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

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

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

This was posted on Facebook.17.3.2011

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

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

Thursday March 17 2011:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. We call upon the New Zealand Government to:

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

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



Kurt Langer

Background To the Protests:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call to Christchurch Protest

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

Dear fellow ChCh CBD business owners,

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

We must continue to demand our legitimate rights of ownership.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring your Placards or just bring your self. 


Christchurch Business Recovery Group.

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

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

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

this link is a bit odd: try this

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

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

If I remember correctly some people walked out.

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

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

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

It was a symbolic act only. Very effective.

Christchurch business owners’ protest heats   21.3.2011

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

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

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

Joe being subdued!

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

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

The Army "protects" us says Bruce W.

The Army “protects” us says Bruce W.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was closely followed by :

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

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

24 March 2011, Media Statement       
Christchurch business issues addressed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3rd Earthquake pictures 038

22.2.2011 15 minutes after the earthquake.


How not to repair a heritage building in the 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 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……

How Not to repair a Heritage Building in the Christchurch CBD…. part 139

  • Locked out of undamaged factory for 1100 days – (since Feb 2011)
  • Do we still own our building????    Now 573 days since designated “South frame, Innovation Precinct” – only 1254 days to go before we get told if we are going to be compulsorily acquired by the  CCDU.
  • Innovation precinct Plan Due:  September,  October,  November, December 2013, January, February?  Rumour has it not till March !!!!!
  • Building Consent for my new house 80 working days so far.- rumours are its close. Humm… too many RFI’s?  (Requests for further Information)  Hope the Building company knows what they are doing with the foundations!
  • By the way, I am still waiting for CERA to respond to our Detailed Engineering Evaluation and to pull back The Civil Defence fencing from our frontage and give us unhindered access.  (30 days so far. And because its CERA’s standard tactic to count weekends as days I will continue this practice.)
  • High Street Building amendment details at council for 22 days. One minor RFI about “do I realise we will have to pay more money”. Yeah Right, what a surprise!

Still waiting……

Cera’s plans for the CBD Doughnut!

High street on a good day!

High street on a good day!

An Interesting comment by ex minister Philip Burdon last week on the structure of CERA

“The Cera (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) structure has been agreed by all as conceptually appropriate and correct and the expectations of decisive leadership were high.
Three years later it is universally seen as having failed to deliver and it is necessary to reflect on why. Its primary mandate was to streamline bureaucracy and accelerate decision-making.Three years later it has become the antithesis of exactly that. Its most conspicuous failure has been its well-intended ambition to kick-start and accelerate the revival of the CBD.

Sadly we now have what is colloquially referred to as the doughnut effect, resulting in a distracted and uncoordinated development taking place around the CBD and a conspicuous absence of any development in the heart of the city.”

Interesting that finally some one in authority has the interests of the city at heart enough to stick his neck out and say something about what is going on!  If my memory serves me correctly this is the second time he has spoken out. Brave man, last time he got his head chopped off by Mr Brownlee. (A tactic he has employed over the last 3 years if he does not like what you are saying.)  Go for it Mr Burdon, what you are saying is necessary.

It has been my week for more minor administrative annoyances:

Well,  this could get your blood pressure up!

21st February 2014.  1 day short of 3 years from the 22nd February 2011 earthquake and the Christchurch City Council has come up with a new money-making proposal.

Charging for the footpaths and road way spaces that we have protective contractor fencing and a rubbish skip on.

Not content with letting CERA/CCDU treat the building owners like crap for 3 years, the Christchurch City Council (CCC) is now getting in on the act.

(I had wondered why I had had a very weird phone call from “The Property Group”  at 11.45 today, wanting my address and email.  Surprising, what is wrong with their records?)

Incidentally, they refused to indicate to me what they wanted.  Now I know, gutless idiots, hiding behind a face-less email.  Maybe if they picked up the phone and talked to us we might actually make some progress.

After 3 years the CCC must have decided that it was their turn to inconvenience us, so they have thought up a new form of annoyance and sent this email, that also has an added bonus of making money for them. And lets accept that the CCC is broke and they need all the funds that they can find.

Is this the best use of time these highly paid bureaucrats can think off???  Picking off one of the few building owners trying to do some repairs? In a street that is obviously closed and will be partially closed for at least 2-3 more years?

