Christchurch five years on


Today is the fifth anniversary of the earthquake which struck Canterbury at 12:51 in the afternoon.

It’s a time to remember the 185 people who died, the many more who were injured and those who still carry the scars, whether they be mental or physical.

It’s a time to celebrate the courage of those who helped to save others, the compassion and support from people near and far, and to recognise that over-used but still appropriate word, resilience of Christchurch and it’s people.

Each time I go to the city I marvel at the positive changes and feel great sympathy for those still dealing with the challenges the earthquake and the many aftershocks, have left in their wake.

A lot has been achieved in the rebuild, there’s still a lot more to do.

John Key's photo.

Today is a day of reflection but it’s also a day of great hope and optimism.

Today we remember the events of five years ago in Christchurch and those who lost their lives. But we also reflect on how far we’ve come, what’s been achieved and look forward to the future with a renewed sense of optimism – John Key.

Three years on


Those of us who weren’t in Christchurch at 12:51pm on February 22nd, 2011 will probably always recall where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news of the earthquake.

Those who were in the city or close to it will never forget.

This post is to remember the ones who died and were injured;  the ones who lost family and friends, homes and work places;  those who lives were literally and figuratively turned upside down and those who are still dealing with the physical, financial and emotional problems caused by the quake and its aftermath.

It is to acknowledge those who helped during the crisis and those who are dealing with ordinary life in extraordinary circumstances.

It is also to celebrate the people who are working so hard, under still trying conditions, to rebuild the city.

The Press lists commemorative events.


Two years on


At 12:51pm two years ago a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch.

On this second anniversary we remember the 185 people who died and the many others who were seriously injured.

We think of people whose homes and businesses were badly damaged, some irreparably.

We think of people still living in limbo, waiting for decisions, waiting for repairs, waiting to move on.

But two years on as the rebuild gains momentum we can also appreciate the work that has been done, the opportunities grasped and look ahead to better times for Christchurch and Canterbury.



Can we prevent a repeat?


Alan Reay whose design firm Alan Reay Consultants designed the Canterbury Television building which collapsed in the Christchurch earthquake has accepted full responsibility for its failings.

Without in anyway minimising the tragic loss of life in that quake, the death toll was low considering how many people were in the city centre and most of those who died were in just two buildings.

Taking responsibility for building failings can not change what happened and its tragic consequences.

But learning from the mistakes and shortcomings not just in the design and construction but in inspections after the pre-February 22nd earthquakes could prevent them and the tragic consequences being repeated.

Red and black


For Canterbury:

(Ribbon borrowed from Scrubone at Something Should Go Here Maybe Later)

Broken rules helped


When disaster strikes you can’t always go by the rules.

In financing a fund to cover wages for Canterbury businesses in the aftermath of the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes in Canterbury, the government wasn’t following the rules:

In an interview on last February’s quake Prime Minister John Key said:

The Government’s response in the following days involved not just the rescue effort, but how to keep the heart of Christchurch beating. “In a way we almost broke every rule in the book.

“You’d never establish a fund where you just say, `Ring up and we’ll give you money’, because governments don’t operate like that and if you do, they’re liable to all sorts of activity which could be fraudulent.

“But we just sort-of knew there was no way to have a system with all the bells and whistles on it … if you look back on it I reckon that actually kept Christchurch afloat. We essentially paid the bill for 50,000 people for six or eight weeks and business did start regrouping, in fact, much quicker than we thought.”

A business leader told a meeting I was at last year that the fund made a huge difference to the city and he credited it with the relatively low number of business failures after the quakes.

The fund kept money flowing through the economy, it gave businesses breathing room while they regrouped, it worked on honour and there was very little abuse of it.

Kia Kaha Christchurch


At 12:51 a year ago today, a violent earthquake shook Christchurch, Lyttleton and the hinterland.

It lasted just 24 seconds but in that time changed the city forever.

Among the victims on the day were 185 who were killed and many more who were injured.

The physical and financial costs of the quake, and the thousands of big and small ones which have followed, might be quantifiable.

The emotional impact on the people of Christchurch is not.

Today we will remember them all: the people who died; their family and friends who will still be mourning for them;  the people who were injured and those still supporting them; the people who were forced from their homes and businesses and those who have stayed.

Today is also an opportunity to honour the many organisations and individuals who have worked so hard to help the city and its people. Among them are Sam Johnson who was named Young New Zealander of the Year for his leadership of the Student Volunteer Army, and Federated Farmers’ John Hartnell who led the Farmy Army.

