How not to repair a heritage building in Christchurch CBD part 172

So What is new in High Street?

  • Well Rangiora’s High Street is moving forward with its re-development.  Lucky them.
  • There is noticeable progress on the rebuild on the Mckenzie & Willis site, behind us. I believe this is due to be finished in March 2016.  The Vodafone and Kathmandu buildings in Tuam Street are also close to completion.


    McKenzie & Willis build proceeds rapidly.

  • CERA/CCDU/Regenerate appear to have made no progress on the sale off the  7 Duncan’s Units that they own.  It is still unclear what their intentions are.
  • There has been a vigorous debate raging on the Press Web site about the new bus lanes to be built on St Asaph Street, the main concerns for the retailers is the loss of 120 car parks on St Asaph Street. It is a cyclist vs Business argument.  Neither side is very tolerant of the others concerns. Personally I am disappointed with the cycle lane it only runs 4-5 blocks and ends in space.  Link here:
  • There have been fluro clad contractors wandering along High street doing measurements for the new tram tracks. The irony is that they will not be able to lay said tracks until the 7 Duncan’s units are sorted out.  That is going to be like watching paint dry.
  • I have had to ring the cops again last week to get some creeps off my deck and roof. And at 10.50 pm last night some low life smashed our plate glass window.  That required emergency measures to seal up the hole. A quick late night re arrange of the red zone fencing was required.  Damn stuff finally came in useful after 5 years.

    A smashed window. Security in the CBD is an on going nightmare.

    The larger issue here is that at night there are young men (mainly) roaming aimlessly in the central city.  Too many empty buildings, open spaces and bars are not a good mix.   There appears to be a total lack of a police presence. And CERA’s red zone High Street fencing has more hole in it than a Swiss cheese.  They are not protecting the 7 units that they own and have abdicated from ALL their responsibilities for the security of their property.  They are not a great example for the rest of the city.

  • The City Council is trying to deal with the long term parking issue in High Street by reinstating some meters that have been trapped in the red zone fencing for 5 years.  This is helpful!
  • The floor is finished and the painters start painting our retail area tomorrow.  Then we require the electrician.  ( And the window man!)

Some General observations. The reality of trying to run a business in the Christchurch CBD.

  • There is re-building occurring in small isolated pockets across the city.
    The pockets of retail are so dispersed that there are no groupings of like minded retailers with similar products.
  • It is not easy to get from one pocket to the other and no incentive to do so.
  • The retailers left in the city, (apart from the Cashel container mall) are in the main, retailers who have managed to remain in place after the earthquakes. ie those whose buildings did not suffer major damage.  They are few in number.
  • There appears to be no plan.  Certainly no time scale or concerted efforts to co-ordinate appear to be in place.  There is no information, advice or direction available. (Many retailers are reluctant to return to the CBD until some certainty returns).
  • There are so many bars in the city that I can not see how they are sustainable.  They are busy on Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights.  The increase in bar and cafe numbers appears unsustainable.  The central city is at night “awash with vomit and drunk young people”.
  • The endless road cones and slow road repairs/alterations.   This is hindering access to the retailers attempting to trade. Finding a park is becoming increasingly difficult.  The new layouts being designed by CERA/CCDU will also remove many of the parks in the central city. It means that our customers can not get to us let alone park within walking distance. (Simple example, St Asaph Street under the latest “proposal” will lose 109 parks).
  • The parking buildings have not been rebuilt.
  • The foot paths in many area are a hazard to walkers. The elderly are in serious danger of falling over rubble.  (I will also confess to coming unstuck in a pot hole).
  • Lack of progress by CERA/CCDU to actually finish any projects.  The Justice precinct is being built and the bus depot is more or less finished. The Margaret Mahy park is now open. Other than that I can not think of a single project that CERA/CCDU has actually finished.
  • Lack of resolution of the Christchurch Cathedral issue.   The lack of progress or a decision regarding the iconic Cathedral is stalling development around the square.  Again causing a lack of confidence.

Conclusion: no one is lobbying for the Central City.  The opposition, Labour, The Greens and NZ First are invisible.

