lies, lie and lies. And is just a stalling tactic.

You will have wondered WHEN they are actually going to make a decision?

You will have wondered if there is any one in charge?

You will wonder if any one with commercial experience is involved in the decision making?

You will have realised that all Small/Medium Enterprises have been written off as collateral damage.

You will wonder why Labour/Greens/Act/who ever – is not helping you by attacking the government handling of this fiasco.

You will wonder why they won’t let the glazier/carpenter/brickie in to fix your building. In my case they won’t let in the Steel company to install the last 12 beams needed to finish the strengthening project we have been working on for 2 years. (He is now closing down because he can’t work).

You will wonder why 1/4 of CHCH work force is on a subsidy (when we could work safely from our strengthened building, and contribute to the economy).

You will smile when you meet your lawyer at the portacom and he complains that it is a f…. shambles.  And you will invite him to the next protest!

You will wonder what sort of future Christchurch has, if no one listens to us.

Nicky Arts


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