The Protests at the Art Gallery/Civil Defence Headquarters March 2011…. for the record…

I note that my original post for the protest at the Art gallery has been removed by “the powers that be”, it was less than complimentary of Minister Brownlee’s behaviour.  So I have tried to collect as much information as I can to recreate the sequence of events.  Apologies for any errors and the length of this posting.  I was a history student and I hate my blogs being messed with, even if it was too colourful!  I am happy to amend this if someone can fill in any details I have forgotten or the time line is incorrect.

The business owners protests in March 2011 were initially organised by Kurt Langer, a photographer, with a business in Cashel street. He wanted to retrieve his equipment/tools of trade from his premises. Kurt Langer became a voice for angry business owners, those of us frustrated with the way the central city was being mismanaged, the lack of access, communication, as well as concern at the level of destruction that was occurring out of sight of prying eyes by out of control demolition teams.

This was posted on Facebook.17.3.2011

Christchurch City Council are tearing down private buildings without owner permission. Destroying the lives of the very people who can rebuild the city with what’s inside. Many people have lost EVERYTHING but it is recoverable. Meet for a peaceful protest against this illegal action. Walking from the Bridge of remembrance to the Art Gallery. TODAY. Thursday 4:30PM Christchurch time”

This is last-minute but please invite your entire network to help make this known and TURN UP the protests very quickly developed a life of its own as more business owners were informed of the times and place of protest. Blog spot :

Thursday March 17 2011:

OPEN LETTER: Serious concerns of many of the people of Christchurch City

Further to my post this morning about the travails of Christchurch business owners in getting their hands on the property in their businesses, protest leader Kurt Langer has sent this email/open letter out.

Please forward this email/letter on to all that you know who can help us make this happen!

The people of Christchurch who own businesses and buildings within the Central area of Christchurch have the following concerns.
1. We have lost faith in the competence and willingness of the Civil Defence and the Earthquake Authorities to be effective caretakers of our property.

  • Civil Defence is not adequately protecting property in the central city from looters.
  • Civil Defence is demolishing buildings and businesses without consultation and against the declared interests of their owners.
  • Civil Defence is destroying property without any due diligence or care about the value of what they are destroying.
  • Civil Defence does not even care to consult with owners of property in any meaningful capacity.
  • By any meaningful standard, the actions of Civil Defence are far more destructive to Christchurch businesses and business owners than the petty pilfering of looters.

2. We have lost faith in the ability of Civil Defence and the Earthquake Authorities to bring about meaningful recovery in the Christchurch central district.

  • If recovery has any meaning at all, it is the recovery of Christchurch businesses.
  • The “recovery” to date has been micro-managed, alienating the very individuals whose recovery is essential to restart business in Christchurch.
  • There has been no interest in working with the very people of Christchurch whose business it is to run business, rather keeping the attempted recovery within the hands of too few individuals.
  • Four weeks after the quake, and very little has been achieved beyond the original rescue effort. No surprise when the people who run Christchurch’s businesses are excluded rather than embraced.

3. We call upon the New Zealand Government to:

  • End the State of Emergency on Friday. With rescue and immediate recovery complete, responsibility, risk and stewardship for property should revert to its owners.
  • Immediately reinstate personal property rights, guaranteeing property owners the final say in the determination of their property.

We say: “Tear down this State of Emergency and let Christchurch businesses begin the job of getting back on their feet.



Kurt Langer

Background To the Protests:

  • The building owners had been locked out of the CBD by Civil Defense for about 4 weeks.
  • There was NO communication happening about when we could go in and retrieve our records or equipment. In fact none of us had had any communication with Civil Defence at all.
  • There was frustration and irritation at the steady stream of “dignitaries” being shown parading through the CBD in their hard hats and fluro vests.  The latest one was:  Prince William inspects Christchurch CBD.   Every so-called “dignitary” in the world from rugby player to royalty, as well as Rachael Hunter were being given guided tours of the CBD.  But we were not allowed in to get our possessions out.  Link here: Also Blog spot  has some good comments:
  • Civil Defence had been making all the decisions about which buildings to pull down without any attempts to retrieve possessions and many of the demolitions, even at this early stage, were starting to look suspect.  ie without proper Engineering reports.
  • The building owners were also hearing multiple reports of the wrong buildings being demolished, as well as only partially damaged buildings, often with the building owner not even knowing that this had occurred or having had a chance for the Insurance companies and Engineers to sight and inspect the building.
  • We also knew that all our buildings were insecure.  USAR  Urban Search and rescue, had been through the city like a bunch of wild animals, they had smashed EVERY door in the city, in their zeal and blood lust.  The excuse was that they were searching for bodies.  (If my memory serves me correctly in one instance they smashed every door, over 200? in one of the new hotels in the city, the keys were all available in the office. even the till had been jemmied open!)
  • The city was “leaking like a sieve” and we all knew of people who had been in raiding buildings.  There was a well founded perception that buildings were being looted, not only by thieves but also by some demolition contractors and others.

What you have to remember is that the Civil Defence organisation is a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs. They were given powers way beyond their abilities.

The First protest: Central Christchurch business owners urged to protest.  The Press: Giles Brown Thursday 17.3.11

“Central city business owners are being urged to gather together and protest the handling of demolitions in Christchurch this afternoon. Photographer Kurt Langer, who owns a studio in Cashel Mall, said he was asking people to gather at the Bridge of Remembrance at 4.30pm and then walk to Civil Defence headquarters at the Christchurch Art Gallery.

