How not to Rebuild High Street…

Surprise!  Not.  The High Street Duncan’s Building 1905 block looks like it might be in trouble.  Heritage is finally getting worried.  Sorry, you have left your run too late. It would not surprise me if we will lose our frontage.  I have been predicting this for some months now, I get no feeling of satisfaction from this.  I suspect that we may as well do no further work on trying to save it, because it looks like there are going to be some big holes in the block and there is no point in us being the only one left with a heritage frontage.

Demolition by neglect I call it.  This has happened for a number of reasons.

1.  The Christchurch City council was negligent in its duty to the city in not enforcing stricter Earthquake standards.  Following the September 2010 quakes building owners with Red stickered buildings were not forced to take action immediately.

The negligence actually goes further back than that, it also relates to the way they continued to allow the demise of the CBD area by refusing to alter the destructive one way street systems. As well as creating a mall system and then not altering it when it was obvious that it was failing.

2. Access: it has been too difficult to get access.  The first access we had to do repairs was in May 2011. Three months after the February 22 2011 earthquake, and we were allowed 10 days. Too slow, not enough time. We were also the only ones working in the street. The system did not force the others to do repairs.

3. Insurance companies.  Deny liability, Delay payments, Defend ie litigate, look for loop holes.  The Insurance problems are legendary.  Getting payments for contractors is a massive mission, one big stall.  Business interruption insurance has proved to be a joke.

4. CERA/Government: have created a structure so onerous that it is unworkable.  Many building owners have pulled buildings down rather than face repairs, the 10 day notice period for the section 38 repairs/make safes was unworkable. The Section 39’s for demolish were even more difficult.  As is the red tape and “Fletcher’s style” health and safety paper work nightmare.  The Certified Contractor fiasco further delayed repairs in the CBD.  The CERA structure was and is still targeted at demolitions, they appear to have ignored the fact that repairs are a whole different proposition, requiring different contractors and time lines. Communications from CERA are non-existent and have been all the way along.

5. Engineer shortage. Overworked, not able to produce the work required in a timely fashion.  There are not enough experienced Engineers in the city to do the Detailed Engineering Evaluations required.  (Over 7000)   As well many of the Engineers employed by CERA initially had no understanding of Unreinforced Masonry buildings, which was why so many were pulled down hastily.  This problem was exacerbated by the ridiculous pricing that was done by contractors when costing repairs, particularly of Unreinforced masonry (URM’s).

6. Labour shortages. Skilled Brick layers are in short supply, as are skilled builders, ones used to doing the types of repairs on URM’s.  It is not a job for a home build!  Coupled with labour shortages, is the problem of some contractors not wanting to work in the Red zone as the conditions are still onerous and some of the staff do not want to take the risks perceived in working in URM’s.

7.  Lack of informed media analysis, of the performance of CERA/Government as well as their own lack of journalistic skills.  Combined with a code of silence from the other political parties.

8.  In the High Street situation there are a number of other issues.- Uninsured building owners, both by choice and inadvertently.  Years of neglect by building owners. Party walls, in many cases in poor condition, and little prospect of forcing building owners to comply with the existing out of date party-wall legislation. Lack of certainty that the block will survive is going to slow repairs further.  The problem we have getting safe access to our building, at the moment we are being forced to walk beneath a 3 storey URM in grave danger from another quake, and to make the situation worse CERA is so stupid that they have blocked the escape route by putting up a 6 foot netting fence in the one direction that you could escape to.  The silence from the other building owners is deafening, many have not done any repairs at all since February 2011, this is intolerable.  go figure.

Quick update on our repairs,   we have done one days work since the 18th December 2011- when the front wall was pulled back into position.  I have just been informed that the ring beam for the first floor is at least 6 weeks away.  So no progress there.  But on a much happier note-we shift our new machines into the garage on Tuesday next week, so hopefully by the end of the week we will be independent again!  And we can start to run again!.  Than I can crank up our mail order, which I know will please many of you. We have applied for “Permission” from the CCC to do this, but to be honest who cares, we will proceed regardless. There is only so much one can put up with and this last year has sorely tested my patience. (Never my strongest trait.)

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2 thoughts on “How not to Rebuild High Street…

  1. There is a bit of the revolutionary there Nick, running an “underground” printing press, now there is something to add to your CV. I am amazed by your patience actually, I am amazed at how you have worked through the last 18 months and retained your sanity. 🙂

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