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Bulldozer Brownlee

Written By: - Date published: 8:08 am, March 6th, 2011 - 109 comments
Categories: disaster, Gerry Brownlee - Tags: ,

Did Gerry Brownlee ever see a thing of beauty that he didn’t want to destroy?

Ok, that’s a slightly tetchy question, but fresh from his failed plunder and pillage raid on our most precious conservation land, Gerry Brownlee is leading the attack on a second front. On the heritage buildings of Christchurch. With the dust of the earthquake quite literally not settled, Gerry Brownlee wants to bulldoze the rest:

Brownlee takes hard line on damaged heritage buildings

The Minister, Gerry Brownlee, told a media briefing this afternoon that if he had his way, most of Christchurch’s heritage buildings would be bowled tomorrow.

He says the old buildings killed people when they toppled during the earthquake and they can not remain. “While they are part of our past history, they have no place in our future history. As I’ve said repeatedly, heritage is both forward and back and from this point on, we decide what the heritage of this city will be,” he said.

Mr Brownlee said he would like to see resources go into re-building the Christchurch Cathedral, the Catholic Basilica, the Provincial Chambers and the Arts Centre – “but that’s it”. “There will be a few others perhaps, but those would be the most iconic buildings that Christchurch residents would want to see rebuilt.

Brownlee is actually raising a point that is worth debating. Unfortunately he’s raising it with all the tact of a B52. At a time when emotions in Christchurch are running very high, telling the city that its heritage isn’t worth saving strikes an incredibly bum note. Hey Gerry – maybe Christchurch should decide what happens to these buildings. Hey Gerry – any dangerous old buildings in Wellington we should be bowling while we’re at it? If not, why not?

Raised properly, there are issues here that deserve serious debate. What will the new Christchurch look like? What price our heritage? Raised as Brownlee has raised it, I think he has got the debate off to the worst possible start. Thanks a heap. Final word to Tom Scott

All of my posts for March will finish with this note. While life goes on as usual outside Christchurch, let our thoughts be with those who are coping with the aftermath, with the sorrow of so many who were lost, and with the challenges ahead.

109 comments on “Bulldozer Brownlee ”

  1. pmofnz 1

    And your alternative is? Raise taxes?

    • lprent 1.1

      Read the post. r0b says it is a debate worth having. Evidentially you don’t agree. Why is that?

      I can see that you are obsessed by taxes, but many of these buildings will be insured. Aren’t you also obsessed with property rights, or is that only your own property rights?

      Personally I think that you just don’t like thinking….

    • Marty G 1.2

      Pmofnz. Please explain how bowling heritage buildings unnecessarily saves us from higher taxes

      • pmofnz 1.2.1

        “Please explain how bowling heritage buildings unnecessarily saves us from higher taxes”

        It means that local and central government will not be tempted to waste taxes on resurrecting or strengthening piles of now useless masonry. Or even waste taxpayer time discussing such issues.

        “Personally I think that you just don’t like thinking….”

        As always, playing the man. No debate is needed, as Gerry says, get on with it. Insured property owners will be paid out, but unfortunately remain under the stifling thrall of bureaucrats and the RMA for any rebuild. Any uninsured gambled on the risk, now it is their burden, not the taxpayers, to fully shoulder their cost of rebuilding.

        • Marty G

          These buildings aren’t publicly-owned so no public cost around rebuilding them. Besides their cost is margin of error stuff for a government with a seventy billion a year budget. The government can’t lower or raise taxes over a few mil here or there

          • handle

            Surely you are not expecting private owners to pay? That’s what the public purse is for.

            • RedLogix

              Well it does beg an obvious question we rarely ask.

              A building is built for the purpose of benefitting it’s private owner. No argument there.

              But then when it collapses and kills people it’s a massive public concern and cost. The events of the last few weeks prove no argument here either.

              Clearly the two agenda’s are potentially in conflict. The owner has a legitimate interest in maximising short-term profit, while the public has an interest in minimising it’s long-term costs (because in the long-term a quake in this country is more or less inevitable).

              It’s an interesting dilemma and worth thinking about. We largely address this issue with building regulations… but does that go far enough? Only the latest design rules can be considered ‘good enough’, yet with few exceptions, they are only weakly retrospective.

              This means that as time goes on, those older and/or heritage buildings that tend to define our public sense of ‘a place worth living in’ are the ones most at risk.

          • RobertM

            Look at the consequences or rebuilding in the East and Dresden and Lepsig and starving the prosperous west Berlin and West Germany of the same regeneration where the people were still lively. Sentiment can be very costly and wastly. The sentiment and third rate thinking that didn’t see a lot of damaged and fractured building leveled after Sept quake proved fatal. How can you be so stupid again.

            • Hanswurst

              Huh? Assuming that I can even make sense of that rather meandering English, you have it completely wrong. Most of the rebuilding of historic buildings in Dresden was undertaken after the reunification, and in the last decade it has become something of a frenzy. Almost all of what was built during the German Democratic Republic is made of concrete slabs. As for Leipzig, it was not flattened on that scale, and there is a lot of pre-war structure still standing.

              The stalinists actually tried as far as possible to make use of existing viable (and some not-so-viable) structures and tended to build in modern style and quite cheaply when they did.

              • RobertM

                I was referring to the high costs of regenerating the East German cities after the l989 unification of Germany. It appears much of the East German population wanted to move west anyway- and urban redesign and town planning projects have been only of limited benefit in maintaining the population even in large cities of Dresden and Leipzig.
                Possibly there are parallels after the Christchurch earthquake-in that intelligent and lively people have been leaving Christchurch for sometime. Reconstructing the Cathederal, Arts Centre and Bascillica may have only limited benefits in sustaining Christchurch as a gateway city and reconstruction of ‘historic’ shopping malls in the suburbs that were dump heaps is probably worse than pointless so Brownlie is probably right. Within the last decade I spent sometime in Christchurch backpackers and often overseas tourists in their 20s were dissappointed by the nightlife on offer particularly if they were Dutch in German. Often in Auckland in working class drinking bars you see bewildered upscale US tourists and young people bewildered by the lack of sophistication available in even NZ premier city, ( possibly they should try cuba st, courtenay place, webb st and for some hetro, rough trade, lower hutt).
                Part of Germany’s economic problem today is it appears too much was spent in revitalising the Eastern provinces and not enough on West Berlin and the more lively parts.