Civil Defence was not allowing business owners to retrieve valuable material from inside the Red Zone and knocking down buildings without due consultation. He said the number of people who attended the protest did not matter to him. “It’s not about interest. It’s all about the city being flattened without anybody knowing and without anyone being able to retrieve any of their stuff. This is the worst thing that has happened to the Christchurch city centre. If no-one does anything about it the city will be flattened and they won’t worry one bit,” he said.

It was a relatively peaceful walk from the Bridge of Remembrance to the Art Gallery,  we blocked the major road heading north and did annoy the traffic, but that was just fun! When we arrived at the Art Gallery it started to heat up a bit. There was a lot of argy-bargy, hammering on the Art Gallery headquarters windows and demands for  “P .. F.. Brownlee”  or John Hamilton to come out and talk to us. They did not. ( the language was colourful but for accuracy this record needs to be  historically/factually correct.)

(This was reported as “They banged on the windows and told Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee to come out and talk to them.” Andrew Koubaridis NZPA  ) Christchurch business owners protest demolitions  Link here:

In fact really they handled it very badly. Civil Defence had had warning that it was happening, I believe that they thought no one would turn up, they had underestimated the bad feeling that had been generated in the city. They were extremely reluctant to talk to us.  I remember we were given platitudes from all the speakers and the usual “it is very dangerous” speel.  We knew the risks!

There is some film of that day:  Link Here (click on the 3rd photo down)
A video of business owners outside the Christchurch Art Gallery protesting the lack of access to their buildings in the Red Zone. ( Note: This is a heavily edited version of the events.  The more colourful parts of the banging on the windows of the art gallery has been edited out).

This protest by approximately 30 people had an immediate reaction, by Friday Civil Defense was in full damage control mode.

On Friday 18.3.11, Civil Defence starts to “change” its thinking: Civil Defense calls rethink as Christchurch building owners protest.  Link here:

It became obvious to “us” (there was no group as such, just a loose bunch of angry small building owners, one with a computer and some minimal skills, another with a data base that they should not have had, one with some media and writing experience, we had no leader, no committee, no spokesperson, this had some advantages as they could not pick us off ) that we needed to follow-up this protest with a repeat performance. Discussions began immediately about another protest. So another email drop was prepared and sent out over the weekend, planning  to meet on monday.

Call to Christchurch Protest

Another call to action tomorrow from disgruntled Christchurch CBD business owners–you know, the folk who used to put the ‘B’ into the CBD.  Those good folk who know that for Christchurch to recover then Christchurch BUSINESS must recover.

Dear fellow ChCh CBD business owners,

It is now 4 weeks since the tragic earthquake of 22 February, and for most of us, we are no closer to knowing the fate of our businesses/buildings and when we will be allowed back into them to retrieve critical records, secure the premises as well as allowing Independent Engineers Assessments.

We must continue to demand our legitimate rights of ownership.

The business of Christchurch was business. Not anymore. The business of Christchurch, if you listen to the “authorities” is killing the very business that need to recover if Christchurch ever will. 

Those of us who have attempted dialogue with the council, civil defence or central government are simply fobbed off or given contradictory advice.  The meeting that none of us was invited to yesterday was intended only to fob off, not to inform.

When the person supposedly in charge, John Hamilton cannot answer basic questions like “which buildings have been deconstructed”? or “who authorised their deconstruction”?, then we all need to be not just worried, but in fact fearful as to what will be left of the CBD by the time we are allowed back in. The lack of leadership and control of the recovery effort is truly frightening.

“Business owners may have to wait over a year before they could return to the central city” – sounds like guarantee looting, demolishing and pillaging by the wreckers to me. The damage has been done–and is being exacerbated by the “authorities.”

Recovery is sadly the wrong word for what is going on, and in fact the opposite is occurring. Unnecessary demolitions and access delays is killing any chance of a recovery by the businesses expected to lead the recovery. What wasn’t destroyed in the CBD by the earthquake, is now being destroyed by a shambolic civil defence and demolition crew anarchy.

What are we going to do about it? Are we going to leave it to Gerry, John and Bob to sort it out, hiding behind the cordons and “authority” created by a state of emergency.

Some of us don’t believe they are capable or willing to sort it out within a time frame which allows our businesses to survive. Therefore, for the sake of our survival, we need to show them we want access to our businesses now,  not next week, not next month or not next year.

Come along again to the Christchurch Art Gallery, 2pm this Thursday 24th of March, and let’s present a united voice against the dictatorship under which the central city is currently operating.  

Bring your Placards or just bring your self. 


Christchurch Business Recovery Group.

So, 3 days later on Monday the 21.3.11 there was another protest.  This one was more difficult for them to ignore as it had got larger, 100 people.  It was accountants,  planning commissioners, Hotel owners,  Building developers, Jewellers and other leading Business owners from the central city as well as smaller retailers.  (This was not rabble or rent a crowd, this was a group of “respectable” business owners (mostly :-)) complaining about the treatment they were getting from government administrators.    This was unheard off and extremely embarrassing, it was nation wide news.

We were ushered in to the art Gallery, as they were desperate to get us out of public view.  We listened to some platitudes from John Hamilton about “It’s very dangerous in-there”  yeah right as if we were stupid.

This is where the infamous remark by Peter Townsend was made.  As documented by Rebecca Macfie, Listener 2.4.2011 Link here:

this link is a bit odd: try this

“Peter Townsend, boss of the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, muttered on Tuesday as he ushered the protesters into a closed meeting with Civil Defence, that their actions were “a diversion of resources”. “We’ll get it sorted,” he snapped.”

The arrogance was staggering.  When did he plan to “get it sorted?” The tone he spoke in implied that we were idiots and that we should trust in his management skills.  yeah right.   say no more…..

If I remember correctly some people walked out.

