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 :  http://pc.blogspot.co.nz/2011/03/perhaps-you-have-to-be-prince-william.html

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

——————————–

Photographer
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: https://www.google.co.nz/?gws_rd=ssl#q=prince+william+inspects+cbd Also Blog spot  has some good comments:  http://pc.blogspot.co.nz/2011/03/perhaps-you-have-to-be-prince-william.html
  • 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.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/4780093/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: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10713122

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) http://www.ceismic.org.nz/news/fairfax-collection-now-in-motion
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: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/4782165/Civil-Defence-calls-rethink-as-Christchurch-building-owners-protest

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. 

P.S.: FORWARD THIS MESSAGE TO YOUR BUSINESS ASSOCIATES, EMPLOYEES, LEASSEES, RESIDENTS & FRIENDS OF THE C.B.D.

Regards,
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: http://www.listener.co.nz/commentary/letter-from-christchurch/blast-those-barricades/

this link is a bit odd: try this https://cardmakerschc.wordpress.com/page/18/

“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

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10713997

“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 herald.co.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 http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10714025

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  http://www.3news.co.nz/nznews/civil-defence-blasted-over-christchurch-protest-2011032207#axzz3SyOvfjkC

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

Also:
 
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:  http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/5232023/Last-ditch-protest-brings-reward

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.

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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:  http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/64820533/Delayed-Avon-River-Precinct-revamp-threatens-tourism
  • The Convention centre: Looks like more like a white elephant every day.  Link Here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/10661310/Convention-centre-might-be-white-elephant
  • 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: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/65097936/Land-prices-shrink-Christchurchs-south-frame 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:  http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/63292588/Roger-Sutton-resigns-with-regrets   “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.  http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/65992629/Rebuild-chief-Warwick-Isaacs-quits-for-Stonewood-Homes-role

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:  http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/10627083/Victoria-Square-revamp-startles
  • A comment by “darkhorse” on stuff, sums up Christchurch and says it all really.  link here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/63769088/Sensitive-meeting-off-limits-to-public   “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..”

SNAFU

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????
NOTE:
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: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/editors-picks/66088834/EQC-suboptimal-and-substandard-report

(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!

Ode to Christchurch

Locked out of undamaged factory for 792 days

Do we still own our building????   who knows???? 265 days

Progress on the building is completely stalled as we wait for an Engineering Evaluation from our seriously overworked Engineer. Very frustrating.

I apologise for the multiple links in this blog, it was a busy news week!

There have been a number of articles referring to the High Street area, (as we are next on the acquisition list.)  By the way the Globe/Billens building is still lying in the street following the pre-Christmas fire. Is it not fascinating that we can be bullied in 10 days to act and demolish/fix/make safe our buildings under a section 38 and 39 but if you are ” powerful enough” you can leave your building lying in the street and hold up progress completely”.

And so the demolitions continue:  “The Lichfield, High St and Poplar Lane area was the most creative part of town before the earthquakes . . . now they want to put an IT hub [innovation precinct] there. It could be restored and that grungy, edgy feel that it had should not be lost.”

Dean Marshall said Christchurch would become a “very dull city” if rebuild officials did not “see the bigger picture”. “I just don’t understand what is going on in this city. It’s like they don’t want property developers to help with the rebuild and it’s frustrating.” Link here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/8549884/Sammys-Jazz-Bar-building-under-threat

So they have not finished with us yet!

“Last month the Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation announced a request for proposals from firms interested in moving to the innovation precinct – an area covering about 35,000 square metres bounded by Lichfield, Manchester, St Asaph, High, Tuam and Madras streets. A ministry spokesman yesterday said 16 proposals had been submitted in response and a decision was expected in June.

He said the Government would like to see Christchurch’s Enterprise Precinct and Innovation Campus model replicated.  The precinct would be funded by the private sector and the majority of tenants would be private companies, he said.

Construction would hopefully start before the end of the year. Some existing buildings in the area would remain, he said.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority recently issued acquisition notices for 69 properties on Tuam, High, and Lichfield streets and Poplar Lane and a spokesman said there was more to come but no final numbers were available.”http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/8570382/Owners-draw-up-plans-for-inner-city-buildings

I wait with trepidation for my letter in the mail box!