Here is their latest missive. It comes complete with paper work for us to fill out,  of course!  Not a happening thing!

Date: Friday, 21 February 2014


RE: Arts Printers Building – Cardmakers 139 High St

It has been identified that fencing has been placed at this address without the consent of the Christchurch City Council Transport & Greenspace Unit.

Since the removal of the CERA controlled cordon, the management of the use of public space has been returned to the Council. As a result all activities in the public space must now comply with our policies and by-laws.

The fencing currently installed around your property belongs to the Ministry of Civil Defence. The Ministry is in the process emoved.of recovering this fencing. This leaves the responsibility of protecting the public from any hazards on private property up to the property owner.

The Christchurch City Council Traffic and Parking By-Law 2008 under Section 20 requires that approval be sought and consent given by the Christchurch City Council Transport & Greenspace Unit prior to being placed in the legal road.

In order to occupy the legal road you must apply for Temporary Use of Legal Road approval and then provide your own fencing for your site.

Please note that should you choose to apply for a Temporary Use of Legal Road then the following additional conditions will apply:

Pursuant to Section 20 of the Christchurch City Council Traffic and Parking bylaw 2008.

The monthly rental as per an approved ‘Temporary Use of Legal Road’ application will be $7.50 per metre squared per month incl GST from a minimum of $58.50 incl GST in addition to any parking fees for occupying time limited or pay and display car parks.  You will be invoiced monthly until we are advised by you that your fencing has been removed.

Once the fencing has been erected and placed, a Christchurch City Council (CCC) representative will be sent out the following day to confirm the use and/or measurements.  Any changes in the use or measurements as per the approved ‘Temporary Use of Legal Road’ application, the CCC must be informed.

The following ‘Conditions of Compliance’ are additional to the ‘Conditions of Approval’ on the ‘Temporary Use of a Legal Road’ application.


1.5 metres of clear asphalt footpath past your hoarding must be maintained at all times.*
2.0 metres of clear asphalt footpath past your hoarding must be maintained at all times in the CBD.*
Hoardings must be clearly marked with fluorescent paint or reflective tape for visibility at night
Approval letter must be readily available on site

*Note: This approval is conditional upon obtaining a Council approved Traffic Management Plan should the minimum clear footpath not be able to be maintained.

If you wish to discuss this process further please get in contact with our call centre on 03 941 8999 or email

Kind Regards,

Peter McDonald
Senior Technical Engineer-Road Assets
Christchurch City Council
Transport & Greenspace Unit.

So whats all this about????

It is about the fencing Civil Defence erected closing off the street, it is also about the rubbish skip we have on the street, on public land and the extra contractor security fencing that we have had around our frontage on the footpath.

We had left our own contractor fencing in front of our building because the security in the street is SO APPALLING, as to be non-existent, I am constantly chasing out of the contractor enclave: tourists, drunks, push bikes, skateboarders, photographers, children, absent-minded drivers and anything else that wants to crawl in there.

Some of them 2 legged weasels, many wearing fluro vests.

Most of the street lights in the area do not work, the footpaths are covered in debris and glass, the buildings are vacant and abandoned, the trees are covering the buildings, oak leaves block the drains and gutters and the acorns feed the possums, rats and paradise ducks. I am not sure what the rabbit I saw the other day eats, I am not up on rabbits!  ( Hot off the press, Brother Joe has told the council about the lights and I noticed last night that some have been fixed!  Nice one Joe!)

Current state of the street!

Current state of the street!

There is still earthquake rubble on the street 3 years to the day of the 22nd of February 2011. And I am still paying rates…..

Cera will and has not taken any responsibility for security, nor will the CCC, nor will the other building owners.  And the Ministry of Civil Defence wants to remove its “security” fencing!  Given that the other land owners have not contributed to safety in the street for 3 years and that they have made no progress, this removal of the fencing is a bit of a joke. Especially seeing that the crown owns a good proportion of them. Go bill them they created this situation.

As you all know the “powers that be” have allowed this situation to develop, partially because they have not put enough pressure on the landowners but also by slapping the “Innovation precinct designation” on the land and buildings.  4 more years of uncertainty about the ownership of the land is a hopeless situation for the land owners to be in.

I will spell it out in very simple terms.