What happened after that meeting was, I think, that the larger building owners were pulled aside and dealt with one by one, the smaller ones were ignored. It was about divide and rule. (A tactic that they successfully used for the next 6 years).

As we came out we decided to walk to the red zone cordon.  I can not remember the reason, but I do know that we felt that we had not had satisfactory answers to our concerns. This protest was much angrier than the first.

It ended with the “storming “of the bridge at Worcester st.  As we walked along with about 30-40  people heading for the red zone fence, I remember saying to Bruce Williamson that we had to keep going on through the cordon if we could and that we were going to only get one chance at this. I was hoping that the people following would back us up.  We milled around the intersection for a few minutes blocking the traffic, Bruce “poised for the camera with the personnel carrier” and gave them a hard time, them then we just walked up to the lone army sentry on the bridge, we calmly walked past him.  I remember him saying in a rather odd tone of voice, something along the line of “please be careful ma’am”.  I  assured him we were not going to do anything silly. So we “stormed the Red Zone”. There was no  “running past security” we AMBLED. If I remember correctly 2 building owners took off, one down Worcester st, and I think one down Hereford Street, they were chased by a cop on a bike.  They were eventually ushered out of the red zone before they got very far!  We wandered along the river towards the Hereford Street bridge and ambled back out again.  Some of us, me included,  with our arms twisted up our backs by some friendly and some not so friendly cops.

It was a symbolic act only. Very effective.

Christchurch business owners’ protest heats   21.3.2011

“This time the protests git a bit more heated. Protests from angry Christchurch business owners locked out of the damaged CBD have intensified today, with police physically intervening when several protesters went inside the cordon”.

“A nz video reporter at the scene said several protesters ran past security inside the cordoned off area this afternoon. While some came out peacefully, others were grabbed by police and physically removed”.

This is where the now infamous pictures of Joe Arts came from:

Joe being subdued!

Joe being subdued! He is very proud of this picture.  His bid for free speech!

Also the classic picture of Bruce Williamson getting friendly with a tank/armoured carrier or whatever it was!

The Army "protects" us says Bruce W.

The Army “protects” us says Bruce W.


The news over the next few days was about how dangerously we had acted.  We were buried in a tirade about “this is very dangerous” which was more amusing than anything.  No one seriously believed that we had endangered ourselves. The biggest danger that we faced was injury by policeman or more like seagull poo.  Use force to go in?  I hardly think so Superintendent Andy McGregor! It was a sunday afternoon walk in the park.

(I suspect that the police were as sick of Civil Defence as we were. They showed extreme reluctance to arrest anyone.  Mind you I am damn sure there were lawyers in our group  and they did not want this filmed going out live on nationwide TV.   It was an interesting day to say the least.  Eventually it all petered out and we all faded away.  No charges were laid that day even for the 2 runners!

“However, if it happened again people would be arrested: “The fact is if people are using force to go in, we’ll deal with it firmly,”  Christchurch Superintendent Andy McGregor said. I guarantee that no force was used, Bruce and I were the first past the Army security guard  on the bridge, the guard was mortified, he stepped back to let us past, and made a comment about staying safe.  He damn near let us in willingly.   A lovely very young man!  Link Here:  Christchurch protesters risking their lives – police

Here are some of the notes I wrote at the time: they have proved to be remarkably accurate. Sadly!

  • This is the only time I can recall in NZ history that Building/business owners have ever protested in this manner.
  • For 4 weeks we had attempted to contact the web sites, visited the cordons, been to the Art gallery headquarters, to try to gain access to our building.  We have been stonewalled and ignored at every attempt.
  • It was a token gesture to show our contempt for the way we have been treated.
  • 1 in 10 retailers in the CBD is closing down, estimate from Retailers Association,  (This figure is nonsense it will rise to over 70% after 3 years if I am correct!)
  • Less than 10% of building owners/operators have been allowed access to their building. Access depends on who you are.  There is a 2 tier access system.  Wealthy and others!
  • In 2 weeks 5000 inner city workers will be unemployed when the earthquake subsidy ceases.
  • The damage being caused, by “whole sale” bulldozing to the CHCH infrastructure is enormous.
  • No one seems to have realised that it is cheaper to repair and strengthen brick buildings to 100%  than it is to demolish them and then rebuild.
  • The wanton destruction of infrastructure shows a complete lack of Commercial experience, within the “Recovery Team”.
  • It is new buildings that have failed in many cases.
  • The constant parade of VIPs having access to the CBD make a mockery of the safety argument.
  • The gross breach of our property rights, misuse of the state of emergency, lack of information, contact and discussion is frightening in a democracy.
  • We do not even know (officially) what status my building is in?  (I was lucky to have taken photos of its condition immediately after the earthquake)
  • Why can’t I get an Engineer into the building?
  • Why is looting occurring?  and not being talked about?
  • Who is going to pay for the damage caused by USAR teams breaking down doors?
  • Who is signing off the demolition contracts and who is paying for it?
  • Why is no plan being given for a recovery access process,?
  • Why are we not able to start fixing/securing our buildings before the winter?
  • It is the building owners who will rebuild CHCH Not Civil defence or the government,  why not let those of us left start?

These notes make interesting reading 6 years on.  I was remarkably accurate in my assessments.

We followed it the next day again with a smaller protest.  Just so they would realise that we were not going away.

By Tuesday the 22.3.11 The politicians were in full damage control mode,  until then we had not heard  a peep out of any of them.

“Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove has slammed Civil Defence for failing to communicate with frustrated Christchurch business owners”.