On the same subject I see that the Epic Centre was bemoaning its in-ability to find cheap land in our precinct that they could purchase for their Innovation Centre. This puzzles me some what as these Innovation Centre clients were never able to afford the paltry rentals in this area pre-earthquake and now with the artificially created land shortage they are surprised by the lack of cheap land.  Land is only cheap if you force land owners to sell it at below market value.  Whoops I forgot that’s what the CCDU is doing! silly me! Link Here:  http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/8570390/Land-costs-put-Epics-future-in-doubt

On a happier note:

What an excellent summary of the issues in Christchurch. Well written, unlike my ranting and raving (Well, he is a lecturer and I am only a crazy paper pusher) by Dr Eric Crampton a senior lecturer in economics at the University of Canterbury. He blogs at Offsetting Behaviour. 

What I liked about his article in the NBR was that he brought together all the issues that are causing distress and discontent and compressed it into one concise article. http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/oh-christchurch-ck-138972

I did rather like his comment that in March 2011 the business people were still locked out of their buildings but if your Wedding Dress was locked up some policeman was likely to let you through. On this subject this link here tells me that this situation is still occurring in the city. This business owner has not had access to their equipment after  2 + years.  My guess would be that the building owner is refusing to pay for an Engineer (cost approximately $1000) to accompany them and allow them access. And I know of at least one other business operator in our block that is in the same situation.  This is a patently absurd situation. It reflects the total lack of common sense that has prevailed throughout this sorry saga. http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/city-centre/8576132/New-Regent-St-tenant-protests-at-reopening

In my search to analyse the deteriorating mental health of many of us in the city I came across this interview.  One of the issues that has puzzled me is the total lack of counselling help available to the cities residents.  This is a part of an interview with an Australian Clinical Psychologist Dr Rob Gordon an expert in disaster trauma. Apparently year 3 is the worst! Drat I did not think it could get worse…. Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to go and hear him speak. http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/more-stress-come-quake-victims-video-5366909

I was also sent this link by a fellow building owner to a blog by “Woza Wanderer.”  He posts some excellent pictures.  He talks about the rebuild by the private sector in the suburbs.  “The private sector was doing a better rebuild in the suburbs than CERA’s nothing in the CBD.”  Due to the Road blocks being provided by CERA,  well worth a look! Love his pix! http://wozawanderer.blogspot.co.nz/2013/01/2013-spotty-christchurch-rebuild.html

Oh well I had better go and do some real work to pay for my insurance for my house.  I have just finished propping up the roof, this is just in case we have another shake and the wall/corner blows out. Southern Response where the hell are you???  Gosh I have learnt some useful skills. My apologies to any scaffolders out there, I am sure it is not as professional as it could be, but I had limited resources to work with. Ho Humm another interesting day in Christchurch.IMGP4049

22nd February 2011 – The things we want to forget today…

Our wrecked houses. Our lost jobs. Our shortage of money. Our Insurance problems, our CERA problems, our Building consent problems, our problems getting repairs done due to lack of labour.  CERA, The CCC, EQC, The government. The bloated power structures put in place to help us “recover”. The destruction of the Heritage fabric of Christchurch by inaction from Insurance companies, lack of understanding of unreinforced masonry buildings, overhasty Engineers, CERA and building owners.

The 22nd of February.

No power, no showers for 10+ days, getting water from a tanker every day for weeks. Being unable to sleep because the ground moved constantly those first few nights. Having to dig a toilet hole and using it. Unable to wash clothes.  Rotten food in the fridge.  Cleaning up the kitchen floor, a mixture of Draumbuie, glass, mustard powder and mung beans with no water.  Picking up my broken treasures. Waiting for the next big one. Worrying about the boy at university.  Looking at the 3 storey Smith City car park that was pancaked and fearing the worst.  Driving around the city. Waiting for the house to fall down with us in it. Sleeping in the lounge. Walking through the city and dodging the liquefaction holes. Trying to fill the car with petrol. Driving across town to rescue elderly mother. Traffic jams. The situation of those in the East, many of whom will never own a house again.  The effects on the elderly. The fine throat grabbing liquefaction dust that blows across the city.  The rows and rows of empty sections in the CBD.