Today is an opportunity to look back in sadness but it’s also an opporutnity to look forward in hope.

Kia Kaha Christchurch.

Timetable of commemoration  services:

  • Christchurch

Where: North Hagley Park

When: 12pm-1:30pm

Christchurch residents welcome to attend the reading of names of the  185 who perished and two minute’s silence will be observed.

Where: North Hagley Park

When: 2pm-4pm

Christchurch Earthquake Awards will celebrate those who rose above the call of duty to assist others in the aftermath.

Where: Latimer Square

When: 8am-8.45am

Service focused towards those who lost loved ones as well as first  responders, the public is also welcome to attend.

Where: Avon River

When: 8am-8pm

An event called River of Flowers. The public is invited to  cast flowers into the river at particular sites. More information available here

Where: Christchurch Botanic Gardens

When: 10am-11.45am

Festival of Flowers where Golden Angel/Spirit sculpture will be  unveiled and ringing of Peace Bell by Japanese students who lost friends in the  CTV building.

Where: Wainoni/Avonside Community Services Trust

When: 12:45pm

Lighting of candles and two minutes’ silence along with other memorial  activites.

Where: Branston Intermediate

When: 4.30pm-7.30pm

The Crusaders will be manning the  free BBQ and there will be ice cream and games to entertain the  children.

Where: Sacred Heart Parish Church, Addington

When: 5pm-8pm

Mass by the Filipino community of  Christchurch.

Where: Queenspark Reserve

When: 5pm-7pm

A Memorial Reflection where northeast Christchurch residents can  reflect over the year at stations dotted around the park.

Where: Oxford Terrace Baptist Church

When: 7pm

Reflection of Loss of Lives, Livelihoods and Living in Neighbourhood.  An installation of white chairs will represent earthquake victims.

Where: Holy Trinity Avonside

When: 7pm

Brief service and candle lighting will be followed by Ash Wednesday  service.

Where: Spreydon Baptist Church

When: 7.30pm

Remembrance and Ash Wednesday service.

  • Selwyn

Where: Selwyn District Council chambers, two minutes’ silence

When: 12.51pm

Where: Rolleston Domain

When: 5pm-7pm

Community picnic with music and children’s games

  • Waimakariri

Where: Kaiapoi Baptist Church, the Kaiapoi Club and the Oxford  Workingman’s Club

When: 12pm-1.30pm

North Hagley Park’s Civic Memorial Service will be screened.

Where: District Council Rangiora and Oxford service centres and  Darnley Square, Kaiapoi

When: 12.51pm

Two minute’s silence.

  • Auckland

Where: Parnell’s Holy Trinity Cathedral

When: 12.30-1:00pm

Mayor Len Brown will lead two minute’s silence at 12.51pm.

Where: Aotea Square

When: 12.51pm

The Auckland Town Hall clock bell will ring at the start and finish of  two minutes’ silence.

Where: Auckland War Memorial Museum

When: 12pm-2pm

Reading from The Broken Book by Christchurch author Fiona  Farrell, two minutes’ silence at 12.51pm and a screening of When A City  Falls documentary at 1pm.

  • Wellington

Where: Anglican and Catholic cathedrals

When: 12.30pm

Wellington’s service will be hosted by the Anglican and Catholic  cathedrals, as vigil of solidarity with the two iconic Christchurch cathedrals  that were destroyed.

  • Dunedin

Where: Otago Museum lawn

When: 12.30pm

Otago Student Association president Logan Edgar says a two minute’s  silence, mayoral address from Dave Cull and end karakia will be held.

  • Wanganui

Where: Majestic Square

When: 5pm

Wanganui District Council’s youth committee and Mayor Annette Main will  be hosting a service.

Fonterra inviting applications for assistance in Christchurch


Any politician knows that you rarely get acknowledged for the good you do and will always be criticised for any lapses.

Businesses suffer from a similar lack of appreciation.

Take Fonterra for example.

When the company’s plan to provide free milk for low decile schools was announced their was some appreciation but the predominant sentiment was, and so they should.

If many ever knew that Fonterra had donated more than $6 million to the Canterbury earthquake recovery, most will have forgotten.

A newsletter to suppliers reminds us:

Immediately after each quake, Fonterra provided on-the-ground Civil Defence support including the provision of water through milk vats and tankers, distribution of UHT and flavoured milk to welfare centres, and assistance with the urban search and rescue effort through our 24-strong Emergency Response Team. Our suppliers also provided emergency accommodation for people affected by the earthquake.

