Letter from Christchurch – it’s bad


Just had a long and rather unpleasant shake as I began to write. I am not certain how many demolitions have taken place with independent engineering advice that the buildings are OK. I know of one definite case in Lyttelton and we had a very close call with the Tunnel building. Transit had the diggers in place ready to demolish. A tenant alerted a friend who got on to NZHPT who actually got their engineer onto the case promptly. He said the damage was minor and Transit backed down (probably because they have a memo of understanding with NZHPT).

In the CBD owners have of course been unable to get independent experts in but decisions are being made to demolish simply because buildings have been red-stickered. The red sticker means they are unsafe to enter as it stands – it should not mean automatic demolition. It involves no judgement as to whether the building could be restored if appropriate shoring up took place. At present owners are being given 24 hours notice that a building is going to be demolished with little possibility of influencing the decision and no chance to recover possessions.

I will try to get more details on the process or lack of it at a meeting I am going to tomorrow. We have received calls from a number of distressed owners who have valuable property in buildings which they believe can be restored but who fear that they will lose both building and contents without being able to do anything about it.

The general approach seems to be that any reasonably undamaged buildings in a block are just a nuisance and will slow down the process of clearance – that it is more efficient to clear out everything (this is the view of somebody working hard to prevent listed buildings from being demolished).

Another reason behind the demolition of red-stickered buildings is that the demolition companies apparently get the materials and contents as salvage – so we have been informed by an antique shop owner who defied the red stickers (in a suburban area) in order to recover stock ahead of the demolition crews.

I will try to get more details to you tomorrow, it is clear that there are owners who want to restore their buildings but are simply being told they have to come down and that is that.

{Names removed, letter received by What if? on Tuesday 12.07am. -Eds}


Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Architecture, Design, Economics, Geography, Heritage, People, Politics, Project management, Site, Town planning, Urban design

10 responses to “Letter from Christchurch – it’s bad

  1. Russell Garbutt

    Very interesting comments from the Institute of Professional Engineers and good succinct explanations of liquefaction, but I reiterate that the information and data that they seem to be very proud of knowing about and disseminating was confined to a very limited audience.

    It is similar to all the stuff that the Universities know about and GNS scientists know about – most of it is written for the consumption of other scientists. I don’t know of one popular media outlet in the last 20 years that has gathered together the known data and published it in a form that is digestable and understandable. That is the fault of the scientists first and foremost, and of the lack of any type of investigative journalist in almost any media.

    I note that in the above articles that no mention is made of the Alpine Fault that I could see. It is known that this fault will go and is overdue. What recognition is made of this? NONE.

    When the decisions are made as to which suburbs are not worth building on in the future, it is vital that projections are made on the basis of what is likely to happen in the next economically supportable time frame. For example, if we can reasonably expect an 8.2 event on the Alpine Fault in the next 10 years and such an event would cause x amount of further damage in certain areas of Christchurch and/or Canterbury, then it must affect the decisions that are made in the near future as to what should be done with the land likely to be affected.

    My comprehension is that the many scientists that do have this knowledge are too busy or not interested in communicating what they know and could reasonably expect in the near future to anyone that is involved in any form of decision making process.

    • Elizabeth

      ### radionz.co.nz Tuesday, 08 March 2011 at 09:06
      Nine To Noon with Kathryn Ryan
      Entire Christchurch neighbourhoods may be abandoned
      With David Hopkins, engineer and expert member of the Canterbury Earthquake Commission, who’s been working in Christchurch since the quake struck, evaluating the safety of buildings. (duration: 28′47″)
      Audio Ogg Vorbis MP3


      Lengthy coverage, divergent views:

      (1.08pm) @TVNZNews Parker says abandoning land is ‘speculation’ http://bit.ly/hp5P5y #TVNZNews

      – With Newstalk ZB

      “Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says it’s speculation to suggest that 10,000 homes may have to be rebuilt and large areas of land will have to be abandoned because of earthquake damage. Prime Minister John Key said yesterday early indications are that as many as 10,000 homes are so badly damaged they may have to be demolished, more than 100,000 homes may need repairs and some areas may have to be abandoned because of land damage.”

      TVNZNews Video Christchurch Council looks into building new suburbs (1:23)
      Source: ONE News
      Bob Parker says the council is already starting to think about where to place people whose homes will have to be demolished.

      • Elizabeth

        (12.00pm) @3newsbreaking Of more than 70,000 buildings assessed, 1359 commercial buildings and 1369 residential buildings have been red stickered http://ow.ly/49Gjp

        (12.54pm) @NewstalkZB Controlled access into red zone from Monday: Businesses caught up in Christchurch’s red zone will start to have … http://bit.ly/eO2r4z


        (12.57pm) @CherylBernstein With the wrecking ball swinging in the CBD: do “demolition companies…get the materials and contents as salvage”? http://is.gd/BAiUSa #eqnz

        {What if? aims to find out. @CEQgovtnz is looking into this for us. -Eds}


        Blue Shield Statement on Christchurch
        The Blue Shield is the protective emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention which is the basic international treaty formulating rules to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts. The Blue Shield network consists of organisations dealing with museums, archives, audiovisual supports, libraries, monuments and sites.