                • Hanswurst

                  Hmm. Rebuilding the Cathedral, Provincial Chambers, Basillica and Arts’ centre would be more akin in scale to what was undertaken in East Germany prior to the reunifacation, rather than the over-the-top restoration frenzy that is currently in full swing. I think that a certain amount is useful to retain the essential character of the city. In terms of the benefits of rebuilding for the general populace:

                  1) Dresden and Leipzig are actually growing – it is the villages around them that are being deserted, which has other reasons and predates the massive rebuilding frenzy. The latest wave of rebuilding in the old parts of Dresden also coincides (not causally, mind) with a lot of unrelated construction and general improvements in the city’s economic wellbeing.

                  2) There are so many other factors that need to be taken into account; e. g. lots of factories were closed down following the reunification and workers were forced to seek jobs in the West.

                  3) Munich is actually the best example of a German city that was restored to its former glory (decades ago); it was in West Germany and is Germany’s most affluent city.

                  While I think that restoration of older architecture can be opposed on philosophical and city planning grounds (and it is – sometimes quite vocally – in East Germany), I think recent German history is a bad way of proving that it will turn us all into paupers.

  2. Bill 2

    So let me get this right.

    ‘Old killer buildings’ are to be removed from existence because they took advantage of the earthquake to inflict their murderous malevolence on people in Christchurch?! Hmm. Maybe Gerry should speak nicely to them instead of antagonising them further in that case?

    Has anybody ever heard him entering into a dialogue with his BMW before jumping in, seeing as how he seems to ascribe intent to inanimate objects?

    And I wonder. Does he intend to visit an explosive ‘shock and awe’ on the cantankerous crust beneath Canterbury? Teach it a lesson it’ll never forget?

  3. Barry 3

    So how many people were killed by old heritage buildings?

    1 in the Press building? Most were killed by shop verandahs or in the CTV and PGC from the 60’s and 70’s.

    Does he plan to demolish everything built before 1980?

    • Kevin Welsh 3.1

      My thoughts exactly Barry.

      Gerry the Hutt is so obsessed with appearing to be in control as the dictator of Canterbury, that he opens his big fat mouth and comes out with this shit.

      With modern building techniques, these heritage buildings can be rebuilt to modern safety and earthquake standards. Its a just time and money question.

    • Lanthanide 3.2


      My manager also pointed out that actually old brick buildings aren’t actually that bad – if you stay inside them (he owns a brick townhouse in the CDB).

      Apart from the Cathedral and other churches which had steeples cave in (essentially like a chimney falling through the roof in a residential house), brick buildings tend to fall apart outwards, rather than inwards. This sucks if you’re in front of them, such as in a car on the street or walking past, but the occupants are actually quite safe if they stay inside and can exit safely. Under this perspective, the safety of old buildings could be increased if there were things preventing access to within 4-5 m of the buildings, such as gardens.

      We are a garden city, apparently, so why not have all of our old buildings surrounded with flowers?

      • Bill 3.2.1

        Let’s assume that what you say about brick buildings is correct. Well, the cost free solution is already there if we want to provide a ‘buffer zone’ around buildings. Roads force pedestrians to hug the walls and walk beneath eaves and various over hangs. If city centers and such like were car free, then I’d warrant most people would naturally gravitate towards the middle of any given thorough-fare. And sure, cultivate colourful ‘obstacles’ on the fringes in the form of raised plant beds/troughs etc as a herding mechanism.

        • Draco T Bastard

          I’d love to see car free city centres. Turn all that dirty asphalt into grass and gardens and you’ll probably see them come back to life.

          • kriswgtn

            I think what buildings can be saved that are historic should be.
            There are enough shopping centers @ Riccarton, Papanui, Hornby,Linwood etc etc
            Turn the rest into parks and walkways.That way if there IS another big one,@ least Chch cbd wont have to go thru this again

            I was born in Lincoln know Chch very well even though we left 25 yrs ago.its still home to me-and visit 2 times a year at least

            CHch as we know it has gone.It is time to move on

      • Puddleglum 3.2.2


        That would explain the ‘doll’s house effect’ with many of the affected brick buildings in Christchurch (including one of my neighbour’s whose firewall fell outwards revealing the internal hall). The Sept 4 Alva Rados building exemplified that effect (it was the ‘poster child’ for tv and international media). If you were sitting at the tables in the restaurant – as my wife and I did on a weekly basis from 1991 till 2010 – you would have been fine.

        Most of the high tolls in earthquakes come from building collapse – something that isn’t meant to happen in ‘First World’ countries. In such countries death tolls are typically very low because the only deaths arise from bits of buildings falling on people outside as opposed to whole buildings crushing everyone inside.

        I think it’s also worth keeping in mind that most of the old brick buildings weren’t there because of heritage concerns. Old buildings have been demolished in Christchurch regularly. Presumably, the reason that they weren’t being taken down was because they provided good return on capital as inner city retail outlets and offices and – also presumably – the economics of knocking them down and building new just didn’t stack up for the owners. If you went down any inner city block prior to the earthquakes you would have seen plenty of ‘new’ buildings. Construction of new buildings was always happening. After all, the CCC has been developer friendly for decades (often itself populated by developers and associated business people). It’s a complete revisionist fallacy that ‘heritage fanatics’ have had it all their own way in Christchurch.

        In essence, it was economic processes that, effectively, were placing the bet that their wouldn’t be a sizeable earthquake anytime soon.