To further assist the Christchurch community, we created a fund that acted as a central collection point for donations from suppliers, staff and joint venture partners.
Fonterra pledged $1 million after each quake. Our suppliers, staff and joint venture partners raised a further $1.9 million for a total of $3.9 million that was donated directly to the Red Cross.

Fonterra also matched dollar-for-dollar the $1.9 million raised to create the ongoing Fonterra Rebuilding Communities Programme. Through Rebuilding Communities, Fonterra has provided donations to The Prime Minister’s Earthquake Relief Appeal, Canterbury Business Recovery Fund and Rise Up Christchurch – Te Kotahitanga Telethon. The Programme has also welcomed applications for funding for direct assistance to Christchurch community groups, clubs and schools.

A final call for funding is open until the end of the month. Any funds left after February 29 will be donated to the Red Cross Earthquake Appeal.

Applications can request funding of up to $5,000 for initiatives that fall into the following categories:

1.Community Safety – development of new safety projects such as safety equipment or training to further prepare the community for future disasters. Support in the past has gone to survival kits and first aid training.
2.Christchurch Community – support in replacing essential wellbeing equipment such as toys and books for libraries. This has a positive effect for families, especially children.
3.Environmental Sustainability – restoration of environmental areas which encourage community spirit in schools, early childhood centres and the wider local community. Previous examples include replanting trees and replacing garden beds.

If you know of any groups which could benefit from this funding please spread the word.

More than enough


On the Farming Show yesterday Bob McDavitt went through a list of weather nasties which had hit New Zealand in the past 12 months.

He started with Tropical Cyclone Norma in January which resulted in insurance payouts of $20 million in insurance payouts.

Most of us not affected by that would have forgotten about it after it was overshadowed in February by the Christchurch earthquake.

That and the physical, financial and emotional aftershocks which followed have dominated the year and just as everyone was beginning to relax there’s been another sizable shock:

Information about this earthquake:

Reference Number 3631359 [View event in Google Maps][View Felt Reports in Google Maps]
Universal Time December 23 2011 at 0:58
NZ Daylight Time Friday, December 23 2011 at 1:58 pm
Latitude, Longitude 43.49°S, 172.90°E
Focal Depth 8 km
Richter magnitude 5.8
Region Canterbury
  • 20 km north-east of Lyttelton
  • 20 km north-east of Diamond Harbour
  • 20 km east of Christchurch

We’re more than 200 kilometres south of there and we felt the shake and a reasonable aftershock.

RadioNZ National says there has been only one report of anyone injured, and we can be grateful for that but there is more liquification.

If we’re thinking there’s been more than enough from Mother Nature, particularly when it comes to shaking, this year, how much worse it must be for the people in Christchurch.

Word of the day


Munted – broken, broken, bent, scraped, splintered, shattered, crashed, crushed, smashed, snapped, squashed, lascerated, punctured, peirced, cracked, destroyed, burst,  demolished, trashed, disintegrated, fractured, fragmented, pounded, pulverized, slammed, squashed, squished, or ruined; abnormal or peculiar  (of a person) ; drunk or intoxicated.

This was chosen as the Word of the Year by Public Address readers.

“The word ‘munted’ isn’t new,” said Public Address founder Russell Brown, “But it felt like this was the year it found its destiny. ‘Munted’, in spirit and in sound, was the natural word for what happened to parts of Christchurch in the February earthquake. And when Mayor Bob Parker told journalists ‘Our main sewer trunk is seriously munted. I believe that is the technical term,’ that destiny was settled.”

The top 10, chosen from 44, were:

1. munted

2. nek minnit

3. ghost chips

4. = #eqnz

= Occupy

6. liquefaction

7. Arab Spring

8. 99%

9. fuckeulogy

10. red-stickered

Would involving these people make things happen?


Labour leader Phil Goff announced his party’s earthquake recovery policy yesterday and said:

We can’t fix every problem but we can improve the outcomes for Cantabrians because we’ll get involved and make things happen.”

Would involving a Labour-led government make things happen and even if it did, would it be the right things?

John Key called the proposal a blank cheque and given Goff didn’t give a figure for the total cost of the package, that is what it could be.

This policy might help Labour get some votes in Christchurch and surrounding quake-hit areas where there are some desperate people. But awful as their situations are, they are a minority and there are a lot of other calls on public money.

Labour is also threatening to force land sales:

Labour would compulsorily acquire land if developers did not agree to sell at a reasonable price.