        “In addition to the tragic loss of human lives and the country’s prevailing state of shock, the loss of these significant aspects of Christchurch’s heritage will have profound and lasting consequences on the self-conception and the collective memory of its inhabitants. The intangible values of a people’s cultural heritage can support the processes to regenerate normality and help people to move forward. Cultural heritage is a fundamental aspect in the rebuilding of community identity and dignity, as well as in keeping up hope after such a catastrophe.”

        “The Blue Shield trusts that the emergency authorities will take appropriate measures to ensure the preservation of heritage features of the city in the aftermath of the disaster. The Blue Shield Mission is “to work to protect the world’s cultural heritage threatened by armed conflict, natural and man‐made disasters”. While it strongly supports the priority to find the missing, and to help the injured and homeless; it places the expertise and network of its members at the disposal of their New Zealand colleagues to facilitate their work in assessing the damages, and, for subsequent recovery, the restoration and repair measures.”


        Human Rights and Cultural Heritage: From the Holocaust to the Haitian Earthquake
        March 2, 2011 — Kimberly Alderman http://bit.ly/ifTpf2
        On March 31, 2011, the American Society of International Law (ASIL), the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation (LCCHP), the Art Law Society of Cardozo Law School, and the Hofstra Law School Art and Cultural Heritage Club will invite professionals, students, and interested members of the public to New York City for an exciting event dedicated to restitution of cultural heritage.

        Protecting cultural heritage as development priority
        29 July 2010 1 [MediaGlobal] http://bit.ly/hNR0ER
        The earthquake that shook Haiti in January 2010 has proven how vulnerable cultural heritage is to natural disasters. In the wake of the earthquake’s widespread destruction were museums, galleries, and other places that contained Haiti’s cultural property. Haiti’s Centre d’Art has been severely damaged; the Musée d’art Nader has collapsed; murals in the Trinity Cathedral have come crashing down.

      • Elizabeth

        Total seat of the pants embarrassment. And you call this leadership.

        ### nzherald.co.nz Updated 7:20 PM Tuesday Mar 8, 2011
        No official advice on abandoning suburbs – Key
        By Matthew Backhouse and Paloma Migone of NZPA
        Prime Minister John Key has conceded he received no official advice that some areas of quake-stricken Christchurch may need to be abandoned. The concession comes as official Civil Defence figures show that some 2198 homes in Christchurch have been deemed unliveable – far less than the 10,000 homes Mr Key has said may need to be knocked down. Mr Key yesterday said parts of Christchurch will have to be abandoned and up to 10,000 homes could be demolished as a result of last month’s earthquake.
        Read more

  2. Phil

    In some ways I can see where John is coming from. Displacing 2,000 families out of their areas can be far more traumatic than relocating an entire existing community with working infrastructure and synergies. I’ve seen this happen before in mining areas where extended families have been separated and social connections severed. Your house is fine, but your children’s grandparents who moved into the area to be close to them, are now on the opposite side of the city. The emotional and social impacts are significant, with economic consequences. Relocating a community retains those important existing links and connections. You have the same neighbours, your children continue to go to school with their friends and have the same teachers, you have the same relationship with the local dairy owner. It’s a much more seamless and less traumatic event.

    The modern trend is to keep existing communities intact. Communities are having a lot of say in how they want their new location to be. Where they want bus stops or shops, where the best place for a park is, car parking sites, and so forth.

    • Elizabeth

      No doubt Phil – it was the discrepancy in numbers and lack of official information underlying his claim that worries. However, Nightline tonight will be asking if 10k is too conservative. The media whirl continues apace.

      ### 3news.co.nz Tue, 08 Mar 2011 6:02p.m.
      Govt prefers quick relocation over rebuilding
      By Duncan Garner
      Residents of Christchurch’s eastern suburbs may be offered relocation packages to get them out of their quake-damaged homes. As many as 10,000 homes may have to be demolished in suburbs like Avonside, Dallingon and Bexley. The residents could find themselves going to Rolleston to the west, where there’s land to spare, with the prospect of brand new homes and financial help.
      Read more + Video


      ### 3news.co.nz Tue, 08 Mar 2011 6:10p.m.
      Residents in Avonside, Dallington may never return
      By Michael Morrah
      Residents in the worst-hit eastern suburbs are wondering whether they will be forced to pack up and relocate. Some have already accepted that they do not have many options but to leave their homes behind, and live elsewhere. The riverside suburbs of Avonside and Dallington are already all but deserted, now residents are faced with the prospect of never returning.
      Read more + Video

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