  • 1. If I wished to sell the building, would you buy it and make alterations and move in knowing that in 4 years the CCDU might acquire it? The answer has to be NO.
  • 2. As a tenant, would you move into a building that you know may be acquired in 4 years and you have to move out? The answer has to be NO.
  • 3. Would you move into a street that is going to take at least another 3-5 years to recover and will be a contractor work zone for years?  The answer is NO.

Unfortunately, they can not see it.  Lets face it, if even my simple mind can work this out, they must be pretty thick!

So I assume, from the tone of this missive,  that we are to be charged for using the space under the rubbish skip and the use of the footpath.  Given the fact that they have been charging me rates for 3 years whilst preventing me from entering the building, as well as supplying no services, I think I can be quite justified in being somewhat incensed.

And so you want to inconvenience us just a wee bit more???

Oh well, Fine! I have already removed the fencing and the skip goes today!  I am not giving you a penny.

Cleaned up frontage

Cleaned up frontage

The chances of the other building owners coughing up for fencing (except for the CCDU/government) is pretty limited, so I will watch this situation develop with interest.

Ps rumour has it that the CCDU now owns 7 units in the street, I am trying to confirm this.

Could you tell me though? Who is responsible for boarding up Graham Spink’s derelict building at 135, Laurie Rose’s fallen frontage, the globe building and sorting out the mess that is Mckenzie & Willis. Try and get it sorted!

Use your brains, and get off our backs and do something useful. Like forcing the recalcitrant land owners to act.

You might also like to remember that we have no usable back access to the Duncan’s buildings, (because some silly sod has fenced off the empty land!) The Duncan’s Buildings take up the full footprint of the land.  We have nowhere else to put our skips. Maybe we can leave the debris laying in the street like some of the other building owners? Including the CCDU.

How irritating! How normal!

ps Vodafone via Chorus can still not supply me with a phone line into the building.  It is getting annoying now, as we roll on into 3 weeks. And the T stick is very slow!

How not to repair a heritage building in the Christchurch CBD part 137

  • Locked out of undamaged factory for 1075 days – (since Feb 2011)
  • Do we still own our building????    Now 548 days since designated “South frame, Innovation Precinct” – only 1279 days to go before we get told if we are going to be compulsorily acquired by CCDU.
  • Innovation precinct Plan Due:  September,  October,  November, December 2013, January, February ????  Rumour has it not till March !!!!!
  • Building Consent for my new house 63 working days so far.- rumours are its close.

Still waiting……

An Interesting article by John McCrone on the Innovation Precinct and its slowly evaporating ideals. Link Here:

There are a number of comments that resonate with me.

“Then there is the innovation precinct. This is a difficult proposition both because the two blocks of buildings, most of them badly damaged, are divided among a much greater number of land owners, and also because the area had an established identity that owners would naturally seek to rebuild.

Laurie Rose, chair of the High Street Precinct Group (Interesting, I did not know that this group still functioned,  gee I wonder if I am a member?) says pre-quake, the corner of the city around McKenzie & Willis, with its cluster of heritage buildings ripe for renovation, had been developing a relaxed, mellow feel.”

“Rose says fashion business had become a feature and there was talk of a fashion incubator as a natural connection to CPIT. So, left alone, owners would have picked themselves back up, collected their insurance and got on with rebuilding more or less what had existed.”

“But now the CCDU has dropped its paralysing designation over the area. Owners are being expected to build back a hi-tech precinct, but if the tenants are to be mostly small start-ups, it seems unlikely they could afford the rents on new buildings.”

The point Laurie Rose makes is very valid.  The tenants of the Epic Innovation hub want cheap rents and “free” land.  Building new buildings and having cheap rents do not go hand in hand.   If they want cheap rent they will need to move out of the CBD.

“Lisle Hood, developer of the Lichfield Lanes project, centred around Poplar St, says the CCDU is trying to drive a square peg into a round hole.

Hood says perhaps the CCDU will get half what it wishes for. It might find one or two large corporate tenants to kickstart a transition – Vodafone is one of those known to be looking. But equally, there is the chance that the whole precinct idea might be quietly allowed to evaporate.

Hood says the CCDU has already started lifting designations on individual properties like the C1 Cafe and Alice in Videoland. Bit by bit, the plan could fragment. The spatial plan, if it is ever released, will be the test.

However in the end, says Hood, by taking over control of central Christchurch, instead of making its recovery faster, the bureaucrats appear to have achieved the opposite.”