        Also, the PGC, CTV, Hotel Grand Chancellor, Forsyth Barr, the Copthorne, Crowne Plaza and numerous ‘modern’ office blocks did not ‘perform’ well and yet weren’t even being considered for earthquake strengthening, so far as I’m aware. At least everyone knew the brick buildings would be vulnerable to a ‘big one’.

  4. RedLogix 4

    Somewhat tangential… but I have to express my deep sympathy for everyone in ChCh going through these never ending bloody ‘after shocks’.

    It’s very easy to say afterwards “oh it was only a 4.xxx” or something, but at the time each one starts you have no idea how big or sustained it is going to be. The body reacts to each one of them …just like it was a 6.3. It is the sheer visceral, gut-level trauma of them, combined with this constant fear of the unknown that is extremely stressful.

    My heart really goes out to you all… frankly I don’t know how any of you have coped with this. It’s far worse than Edgecumbe in terms of sheer numbers of shocks spread out over now 5 months.

    Those of you who’ve had enough and have left ChCh have my complete understanding… and those who have to stay for one reason or another, I just wish there was something we could do for you.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      Generally I’ve found that the only ones I react to, are:
      1. Ones that appear very sharp without any warning. Usually we can hear them coming (apparently the P waves hitting the surface), and occasionally for very weak ones you can hear them and not feel them.
      2. Ones that appear quite strong, particularly if they build up in intensity for a few seconds as there’s no indication whether it’ll stop or suddenly get very violent.

      The 4.8 last night was both of those, and left our house rocking around for a good 12-13 seconds. I jumped under the doorway (was right next to it anyway). In general a quake needs to be over 4 to 4.5 before it starts meeting these criteria – the little 3’s just feel like strong wind buffeting the house or a very heavy truck passing.

      • RedLogix 4.1.1

        Well it’s good to hear you’ve adapted somewhat…. and your ‘reaction over 4.0’ threshold is about what I’d have expected. But hell there has been enough of those… and people are all very different in how they react to stress.

    • weka 4.2

      “The body reacts to each one of them …just like it was a 6.3. ”

      That’s true for some people Red, but not all. People have different reactions physiologically and psyhologically because of past trauma history, past adaptation to trauma, inherent resilience, inherited and learned resistance to stress (or lack of) etc.

      I know people in Chch who weren’t bothered by the aftershocks since the Sept quake (I doubt that that’s the case now, but haven’t had the chance to talk with them yet).

      Also, there are things that can be learnt to lessen one’s physiological and psychological responses.

      I don’t want to deny the seriousness of the reactions that many people are having. Just want to say that it’s not a forgone conconclusion or something that nothing can be done about.

  5. ianmac 5

    Haven’t been looking especially watching out for Jerry but as a Minister totally dedicated to the Earthquake what is he doing apart from lashing out at heritage buildings?

    • ianmac 5.1

      OOPs: Now I am reassured. Are you?
      In the Herald :
      “……the Government prepared to take control of the disaster response, sidelining mayor Bob Parker and the city council.”
      Brownlie:””We need something that can move a lot faster than what we have been doing,” Brownlee said. “That requires a lot of changes to these legal niceties.”
      and “Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told the Herald on Sunday the new centralised structure would “punch through the red tape” and co-ordinate work being done by other organisations.”

      • RedLogix 5.1.1

        Another quote from that article:

        Engineers and private sector construction managers have spoken critically of the approach adopted by Christchurch City Council, described as slow and bureaucratic. Labour MP Lianne Dalziel – whose electorate is among the hardest hit – was more blunt still. “I’m over the council. They’re incompetent.”

        Now personally I’m very reluctant to put the boot into Bob Parker. Quite the opposite, I think the man has selflessly served his city to the very best of his ability… and beyond. None of us here could have done better in circumstances that none of us would willingly choose.

        But clearly there are questions being raised about the ability of the CCC to cope. Clearly their normal systems and processes were never intended to respond to something like this. To outsiders it looks like ‘incompetence’ when really it’s just floundering with something they never planned for. There has to be some very important lessons in this for the whole country.

        For example, I am aware that various water supply authorities outside of ChCh have offered substantial help to the city… yet none of the offers I am aware of have been taken up. Why not? Probably not malicious stupidity, just that the guys on the ground are already working flat out and cannot imagine how to productively integrate extra people from outside, who know nothing detailed about their system. This isn’t really their fault.

        It has to be a lack of forward planning and a lack of commitment to being fully prepared for the worst possible events. At present we are not, and the responsibility for this failure rests firmly with our entire political culture, left and right. Nowhere in New Zealand is immune to natural disaster, and it’s time we grew up and faced up to this reality.

        • Lanthanide

          “For example, I am aware that various water supply authorities outside of ChCh have offered substantial help to the city… yet none of the offers I am aware of have been taken up. Why not? Probably not malicious stupidity, just that the guys on the ground are already working flat out and cannot imagine how to productively integrate extra people from outside, who know nothing detailed about their system. This isn’t really their fault.”

          Yeah, that’s a good example to bring up. We can compare it to the electricity system and the absolutely amazing job that Roger Sutton (Orion) has done, where he has integrated teams from outside the city to get the results they have. Perhaps this is easier for electricity than it is for water, I don’t know.

          Morning Report interviewed Jim Anderton and Garry Moore (ex-Mayor) last week. Jim Anderton suggested a new board needed to be set up to steer rebuilding, and that Roger Sutton should be put in charge of it.

          • Cadwallader

            And: The unemployable/unelectable Jim Il-Sung will demand to chair this new talk-fest masquerading as a useful forum?

            [Yes you are right. Deleting comments like this are an easy, dare I say it gratifying, way to improve the signal to noise ratio…RL]

            [lprent: yeah, someone else to add to my probable idiot troll watch list. Saying something that is a slogan and has no actual explanatory content in the middle of a discussion. Sounds like a flame starter. Definitely should read the policy. ]

            • Colonial Viper

              this new talk-fest masquerading as a useful forum?

              You are talking about Part 2 of Key’s “Job Summit”?