“The protest (yesterday) should never have occurred. It was born out of a lack of basic communication. It should never have got to that stage,” the Waimakariri MP told NZPA Link here: Civil Defence blasted over Christchurch protest

Here is a summary from the : Central City Business Association.  The CCBA consistently followed the Civil Defence “corporate speak” line.  ie supported the establishment.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011 9:45 a.m.
Yesterday we meet with the business owners who were protesting outside the EOC. We invited them in to discuss their issues with the Civil Defence National Controller John Hamilton so we could understand the issues they felt needed addressing.
Main Concerns and Priorities
Security – Civil Defence assured businesses that they were addressing security issues and securing buildings that were left open post the quake. Some buildings could not be secured due to their state. Many felt that their businesses were open to the elements and many feared their business and personal possessions could be being looted.
Access – Civil Defence agreed that their were loop holes in this system and knew that some people were gaining access through their connections. This has now ceased and they plan to implement one policy, no exceptions rule.
Plan – Civil Defence is working on a plan for business owners to gain access to their buildings. They could not give a time line as some of these issues are tied up with critically damaged buildings and it will be SAFETY FIRST. They are not prepared to risk any more lives as we have already lost too much. They are doing their best and ask people to be patient  
I believe the meeting was a success and appreciate Civil Defence taking the time to talk through business owner issues directly. We have to understand the extent of the issues in the city and believe me photo’s do not convey the real damage the city has suffered. We all need to hold hands, work together and make sure we communicate in a reasonable manner with each other.
Kind regards,  Paul Lonsdale 

This was closely followed by :

Central City Business Association, Earthquake notice  Thursday, 24 March 2011 6:52 p.m.

Last night we met with the National Controller Steve Brazier, and Civil Defence Minister John Carter to discuss the growing tension being voiced and discussed ways forward to help resolve the issues. Below is a media statement highlighting the outcomes from that meeting.
Remember, the best way forward as a community is to hold hands and work through the issues positively.     Paul Lonsdale

24 March 2011, Media Statement       
Christchurch business issues addressed

Access to businesses in the cordoned red zone of Christchurch city is being addressed by the National Controller, Civil Defence Minister John Carter said today.

“Last night, National Controller Steve Brazier and I had a very positive meeting with representatives from the Central City Business Association, the New Zealand Retailers’ Association, Canterbury Development Corporation, Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Canterbury Business Recovery Group,” Mr Carter said.

“Civil Defence is aware of the importance of restoring business activity in Christchurch and is working with these business leaders to address issues around access to vital records and property or stock by business owners.

“The National Controller will do a stock take of buildings within the cordoned red zone so business owners can find out about the current state of their business premises. He will work with the leading business organisations to find out which businesses are in the affected buildings.

“Then business owners will know if and when they can access their premises. The sooner they know that, the sooner they can start working with their insurance companies and plan for business continuity.

“This work will remain subject to safety of people and there will be some cases, due to the impact of the earthquake, where businesses will never be able to retrieve property or stock. Those businesses will be advised of that. However, as many owners as possible will progressively be allowed to access their property.

“Another issue raised at the meeting was security for businesses in the red zone and property that owners cannot access will be secured, for example, doors will be shut and locked. Any complaints about treatment of buildings or stock will be followed up.

“Reduction of cordons and better traffic flow and management around the inner city were also discussed.

“We understand the frustrations felt by business owners and believe it is important to keep talking positively with them to firstly hear about their concerns and then work to resolve them.”
Paul Lonsdale, Central City Manager, Business Association

Civil Defence quickly got their act together to improve the situation.  The very public humiliation that they had suffered was shown throughout the country.  It should in future be used as an example of how not to handle a disaster.

The protests gradually petered out over the next few days.  What actually happened is that the largest business/building owners got meetings with Civil Defense very quickly and they got “sorted out.” In fact amongst the smaller business owners there is still the view today that the large building/business owners were “picked off early” and it left only a small hard-core group of dissatisfied intransigent building owners.

Many of the smaller building owners could not afford the $1000 engineers fees that were required to get access to their buildings and had to join the “group access” schemes.  I have heard that these allowed in we  only given a very short access time, one hour if I remember correctly.  And remember you were only allowed to take out one wheelie bin of stuff!

(In our end of High Street many of the small retailers had to raid their buildings to get their stuff.  In fact, we helped some of them as we were the only building owner with any degree of access. In fact one business only got the remains of their stock out in 2014,  so the access programme was totally unsatisfactory for them).

As late as 5.7.11 There were still ongoing individual protests occurring as Business owners were still having issues saving stock:

So I hope this puts the records more or less straight.  If any one has any corrections please let me know.  Happy to amend!

3rd Earthquake pictures 038

22.2.2011 15 minutes after the earthquake.


How not to repair a Heritage Building in the Christchuch CBD 5 years on…

So, what is new in High Street 5 years on from 22nd February 2010?

4 years progress in High St for CERA/CCDU.

5 years progress in High St for CERA/CCDU.

Not much obviously!

  • There appears to be no progress on the sale of the Duncan’s Building.  I have seen no sign of a tender document.
  • I have spoken to a number of interested buyers but it seems that CERA et al are unable to lift this issue out of the too hard basket. I have also been “told” that CERA et al will not be selling any further properties until the new “Regenerate” entity takes over.  Another delaying tactic. CERA closes down in April sometime, I can not remember if it’s the end of April or early.  The problem for CERA of course is that they paid too much for the buildings.  ( These figures are readily available).  CERA acquisitions in Lower High Street:
    145-151 High St  Oct 13  $636,000       4 units
    153 High St         Aug 13  $430,000       1 unit
    155-157 High St  Aug 13  $760,000       2 units

    Total paid $ 1,826,000
    Estimate of value now after 5 years of neglect:  Land price less demolition.  My guess is half of this price.  There is one insurance settlement to be collected on one unit, but after 3 years that will have devalued by approx 30%.