“If there is excessive profiteering and price gouging, we would consider using the provision of the Cera [Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority] legislation to compulsorily acquire land at a fair market price,” Goff said.

Would the government be any better at finding a fair market price than the market?

Infinity Investment Group managing director Bob Robertson said it was unlikely a government could develop land cheaper than private companies, and it would be exposing taxpayers to a huge risk.

Infinity is behind the Pegasus development and several others in Canterbury.

Robertson said that at best, a government land purchase would shave 20 per cent off the cost for buyers by forgoing profits, but those savings would probably be lost through “inefficiencies”.

“Developers are already trying hard to get the section prices down because that’s where the market is,” he said.

It’s easy to characterise property developers as jackals but they are in a very risky business and that risk is reflected in land prices. 

Goff is right that his party won’t be able to fix every problem and he won’t improve anything by giving people false-hope.

Earthquake recovery will be a long, complex and expensive process. It won’t be helped by uncosted policies.

Responsible but not at fault


Anger is a natural and normal reaction to stress, tiredness,  frustration and fear.

Christchurch people want someone to blame and some have chosen Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

In spite of the fact that his own home has been badly damaged, he remains focussed on the recovery effort and  he has reacted to the pressure and personal attacks with grace:

“I’m getting a bit of flak, you know, people are asking questions but inevitably in a circumstance like this someone cops it. You’ve only got to look at the distress in people’s lives at the moment to know that anything that is vented my way is not worth worrying about. It’s done at a time when people are under extreme stress – I understand that.”

Christchurch people have had more than enough.

The Minister is responsible for the recovery but he’s not at fault for the the time it’s taking.

There is nothing he or anyone else can do to provide the faster and more concrete solution people want for what Gravedodger correctly calls a liquid situation.

Earthquake package gives choice


The government’s announcement of the next steps for Christchurch people offers some choice to property owners in the worst affected areas:

Advice from geotechnical engineers has seen all greater Christchurch land divided into four residential zones – red, orange, green and white.

Residential red zones – which involve around 5000 properties – are where the land is unlikely to be able to be rebuilt on for a considerable period of time.

Homeowners in this zone face lengthy disruption that could go on for many years, Mr Key said.

For people who owned property with insurance in the residential red zones on 3 September 2010 there will be two options:

• the Crown makes an offer of purchase for the entire property at current rating value (less any built property insurance payments already made), and assumes all the insurance claims other than contents; or
• the Crown makes an offer of purchase for the land only, and homeowners can continue to deal with their own insurer about their homes.

The government has been criticised for leaving people in limbo but the Prime Minister explained why it has taken so long to get to this point:

Mr Key said the size, scale and complexity of the issues the government has been dealing with following the earthquakes means it has taken some time to get information to residents.

“Each subsequent earthquake since 4 September has made an already large and complex challenge more difficult.

“To put this in context, Treasury has estimated the combined cost of the first two Canterbury earthquakes to be equivalent to about 8 per cent of New Zealand’s GDP.

“Damage from the 1995 Kobe earthquake in Japan was just over 2 per cent of Japan’s GDP, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 cost about 1 per cent of US GDP, and March’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster was an estimated 3-5 per cent of Japan’s GDP.

“This has been a major event and the government is committed to getting things right for the people of Canterbury. We’re moving as quickly as we can to give some certainty to those affected,” Mr Key said.

Treasury estimates put the net cost of all the properties in the red zone – about 5000 – at $485 million to $635 million.

The number of people who take up the offer, government valuations and insurance payouts will determine the final costs which will be met from the $5.5 billion Canterbury Earthquake recovery Fund.

People have nine months to consider the offer.

The government can’t make the problems go away but this is a generous offer which gives people choices and time to consider their options.

Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee says the information released today is the most up to date information that can be provided. Details are here.

It includes the announcement that people in the green zone are free to rebuild. People in the orange zone – owners of about 10,000 properties will ahve tow ait before more work is done.

A website, LandCheck, has been set up for people to check the staus of their properties.

A video of the announcement by The Prime Minsiter and Minister is here.

Not united on bi-partisan approach


Phil Goff was very circumspect on Checkpoint last night when asked to comment on calls for a speedier resolution of which areas of Christchurch can’t be rebuilt.

He said Labour was trying to to be bi–partisan about it. (2:12 @17:39)

The party, doesn’t appear to be united on that approach, or at least one MP isn’t following her leader’s example.

 Lianne Dalziel got a lot of media exposure yesterday criticising the government about the time it is taking to resolve which areas will be abandoned.