Ho hum…  another day spent sorting out CERA’s security issues.


How not to repair a Heritage Building in the Christchurch CBD

So whats new in High Street?

  • Some concept pictures are available of the new Mckenzie & Willis site: link here:
    I look forward to seeing the finished buildings.  (Although I am living next door in a dust bowl as the dust blowing from the site is driving me insane, (there appears to be no “watering” of the area occurring).
  • The “CCC” has decided on the layout for the High/St Asaph/Madras Street intersection.  As is usual with any consultation that we under go in the city we were kept out of the loop and not given full and frank information prior to the consultation. I am damn sure that if my name was Carter, Ballantyne or Gough we would get more consideration.
    In this case we were not told that the tram terminus was to be located at the end of our street.  There was no indication in any of the plans that we were supplied with to comment on, that the tram would be pushed down this end of the street. Now that’s consultation!  With the most important information missing from the “consultation documents”.

Contrary to all the rules of retail, CCDU et al have decided to make access to High street much more restricted. The late architect Ian Athfield always said that one of the major needs for retailers was access and the ability for vehicles “to go around the block” if they were looking for a car park.  The idiots in power have now in their infinite wisdom taken this away from lower High Street.
This further restriction to traffic by locking off both the historic east link to Ferry Road and the west link to St Asaph Street, appears to be the beginning of a process to turn us into a pedestrian walk way.

This has been a council aim for the last 30 years. I again point out that turning New Regent St, another small Heritage Street, into a mall HAS NOT been a success.  How many times do you have to repeat the same mistake before you change tack?  (Note there are still 11 boarded up shops in New Regent Street and it is obvious to all that the retailers are struggling).

Below is an excerpt from the letter that I got from the CCC.

“High Street intersection and proposed tram route
Similarly, the proposed prevention of a right turn from High Street to St Asaph Street was criticised by four submitters. They stated that direct access to a one-way street is important for High Street businesses, otherwise customers would have to make a long detour.
The layout of High Street also attracted submissions from the Tramway Historical Society and Christchurch Tramway Ltd which noted that the proposals did not incorporate plans to extend the Stage 1B Route linking Lichfield Street, Poplar Lane and Tuam Street.
The project team commented that as a result of An Accessible City and the changes to the one- way street network, the tram route alignment had to be amended from the Council-approved Stage 1B route that included the turnaround on Tuam Street in front of C1 cafe. The simplest route for the tram to return along High Street from Poplar Street, is to bring the tram south along High Street (south of Tuam Street) with a north return along High Street crossing Tuam Street and joining the existing laid track just north of the C1 / Alice building. This change was approved as part of An Accessible City Phase 1 Tuam Street projects.
Following further investigations, prompted by submissions on the tram, the safest place to terminate the tram is in the new public space at the southern end of High Street similar to the arrangement at Strange’s Corner (intersection of High / Lichfield / Manchester), although the two tram lines will connect to provide a single lane tram track into the public space due to space requirements. As there will be pedestrian, cycle, tram and vehicle movements heading north on High Street, re-introducing the right turn, which has been requested through other submissions could lead to safety concerns as there is an additional conflict point being introduced. The recommendation, therefore, is not to re-introduce the right turn from High Street to St Asaph Street”.

  • The old Excelsior Hotel site has been sold, I look forward to the new “look alike”.  This is a great outcome for High Street, as it will keep the Heritage look and create a gate way for the rest of lower High Street.  This has been a difficult decision for the Christchurch Heritage Trust in allowing the demolition of this frontage to proceed.  They have made, in my view, a sensible, pragmatic choice. Link here:
  • We are waiting on the “floor guy” they will be here next week to fill the cracks and grind the floor.  The survey of the back toilet block area happens today.  ye ha some progress is in sight!
  • There is still no indications from CCDU about progress on the sale of the remaining 7 units of the Duncans Buildings.  How hard is it to progress this issue?  Do the basic strengthening of the frontages that you said you would do 3 years ago.
  • Ho Humm, still no progress on my “new house”.   Check your Insurance policy folks, it could be you being shafted by a state owned insurance company.  Coming up to the 6 year point now. The lack of protection for the rights of homeowners is appalling.

The sun is shining, it is 27 degrees, its got to be a good day.

How not to repair a heritage building in the Christchurch CBD

So whats new in High Street?

High Street has just had a tidy up. This was desperately needed, it looked like a bomb site.
CERA finally consented to the removal of the rubble from the street and someone told me a tree trim!  It happened on Thursday and Friday.  The difference is amazing.  I believe they removed 4 tons of rubbish. The City Council staff did an amazing job and worked like hell to get it done before the rain came.

It went from a bomb site:

Debris everywhere plus 4 years of acorns and leaves!

Debris everywhere plus 4 years of acorns and leaves!

To a tidy version of Little Detroit!



There has been some movement on the Mckenzie and Willis site. They began scaffolding it a few days ago.  They will scaffold the front, then drop some big supporting columns behind the frontage and the back of the building will be removed.  Yeah ha!  Progress.  Once this is done the burnt out Billen’s building can be removed.

The scaffold goes up on the Mckenzie and Willis site.

The scaffold goes up on the Mckenzie and Willis site.

The Back of McKenzie and Willis and Billens building. This will be removed once the frontage is stable.

The Back of McKenzie and Willis and Billens building. This will be removed once the frontage is stable.

I see that the “For lease” signs have gone up.  Finding tenants will be the tricky bit. There is an oversupply of office space in the city and the retailers are refusing to come back until some certainty is given over car parking and progress on the anchor projects.  I suspect that is “boat anchor”, most of these projects are dead ducks and white elephants.

For lease

For lease

There are numerous rumours buzzing around about the fate of the Street.  The most plausible:  is the sale of the 7 units that CERA own to a developer who will restore. I have heard that a number of meetings have taken place along these lines.  I am not privy to the details lol!  I have also heard some whispers of a private sale being contemplated between 2 building owners.  (Not me before any one gets any fancy ideas, I have got enough problems without taking on any more unreinforced masonry buildings!)

I have seen plans for the rebuild of one of the Duncans units that was seriously trashed in February 2011 quakes,  I am delighted that they appear to keep to a similar style frontage. I have my fingers crossed that this comes to fruition.

I am still unable to find out the fate of the rear laneway behind my building.  This is holding up the rebuild of our toilet block.  Just how hard is it for CERA /CCDU to pick up the phone and tell me for once and for all what is going on???

Moving on from this on going frustration…..

We have done a bit of tiding up of our frontage.  We found a great plasterer, he would come to work with his 83 year old Dutch dad ( also a plasterer, who repaired Churchs in the Netherlands after WW11) and have long and lengthy discussions on how to repair some of the frilly bits on the frontage.  A dying skill I am afraid.  We have not done the top bit yet.  That is on hold until NZI/IAG – The Insurance company, gives me OUR INSURANCE MONEY!  The stalling and carry on with the insurance industry is amazing.  The system needs restructuring!



some plaster repairs in the bottom left hand corner. After.

some plaster repairs in the bottom left hand corner. After.

I see Johnny Moore, down the road at Brick Farm had a “wee moment” the other day, with the constant road works out side his building.  I had to laugh or was that cry?  as I sympathised. The constant road works gets “challenging” to say the least!

This is what the High St-Tuam St intersection looks like at the moment.  The only word for it is “sodding nightmare”. Road cone heaven!

I think health and safety have a road cone fetish,

I think health and safety have a road cone fetish.

I have been watching the comments made by Anthony Gough about the building consents department and his problems.

At the moment, all I can say about this is: that Building Consents are being incredibly helpful to us at the moment.  For which I am very grateful as we were really in a bad space over this issue. Due to a combination of issues that I will not bore you with.
Link here:

Re the red zoning of residential properties:

A very interesting blog discusses the red zoning.

I whole heartedly agree with this, basically our homes were red zoned for the political expediency of the national government, to save the Insurance industry money.  Sad…. and so unnecessary.  Many of us renting homes in the city are still suffering the pain of the loss of 7000 plus houses  as we pay silly rents and are still living in impossible conditions. This Link makes compelling reading:

“7. The decision to Red Zone many homes was a ‘political’ decision, and these decisions were not based on data. These decisions appear to have been made merely to save the insurance industry money from omitting the ground remediation costs.
Expelling victims from their homes ‘Red Zoning’ (many homes with very little structural damage) has been at great cost to the home owners both mentally, physically and financially.
Many of these residents, were paid the cost of their land (as per the 2007 valuations), but ‘repair value’ to their homes only, leaving vulnerable victims unable to afford to purchase new homes. Many of these people are elderly, now homeless and having to rent substandard dwellings.”

8. …” However the crown now has the ability to sell this confiscated land which will result in the New Zealand Government making a financial profit from forcibly removing earthquake victims from their homes”.

I notice in the press this morning some comments about the rebuild. Link here:  What I can not figure out is how anyone can maintain that the minister is doing a good job. You only need to look at High Street to see that. For the $1.4 they spent buying up the units in High Street they could have strengthened them and on sold for a profit.

Ho humm, another day in the shaky city.

ps  Due to some “difficulties” with my new house foundation, it looks like I will be squatting in the flat for another year…. as we go back to ground zero….  I am hoping like hell that the government does not can the rent subsidy CETAS offers, it is due to expire in October…. Then I will be in deep s……

How not to repair a Heritage Dunger in Christchurch…. 4 years on.

Today, like so many Christchurch people, I have been reflecting on the last four years. It is a poignant sort of day,  even the sky has been weeping for the 185 deceased and the 400,000 living victims still struggling to recover, many of us still with unresolved Insurance, employment and housing issues.

Today is “Road Cone memorial day”.  The city is bedecked with flowers in every road cone, (and we have thousands of them!) placed by citizens grieving for the deceased, the hurt, the walking wounded, the frustrated, trapped and generally P.. off….  The cones are a symbol of remembrance, sadness and frustration.


Christchurch road cone Memorial day.

Christchurch road cone Memorial day.

There is a palpable sense of loss in the city today.  I am watching the tourists wander up and down High Street taking photos. I wonder what they think as they look at the street. High Street is the last area in the city to remain in the same condition as it was on the 22 February 2011. Still behind the Red Zone fencing trapped in a time warp. And it is so easy to fix!  It could so easily be a showcase area of the city.

4 years progress in High St for CERA/CCDU.

4 years progress in High St for CERA/CCDU.

Now 4 years on from the 22nd February 2011 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch I ask  “What have we achieved”?

Millions of dollars have been spent by the government. (I am not quite sure where all the money has gone).  Almost all the projects that CERA has initiated are either stalled, delayed or on “hold”.

  • “The Avon River Precinct was due to be finished by the end of this year, but the Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) has extended that timeline to mid-2016”.  (Incidentally, I notice that buried in the article on the delayed Avon River project is a comment worth noting: “Landscape architect Di Lucas said the work on the river was substandard, particularly the “in-stream” work that had included substantial use of volcanic rock in what was a soft sedimentary system”.  Whoops!  Link here:
  • The Convention centre: Looks like more like a white elephant every day.  Link Here:
  • Covered Stadium:  Think “Definitely White Elephant”, a permanent $253 million stadium, with a completion date pushed out to 2019.
  • Public Spaces: “construction of public spaces in the south frame between Madras St and Hagley Ave now happening in 2016
  • Delayed:  “the development of recreational and commercial attractions for the Square also rescheduled to finish, six months later than planned, in the third quarter of 2016”. And they still have not made a decision about the Cathedral! The Cathedral is actually in my opinion a “no brainer”. It is the heart and soul of the city.  Get it sorted.  It does not have to be repaired exactly as it was, but elements of the old building need to be retained.  It is repairable!  Look at the roof line, its near perfect.
The Christchurch Cathedral in the square. Why not repair the heart and soul of the city???

The Christchurch Cathedral in the square. Why not repair the heart and soul of the city???

  • Now 4 years down the track, the plans for the south frame have been radically altered.  Link here: The CCDU has spent $25 million purchasing land for public works in the frame (excluding the innovation and health precincts) but the land designation has been fully, or partially, lifted on 54 per cent of the properties. The final plan for the frame is still to be developed. “It’s been a protracted, frustrating process. We’ve been in negotiations [with the CCDU] for years but we’ve never been offered any money for our sites””.  Many of us have been now told that the designations on our buildings have been lifted.  This may sound like good news, but in the meantime many of the building owners have made plans to relocate or close down.  Now they are being told that this confiscation is not going to happen, or in some cases, only a proportion of the land will be taken.
  •   We have now been told that it will be another 9 months plus in limbo land before we get told the layout of the lane ways that run through the south frame.  (This means that we are still unable to rebuild our toilet block at the back of our building).  This effectively renders our building un tenantable.  Despite being earthquake strengthened and repaired.  At this rate this will mean an un tenantable building for effectively 6 years.  (5 waiting for CCDU to come up with a plan and 1 year to build.)

 So whats new in High Street??? Nothing much.

  • No Amended Building Consent yet….. The CCC is threatening to cancel our Amendment.  Again!  (It will make their figures look better!)
  • Therefore No gib on the ceiling yet…..  This building consent issue is pure insanity. ( I was told by a leading Engineer in the city recently “that I was not alone in my frustration”.  I was told it is a common problem, totally ignored by the powers that be.
  • No lane way plan, another 9 months-1 year to wait before CCDU gets its act together.
  • No parking wardens, yet…. much to our irritation, as long-term parking by the poly students is causing us grief.
  • The near constant smell of sewerage at the back of the Duncan’s Buildings is unpalatable…. say no more!
  • Apparently the street scape plan for High Street is due in 3 years…..
  • No information from CCDU about the fate of the 7 Duncan’s Building units that they own…. No repair strategy in place….
  • Now This:  Roger Sutton resigns. Link Here:   “He may well be proud”….under CERA’s administration, the National government has been responsible for the largest and most rapid social disruption/dislocation of the poorest sections  (East siders) of the population that has every occurred in any city in New Zealand in recent times. The Speed with which this dislocation occurred, the bullying and misinformation that we were given, the unnecessary suffering and pain that was inflicted will remain with these displaced people for many years.  The number of our elderly who died prematurely as a result of this dislocation is a sad indictment of the way this was handled. It was and is still a form of prolonged TORTURE. I personally see nothing that I could be proud of in the way this event has been handled.  And people wonder why we are grumpy???
  • This resignation has been closely followed by that of Warrick Issacs.  Did he jump or was he pushed?  I wonder???   The Press coverage of this Issue was totally unbalanced and Issacs has stated that he: “had found dealing with the heritage issues challenging”. “It’s been the hardest part of my job, having to make those decisions knowing they are not going to please everybody.  Yeah Right that made me choke on my wheatbix.  I might point out that he did not, as far as I know, challenge any of the section 38’s (demolish orders) that were put in front of him.  And he signed off over 1000.

Now its Minister Brownlee’s turn…… I am waiting……..

  • Victoria Square:  For some mysterious reason the “powers that be” in charge of CCDU has decided to revamp Victoria Square.  Go figure.  Why mess with it at the moment, save the money for something useful.  Sure fix the river bank and do repairs but spend 7 Million?  Why???  The public up roar about the waste of 7 million dollars warms the frozen cockles of my heart.  I just do not get it, can they really not read the mood of the Christchuch people??? Link Here:
  • A comment by “darkhorse” on stuff, sums up Christchurch and says it all really.  link here:   “In the same time that this lot have been trying to fix the city Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin had fought and won the second world war while at the same time transforming all of the major technologies of the day including inventing the jet engines, the computer and the atomic bomb.  Simple difference is that they were leaders with courage and vision where as this lot are just hopeless muddlers..”


I wish I had a $1 for every photo the tourists take of our street, it would pay for the repairs of one unit at least! There are hundreds of tourists coming to our end of High Street every day.  It has become the “show case” area of the city.  All for the wrong reasons.

Limbo land  4 years progress for CERA/CCDU.

Limbo land 4 years progress for CERA/CCDU.

Building Owners guide to Red Stickering

A CBD Building Owners guide to surviving earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand.

We own one of “Gerry’s Dungers” in the CBD. It is still standing despite the best efforts of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) to demolish all of the “dungers”.

Here is a beginner’s guide for a building owner on how to survive.  Errors and omissions accepted.

Gerry's Dunger!

Gerry’s Dunger!

1. Do Not expect any help from the authorities. (They will not help you do urgent repairs to your house/building nor offer meaningful assistance). The tendency of the authorities is to panic, pick up the Health and Safety manual and put idiots in charge. In our case they locked the building owners out of the CBD for 2 years. The results of this are plain to see today.  Desolation, abandoned buildings, empty bare land.

2. Do Not move out of your house/building unless it is truly munted. If in doubt ring a builder friend. If you have to move into your garage or shed and make urgent repairs do so). It is usually better to stay in your house regardless of the condition. Financially, moving is an extra stress that you do not need. Also the landowners take advantage of your misery and Insurance funds by putting up the cost of the rentals immediately. DO NOT MOVE unless absolutely VITAL.  (Minor cracks to the plaster does not constitute “major damage” nor does “off the foundations” or sloping floors or even broken windows.  ( I and my neighbours pushed the walls of my house back into alignment with a Ute and propped it up with the help of scrounged/liberated building supplies. Then we lived in it for 3 years. It is not good, but it is better than renting and using up your insurance funds).

Here is a pix of 4 years progress on my house:  Southern NO Response– the Insurance company, Arrow– Project Managers and Benchmark (Building company) should be ashamed of themselves. The lack of efficiency, cost over runs and mistakes made are beyond belief).

This is 4 years progress for the Insurance company on my house.

This is 4 years progress for the Insurance company on my house.

3. Do Not expect any help from the authorities. They will be too busy protecting their jobs and having meetings.

3a.  This includes the CCC building Consents department.  The system does not take account of the difficulties of getting your Engineering paper work sorted in a timely manner.  (In our case they are still arguing about whether the steel reinforcing columns will melt before the bricks explode in the event of a fire). In CHCH most people I know are now opting out of the Consents process.  This says it all really.

4. Do Not expect any help from the other building owners in the city. They will show no leadership skills.  They are too busy protecting their own properties and positions:
a) taking positions. ie buying up your property or trying to get their hands on your insurance settlement.
b) sorting out their own problems.

5. Do not expect the authorities to listen to reason. They know better! This is regardless of the soundness of your arguments and opinions.

5a. Do not believe what the authorities or “Powers that Be” tell you.  Tomorrow the details will change.  Just assume that they do not know what they are doing and tomorrow they will change their minds.  One would like to hope that reason would eventually prevail. Do not count on it.

6. Do not expect the authorities to listen to overseas experts, even ones with experience in handling exactly the same disaster that you are facing. New Zealand authorities always know better.

7. Do not expect the authorities to put in place competent administrators with experience. Here we got a landscape gardener in charge, an ex army Engineer and a council official from Timaru.

8. Do not expect the insurance companies to honour their policies.  Do Not expect help from your Broker. The mantra is “Deny, delay, defend”. (Our insurance settlement is still unresolved 4 years after the event).
a) Expect numerous assessments and assessors. ( I have heard of up to 11 different insurance assessors dealing with the one building owner, you will find that you repeat yourself endlessly as you go through the details over and over again.  We had 8 accessors, I think, I have lost count????
b) It is often to your insurance companies advantage if you do not repair/ rebuild your building. You tend to get indemnity value only, which is lower than replacement value.

9. Do not be afraid to hire your own Engineers.

a) Pick one with experience in your type of structure. Chose your Engineer wisely. ( ie there are only approximately 5 Engineers in Christchurch experienced in the repairs of Un reinforced masonry buildings. (URM’s). We had a few young CERA Engineers come through our building and tell us that “it was very dangerous”. They were barely out of University and had no experience with URM’s.

b) DO NOT believe what the “Government paid” Engineers tell you. SIGHT your building ie a site inspection. Do NOT take their word as Gospel. Get your own Engineer, get a second or third opinion if you have ANY doubts. (There were many buildings in Christchurch that should not have been bulldozed).

10. Do not expect logic to take any place in the redevelopment of the city. They will continue to pull down both brand new and old buildings that do not fit their new “Grand Design”. They will have a grand plan that defies logic. Try not to focus on their grand design, it will drive you mad. Fight for your building and try to ignore the idiots in charge. If they try to take your building, stall, stall, stall. The longer you stall the higher the price you will get.  You hope.

11. Do not expect the authorities to be able to make decisions quickly. Decisions take YEARS! (As it sits on the desks of those with sign off power).  We can not rebuild the back of our building as they refuse to tell us the planned design for the lane way at the back of our building.  Only another year before we get an answer. lol!

12. Take no notice of the authorities. Do what you have to do. Be it raiding your building/house to get your gear out or refusing to allow them to demolish your building without a second opinion. The trick is to APPEAR to be doing something. Even if its DELAY, DELAY, DELAY. Treat the powers that be with the contempt that they deserve. Remember that they have not got a clue about what they are doing. They will bully you endlessly and try to tell you that they know what they are doing. Do not believe them.

13. Every once in a while you will find a sympathetic/helpful official. Be grateful for small mercies. In our case it has been the Heritage lobby officials. The encouragement that you get makes it worthwhile.

14. Calling all Media experts : if you are a Media/Communication Expert immediately apply to the govt for a job. The government needs to put a positive spin on what they are doing so they will hire heaps of Media Experts to try to influence the Press. Last count at CERA was 43 and the money is good. ( This is a problem for those of us with a conscience as they have filled the Press with bull shit about how well its going).

15. Take the insurance companies or EQC to court to get JUST settlements, one building at a time if necessary.  Get your paper work in order.  Be it Engineer Reports, building or land assessments and go for it.

16. Expect more than one earthquake. Take no notice of the earthquake experts, they  have no clues about what will happen. And the powers that be will try to keep morale up by putting a positive spin on it.  Expect each quake to cause damage to your building. Brace yourself for 15,000 plus. Expect quakes for many more years to come.

17. Expect to have at least one or two or three…. who cares how many…. meltdowns in 4 years. The stress of dealing with this number of earthquakes has a cumulative effect. Meltdowns are perfectly allowable and normal. ( Avoid chocolate and booze. Lapses are allowed especially with your friends and family). You are allowed to cry in the street, throw tantrums and generally behave badly. Its normal. ye ha…… Expect to be hugged by perfect strangers in the street.

18. Expect to come out of the experience as a different person. You will be stronger, more resilient. Less concerned with appearances, possessions and small issues. Less tolerant of bull shit. You will change.  It is unavoidable.

19.  Keep those water bottles clean and full and do not fill in the long drop in the garden, they are a sod to dig.  And always keep your hard hat, boots and fluro jacket with “Engineer” written on the back, you never know when it will come in handy.

20.  The rest of New Zealand.  Be very afraid. The CER style Act of Parliament tramples on individual property owners rights.  It is poor legislation that was rushed through in a dictatorial manner and ignores the conventions on post disaster recovery.  ( a point made by Robert , a reader of this blog).

21.  Realise that the EQC system is flawed.   The multiple assessments by untrained: cops, office girls, children of EQC management etc was a flawed process. (If you were really lucky you got a real trained competent builder!).  Today 4 years on there are still home owners who do not know if their houses are to be repaired or bulldozed.  The system of apportionment ( ie a % figure allocated to the damage caused by each quake) is flawed. To be “Fletchered”  ie have your house repairs managed by Fletchers is a verb in CHCH.  If you were lucky you got competent local builders.  If you were unlucky you got a shoddy patch up job, some of these repair jobs are going to haunt many home owners for many years to come.

So:  If you have a multiple event situation like we did, think CAREFULLY before you put in multiple claims with EQC.  One or 2 claims gets you to your Insurance company in a more timely manner.

Link here:

(As you can see from the picture of my “house” this does not always help you. The Insurance companies have in many cases performed badly as well!  Southern No Response is a good example).

hey Its just another day,  the sun is shining, the birds are tweeting and all is quiet!

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……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

So Hows progress in High Street?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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