The Lack of information, the withholding of information, the “nanny knows best attitude from CERA and Government”.

The radio/TV  wallowing in its grief. The lack of analysis by journalists in CHCH and New Zealand. The code of silence agreed to by all political parties. The lack of Economic analysis. The Engineers being hung out to dry by the media.

The 22nd of February 2011- a day best forgottton by all.

Blast those barricades. By Rebecca MacFie, Listener. 2.4.2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How it all began

First posted on Hortsource in March 2011:

The initial shock is over.  The aftershocks are still happening though, both in a physical sense and as far as getting business life back to normal is concerned.  For some people normally is still a long way to go – and anyone who watched the TV footage of frustrated and desperate small business owners trying to light a fire under the Civil Defence bureaucracy will wonder what on earth is going in Christchurch.

Railway Line Near Christchurch (AFP)

Thirty second video clips don’t always get the message across correctly, the danger being that sensationalism takes over.

Here is a very eloquent way to sum up how a small inner city business inside the no go red zone is – or more to the point – is NOT coping with the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.  Treat it as a guest contribution if you like.  The author, Nicky Arts, owns a small business in High Street, inside the  inaccessible red cordon.

Chch CBD

It is now, 5 weeks since the CHCH earthquake. What has been achieved for the CBD business owners? Well if you are wealthy and “well connected” you will have been into your business and collected your car keys and jacket, maybe salvaged your stock, plant and records, or much more likely, If you are a small SME you will not have heard from Civil Defence for 5 weeks, you probably don’t know officially if your building has been A) demolished B) looted C) standing but damaged D) a variation of above. ( Unless a kind Journalist/contractor/police man has helped you out.) In our case we are RED, but no one can tell me why! Though I suspect it’s my neighbour, who has frontage problems.

You will be checking the Recover Canterbury website every day- don’t bother it’s out of date. Try Paul Lonsdale from the Central City Business Association he is supplying the best information I can find.

You will be ringing your fellow building owners/businesses every day in the vain hope that they know more than you do.

You will be checking the Press every day- don’t bother they are not even publishing cordon reduction maps. (Try checking out the articles in the NZ Herald, they have some excellent comments)

You will have reluctantly told your staff, that have loyally stuck with you, that they are redundant, and that you don’t think you can re open in the same format.

You will spend every day worrying about how you are going to do the accounts for 2010-2011 because you don’t have any records.

You will spend time worrying about finding that document that gives you… in my case- power of attorney for your elderly mothers affairs- she is in a rest home in Auckland because she does not have- power-sewer-water- dangerous house- liquifaction- take your pick!

You spend your day wondering what you are going to do about the February invoices that you can’t get access to and you need the money.

You will be ringing the 0800 …whatever- number every day, and wonder what conflicting story they will give you today.

You will have stood at the portacom at the art gallery, day after day, and been fobbed off.

You will have felt sick when they they changed the cordon dates, yet again.

You will have faced the slick PR machine- which is lies, lie and lies. And is just a stalling tactic.

You will have wondered WHEN they are actually going to make a decision?

You will have wondered if there is any one in charge?

You will wonder if any one with commercial experience is involved in the decision making?

You will have realised that all Small/Medium Enterprises have been written off as collateral damage.

You will wonder why Labour/Greens/Act/who ever – is not helping you by attacking the government handling of this fiasco.

You will wonder why they won’t let the glazier/carpenter/brickie in to fix your building. In my case they won’t let in the Steel company to install the last 12 beams needed to finish the strengthening project we have been working on for 2 years. (He is now closing down because he can’t work).

You will wonder why 1/4 of CHCH work force is on a subsidy (when we could work safely from our strengthened building, and contribute to the economy).

You will smile when you meet your lawyer at the portacom and he complains that it is a f…. shambles.  And you will invite him to the next protest!

You will wonder what sort of future Christchurch has, if no one listens to us.

Nicky Arts