Did someone forget to tell her about the bi-partisan approach or isn’t she listening?

As Bill English says:

. . .  the latest earthquakes had given the matter “extra urgency” but drip-feeding information or partial decisions would not help.

“These people are suffering the severe and psychological impact of another quake and they’re going to need some reasonably definitive answers, not half-baked ones.”

Thousands of people are living in limbo while dealing with continuing quakes and aftershocks and  insecure housing and infrastructure.

But giving them only part of the information they need to make decisions, or information which later turned out to be wrong would only make matters worse.

The Checkpoint interview showed both Goff and Green co-leader Metiria Turei appreciate this and the difference between advocacy and politicking. I’m not sure Dalziel does.

Insurance log jam


An insurance company has 1,000 claims all ticked off but has paid out only eight.

That’s what someone in the construction industry in Christchurch told us.

It must be bad enough coping with the February earthquake and its aftermath without having living in limbo because your claim is caught up in an insurance log jam.

Real work better than charity


The generous support for earthquake recovery in Canterbury has been heart warming.

Money raised will go to help people in need and rebuild community facilities like sports grounds and meeting places.

Good planning and co-operation should result in more multi-purpose facilities which are better-used and less expensive for the users.

While these are an important  part of the city’s recovery the best aid for Christchurch and its people is real jobs and there’s been welcome announcements of more of those in the past week.

Kathmandu is building a new warehouse in the city:

“After examining a number of options, the board has decided to build a 5000sqm facility at Woolston in Christchurch, near our head office,” Mr Halkett said. . .

The decision also reflected the Kathmandu board’s belief in the economic future of Christchurch and its commitment to the company’s heritage in the city, he said.

Not all businesses are able to stay in the city and Christhchurch’s loss of Lion’s brewing capacity in that city has led to a $20 million expansion in Dunedin with a doubling in job numbers.

However, the company is also building a $15 million brewery in Christchurch. That investment and the jobs which come with it will be another small piece in the big recovery project.

Thanks Fonterra


The Rise Up Christchurch- Te Kotahitanga  Telethon broadcast on Maori Television yesterday raised $2,561,015.30 for earthquake relief.

Fonterra gave a last minute donation of $1 million.

It had already given  $500, 000 to cover  production costs so that all money raised goes to the government’s earthquake appeal.

Fonterra’s backing of Rise Up Christchurch – Te Kotahitanga continues our long-term commitment to Christchurch. We were able to provide immediate practical support to Christchurch with our tankers, water supply, milk products and a skilled team of 24 Search and Rescue volunteers. The Co-operative has previously donated $2 million cash from consolidated funds to the Red Cross Christchurch appeal, while its staff and shareholders raised another $1.9 million which has also been sent to Red Cross.

If my addition is correct that’s $5,400,000 from the co-operative, its staff and suppliers. Not a bad effort from the company and industry which cops more than its fair share of criticism.

Sutton right man for big job


The appointment of Roger Sutton as the chief executive of Cera,  the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, is an inspired one.

The Press says:

Roger Sutton calls himself a “big picture guy”, but admits his new role heading the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) is going to require a wider lens.

As chief executive of Christchurch lines company Orion for the past eight years, Sutton has built a reputation as an approachable, communicative, analytical, creative and quirky business leader. . .

. . . In 2003, he beat 38 other applicants to the chief executive job.

He has made it his own through a tumultuous time in the energy industry.

Sutton said he relished the cross-over of engineering into wider society – economics, environment and regulation – and saw an opportunity to take those interests by applying to lead Cera.

“I didn’t initially apply but a lot of people talked to me about the role and suggested it would be a good thing if I applied, so in the end I did, so here I am,” he said.

He has taken a significant cut in salary to take the job. On Checkpoint last night he said he’d be dropping about $200,000.

That is a considerable financial sacrifice which shows his commitment to his city and its recovery.

It is a very big job and the wide approval across the political spectrum shows he is the right man for it.

Inside the red zone


Cerra has released a photographic tour of Christchurch’s red zone showing the earthquake damage.

Hat tip: Laughy Kate.

State of emergency over


The state of national emergency which has existed in Christchurch since the earthquake on February 22nd has expired.

Those of us in other parts of the country need to remember that doesn’t mean that life is back to normal for people in the city.

The after shocks continue, many still can’t return to their homes or workplaces, roads and services are still disrupted and the rebuild will be a long, slow process.

The expiration of the state of emergency is just one small step on the long road to recovery.

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