This was a good article addressing some of the issues.  I think that John McCrone’s highlighting off some of the problems in the Innovation Zone is starting to make the Council stand up and take a harder look at the area.

Johnny Moore has been busy thinking again.  Link here:

He refers to the city “lurching drunkenly along the rebuild path”

“While the official rebuild lurches and staggers along like an old drunk walking home, great things have happened despite poor decision-making; and it will be years before the old drunk is fumbling with his keys at his front door. In the meantime, we need to nurture and foster projects that are putting Christchurch on an international stage.”

he also comments on  “the institutional rebuild. Nobody overseas is excited about the bland precinct plan or an overpriced stadium. The brutal, homogenized city presented to us in the media every day is uninspiring and normal.”

Incidentally the consensus of opinion in the city is that the stadium is a dead duck.  Repair the one we have and leave that project for later on.  It is unaffordable and the designation on that area is stopping development.

How is progress on our building?

Slow progress.

Upstairs floor is being sanded as we speak, in preparation for occupation.

Down stairs is on hold as we wait for the Building Consent paper work to catch up.

Now to complicate the situation.

The Building consents department has sent me 2 emails, cancelling any building amendments (2) that we may have in progress with them. Both emails came within minutes of each other. One consent dating to January 2011 (just before the big February quake.)  And the other December 2012 (relating to extra strengthening work on the roof and walls.)

“Final Reminder.” 139 High Street


Amendment On hold –  Final reminder

This is a final reminder that your Amendment is On Hold.
We have not received the requested information and cannot complete processing your application. The time frame in which to supply the requested information will expire on 24 January 2014.

Please provide the items requested within the time frame indicated. If you do not provide all the information within this time frame the BCA (Christchurch City Council) may refuse this building consent application under section 50 of the Building Act 2004.

The reason for the refusal is due to being unable to grant a consent under section 48 and section 49 of the Building Act 2004.

This letter is sent to the applicant and the owner, where possible.

Yours faithfully   Building Approvals Officer   Christchurch City Council


Call me suspicious but how come this has happened?

1. Final reminder?  I have not seen any previous reminders? We had an email conversation a month ago when I tried to get an exemption to gib the ceiling. But that’s it folks!

2.  We have had 12,000 earthquakes, we have been locked out of our building for months on end, and you want to cancel our amendments so that your figures look better? For heavens sake, show some understanding of the situation of the building owners trying to repair a heritage building. How hard was it for them to pick up the phone and find out why we are having trouble? It is very easy to send an email, but perhaps if they checked out the reality of the situation they might just like to reconsider the issue?

I have had to call in some assistance with this problem from the Heritage team at the CCC. Who are suddenly showing an interest in the street.  I am accepting their assistance gratefully.

The Heritage team at the council are proposing “some transitional work along High Street.  A key part of this work is to open up, as much as possible, the block of High Street that your building is in to create quality access to encourage more cyclists and pedestrians
to use this route.

We understand that you are very close to having your building open again
and we hope that this work could assist in bringing customers back to
this part of the city.”

Urban Design and Regeneration Unit
Strategy & Planning   Christchurch City Council

Hopefully some sort of reprieve can be negotiated!  (hot off the press: this has now been sorted, I think)

There is a deeper issue here…

There seems to be a lot of posturing going on in the Building Consents Department.  The truth of the issue may be that they are desperate to “improve” their clearance rates. Perhaps to justify the installation of the Crown Manager? The International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) cancelled their accreditation.  “IANZ scrapped its backing over fears the council was granting consents that could potentially put people and property at risk” link here:

Then we find out that  “The review showed more than 98 per cent of the resource consents received during 2012/2013 were processed within the statutory timeframes, and that minor issues which did exist were within the council’s capacity to resolve.”link here:

The only problems that they has identified are procedural issues. They have discovered no dangerous buildings or flawed consents.

So why did the building consents department lose it accreditation?  And why did the government install a Crown Manager, Doug Martin, to oversee the department?

I am not capable of making a through analysis of the issue. But this take over has been another political decision made in Wellington. Why?  The question one must ask is: Now that they know that the Consents Department was making only “minor procedural errors” why has this expensive Crown Manager remained in place?? Certainly they face a tsunami of consents as this “supposed Rebuild” begins, but I am sure a Crown Manager will not be making the Consents Department a comfortable place to work in.

