Gerry’s “Old Dungas”…. and Still snagged at Building consents….

I have spent the last few days, (between trying to deal with Insurance issues) reading the first critique of the Disaster in Christchurch.  And I refer to the man-made disaster, not the 14000+ earthquakes.

“Once in a Lifetime: City-building after Disaster in Christchurch” Edited by Barnaby Bennett, James Dann, Emma Johnson and Ryan Reynolds
Foreword by Helen Clark,  Freerange Press, August 2014.. 55 essays, 39 visual essays

“This important book offers the first substantial critique of the Government’s recovery plan for Christchurch, presents alternative approaches to city-building and archives a vital and extraordinary time. “Once in a Lifetime” brings together a range of national and international perspectives on city-building and post-disaster urban recovery.” (Freerange Press)

Collectively it is the best summary of the situation that I have seen.  It does not cover CERA/CCDU in glory.  It clearly points out the flaws in the top down management technique that has been trialled here.

  • It refers: to the precincts as an “out dated model”, the public as “disillusioned”, the commercial rebuild as occurring “outside the fringes of the CBD” and the proliferation of bars and cafes as the only activities occurring in the CBD.
  • There is a comparison by Dr Suzanne Vallance of Lincoln University, between the disproportionate effect on socio-economically disadvantaged people.  (ie the East siders). As well as a discussion on the reliance on “Token consultation as information” and a discussion on the blue Print, “which rarely work out as intended.”
  • I also noted the comment by Jane smith , a CHCH resident, referring to the culture of secrecy, when referring to the control of access to the city, when referring to the cordon.  “For the latter half of the lock down period much of the land in the CBD was vacant, and access could have been effectively managed through site fences”.  This is an issue that was patently obvious to those of us with passes to the inner city we were bemused by the insistence on the lengthy lock down.
  • A comment by  Dr Jessica Halliday, an Architectural Historian, refers to the “over simplification” of the view that heritage buildings were killers.  This view was promulgated by Minister Brownlee, with his “old dungas” comments.

(Interestingly, I note that this original comment has now been attributed in the CHCH Press, 30 August 2014, in an article by Vicki Anderson, to Helen Trappitt. “a structural Engineer and a share holder at Lewis Bradford Consulting Engineers.”  Mrs Trappitt comments that  “That may have come up from a conversation he had with some of our engineers.”   

Hummn….. perhaps she should have gone back and clarified their comments, and made Mr Brownlee understand a wee bit better what you were referring too???


  • Shamubeel Eaqub comments that  “Government-mandated clusters rarely – if ever-work”.  He also comments on “the length of time it has taken to get things going”.   I found this theme reoccurring repeatedly throughout the book.

The only area I felt the book did not cover, was the actions taken against the building owners in the CBD area, the effects of the lock down on their businesses, the problems they had getting their stock and access to their wares, the difficulties of relocation,   or the way some building owners were coerced into demolishing buildings rather than repair and the lack of assistance to repair.  Both from central government and the Insurance Industry.

It needs another chapter on this issue.  But I would say that!
Some of these issues were touched on by a number of contributors.  Might have to keep that issue for book number 2!.

This is well worth a read, and I am only half way at this stage.

So Hows progress in High Street?

I am still completely frustrated by our building consent amendment issues. I am still trapped between an overworked Engineer and Building Consents.

I am well aware that I am not the only one in the city totally frustrated by the process. Link here:

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Consents process is holding up progress in the central city.  CERA/CCDU, for all their might, seem unable and unwilling to address the issues.  They were very quick to demolish the buildings but since than have completely walked away from any issues the remaining building owners have.  Giving the new crown manager $2000 a day has not helped the situation one bit.  (Only cost the city a mere $10 million)

There is an intrinsic problem with the consents process.  I do not even pretend to understand all the issues, but it seems to me that the building consent departments are being hampered by government legislation. They require a mysterious process that requires that they tick certain boxes. The irony is that than the Consulting Engineer signs a Producer Statement taking full responsibility for the buildings, (than Consents charge you heaps and send you a bill.)  Why the duplication of procedures if the Engineers are taking full responsibility anyway???   I do not get it. There is no attempt being made to deal with these issues.

Other than that there has been no progress, the street looks like a bomb site, the Mckenzie and Willis and Billens buildings are still standing in their derelict glory.

On the subject of CERA/CCDU.  Anyone notice the complete silence???  They are desperate to keep their heads down prior to the elections. I would like to see a Christchurch revolution.  Marching in the street French style. The treatment of the city’s population by the Insurance companies, EQC, building companies etc has been appalling.  It is now nearly 4 years on and we are still living in “war like conditions” in cold broken houses, with broken roads and services.  Do you know that to go and buy a new pair of jeans I have to drive to the other side of the city?  There are no shops, services or amenities.  (Heaven help you if you need to find a public toilet!)  The only activity that is happening in the central city is alcohol fueled mayhem.

On the subject of my new house. “Southern No Response”  It’s still a hole in the ground after 7 months. They started to dig the site out and put in a small retaining wall, pre-foundations, they have stuffed up and now ripped part of it out. Now in the process of re-doing the wall.  Hummn?   This does not inspire confidence.  I am not enjoying living in my cold flat at all!

ho humm, off to send another email to the Insurance company!



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