    So, there are a number of issues here.
    CERA/CCDU probably does no want to show a loss on the sale of these buildings on their books.   (Bad look for the Government)   They also appear incapable of sucking it up and doing a deal with a developer, along the lines of “you do the work and once they are tenanted you will pay xyz….”.  ie Stagger the payments. This would be normal practice in the commercial world.  They basically appear to be incapable of Making a decision.  Governments should not be in the business of real estate.

    c’est la vie…..

  • I see in the Press today, in a very good summary of the rebuild  “Have the anchor projects anchored Christchurch’s central city?”  by GEORGINA STYLIANOU, that 2 more properties belonging to the Christchurch Heritage Trust are under contract.  That will be the Billen’s site in the lower block and the Excelsior Hotel site on the corner of High Street & Manchester Street.  Good news for the street. Link here:
    Billens site.

    Billens site on the left.

    January 2016.  Just the frontage is left.  It is to be demolished and rebuilt as a "look alike".

    Excelisor Hotel. January 2016. Just the frontage is left. It is to be demolished and rebuilt as a “look alike”.

  • Security is still an ongoing issue in the street.  The police arrested 2 young men breaking into a neighbouring unit last week.
    We, again, had to board up the frontage. (The land owner has been conspicuous by her absence for the last 5 years).  A name and shame list is needed in the city, either front up or get out.
  • The wee shake last week was an unpleasant reminder, that it’s not over till it’s over.  30 more years some cheerful soul told me a few days ago.  It has interrupted our works programme as we had to rake and plaster some gib, that had just been under-coated in preparation for final painting.  Next time we will batten the gib,  I see no point in endless plastering/repainting.  Seems to me that Gib is not the product to use in Christchurch, I am going to start investigating alternatives.
  • Work has restarted on the fit out off 2 of the Duncan’s Units at the other end of our row.  Great to see.
  • The work on the McKenzie and Willis site is racing ahead.  I think its due to be completed in September.
  • Both the Vodafone and Katmandu buildings are close to being finished, I have not seen a recent ETA on these.
  • Otherwise all is quiet and boring.  We can see no point at his stage in attempting to open our retail area.  That would be retail suicide.

ho humm,  5 years on not much has changed.  Talk about depressing.  Retirement is looming I feel it in my bones.  I think I will move out of the city.  Some where, where there are no quakes, floods, fires, plagues of locusts/rats, government agencies, CERA/CCDU/REGENERATE/CCC/SOUTHERN RESPONSE etc….  and so the list goes on.

How not to repair a Heritage building in the Christchurch CBD Part 173

Well here we are, 5 years on since the February 2011 earthquake that decimated Christchurch.  On Monday there will be tears shed, politicians will say soothing words and the verbosity will flow.  (I notice this morning that we have lots of feel good articles in the Press about how well we are all doing and what great achievements have been made, how the city is moving forward and we are nearly half way there.  Wherever there is???? I will talk about High Street in a later post).

All very nice and good.  But behind the scenes there is another story.  The one that no one likes to talk about. This is about those of us still stuck in Insurance hell.

Tomorrow at 12 noon in the Christchurch Square a protest is occurring.  I will be there.


So whats this about???  This is the back story about those of us stuck in “insurance limbo land”.  Some say that its all our own fault that we are in this situation,  ie we have not accepted insurance company offers, we are greedy, we think that our houses were worth more etc.  In most cases this is not true.  It is due to the stalling tactics being practiced by the insurance companies, it is about poor repair strategies being imposed on home owners by insurance companies, it is about poor workmanship by contractors, it is about multiple assessments by untrained assessors. The list of variables is endless.

It’s About Deny Delay Defend.  The tactic being used by the Insurance companies to stall payments as long as they can, a book by Jay M. Feinman describes the practice in all its glory.

There have been many articles written about this policy and I will not bore you with the details.  Goggle is your friend here.

So if you can, come and protest with us, because next time this may be you struggling to get a house after 5 years of waiting. 


5 years of progress by Southern Response, Benchmark and Arrow.

For me it is about finding out that the consented plans supplied by the building company for my new house actually do not comply with the building code.  There are multiple errors in the design: Errors in wind loading, water issues, foundation issues all leading to a redesign being needed.  There appears to have been a deliberate “fudging” of the consent by the designers. Strange “omissions” of detail.   It is with some surprise that I note that these issues were not picked up by the CCC Building Consents Department.  ( Those of you who know my history with Building consents will laugh).

Like Johnny Moore, I am having trouble “Getting over it”   If I hear that phrase once again this weekend I will have a full out whinge.

“Wouldn’t that be nice to just get on with it? There’s nothing I’d like more. Sadly, for plenty of people they’re finding it had to move forward when they’re still waist-deep in the quagmire that is the Rebuild”.   Nice comment Johnny.

Ho Humm, tomorrow will be fun.  Kiwis need to protest more, the French have this well sorted out.  Bring on the tractors and loads of manure.



How not to repair a Heritage building in the Christchurch CBD

Now for something completely different.

I have a new neighbour in the street. Spot the furry little critter in the photo below.  Seen on the old Excelsior Hotel site on the corner of High Street & Manchester Street. This neighbour is giving me considerably less trouble than the constant stream of 2 legged vermin that are breaching the red zone fencing and breaking in to the Duncans Units.  Also it give me a lot less trouble than the political Bunnies we have at CERA/CCDU.

The hotel was built in 1881. According to Wikipedia.