The word down here is that this is trial run for a massive nationwide shake up all Building Consent departments in all the Councils. We will watch with Interest.

On the subject of the Government, has any one else noticed how they are keeping quiet on the Christchurch situation? It is very obvious to Christchurch peeps that Gerry has “had the word” and been told to lower his profile, Sutton is almost invisible, even CERA/CCDU/ The Property Group have managed to keep a lower profile.

One could suspect that National MP’s has told them to pull their heads in till after the Elections.

But I would say that!

A much more interesting issue is detailed in the Press this morning.  Another building owner bemoaning the lack of tenants for his new CBD building. Link here:

“Property developers warn buildings with “A-grade” rentals in the central business district cannot compete for tenants against cheaper, already-completed developments elsewhere. The warning comes as some developers and investors take their plans and money elsewhere in the face of high construction costs, reluctant tenants and uncertainty over car parking.”

What a surprise.  As I have repeatedly said,  CERA/CCDU locked out the building owners for 2 years, gave us no certainty, and still insist on persisting with the designations on our building.  Ho Humm where have they been?  For heavens sake, admit that you have stuffed up and find some solutions.  It’s not rocket science.

Gerry says there was still “high levels of confidence among local investors.”  ???  hello? The number of projects that have been abandoned is starting to mount up.

Its simple really

As “Property investor and former director of Harcourts Stephen Collins said the outskirts of the central city, had flourished in the “early days of recovery” while the CBD was effectively closed for business.

“People had to make decisions . . . there’s only so long businesses will be happy working in adverse conditions before they move on.”

Collins said before the earthquakes the CBD used to boast a range of buildings, from A-grade to C-grade office space, but post-quake it was being repopulated with new, expensive buildings that carried high rents.

Oh well, good thing our building will have a cheaper rent than the new stuff, it may be our saving grace.

Great article, finally some one talks about the counter productive nature of the prolonged lock out, which stopped any proper assessments of buildings that could have been repaired cheaper and faster (which would have kept more of the fabric of old Christchurch.) They thought it was easier to pull them down and build new, CERA/CCDU did not think through the consequences of throwing away 100 plus years of infrastructure and they just thought that it was miraculously going to be rebuilt, brand spanking new and FREE! Paid for by the insurance companies.  ha ha!

This rental issue now is the direct result of this prolonged lockout, when we could not gain access to our buildings using Independent Engineers and they would not listen to any dissenting views from anyone.  ie  Engineers such as Miyamoto Structural Engineers, CORE-( Heritage, Iconic and many other Groups that tried to get their views across and we were written off as idiots. Including us!

Incidentally,  all of the small trade contractors that come to our building have said the same thing.  Over and over again. They say that “CERA/CCDU have got it wrong”.

Ho Humm life at the bottom of the world is fun!

High Street A National Disgrace- part 135

  • Locked out of undamaged factory for 1037 days – (since Feb 2011)
  • Do we still own our building????    Now 510 days since designated “South frame, Innovation Precinct” – only 1317 days to go before we get told if we are going to be compulsorily acquired by CCDU.
  • Innovation precinct Plan Due:  September,  October,  November 2013 December????  Rumour has it not till march !!!!!

Still waiting……

It is now 3 years on… and what has been achieved in High Street and Christchurch?

Well… the Press has just done an editorial on the “doughnut city centre.”   This has made me laugh. The property developers amongst us have been talking about this for 3 years.  It seems incomprehensible that it has finally dawned on the “powers that be” that this is what they have created.

The article is referring to the re-start mall. The editor makes the comment:  “Without it there would have been practically nothing to suggest that a vibrant, dynamic, interesting city centre might one day rise from the ruins and Christchurch would have been in real danger of becoming, for some time at least, a doughnut city – a city with a hole in the middle.”

We all know the city has a “hole in the middle”.  It is simple:  Basically the Red Zone lock out stopped development in the central city area.  Access has been the issue, or more importantly the lack off.

Also John McCrone has written a very thoughtful article in the press.  Well worth reading.

I rather liked Gary McCormick’s comment about Christchurch people’s perceptions being changed: “Radio personality Gary McCormick struck a convincing note in saying that the recovery experience – particularly the insurance wrangles – will leave Christchurch changed in ways the Government does not yet seem to realise.”