            • Lanthanide

              I guess you mean Jim Anderton? If you actually read what I wrote, Jim Anderton said Roger Sutton should chair it.

              Do try and actually comprehend what you’re reading next time. You wouldn’t look quite so foolish.

              • Billy Fish

                Come on, be fair, you put 2 thoughts into one sentence – a: that a board be created and b: that Mr Sutton be set to chair it
                Probably overloaded a few synapses trying to deal with that

          • RedLogix

            Perhaps this is easier for electricity than it is for water, I don’t know.

            Spot on. Electical systems are pretty much the same everywhere, while water supply is for a variety of reasons far more specific to location.

        • Armchair Critic

          Clearly their normal systems and processes were never intended to respond to something like this.
          I’m reluctant to jump to this conclusion yet. It could be that CCC did plan for this, but were never funded to implement their plan. It could be that their plans were inadequate due to a lack of practical experience. Or it may be correct, and they didn’t plan. After all, most of NZ does not plan to deal with major destruction in its CD exercises, or if it does the exercises only look at the first 24 to 48 hours.
          For example, I am aware that various water supply authorities outside of ChCh have offered substantial help to the city… yet none of the offers I am aware of have been taken up.
          They have been taken up. A good number of my colleagues are there right now, helping CCC to get the water utilities operating again.
          Also, the CCC systems are unlike many of the systems through the rest of NZ. The water is unchlorinated (or it was, I understand they are adding chlorine now), it is sourced from groundwater, rather than the surface, and the extensive use of many pumps and a few comparatively small reservoirs to regulate pressure is only found in two other cities in NZ, AFAIK.
          I think the system has the potential to be operated a little differently to significantly increase its resilience and hope the council makes the necessary changes in the future.

          • ianmac

            Would the Government take-over be any better than CCC? Would Brownlie be a better leader?

            • Armchair Critic

              No, Brownlee would not do, or oversee, a better job.
              I’m concerned that this will be used to force CCC to adopt a more commercial model for delivering water services.

              • RedLogix


                I see we are in the same business. Interesting because the three offers of help from my region were not even replied to.

                Otherwise I fully concur with your description of the unique nature of ChCh’s water supply. And I fully agree that someone using this event as an excuse to force commercialisation is a very live risk.

                Clearly there may well be a case for improved planning around these cross-regional co-operation issues in future.

                • Armchair Critic

                  I see we are in the same business.
                  Indeed. We may have even met – it’s not a big industry.
                  I’ve offered to help, I’m well suited (or skilled, if you prefer) and placed to do so and have contacts at CCC. My offer has not been accepted. After I got over my initial surprise, I’ve concluded there are a number of reasons why CCC may not have taken up offers.
                  I don’t have definitive answers to explain why CCC have acted as they have, but it seems obvious that politicians could use a perception of failure by CCC in order to further their political agendas. I’d prefer this didn’t happen.
                  There’s a good case for cross-region, or maybe multi-region, disaster planning for enormous disasters. The declaration of a national state of emergency pretty much justifies planning at this level.

          • handle

            Armchair Critic, you are confusing CD with the rebuilding exercise. Maybe CCC did mismanage the latter, maybe they didn’t have enough authority or resources, who knows?

            • Armchair Critic

              Yeah, maybe.
              It’s kind of difficult to plan rebuilding until you know what needs to be rebuilt.
              I’ve no doubt the CD staff at CCC have, generally, done an excellent job.
              I don’t think we know enough yet about the actions of the staff responsible for the rebuilding or getting their systems operational again to comment in anything but a speculative manner.

        • Draco T Bastard

          To outsiders it looks like ‘incompetence’ when really it’s just floundering with something they never planned for.

          We live on the Ring of Fire and so not planning for something like an earthquake would actually be incompetence.

          Nowhere in New Zealand is immune to natural disaster, and it’s time we grew up and faced up to this reality.

          We have to drop the she’ll be right attitude and start planning for and making sure we have the necessary skills and infrastructure/capital for when such events occur. Doing so will require higher rates and taxes though so, considering that NZers tend to vote for tax cuts, we probably won’t see it.

        • Deadly_NZ

          But to put Gerry the Hut in charge Puhleeezzzeee. micky mouse and Donald Duck could do a better job!!!

        • neoleftie

          maybe a power play between central and local govt – Brownlee as minister in charge did exactly what over the last 6 months for the chch situation? – Not much really.. CCC were contrained and limited by the rule and regs, Once a building is deemed ” stickered at any colour’ then the private sector takes over. The question is why were red stickered buildings from previous earthquakes not pulled down and cleaned out as opposed to being roped off.

    • pollywog 5.2

      what is he doing apart from lashing out at heritage buildings?

      eating all the pies

  6. jcuknz 6

    The trouble is that instead of letting the business of recovery get on quietly and efficiently the media scrabbling over each other for a fresh story with punch to feed the voyeurists is raising questions and to scotch rumour and speculation the government ministers are having to make pronoucements..
    Since the question is in the public mind I object to tax money being spent on prop-ing up old heritage buildings which were not built with the knowledge we have today ….I suspect that Napier is a good example of what should happen where today’s modern has become tomorrows heritage building. Just not a whole lot of glass towers to shower broken glass on the streets in future quakes. Buildings in the style of those which have survived beside them but built to todays standards..

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      I fully expect we’re only going to come out of this with a handful of heritage buildings, and those ones being the important cultural ones in the city rather than old office blocks, eg: arts centre, Cathedral, christ college, old provincial chambers. Things along those lines.

  7. Jum 7

    Brownlee wants the businessmen of his party’s choice to build a city to their greed, never mind what the people want.

    When Darren Hughes, at Backbenches, suggested that the people of Christchurch should decide how Christchurch should be rebuilt, Peter Dunne, standing beside him hissed ‘that’s a bit soviet or something’. Obviously, this government has no intention of letting the people of Christchurch have a say in anything; what type of buildings, what buildings should be saved, where they should be built. The taxpayers of New Zealand in so many ways have contributed whatever money has been used to help Christchurch recover. The people do have a say Peter Dunne and it has absolutely nothing to do with some ideology – you stupid little hairdo.

    Already the media vultures are circling with a docudrama finding scapegoats for the deaths (passed as safe buildings after the September earthquake) and also a convenient outlet for Brownlee to say ‘just in case, bulldoze them all’.

    Once again the media are primed to do the government’s bidding.

    • Lanthanide 7.1

      If that comment of Dunne’s was picked up and publicised by the media, that could easily scotch his chances of winning his seat. I don’t think Wellingtonians would generally agree with his sentiment, or the way in which he chose to express it.

      captcha: failed

    • Colonial Viper 7.2

      When Darren Hughes, at Backbenches, suggested that the people of Christchurch should decide how Christchurch should be rebuilt, Peter Dunne, standing beside him hissed…

      Hey Dunne letting the people of a city make decisions for themselves, it’s DEMOCRATIC is what it is.

      • Lanthanide 7.2.1

        Yes. My boyfriend pointed out that really ‘soviet’ means it’s much more managed by the state and the locals didn’t really get to choose anything.

        • Colonial Viper

          Which means, if he actually said it, that Dunne has no clue.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Soviet = council. Considering it’s communist context it should be a workers council elected by the workers. Ergo, the people would have a say.

          Despite the lies about communism that have been spread by the Western Powers and the fact that all communist countries managed to become oppressive dictatorships over the last century the heart of communism is participatory democracy.

      • Macro 7.2.2

        True! And what about Auckland making decisions for itself!
        But this current administration has conception of what constitutes democracy.

        • Macro

          oops last sentence should read – “Has NO conception of what constitutes democracy”
          They have demonstrated this lack of democratic principles consistently since taking office by (amongst other actions – the list is NOT exclusive):
          a. taking urgency to push thru controversial legislation.
          b. denying citizens the right to self determination of local body affairs.
          c. completely abrogating time and again the Bill of Rights Act. eg the “Gang patches” legislation.
          d. allowing little to no time for submissions on legislation.

    • NickS 7.3

      Ironically enough the workers soviets were highly democratic, before the vangaurd crushed them, but yeah, it comes as no surprise Dunne doesn’t understand basic decomractic ideas.

  8. It hasn’t taken long for dull-knife gerry to use the royal ‘we’ – a taste of things to come methinks.

  9. chris73 9

    I agree with the sentiment of what gerry says (just not how hes saying it)

    I’d rather see Christchurch rebuilt as a blue print for future city planning and building and if that means some (but not all) of Christchurchs iconic buildings arn’t rebuilt then so be it

  10. Zaphod Beeblebrox 10

    Pine Gould and CTV buildings- they weren’t heritage buildings were they? It was the stability of thr ground not the age of the building that was the problem.

  11. radar 11

    “Gojiro” Brownlee might be more apt?

    Who appointed him to make decisions of national significance on heritage matters? And why has he failed to speak as loudly about the various failures of modern buildings and the extreme loss of life associated with them?

  12. Marty G 12

    Brownlee’s false justification pisses me off. The historic buildings didn’t kill people – two modern buildings did nearly all the killing.

    And half of historic buildings have been red stickered, while 45% of all CBD buildings have been – basically the same odds.

    Ironically, the most dramatic collapse of a historic building was the one Brownlee has committed to rebuilding – the cathedral.

    • RedLogix 12.1

      Small but useful distinction needs to be made here.

      The CTV and PG buildings were both designed before major revisions to the Building Act in 1976 that made important improvements to how buildings were to be resilient to quakes. While ‘modern’ in one sense, they were not up to the standard of post-76 buildings… all of which I understand fared very well.

      Also it cannot be ruled out that these two buildings were the victim of refraction or lensing of the P-waves causing a focussing effect, greatly magnifying the shaking they experienced compared to a building right next door.

      Lots of lessons to be learnt… but overall it must be remembered that the most recent designs performed remarkably well. If this quake had hit most cities in the world the place would have been utterly flattened and the death toll in the thousands.

      • weka 12.1.1

        Doesn’t that mean that each building should be assessed and decisions made based on that, rather than a generic ‘heritage is bad’ valuation that Brownless is making. Presumably he’s talking about certain kinds of heritage buildings, stone ones. How are the pre 1976 wooden buildings?

        Of the heritage buildings to be demolished, is there sufficient demo/salvage infrastructure to deal with the very large amount of valuable cut stone and hardwood/native timbers that can be salvaged? Not only is that useful for other building projects, but it could also be resused in landscaping if Chch were it increase say the park/gardens in the CBD.

        There were rumours after the Sept quake that all that resource went into the landfill because there was a rush to get on with things.

    • Deadly_NZ 12.2

      The man is a cultural vandal. Yeah just bowl the lot and have nice even little boxes built marked Bank. Police. Jail. Council. Nothing over 4 floors and all the same colour and shape All arranged in a grid, no individualism. Oh Joy.

  13. Puanga 13

    oh fancy that – this is the same Gerry Brownlee that is in bed with foreign investment and developers…. ?
    could this be the same Gerry Brownlee that argued falsely that the NZ economy is in freefall after the quake? Too bad the business report yesterday gave the opposite picture! Far from being in refall our dollar fell 2 cents – that’;s two cents, folks! and foreign investors are – surprise surprise – rushing to invest in Christchurch instead of, in the case of one developer, all over the country , because why? Well it just happens that occupying highly desirable locagtions are a bunch of heritage buildings that Gerry Brownlee is helpfully describing as dangerous and having to be pulled down.
    To give the complete lie to this, note that the stone Sydenham Church which was completed in 1848 did NOT, NOT require demolition. Only part of the front was damaged.
    Note that other heritage buildings which are targetted by Brownlee are also only partly damaged.
    But they do happen to occupy highly desirable sites.
    Get off the grass Gerry Brownlee, and get out of Christchurch.
    Take your lies and those foreign investment dollars that are burning a hole in your pocket with you – we dont need either!

  14. MikeG 14

    I’ve heard (via an engineer working on Operation Suburb) that Gerry has ignored advice offered to him by EQC, but rather has made his own decisions and been more interested in photo-ops than discussing issues with the appropriate people.

  15. tsmithfield 15

    Here’s my two cents worth on the issue of heritage buildings.

    I think Brownlee is being so emphatic because he knows what the general mood of Christchurch voters is towards old buildings at the moment. So, in that sense he is probably just doing what politicians do. Also, I wonder if he has some insight into the condition of old buildings that are left standing.

    In that respect, the argument is probably somewhat moot. This is because after the first quake many of the old buildings were already severely compromised. Also, the old buildings were not as earthquake resilient, even in the best of times. The second quake was so severe that relatively modern buildings fell over, and some are so unsafe they require demolition.

    Therefore, it seems highly likely to me that most of the older style buildings that were compromised already, are unlikely to be repairable, will thus require demolition. So, while I agree in some respects with the article, I suspect that the effect will be that most old buildings will be demolished because it will be clearly apparent that they are unsalvagable.

    • Deadly_NZ 15.1

      I see they want to flatten the Time Ball. It’s one of only 5 that work in the whole world. Yeah nice one Gerry.

      • Lanthanide 15.1.1

        If you look at the photos of it, it is actually very seriously damaged. If it had just been the wall falling off, it’d be feasible to repair, but really the entire thing will have to be rebuilt. It’s not economically feasible to do so. Unfortunate, but unless some private group can get together to do it, it just won’t happen.

        • Deadly_NZ

          But surely the mechanism is not that seriously damaged, the building is bad but surely they can incorporate the ball into what ever is put there, unless the corporate bigshots who have just paid for their new tower block on the site don’t want it there. But knowing the NACTS penchanct for selling stuff and being 1 of 5 left working in the world, well they won’t use E-Bay.

    • MrSmith 15.2

      Yes about two cents worth TS.

  16. Anthony K 16

    In light of what happened to Christchurch isn’t it timely to look at the building stock all over NZ?

    Wellington in particular may not be suitable for large scale habitation at all as even the brand new Hospital, reportedly one of the most quake proof buildings in the southern hemisphere, can only withstand a 7.5 quake on the Wellington fault line. Based on historical quakes a big one in Wellington could reasonably be expected to measure somewhere between 8 and 9. Sad as the Christchurch quake is the deaths there are measured in the hundreds and the recently discovered fault line is a smaller one. In welly deaths may be measured in the tens of thousands. Needless to say that would cripple the nation for decades.

    Maybe the government should start a planned relocation to Christchurch with departments and associated industries being moved down there progressively as leases run out or new buildings are required. It would provide a much needed boost to Christchurch’s economy and eventually relocate the capital to a much safer spot where after all modern buildings are quite capable of withstanding the quakes that region may experience. In addition it could save countless lives and economic doom when disaster eventually hits wellington as the city would be scaled back from today.

    • RedLogix 16.1

      Nowhere is ‘safe’. The only place in NZ that doesn’t get regular shallow quakes is the Far North, and that area is prone to tropical cyclones passing through. A really large tsunami could wreck ChCh. Volcanoes are a live threat to Auckland, after all Rangitoto last erupted just 600-700 years ago. An Ice Age could finally take out Dunedin 🙂

      There is no magic wand for this, as long as we want to live here in NZ there will be risk. On the other hand our engineering community has achieved a hell of a lot… modern buildings are remarkably resistant.

      Your example about Wellington Hospital. I’d wager the 7.5 figure is the size quake it could withstand without sustaining uneconomic to repair damage… but likely it could cope with much larger shock without actually collapsing. Besides… as this recent ChCh quake should have taught us all, quake magnitude alone is NOT an accurate predictor of ground accelerations.

      The question you ask about Wgtn is in general a good one. I’ve pretty much said the same as you here. Does this mean we should ‘decommission’ the place. Hardly.

      Because wherever else we put the Capital, there are similar risks to staying put in Wgtn. The correct response is to fully face up to these risks, wherever and whatever they are and plan for them. It needs to become part of our national psyche.

      • Anthony K 16.1.1

        You’re right that nowhere in NZ is risk free, but all risks are not equal either. Some spots are decidedly riskier than others and Wellington is one of these areas. Yes, there are natural hazards present to both Auckland and Christchurch (quakes, but much smaller and less destructive than the ones on can expect in Wellington and volcanoes – which normally gives one time to evacuate or take other precautions before eruption occurs or a one in 100,000 or million or what ever year tsunami capable of washing over large parts of the cantebury plains).

        Facing up to the risks may require more than tinkering around the edges with state of the art buildings which may be just as flat as old buildings once the big one hits in the wrong spot. While the wellington region can expect this to happen every few hundred years other heavily populated regions do not expect them to happen at all or on a timescale measured in milennia.

        The least the government should do is to comission a report on what exactly the risks are and how well and how costly it will be to mitigate them. I don’t know if decomission is the rigt word but if a study by experts (geologists, economists etc.) should find that a drastic reductuion in the regional population could save thousands of lives and possibly tens of billions of dollars – why not look at ways that would encourage many people to leave for safer places like shifting government services and government itself?

        • RedLogix


          Largely agree with you. It is worth analysing the risks that might apply in various locations.

          But again I’d like to emphasis how very well the latest engineering techniques perform on modern buildings. Look at the ChCh Arts Centre for example. All that curved glass and not so much as a crack. Or can be retrofitted to existing ones.

          There is no reason why with time, the whole of Wgtn could not be built to survive any plausible event.

          • Oscar

            Auckland is less likely to get a volcanic eruption than Christchurch.

            I’ve heard reports from friends living around New Brighton that the sea has “hot spots” coming and going. Their dogs are getting wary of entering the ocean, when previously they had no fear.
            Also, strong smell of sulphur dioxide being reported around the area as well.

            All seem to be precursor activity to volcanic eruption. We are entering the Great Shift of the Ages. New Zealand is located on a spot of purely negative ley line energy. Our disasters haven’t stopped, yet.

            Volcanic eruption for Christchurch, followed by earthquake on Murchison Fault. Within the next 18 months.

            • Colonial Viper

              Very interested if other commentators in Christchurch are noticing similar in their respective areas.

              Obviously, received wisdom is that Akaroa and Lyttleton are extinct. But its damn hard to tell extinct from dormant.

              And geothermal activity is quite a different thing to volcanic activity is it not?

              • lprent

                …geothermal activity is quite a different thing to volcanic activity is it not?

                Can be from either magma bodies or from the heat of previous fault movements.

              • RedLogix

                Akaroa and Lyttleton themselves may not erupt again, but subduction zone volcanos are never extinct as long as the tectonic plates continue to move. Another volcano in the same chain as Akaroa and Lyttleton is in the long-run highly plausible. (See below…Lanth has corrected this)

                But, and this is a big but, so far the geotechie types who must be analysising the hell out of all the data they are getting have not indicated anything alarming. They know this stuff perfectly well and if a real eruption was imminent in the data we would surely know about it by now. On the other hand the extraordinary persistence of these aftershocks that vto is describing is somewhat disquieting. I would hate for that thought to be taken as scaremongering, and I’d love for someone who knew what they were talking about to relieve me of it.

                Besides if oscar’s geology is anything like his climate science, the chances are we’re perfectly safe.

                • vto

                  I have to admit that as the days went on it occurred to me that we have been feeling is perhaps not slabs doing a slide-by but magma preparing for a stage performance.. but that was when I was very tired….

            • vto

              Haven’t heard similar stories myself Oscar but have been keeping and will continue to keep ears tight to the ground for such volcanic hissings.. Of course over in Lyttelton at Rapaki there have been increased hot springs etc. And also apparently after the September quake many hot springs South Island wide experienced fluctuations.

              But hot spots and sulphur smells at Brighton? .. That would / could be something (Mind you it could be Brighton’s saviour of course. Hot pools a-la Hanmer styles. Where the library is would be nice thanks, just overlooking the ocean. We can watch the coming tsunami’s in surround sound lushness.)

            • lprent

              Nope. Your science is as crap as always. Why don’t you look at the most likely hypothesis first rather than the most ‘dramatic’. It is usually the most likely to yield a probable explanation.

              Geothermal activity is exactly what you’d expect after an earthquake. If you figure out the amount of energy to move vast masses of rock and sediment even a minor distance you’r understand that there is always going to be quite a large amount of fossil heat trapped underground after any fault movement. To be precise it will consist of some narrow sections of molten or semi-molten rock that are small by volume, plus a pile of rock that is warmer than usual and a whole pile of quite hot volatiles. None of which is even remotely what can cause any volcanic event.

              The transfer of heat will come from any volatiles that get into those heated areas and make their way to the surface. For instance those nice light volatiles of SO4 and H2O. You’ll find all sorts of other gases as well, and you can expect them to keep emitting for a few more decades at the very least. This is exactly what happens in most of the hot springs that are not on top of magma bodies. You’ll find them all over the country outside of the volcanic zones.

              To look at what causes the heat, just drag a large rock over stone and feel the heat generated by friction.

              Oscar, when it comes to science you’re clearly a drama queen.

              • Colonial Viper

                As far as I can figure, a magnitude 6 quake releases the energy equivalent to (very approximately) a megaton nuclear warhead.

            • Lanthanide

              I’m pretty sure you just made the “hot spots” in the sea, dogs not wanting to go into the water and “strong smell of sulphur dioxide” up.

              If they were actually happening, I’m sure we’d have seen this widely reported and commented on by scientists.

              Also, here’s goenet’s FAQ about the banks peninsula volcanoes:

              “Q: Akaroa and Lyttelton Volcanoes sit on the Banks Peninsula. What are the chances that the earthquakes will trigger these volcanoes to erupt?
              A: The Banks Peninsula volcanos are long extinct with the last eruptions around 6 or so million years ago. There is no chance of them erupting again as the plate boundary conditions that allowed them to form in the first place no longer exist. 6 Million years is a long time in a volcano sense and volcanism that once existed along the east coast of the south island has long finished. All current and future volcanic activity in NZ will be located in the North Island.

              If volcano unrest does occur we see quite different types of earthquakes from what we are seeing now. During volcano unrest we see earthquakes that indicate magma movement which are quite distinct from the tectonic earthquakes we see now.

              All the scientific modelling of the data over the last weeks and months shows conclusively that the Canterbury earthquakes are due to fault movement only. There is no volcanic component to them at all. The ground deformation has also been modelled and this shows only fault related movement and nothing to suggest intrusion of magma beneath the Peninsula. Again if this were the case it would produce a quite distinct signature much different to what has been recorded.

              Any hot springs in the area are also not volcano related, again water that is part of a volcanic system has quite different chemical make up to “non volcanic” hot springs and the two can be easily distinguished.

              The fact that there are old volcanoes near to where the earthquakes are located is really just coincidence.”

            • QoT

              Nah man, it’s just Cthulhu stirring in his endless slumber.

  17. bobo 17

    What about the forsyth bar building stairwell colapsing which is ment to be the strongest point of a any building..what year was that built?

    • RedLogix 17.1

      A good question. That will have caused some considerable concern for the designers of that building (and I think a few other’s in the same position).

      All I can say is that I’m 99% certain that these questions are being asked and will be addressed. Unlike politicians, engineers tend to be good like that.

      • neoleftie 17.1.1

        hmmm i think the lift shaft are the strongest point not the stairwells – picture from my wife cam etc of the tv3 building in chch show holes and cracks on each landing of the stairs and this is one of the better office blocks

        • bobo

          The stairs are not usually far from lift shafts, just shows that modern buildings have some design problems.I’m no expert but the pinegould building and ctv looked like the lift & stairs survived not that that helped as the rest of the building collapsed but the stairs in the Forsyth bar building shouldn’t have collapsed in an almost twin towers like domino effect… time will tell with investigations.

        • Armchair Critic

          It’s no good having operational lifts and a collapsed stairwell in an emergency. The standard advice is to avoid the lifts in an emergency, so usable stairs are essential. Also, lifts don’t work particularly well without electricity, but functional stairs still work without it.
          It is deeply concerning that the stairwell in the Forsyth Barr building collapsed. The first question that I asked myself is “why weren’t there two stairwells?”

          • bobo

            I agree with you about lifts AC, but I guess its more about how the stairwells are constructed even having 2 stairwells is no good if they collapse from no reinforcing or interlocking joints.. Maybe we need some Japanese engineers to review our standards..

  18. Tel 18

    I don’t like the idea of Brownlee flattening what remains, mostly because I’m sure his motives are not transparent enough. When he say’s “we”, does he mean “we the beleaguered tax paying public”, or “we the belligerent NACT cronies driven by cheap land, greed and profit?” While I’m sure there are many other “we” not represented here, it’s a pity National have got a tactless fat bully boy to deliver this message, because flattening the smouldering pile that remains contains some common sense.

    Rebuilding the past pays no heed to what it is we need right now and for the future is true. For the most part, a rebuild will become an expensive whimsical nostalgia trip, that is ultimately meaningless, because to be of a standard that won’t kill people in any future earthquake, will render re-builds as a pastiche of there former character. Nothing makes me want to heave more than faux late 19th Century architecture. It’s just a brainless act of clinging to a past that has been judged irrelevant by the one thing we need to take notice of – Nature.

    Henry Ford once said “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”

  19. tsmithfield 19

    Here and here are several links with some before/after pics. Some duplication, but also some different pics on both links.

    As can be seen, things are fairly munted in Christchurch. So, as per my post above, the debate on this thread is likely academic only. The practical reality is that most heritage type buildings are likely just bulldozer fodder at the moment, whatever Brownlee or anyone else says.

  20. Zaphod Beeblebrox 20

    So does the government want to be the developer or the regulator? You can’t be both. Sure you can take away CCC planning powers but how are you going to involve locals in the decision making process?

    Giving an urban development authority its own planning powers (is that what is meant by cutting through the ‘red tape’?) is what the soviet regimes of Eastern Europe were so expert at.

    I’m also intrigued where the regional authority teh Canterbury Regional Council sits in all this. Given that they represent no-body have they become irrelevant?

  21. Graeme Taylor 21

    I think Hamish Frew and mud guts Gerry Brownarse made a big deal.Talk about the old boys network! Millions to be made eh!

  22. illuminatedtiger 22

    And yet there are many old buildings that withstood the earthquake. I worked in one that’s now in a precarious situation due to the larger, newer building that they say could fall on it at any time.

  23. vto 23

    The idea that the new city will have its old shackles released brings excitement. It is good imo. The older cityscape was born of a different and small point in time and its effects have to date outweighed its legitimacy. Its shackles have been just that.

    I can’t wait to get started.

  24. Herodotus 24

    I wonder how many hee have had any experience in restoration of Historic buildings?
    I am currently involved in a 100m2 wooded house that has to be restored. So far we have been quoted $750k. this includes repiling, replacement of timbers with those sourced from the same tree species, making the place weather proof, reroofing etc. No costs to connect to town infrastructure e.g. Stormwater, sewer etc. then add the cost for hist places trust to investiagte in, under and around the house for artifacts, so this slows the process down. Just as well that council has capped this expediture for the private entities, but is unsure who will pay for additional costs.
    So apply the additionals costs for stone work, sourcing the stone and limited skilled workforce. For those in Chch remember the cost for those granite/marble paving stones in the square around the Heritage hotel ?

    • neoleftie 24.1

      GDP down 1.5%, we need the south island power house back up and being productive within a very short period of time, this is such a serious crisis and we just dont have the time or the extra cash to save hundreds of old heritage buildings that will need to be rebuilt and stregthened from the piles up. Another point is chch has an opportunity to create a new vibrant furture proof work / living space.
      Also they cant build until after the shakes stop in some sense, they could be years from now or god forbid they have another bad earthquake and all those hundreds of badly damaged building simple create more issues and fatalities.
      Nope this time around anything that cant be future proofed quickly must be cleared away and a new city of the future must arise from the ashes of the old. A new vibrant connected city that in its rebuilding will always remember the losses of all those people.

    • lprent 24.2

      Quite a lot. Old man was on the historic places trust for many years. I spent one year restoring Alberton. Spent years restoring old houses and tearing others down.

      Stone is a bit of a pain. Wood is easier.

  25. Bowl Brownlee 25

    Using Brownlee’s logic – because some multi-floor buildings fell down and killed a lot of people, all multi-floor buildings should be bowled…

    • lprent 25.1

      Let’s take a more rounded approach.

      People who eat pies have heart attacks (I did). We should all do our duty and deny our crown ministers their lies pies …. Just to prove our loyalty (and sadism).

  26. prism 26

    Jabba the Hut and others seem to be taking a punitive approach to heritage Christchurch buildings because some people died in their collapse. Others died in non-heritage ones – is everything likely to come down? It is as if the killer buildings were white sharks to be dealt to but now they are regarded as white elephants! I don’t think that the charm and ambience of Christchurch as it was should be underestimated as some people have claimed it was just a starting place for more interesting destinations. Tourists liked it and the locals appreciated their historical past, both attractive and usable for present-day uses.

    Along with the planned destruction of red-ticket buildings the controlling authority is willing to destroy valuable capital and personal items that businesses and occupants in the red and restricted zones have been unable to retrieve because of lack of willingness to assess individual cases and then manage open times and assistance where possible in those sensitive areas. Just listening on Nat radio this morning to an antique dealer specialising in NZ items who could get to his place by making an entrance from the warehouse behind him.

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