I also found in my files a old 1984 photo, the colour is a bit faded.  This is Christchurch at 2.00pm on a busy afternoon in 1984. Those were the days.

excelsor 1984

1984 photo


From wikipedia. Feb 2011

Todays view is not so pretty. Except for our furry friend.


January 2016. Just the frontage is left. It is to be demolished and rebuilt as a “look alike”.


While I was searching the photo file  I found this beauty..

It was on the corner of High Street and Tuam Street.  Thank heavens it was demolished in the 1990’s otherwise it was a disaster in waiting. (If you look at the ground floor you will see that all the structural supports seem to be gone, i.e. large areas of windows with nothing holding it up).  We always knew it as Dunfords Building, but that is not its correct name??.   Mr Dunford had his screen printing business on the top floor.  It was a rabbit warren, full of broken floor boards, leaking pipes and general decay.  The last shop on the bottom floor was a cycle shop. City Cycles.   They had a basement that periodically filled up with water.


cnr high:tuam

I am not sure of the origin of this photo. Taken in the late 1980’s-1990’s? Corner of High and Tuam Street.


Ho Humm its Friday.  Time to email Southern Response again and see what sort of progress has been made on my house rebuild.  ha ha.

How not to repair a Heritage Building in Christchurch

Hot off the Press…

Notification that the South Frame lanes network details have been announced.  (The ones that have been sitting on the ministers desk for over 6 months…..) Link here:

“The powers that be” have finally released the South Frame Connections & Spaces Design Synopsis.  For a brief second I got excited.  Finally we will get some detail of the new lane ways proposals? Some certainty, clarification and guidance…..   It was not to be…. I am astonished by the lack of detail in this document.  At 11 pages,  they must have written a page a month,  at an average of 150 words per page. (Over 60% of this document is useless concept pictures.)

My question is this: How is a building owner in the South Frame supposed to make a commercial decision regarding rebuilding on the basis of this document?  The answer is it is not possible.  This is a joke.  There are not site plans or measurements, no street lay outs, no landscaping details… the list goes on.   Just exactly what has the CCDU been doing since the 10 December 2014 when they promised us some detailed design drawings?

I am totally underwhelmed.

To save you hunting for it.   Link here:

The South Frame has been a disaster, it looks abandoned.   Section after section is vacant.  This area has been badly handled.  (As is usual with anything CERA/CCDU messes with.)

“The Crown compulsorily bought only half the 113 private properties originally earmarked for the project, spending $37 million. Designations were lifted or reduced on the rest. More than 50 per cent of land in the South Frame is now vacant, and existing businesses, including car sales yards, remain on private sites.

The map of the south frame is on page 10 bottom right hand corner.  It is so small that you will need a magnifying glass to learn anything. The lack of detail is staggering.

This is at first glance not a meaningful document that will inspire confidence.  It will give no certainty to the landowners left in the south frame.

Ho humm, it might look better in the morning. (Unfortunately it does not).

This was published in the Business day section yesterday. “Cera creating conditions for capital-raising ‘natural disaster’, cash-raiser says”   By Tim Fulton.

It refers to the bun fight that occurred between land owners/Investors in the city mall project.

“The Government had not only defined how wider precinct areas would look but also attempted to take control at a micro level in managing the delivery of these projects – in effect telling the private sector how they would spend their money,” Tim Howe, founder of Ocean Partners, was behind the Christchurch Provident Investment Co (CPIC) that had raised $200 million for a now-abandoned City Mall development.”

“Lincoln University property professor John McDonagh said big developments in Cashel Street were “pretty much all we will get in the CBD core.”

McDonagh, an associate professor in property studies, said state-led “anchor” projects were notable by their absence.

A recent Colliers report made it clear that investing in more CBD office space made no financial sense. Buildings under construction now would probably be “all that is needed for a long time,” he said.

An over-supply of fix ups to pre-earthquake buildings would make curtail further development and hit suburban office space rents and vacancy levels.

There was still 30 hectares of vacant commercial land in the city available but plans for it were unknown, McDonagh said”.  Link here:

Whats new in High Street:

  • The new proposal for the old Excelsior Hotel is excellent news.  The old facade will be rebuilt in modern materials.  In my view after waiting 5 years this is excellent news. I look forward to the start of this project.  Link here:
  • CCDU still has not sold its 7 units in the street.  As we come up to the 5 years anniversary of the February 2011 quakes, one can only wonder at their inability to make a decision.
  • We are waiting on the floor sander to come and sand our floor, then we go to final fit out stage in the retail area.
  • The Mckenzie and Willis site is cleared of all rubble and the foundations of the new building are going in.

    A major concrete foundation pour is occurring this morning, on the Mckenzie and Willis site.

    A major concrete foundation pour is occurring this morning, on the Mckenzie and Willis site.

  • The Billens site is clear.
  • The North end unit of the Duncans buildings has been “made safe” under a “section 38 Make safe order”.  It is so safe now, that a total rebuild will be necessary.  Incidentally it took the contractor over 10 days, and I estimate it cost $100,000.  gulp!!!!
Before Section 38

Before Section 38 “Make safe”

This is what an estimated $100000 of make safe work looks like.

This is what an estimated $100000 of make safe work looks like.

The weather is good, the evening is warm, and the design synopsis for the south frame will make a good fire lighter.  That is all its good for.

Sleep well…..

How not to repair a Heritage Building in Christchurch CBD…part 165…. Still waiting For Building consent….

So whats new in High Street today?  Nearly 5 years on from the September 2010 Quake…  Still in Limbo land….