“We’ve turned Canterbury people into a group who were formerly pretty respectable, decent, by and large white and middle-class people who thought the system worked for them, into people who have no faith in the system at all.” 

This is going to have long-term implications.  We no longer have faith in any authority to make the correct decisions for us.  The list of the failures is comprehensive:  A short summary looks like this:

  • Insurance companies.
  • Insurance Brokers.
  • EQC:  The government made no attempt to sort out our EQC troubles.
  • Lawyers: many of whom have failed their clients in assisting to resolve their Insurance issues.
  • Politicians: None of whom served the people well.
  • Local body politicians, ie Christchurch City Council, The Mayor, the City Manager.
  • Heritage!  There is not much left, they pulled it down. The silence from the Minister of heritage has been deafening.  And “Just when you thought you could relax and forget about heritage battles for a few weeks the document we have been waiting to see for two years finally arrives, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage’s draft Heritage Buildings and Places Recovery Programme for Greater Christchurch.  You can download the draft from the MCH web site at A rapid skim of the document suggests that it is too little too late and that it is more than anything, an exercise in window dressing. Submissions are due in March 2014 so its eventual ratification will probably coincide with the completion of CERA’s Heritage Demolition Programme.”)  Comment courtesy  of Ian Lockhead
  • CERA, CCDU, The Property Group.  All bodies tasked by the Government to assist recovery.  They used a “top down control approach”.  It was a bully boy tactic and has alienated a huge proportion of the community.  Our new Mayor Ms Dalziel  “slammed the Government for imposing a top-down bureaucratic model when the experience of every other world disaster is that recovery plans should form from the community up.”
  • The “purchase” of 10,000 family homes.   If you estimate that there were 4 people in each house. That is 40,000 people that have been removed from their houses.  In some cases, this was not necessary.  Approximately 10% of the population, now angry and bitter.  These people have been forced to purchase in the outlying suburbs of the city.  They now pay rates in Rangiora, Waimakariri, Timaru.  This has devastated the cities rate base. Also the loss of rate base in the CBD will be hurting the coffers off the city council badly.  (The next move for the Government will be the merging of the outlying areas into a “super city”.  They have no choice. They have to claw this money back.) They have already begun this procedure by seconding CERA staff members to the local health board.
  • Housing shortage: The rapidly rising cost of rental accommodation in the city is hurting families.  A rent freeze needed to be put into place.  Many land owners have been gouging. Rental accommodation is almost impossible to find for many of the cities less wealthy, non working inhabitants.  As I am finding out.  This also has caused a lot of resentment. The Government has for 3 years stated that there is “no housing crisis”. yeah right!
  • The Red Zoning of properties.  In some cases 3 years has passed and people have been told only a few days ago if they are allowed to stay or go. In some cases red zoned houses have been re-zoned Green.
  • Add to this the fact that many of us have been living for 3 years in appalling conditions.  We have spent 3 years waiting for our homes to fall apart in the next big quake.  There appears to have been no attempt made to sort out the worst cases first.  The Insurance companies repaired the cracks in the houses in Bishopdale and Fendalton first and ignored the East side and the Hill suburbs, where the damage was most severe.
  • There is now a distrust of Engineers, Builders, Painters, Plasterers, house assessors etc The quality of some of the repairs/cover ups leaves much to be desired. To be “Fletchered by EQC”  is a new verb in the city.
  • Business leaders. The lack of advocating for the small land owners was obvious.  This was motivated by self-interest and there was an obvious “winners and losers ” game played here.  Add to this
  •  The Bullying tactics by CERA towards the building owners: we all were threatened with lookouts, restricted access, holding up of consents, confiscation of buildings and land. The manner in which it was done was a deliberate strategy. Basically done to manipulate the property market and land ownership. (I note that one major property owner was told that if he did not demolish 2 buildings he would be locked out of the city for 3 years, another was told that they would withdraw building consents if he did not co-operate.) We have been locked out for 3 years.  Makes you wonder????? Definition of malfeasance: “wrong doing, especially by a public official” 

Will they be held to account? I wait with interest.

The reality of the new Christchurch is that “the new wealthy” will be the builders and developers,  a whole new wealth class have been created. The old order has been eroded and replaced.   A pity it had to be done off the backs of the small land owners and home owners.   (The number of new “4 wheel drive Utes”  in the city sends a shiver down the spine of every homeowner.  We know that it was our insurance money that paid for it.)

That sure as heck does not give us a lot of people in charge to respect does it?

One of the other comments in this article by John McCrone also follows the same theme:

“Massey University professor Bruce Glavovic, the country’s top recovery expert as the Earthquake Commission (EQC) chair in natural hazards, was equally forceful.

“How is [Cera] going to capitalise on local culture and knowledge? How is it going to mobilise local capacity to rebuild? How is it going to enable local communities to make choices that will build safer and more sustainable communities?” Glavovic asked.

One of the untold stories of the earthquakes is the way Glavovic quickly found himself sidelined along with others who had the temerity to criticise the Cera approach.”

It was not only Professor Glavonic who was quickly sided lined by CERA.  Anyone who had any ideas, that did not comply with CERA’s view was quickly sidelined or worse still rubbished.  CERA knew better.  They refused to listen to the overseas experts who had experience in disaster recovery. They tried a new untested New Zealand “number 8 wire model”  It did not work and now they refuse to back track and admit that they got it wrong. There are many other well-known names in the same boat as Professor Glavonic…. Ian Athfield (a leading Architect) Kevin McLeod (Urban planning/design),  Kit Miyamoto (engineer) and the list goes on.

On a lighter note!  Hows progress on the building?

I have finally got the upstairs plastered.  It is in the process of being painted.  Then I can get the electrician in and the floor sanded.

I have called in additional labour, in the form of a semi retired builder friend, who has advanced progress markedly by finishing the jobs that no one else wanted to do.   Just minor issues, like toilets, showers, kitchen, windows, stairs etc…

Incidentally there appears to be “cherry picking” of work by some contractors in the city and in our case it is slowing the repair process.

We have just spent the weekend chasing a leak in the ceiling, onto my new gib….. damn….  What fun.

High Street is a Disgrace.  It looks like Beirut.  The lack of progress by CERA/CCDU et all is astounding.

There is a great job opportunity for someone to stand in the street and explain to the incredulous passersby and tourists what is happening to the area.   I can not explain it. Although I try.  We have tourists taking photos of the mess all day every day.  These are the pictures that our tourist visitors are taking home.

Unfortunately no one else seems to have the answers either. Certainly it appears that Gerry’s “God like powers have departed him.”


The answers are blindingly obvious.

  • Remove the destroyed Fire damaged Billens building.
  • Facilitate the repairs of the heritage buildings.
  • Review the party-wall legislation, which is toothless.
  • It is well worth restoring, this section of the city is now unique.
  • Force the recalcitrant land owners to repair or vacate.
  • Review the 5 year compulsory land designation. Tell the landowners what our fate is. Tell us what the infamous “Innovation Precinct” means.  And realise that this is a heritage block.

For all our sakes.  DO SOMETHING.

A Happy New Year to you all.

May 2014 be a year when we begin to make some progress.

P.S. One wonders. If monumental failures like Bob Parker (the ex-mayor) merits a Knight hood, what can they possibly do to reward Gerry Brownlee (The quake Czar)  Sainthood perhaps??

Curtain call for the Ministry Night Club in Lichfield Street…..

You already know that I believe that the Christchurch Press for the last 3 years seems to have operated under a “code of silence”.  There has been very little said about the lack of political opposition to the way the Government has: locked up the CBD, demolished 100’s of commercial buildings, red zoned huge chunks of land, dispossessed 10,000 families of their homes and properties, failed to protect the people on Insurance Issues…. and the list goes on. They also appear to be unwilling to stand up for the rights of a small number of building owners who have been vocal in their opposition to the fate being forced upon them by CERA/CCDU/Property Group.

This is a story about Bruce… The article he refuses to write. This is the shortened version. Today is not a good day for Bruce, as today the Government compulsorily takes his building and land in Lichfield Street.

Why has there been a code of silence? One could speculate that they are afraid to get offside with CERA, who is one of their biggest advertiser.  ie Cera is the Government..

This story highlights the plight of one building owner facing compulsory acquisition, At a price he deems unfair.  This scenario is and has been replaying itself out across all the “faintly coloured Green frames” created by the Government planners for many months.  Property rights have been ignored and trampled on.

There has been an attitude in the city that a small number of us “rich capitalist Building owners”  (yeah right!  I wish) should put our own personal interests on hold for the “greater good.”   ie refer back to Gerry’s “carpers and moaners.”  That’s us. Now  I have no problem being mindful of the greater good of the city, BUT you need to compensate me fairly.  This word “FAIRLY” seems to have slipped out of the Governments vocabulary.

One possibility is that they do not like the concept of the Ministry.

Johnny Moore comments: “Maybe an aging nightclub doesn’t fit into slick flyover graphics.

But true vibrancy – about the most thrashed word when pitching bullshit in this city – means taking everything that comes with the city.

That’s the nightclubs, the brothels, the homeless people and all the smells, sounds and sights that come with being in a real city.

If you want a sanitised city, go to the mall. I want a real city, full of the excitement that comes from something less contrived.

A place where small businesses all work to create colour that can’t come from some horrible over-planned perfect notion of a city.”

Johnny Moore is correct.  A city is a collection of good, bad and ugly.  That is what gives it vibrancy.  A fact CERA/CCDU seems to have forgotten.

Gerry did a “good job.” he told everyone that our old buildings were unsafe…. with his “Dungers” comment.  This comment was deliberately calculated to put fear in the hearts of the less knowledgeable city residents.  What he “forgot” to say was that more people died in the new buildings than the old ones.  There was a calculated plan created to demolish all the old city and rebuild it bright shiny and new. (And the good bit was that it would be mainly paid for by OUR Insurance policies.) This involved getting rid of all the small land owners and small businesses. The earthquakes provided this opportunity.  The central city will become the home of many of the country’s government departments as they are relocated away from Wellington. Incidentally, I have been told by one of the cities Engineers that all that is needed to make many of the older buildings safe is to “strengthen the frontages only”.   That is the weakness of the old buildings. Not the insides or side walls. Very few “old dungers collapsed” causing loss of life.  Frontages did collapse, If they are tied back the risk is substantially reduced.

An article has been written about Bruce by a journalist at the Press.

Bruce Williamson has owned and has operated the Ministry night club on Lichfield Street for 20 years.  Since the February 2011 earthquakes he has been locked out of this property.

Today it will be compulsorily acquired under the Cer Act.  He has been unable to reach agreement with The Property Group on the value of this building.  He maintains that the building is repairable, he has spent many months on the repair and rebuild strategy.  The repairs are estimated to cost approx $500,000.  He has already spent $300,000 on design and engineering work, removing the damaged 1st floor and keeping the building at 36% of the NBS, as it stands.  All of this work was with Cera’s knowledge. Bruce was not only rebuilding, but also upgrading to be more suitable for live gigs, with increased capacity.  A facility desperately needed in our city.  Which has a massive shortage of venues.

So lets pull another one down eh!

One would have to ask why they let him do this work when they knew that they were going to take this building.  There is no obvious answer to that question.  This situation has occurred on more than one occasion in this city.  I suspect that we may soon be in the same boat as Bruce.

The Property Group maintains that the building is a write off and that the value is the land value only. It is apparent to both Bruce and any casual observer that there has been a plan in place since February 2011 for that land. This is one of the reasons that he has been locked out for such a long period of time.

Today the land will be taken, his bar will be demolished and replaced with….. wait for it…. bars, shops and homes. Link Here:

Bruce has the misfortune of being in an area designated for a bus depot.. There was never any intention that he retained this building and land.

Funnily enough the design brief states “The developments should support an interchange that integrated with the surrounding spaces, especially to the east connecting with SOL Square, a previous entertainment precinct that was badly damaged by the quakes.”

Another case of the moral judgements of a group of aged, conservative, white middle class ex-army personnel clashing with the free thinking Lichfield/High Street forward thinking lefties? Perhaps…

What I do know is that one of the reasons Bruce is having troubles is that they are afraid of him, he is feisty, he is past being angry (just like me!) he is freehold and the plan to “starve him out” did not work.  This delaying tactic has been used by CERA in many cases. They wait until the building owner is desperate and fed up.  I have seen many of his emails to and from CERA.  They make interesting reading.  His relationship with them has fallen into such a state that they now send him emails from: “: email from nameless person: 88-90 Lichfield Street”.

Bruce is keen to see me publish some of these emails, but due to fears of retaliation by CERA I can not take that risk. Sorry.

Stay strong Bruce. Make them repay you every cent that you spent on this building and add 3 years of wages.

here is a link to the Ministry web site: