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 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.

Brownlee Baiting……

An interesting article in the Press this morning, referring to an article by Barnaby Bennett.  (“Barnaby Bennett is a well-respected, Christchurch-based architectural designer, PhD student and writer, and the co-founder of Freerange Press, a small cooperative publishing company focusing on issues relating to post-quake Christchurch, design, politics and art”.

I particularly enjoyed Bennett’s comments about heritage and the existing buildings, these were reported in the original article shared on social media. opinion piece

“Exhibit 5: He was wrong about heritage and existing buildings. Dr Jessica Halliday explains this best in her essay Losing our collective memory (Once in a Lifetime p210). Soon after the quakes Brownlee took a helicopter over the city to survey the damage and returned to land with a clear mission to clear the city of old buildings. His attitude to existing buildings — heritage or otherwise – is one of the three great mistakes the government has made in this rebuild (the others being lack of respectful consultation and inadequate response to housing crisis). Only three of the eighteen government anchor projects include existing buildings on site. The rest require a scorched earth approach to development. A kind of ‘we have to destroy the city to save the city logic’. This is a disaster for the preserving the cultural memory of the city, and if we look around the city now it is only the temporary projects and the repaired older buildings holding the place together. C1, Isaac Theatre, New Regent Street, Re:start Mall, The Commons, Brick Farm, Arts Centre, amongst others. He apparently wanted to demolish more and at one point suggested in a meeting that the Christchurch Art Gallery should be demolished. They demolished buildings such as the Majestic centre while misleading the public, ignoring their own professional advice and while refusing to release engineering reports to the public. This isn’t how you rebuild a city. It ignores all the international evidence, and excludes the role of the public. After leaving his position former CEO of CERA Roger Sutton now seems to be implicitly publicly acknowledging the fallacy of the approach they took.”

Humm can not argue with any of his comments! Press article here:

Interesting that the Press did not actually publish the original article. The Press states that: “Just days after Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel backed the Government’s new plan for Christchurch’s rebuild to be overseen by Brownlee, crs Ali Jones and Raf Manji on Saturday shared on Facebook an ( Original link here for the article) opinion piece written by architectural designer and PhD student Barnaby Bennett”.

Talk about a storm in a teacup. It was a hard-hitting article by Barnaby Bennett, saying aloud what many of us think and have not articulated.  There seems to be a total unwillingness to engage in discussion by the “powers that be”.  Any one who dares to offer an alternative opinion is hung out to dry.  Crazy days!

The sun is shining, my house is being demolished for the second time, Christchurch is starting to show that it has teeth.  It’s a good day!

How not to repair a Heritage building in the Christchurch CBD, Part 157

I see Will Harvie, from the Christchurch Press, has been busy. A further article on High Street in this mornings press, 6.4.2015.

Keep them coming!  After 4 plus years any pressure we can bring on the “powers that be” the better”.

I had a great chat with him the other day, discussing some of the issues and frustrations. Link Here:

“These days, however, the building and its near neighbour – the McKenzie & Willis facade – are pretty much all that’s left of old High St. Everything else was demolished or destroyed by fire.

This gives Duncan’s Building – which takes up most of the west side of High St between Tuam and St Asaph streets – new importance in a city abruptly without its heritage architecture. It dates to 1905 and has a category 2 listing.

“It’s a wonderful, continuous heritage building like no other left in Christchurch,” said Anna Crighton of the Christchurch Heritage Trust.

“It’s a crucial row of shops that must be saved, and can be saved,” Mark Gerrard, an activist with Historic Places Canterbury, said.”

There is not much more that can be said really!

These shops will make great start up units for small niche businesses.  The units are small and the rents will be lower than in the new building and the area seems to be retaining, against all the odds, its edgy feel.

I have just spent yet another day talking to the tourists who pass my front door, who are incredulous that the city still looks like a “doughnut”.  Hollow in the centre with nothing for them to do and no where to go.

Ho Humm – Another year passes and the Easter holiday business closures are still not being addressed by Government.

How not to Repair a Heritage Building in the Christchurch CBD…..

Well now, that was a surprise!!

  •  Now 855 days since designated “South frame, Innovation Precinct”  ( ie They can take the building any time between now and 2022)  They will as of the end of the month drop the designation on our building!!!! I have not seen this in writing yet!

CCDU has lifted the designation on our building.   As of the end of the month we no longer have a compulsory acquisition order over our property.  Unfortunately many others at the meeting I attended were not so lucky.  Any one who is in the path of their “aspirational” lane ways path is still blighted with the designations and their properties/parts of properties,  likely to be purchased over the next 9 months. The beleaguered Innovation Precinct will be the first to get this treatment.  (It is the easiest one for them to start on as the land has been clear felled anyway!)  “Shortly you will receive in the post, a copy of the South Frame addendum. Read the  South Frame addendum PDF 1.66MB, 28 pages

So how did this come about???

I had been invited a few days earlier to another of the CCDU meetings for the South Frame. “Christchurch Central Development Unit invites you to attend a presentation on the vision for the South Frame, incorporating an update on the new planning rules”.

As usual with these meetings I reluctantly agreed to go. They have a history of being dead useless.  The staff are usually totally unprepared/unable/unwilling to give single syllable answers to questions.  ie yes/no.

I am afraid this meeting was no different.  I am afraid I have to accept that the CCDU are totally out of their depth and incoherent.

They have finally come up with a “Concept plan” of the South frame.  Oh my, were the building owners angry, the feelings of ire in the room was palatable.  There was a feeling of derision at a badly thought out plan.  It has taken the building owners a long time to get annoyed and I think this meeting may be a turning point. It was a pleasure to watch. The building owners have lacked a focus and have allowed themselves to be bullied and pushed around.  It is time they joined forces.

As is usual with the CCDU, there were few details given, no questions asked were given a “straight answer”.  The staff appeared uncomfortable and evasive.

The meeting was interesting:

  • There was bad feeling about the sales that CCDU have already made of land that has already been “purchased”.  In my conversations with the building owners later, the same comments were repeated over and over.  “They have not got a clue”, they “have no business experience”, they “think that we will hang around that long waiting for them”,  it is “unaffordable”,  “the city is stuffed”, very “aspirational and totally impractical”, you get the picture.
  • A comment was made that CCDU should have been assisting building owners to facilitate repair/rebuild.
  • Complaints that CCDU was taking land off private land owners but not the Hospital Board for its laneways project.
  • Comments regarding the price of retail/office space at $500 per square metre being unaffordable.
  • The plans shown to us were not consistent and way too small to discern detail.
  • Miniscule, poorly defined and next to useless plans.

    Miniscule, poorly defined and next to useless plans.

  • they were trying to avoid paying compensation.
  • existing user rights continue for those of us who have remained in place.
  • Office size provisions increased to 500 sq metres.
  • Deferral of the development regulation in force in the Innovation Precinct to be removed.
  • I was almost left with the feeling that the building owners were baiting the CCDU.

Building owners were told that they were going to have a 10m wide “greenway” lane way pushed through their properties. The new lane ways plans literally cuts buildings in half! ie half a building on each side of the laneway! They have “sliced and diced” the south frame like a piece of cake. thus down grading its value.  (And we are not supposed to build a block wall around the sides of the laneway… as it must be pretty and green!)

The amazing part of this is that the south frame is the only frame in the city that is actually working as it is. And making some money for the city. Most of the big car sales franchises in the city are in this area. And they want to stuff it!   There has to be a better way of dealing with this issue than the plan they have come up with.

I was hoping that they might finally be able to give me an answer regarding the fate of the back of our building.  But hello….  this is a draft concept plan only.  They have not even started on the plan yet!  They do not know which bits of land they are going to acquire.  They can not tell us what is happening.  My god, 4 years we have waited…… and they still can not get their act together.  The building owners tried to get a time frame out of them.  The best we got was that the plans might be ready in late 2015   and it might take 3-5 years to implement.  And they are in charge of recovery in the city?  Does the National Government really not know what is happening here?  Have they not looked at the figures coming out of the city regarding trade and retail.  Oh yes I forgot we are doing well…..  that’s why there are for lease signs all over the city, building owners can not find tenants and the whole city looks like Stalingrad.

This lot has got to go.

The irony of this meeting is that The Christchurch City Council was not invited to attend, until their hand was forced.   And they say that CCDU is working together with the CCC????  For heavens sake hand control over to the CCC, they will do a better job, in half the time and it will be at least get the city up and running again.  This nonsense has to stop.

They need to make some DECISIONS!!!!

Ho Hummn,  I suppose its progress, of a sort????

PS  Ohh! We are popular are we not.-   I see that the plans for the Mckenzie and Willis site have been released.

This is great news.  Rumour has it that the Billens site will also begin the process of being tided up in the new year and the site sold……

Blast those barricades. By Rebecca MacFie, Listener. 2.4.2011

This article was written in April by Rebecca MacFie, it is a very good summary of our feelings in April, unfortunately for many of us we are still facing the same issues.

Business owners whose buildings are barred to them by Civil Defence are neither reckless nor troublemakers. They just want to get back to work.

Gerald Westenra went along to last Friday’s Christchurch earthquake memorial service, listened to his daughter Hayley lift the spirits of his city with her pure rendition of Amazing Grace, and had a quiet word in the ear of Prime Minister John Key about the difficulties businesses in town were having getting access to essential records and tools locked up behind the CBD cordon.

Three days later the central city jeweller was among those who breached the “red zone” defences, as frustration boiled over into civil disobedience. Shut out of their livelihoods for a month by all-powerful Civil Defence authorities and with no idea of when they might be able to get going again, entrepreneurs turned into shouting activists. The police berated them for endangering lives – and it’s true that a couple of firebrands hightailed it up Hereford St, pursued by cops on bikes – but the suggestion of reckless risk-taking was just plain silly. The demonstrators strode past the bored soldiers who man the big cordon fences, and most of them simply wandered about 200m down the Avon River side of Oxford Tce – far from any crumbling masonry – before being threatened with arrest and herded back out of the cordon by a small phalanx of police who appeared from the Hereford St headquarters.

Westenra had no intention of doing anything dangerous, nor does he relish being seen as a troublemaker, but he wanted to make the point that he’s a grown-up capable of mature risk-assessment. And the way he and many others see it, he faces greater risk of serious injury to his livelihood by being indefinitely barred from his Cashel St premises than he does from the risk of physical injury if he makes an informed 15-minute dash inside to retrieve essential equipment and records. All he wants is the chance to carry on his business selling and valuing jewellery from the new location he has secured.

“We’re not asking to risk people’s lives. We just want a realistic plan,” he says. The building he is not allowed near, he adds, kept him safe on ­February 22.

They’ve been cast as an impatient rabble, but those who line up with Westenra include accountants who have resorted to subterfuge to smuggle servers out of central city premises, property developers who live in fear their buildings will be torn down without their knowledge, and self-made businesspeople who see the fruits of their labour shrivelling with every day they are barred from gathering up the pieces of their enterprises and getting started elsewhere. Restaurant and cafe owners know that inside their idle fridges and freezers is putrefying food; and the smell of rotting garbage around the streets of the CBD suggests the widely circulating rumour of a rat infestation may not be without foundation.

David Collins, who owns three properties in inner-city High St, spends his life interpreting the labyrinthine Resource Management Act as a council hearings commissioner on complex developments. He granted consent for the magnificent glass-fronted Art Gallery that has been commandeered as Civil Defence headquarters; he couldn’t go to the business owners’ protest on Monday because he was busy running a hearing on rezoning land at Wigram that will be essential for the rebuilding of Christchurch.

But he and his tenants – including a chic restaurant and high-end fashion shops – are beside themselves with worry and frustration. It makes no sense to him that sundry visiting dignitaries and assorted journalists are given guided tours of the badly damaged inner city, while the property owners and businesspeople who are the economic lifeblood of the place haven’t been allowed so much as a glimpse of their assets.

Civil Defence boss John Hamilton says it’s very dangerous in the CBD. “So how come William Windsor was able to wander about without a hard hat the other day?” asks Collins.

It’s not easy to criticise the agencies that did such a marvellous job in the early days of the crisis, but four weeks on Collins depicts Civil Defence as “the barbarians at the gate” of the CBD. More­over, he thinks the agency is going beyond its powers, acting as “town planner for Christchurch, deciding which buildings should go and how we will do it”.

Collins says he has been told by one official that his buildings – from which his tenants and their customers escaped unscathed – faced no imminent danger of demolition; and he’s been told by another that they are among a row of buildings likely to be demolished. He’s been told by one person his buildings are red-stickered from the February earthquake; and he’s been told by someone else that they are red-stickered only because of proximity to another building that failed in the Boxing Day quake (and which has since been pulled down).

“We just don’t know what they are doing. I’d at least like to get in there and spray-paint the phone number on the building so they have no excuse not to contact me. I’m not asking to go back in and occupy the buildings – I just want to grab laptops and a few files. My tenants just want their files and they want to secure sensitive documents. It would take five minutes. Maybe if we had a bit longer we’d get some furniture so that we could operate from home.”

Pick up the phone and talk to any number of small central-city businesses, and the complaint is the same. No time frame, poor communication, inconsistent information. And, for many, no cash flow.

Joe and Nicky Arts, a brother-and-sister team behind Arts the Printers in High St, have spent $250,000 strengthening their building to 100% of the building code on the ground floor and were in the process of completing similar strengthening of the top floor when the earthquake hit. The building is standing solid. But they haven’t been able to retrieve the paperwork they need to invoice their customers, secure their collection of rare type or collect printing plates and other materials that would allow them to keep going – let alone get in and finish the engineering work on the building that would ensure it survived if the damaged neighbouring building was demolished.

Cash flow for their 50-year-old business – set up by their parents after they emigrated from the Netherlands after the war – is “munted”, says Nicky Arts. They have laid off one of their three part-timers and will probably have to let a second one go soon.

All because, they allege, of a “nanny state” response from the authorities. “We can’t make a decision about our own safety,” says Joe Arts, who, as a prominent member of the climbing community, is accustomed to assessing safety risks in the mountains.

And although Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee declared a wish after February 22 to get rid of “old dunger” buildings that had endangered or taken lives, the most intractable problems in the CBD seem to surround modern high-rises that have failed.

Andrew and Adele Wheeley’s homewares shop, Whare, in Lichfield St, bears a green sticker, indicating the building is probably sound. But they are blocked from entering because it is in the shadow of the Grand Chancellor Hotel, which is on a precarious lean. No one knows how long it will be before the 27-storey hotel is demolished.

The Wheeleys have retrieved stock from their second shop in the suburb of Beckenham (which is red-stickered only because the poorly maintained neighbouring building fell against theirs) and hope to start selling online and perhaps through a “pop-up” shop. But their insurance company, State, won’t pay out on Lichfield St until they have a declaration of “irretrievability” from some unknown authority.

Even the mighty Ballantynes department store is paralysed because of the Grand Chancellor. Executive director Richard Ballantyne says the shop is as it was left on February 22. Staff and management haven’t been able to get in to tidy up, nor have they been able to get the building inspected by engineers. He says business people are naturally getting frustrated, “but when you have been through the city, as some of us have, and see that the devastation is so huge, you can understand why officials are being cautious”. Patience is called for, he says; it’s estimated the store could be closed for six to nine months.

On the other side of the CBD, the multi-storey Copthorne Hotel on Durham St is also leaning and unstable, and casts its own pall over that part of the city. The nearby Convention Centre and Town Hall – operated by Christchurch City Council company V-Base – are closed and have suffered damage, but engineers have not been allowed in to do an assessment because of the tight cordon around the Copthorne.

And, on the subject of “old dungers”, nightclub owner Bruce Williamson squarely accuses the Christchurch City Council of negligence in its attitude towards buildings that were damaged in the September earthquake. His building – home to the popular Ministry nightclub, which he calls “a 20-year work of passion” – has been damaged because the unstrengthened building next door fell onto it on February 22. This wouldn’t have happened, he says, if the council hadn’t allowed the weakened building to remain standing – and be reoccupied – after September. He argues the council’s management post-September 4 needs to be part of the commission of inquiry into the earthquake.

He has been developing plans to demolish damaged parts of his building and do modifications on other parts, in order to get his business back on its feet.

On Monday morning, however, he was told the place was tagged for demolition; that afternoon, he vented his rage at the protest outside Civil Defence headquarters and was among those who stormed the cordon. Since then, he says, he has been getting emails and phone calls from the authorities that had previously ignored him, and “it seems the assessment on my building has changed”.

Not everyone is sympathetic to the protesting entrepreneurs, and not all the news is bad for small businesses. Stu Waddel, whose Chill Studio is also in the shadow of the Grand Chancellor, is unimpressed with the quality of communication from the Canterbury Business Recovery service, but thinks this week’s protest was disrespectful of those who have done so much to help the city through its trauma.

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.

Out on the western side of town, big firms such as Tait Electronics are helping out displaced businesses (including the University of Canterbury’s engineering school and CTV, whose building catastrophically collapsed) by offering space at its big manufacturing campus.

Other businesses like photographers and technology firms have snuggled up together in shared premises, or are working in pods from private homes. And by the end of this week Civil Defence estimated it would have overseen “controlled access” to 500 businesses with green- or yellow-stickered buildings.

Meantime, City Centre Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale is working on a plan that’s reminiscent of Napier’s Tin Town – the temporary CBD that stood for several years while the city was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake. Lonsdale thinks mobile structures such as portacoms, which could be moved around as rebuilding progresses, could be artfully used to create a funky retail destination. “We want to spark people’s imagination, and as long as people feel safe they will support it.”

The Government’s financial assistance for business, including $145 million in wage subsidies and the newly announced $2.5 million fund to assist “strong but earthquake-affected businesses” will help some, as will the $1.7 million for “earthquake recovery co-ordinators”.

Nevertheless, says Townsend, there will be hundreds of businesses that don’t make it, and the Retailers Association estimates one in 10 shops in town will shut down.

And some of those that fail will undoubtedly go down arguing that, if only they had been allowed to assess their own risks and granted timely access to their property, they would have survived.  Rebecca Macfie