There are some signs of activity on the Mckenzie and Willis site as the demolition of the wrecked structure is slowly occurring.   Link Here:–bars-and-restaurants-to-move-in

MORE bars and cafes coming I am afraid. I must to confess to wondering how many bars and cafes the city needs.  I have already noticed an increase in late night drunken behaviour in my small area of High/St Asaph Streets, in the last 18 months. The streets are awash with broken glass and screaming girls late at night. (I have never figured out why girls have to scream like they do.  Very weird behaviour, I must be getting old…..)

McKenzie and Willis is slowly disappearing!

McKenzie and Willis is slowly disappearing!

Slowly signs of progress!

Slowly signs of progress!

I was amused, in the article, by the reference to the laneways.  I STILL have not seen the final laneways plan for our block. This is holding our recovery up, as if they care.  We are the last functioning business in this block in High street where we have been for 40 years and they can not make a decision, truly Weird…  It is now 2 weeks off 5 years since the first Sept 2010 quakes. They have been talking and talking and talking….. but can not make a decision. Heaven help the poor sods further down the south frame…. where their land is going to be sliced and diced up…( some of them have 10 metre wide laneways through their workshops….The building owners will never be able to make a decision about their fate.  My gut feeling is that the car sales and land owners in the south frame need to head for the COURTS as a group.  CERA/CCDU/REGENERATE- (now renamed Regurgitate by many of us disgruntled locals) lack of professionalism is staggering. (By the way I wonder how much that new name cost them?) There also seems to be a complete lack of understanding by CERA/CCDU et al of the need for some speed.  A lack of ability to make a commercial decision perhaps?  Too many Heads of Department’s with no skin in the game?  This paralysis is frustrating progress in the whole city. Incidentally I have revised my estimate of the recovery time from 10 to 20 years).

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) and Christchurch City Council (CCC) were among the worst performers in an industry survey.

The survey presenter, Sarah Lang from the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure (NZCID), said the “real killer” for respondents was agencies failing to lay out detailed plans.

Link here:

moving on…..

There is a new piece of signage on the LAST RED ZONE FENCE left in the city.  Yep its High Street…:  Unfortunately the Powers That Be have not got the message yet!   This block will be great when it is sorted, but it has not even been sold yet, I have not even found out if they have put it on the market.   How long do you need to make a decision about sale??????  Is there no one down in your office who can sell real estate????  I can give you some names if you want? Heritage needs to be treated as an Anchor Project.

Heritage is an Anchor project, not a after thought.

Heritage is an Anchor project, not an after thought.

Heritage Has Economic Benefits.

Heritage Has Economic Benefits.

Now Our Building Consent:

Our Building consent is still Stalled at the CCC.  There is something seriously wrong with the system. I think they need to re assess how they deal with heritage repairs.  There are only 3-4 heritage repairs occurring in the city.  Each one of these is having problems.  The only solution is for all “heritage repairs” to apply for exemptions to the Building consent process.  (CCC Do you really want to have a discussion about how to repair a 110 year old brick wall to the 2014 building code????  …… you don’t like my paper work? Just be frigging glad there is some paper work, I suspect that you have LOST all mine in the 2011 quakes and that is why my consent is in such a mess! So you stall me for 18 months….. I would call that revenge ?….)  There needs to be a liaison person at CCC who can progress some of the stalled consents plaguing the city…

Ho humm, another day spent waiting for something to happen.

ps.  My house is still standing….. waiting for the bulldozer…..  Southern Response?????

No 1 house totally munted.... Feb 2011

No 1 house totally munted…. Feb 2011

Still waiting for the demo.... again.... 5 years on.....

No 2 house…. awaiting demolition,  Started May 2014-  munted…Still waiting for the demo… poor workmanship.  5 years on and I still don’t have a house.

How not to repair a Heritage building in the Christchurch CBD …. part 160

Well, here we are nearly 4.5 years down the track from the February 2011 earthquake and still waiting.  The city is in the depths of winter and despair. The building owners are fed up and walking away,  CERA is pulling out although it is not admitted out loud…. This has been obvious for the last year or so. The so-called anchor projects in the city are increasingly looking like boat anchors, they are either dead or dying ducks.  The costs of the Convention Centre is blowing out of the water,   – all very depressing if one cared.  Which most of us building owners no longer do.  They will do what they want….. Bunch of idiots.

What New in High Street:

  • No official information on the Innovation Precinct lane ways plans,  so our toilet block rebuild is still stalled.  I want it in writing please.
  • I am increasingly disturbed by the building of the Vodafone building in the Innovation precinct on the corner of High and Tuam Streets.  As the steel frame goes up it is obvious to me that the height of the building will have a shadow effect on Lower High Street.  Already a street at a disadvantage due to its east facing orientation, shadowed by the unpleasant, under used and ill positioned, 3 storey CPIT Jazz School building.  Why would you allow the further shadowing of one of the last heritage block left in the city?  I just do not get it. The lack of planning design control is evident to all.  CERA/CCDU and Urban planning legislation has failed the city in this respect. The Government/MBIE has fixated on the Building Consents mechanism but not the actual details of urban design.
  • Incidentally, If they dig up the St Asaph Street intersection again I will take shares in the roading company. We are well and truly sick of them. The traffic jams are driving us to drink or in my case chocolate!
  •  On the corner they have finished scaffolding and plying the windows of the Mckenzie and Willis building and some heavy-duty “nibbling” equipment has arrived in the back car park.  I await with interest to see what happens. Other than that. Nothing.  A repeat of the last 4.5 years. No progress.
The diggers are going in!

The diggers are going in!

I have been somewhat irritated by the fan fare regarding the reopening of the old Twisted Hop site. Link here:  and here:  “The building lease for three years and fit out was funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment at a cost of $900,000 while the Canterbury Development Corporation, the region’s economic development agency, will run the hub”.

Just for the record.  This is one of many buildings that CERA wanted to pull down.  It was saved by the wife of the previous building owner, Informing CERA in no uncertain terms, I am told, that if they pulled it down “she would see them is court”.  Well done Anna.  Of course, this was a case of “this building is very dangerous”.  CERA was very good at that.  Pity really, as in many cases this was not true.

Questions with no answers:

  1.  How can the government after 4.5 years fix a building with our tax payers money, to house “start-up company’s” rent free, when the very same government tasked with the recovery of Christchurch demanded that all the “old Dungers” be pulled down as they were “very dangerous”?
  2. Why was no assistance given to the existing building owners with engineering and stabilization issues to help facilitate the repairs of the damaged buildings immediately after the earthquakes? I am not just referring to the Twisted Hop Building but all the damaged buildings in Christchurch.
  3. How can the government offer another building owner the funds to repair the Twisted Hop building and not the original building owner who was forced to sell as a result of the failure of their insurance company, after 4.5 years?

There was an interesting article by Roger Sutton recently, “Roger Sutton finds heritage protected in quake-hit Italian city of L’Aquila”

“The fire service in Italy produces a massive 200-page handbook on how to prop and protect damaged historic buildings. Saving their historic buildings is embedded deep in the Italian culture especially in cities like L’Aquila where the old buildings are the major tourist attraction”.  Link here:

OMG Obama is not wearing his fluro.....vest!  Remember that

OMG Obama is not wearing his fluro…..vest! Remember that “these Dungers” are very dangerous.

If the propping had been done as per L’Aquila,  there would have been time to come up with a plan to repair buildings, like they have done at the Twisted Hop and what we have done at 137-139 High Street.   It did not have to be every building but many could have been saved.  These buildings could have been repaired at a later stage and we would have not ended up with the scorched earth syndrome that we have now.

Question: We would like to see an analysis of the cost of the 125 years of infrastructure that has been thrown into the refuse centre. What is the true cost, let alone the environmental issues? This will need a proper study by an academic department of a University!

There are very many unanswered questions!

We would also like to see MBIE come down to lower High Street, aid us with tax payer money to facilitate our recovery with free rent and assistance to navigate the bureaucracy that they have created.  Yeah right, a Tui moment I am afraid. 

Incidentally, if one gets a close look at the inside of the Twisted Hop building you will note that it has no gib lining on the ceiling.  That’s weird….. how come they got consent for that????

Moving on down the street….

A very thoughtful comment by Johnny Moore this morning, 27 June 2015, in the Press.  He has said what most of us are thinking and have not bothered saying aloud, mostly because we no longer care what they do and they do not listen anyway.  The sooner they bugger off the better… Link Here:   He is referring to the demolition of the BRAND NEW!  Westende Building in Manchester Street,  which most of us cannot see the point in demolishing. Especially for a roadway. The local view is that a standing building is worth its weight in gold, given the CERA led destruction that has occurred.  The demolition is “quietly” occurring now. Link Here:

The most costly environmental building in New Zealand. Life span 2 years.

The most costly environmental building in New Zealand. Life span 2 years.

Westend Building, Brownlees

Westend Building, Brownlees “poster child” of the rebuild of CHCH. Demolished by the CCDU for a 6 lane roadway.

If one walks through the central city, you will see building after building, empty section after empty section,  block after block, that has had no work done or where no progress has been made for nearly 5 years. One must ask why?  It appears the CCDU/CERA has pulled out completely. They have literally bolted from the city with the job not even started. The problem is that they have not finished a single project that I can think of.

As I was thinking about this blog there was an article in the press by Garth Falconer. Called “A Letter to New Zealand”.  It is an excellent article and articulates what I can not put into words. His comments about the rebuild resonate for me:

“Privately many locals respond to my prods with exclamations of dashed expectations, exhaustion, continual frustrations and a long-shot hope that Cera will someday dismantle itself and leave town. There are good people in both council and Cera, but apparently there is no real design leadership at the fore of this rebuild. Christchurch needs an inspiring, integrating, resourceful and challenging focus on design. It should not just replace but be better than before”. 

“The telltale signs of design failure are also evident in the larger urban form of the city. Outwards the once-tight Christchurch has just become more dispersed, more spatially weak and more reliant on the motor car. New offices have been constructed on edge of the central city, in Addington and Riccarton. They are big and cheap (about $350sqm in rent) and you can park your car in front”.

An excellent well thought out article that really nails the issues.  What I really liked about it was the fact that it was an “out of Towner” articulating what we Christchurch peeps have known for 4.5 years.  New Zealand be very afraid this could be your city!  Link here:

From the depressing to the more humourous:

-The musical jingles keep coming, here is the one from SCIRT. A “little reminder” from SCRIT that “we are half way there”. At the moment it does not feel like it.  The whole central city is a nightmare of road cones and road works, delays and diversions, 4.5 years later….. it is almost incomprehensible. Link Here:

-This is heartening news: It is nice to see a building saved. It is now on site next to the Trinity Church in Manchester Street.  Congratulations to both Christchurch Heritage chairwoman Anna Crighton and former owner property developer Antony Gough for saving this iconic building.

Shand’s Emporium touches down on Manchester St, Christchurch  Link Here:

ho humm…..  A winter of discontent I am afraid…..

Hot off the press:  An extension has been granted for the rental assistance for those of us out of our houses:  “Budget 2015 provides an additional $7.7 million in funding which will see this assistance extended until December 2017, for those residents in Canterbury who are still waiting to get their properties assessed and repaired.

Thank heavens for small mercies, this has been worrying me for a while. This means I can pay the rent….. As for various reasons it looks like my house will take another year to be rebuilt.  sigh….. Link Here: