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Credit where it’s due

Written By: - Date published: 9:18 am, March 21st, 2011 - 18 comments
Categories: disaster, housing, jobs - Tags: ,

On Friday, the government sent out a Request for Proposal for building companies to build 2,500 temporary modular homes in Christchurch. It looks like step towards the rebuilding plan I and others have been suggesting for the past couple of weeks. Now, lets see an aggressive timetable and a plan for what comes next.

Key announced this temporary modular home plan on Q+A yesterday. Perplexingly, he played his cards close to his chest regarding where these homes will be located, when they will be build, and precise numbers (‘up to 2,500 but as many as 5,000’) but some action is better than none.

This looks like the first stage in the rebuilding plan I outlined here, here, and here. ChrisH has also made important related comments here, here, while Labour stung National over the lack of a plan last week in the House, and Fletchers went ahead and drew up its own scheme in the absence of government leadership.

Getting temporary housing up must be just one element of the plan. Concurrently, there needs to be a skills strategy. The exodus of skilled building people to Australia needs to stop and more people need to be trained. Even choosing a low-skill building system like HiB doesn’t eliminate the need for sparkies and plumbers, and only reduces the need for trained builders. Getting all these temporary houses made will be impossible if skilled trades people continue to head for Australia at rate of 70 a week. Labour has been questioning National vigorously on this issue, and been getting fobbed off, which doesn’t bode well.

Frankly, it’s a disgrace that it took National a month just to ask for this Request for Proposal. It should have been obvious to anyone from day one that thousands of temporary houses were needed. Weeks have been lost unnecessarily. It’ll be months before a significant number of houses are erected,although the government could speed things up with the use of low-skill building systems and/or a crash skills plan.

I want to hear Key say that the government intends to have Christchurch’s homeless need to be in temporary, weathertight homes by winter, 3 months. It’s a timeframe that really is ambitious for New Zealand.

And then I want to hear how the government is going to lead the permanent rebuilding. After Hurricane Katrina, rebuilding was so slow that some people were still in FEMA trailers five years later. We need to do much better than that. Again, an ambitious plan that is a real plan, unlike ‘50% by 2050’ and ‘catch Australia by 2025’, is needed along with an associated skills package.

In a concession to the point made by r0b and others, Key also indicated that there would be a new ministry of earthquake recovery. Gerry’s not going to be ‘busting through red-tape’ any more. He’s going to have his own army of red tape layers. This is an important and mature concession on the government’s part. You can’t undertake an enterprise as enormous as rebuilding a city without professional policy advise, planning, contracting, and auditing, as examples of tasks the new ministry will undoubtedly undertake. The rebuilding will have to be government-led and, without civil servants to give effect their their words, the government is just some fat guys in suits making speeches and giving interviews.

By the by, Key’s ‘10,000 homes will have to be demolished’ has now been replaced with 5,000. Key’s mistake in plucking that number out of the air was haste when speed was needed.As was the destruction of businesses in the CBD under Gerry Brownlee’s watch.

A two-day moratorium on demolitions ends today. Hopefully, Brownlee has the cowboys under control now. The fact that Clayton Cosgrove couldn’t get a meeting with the Civil Defence controller, John Hamilton, to discuss this issue on Friday because Hamilton was tied up with Prince William and Key’s photo ops is a disgrace.

18 comments on “Credit where it’s due ”

  1. ianmac 1

    One of the news clips I think on Al Jazeera showed the Japanese already building temporary housing 8 days after the tsunami.
    Surely it would be easy to arrange for a sort of lease of private land in order to build temporary housing, as long as it really was temporary of course.

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      Lease of private land? Perhaps, but I thought we had a state of emergency. Any land the Govt requires temporarily it should take control of, and pay back compensation to owners. We are talking about looking after thousands of families here.

      • Bright Red 1.1.1

        yeah, but you’re talking about the national government.

      • felix 1.1.2

        Don’t be ridiculous CV, the SoE is for keeping the masses in line, not for interfering with the sacred property rights of wealthy South Island land owners.

    • Lanthanide 1.2

      I suggest that the Japanese situation is quite a bit different from ours. Huge swathes of their coastline is completely and utterly destroyed, whereas in CHCH most (>95%) houses are still standing and at least liveable for the time being, so there is less pressure here. Japan has people living in tents that are warmer when they freeze overnight than when they don’t, so any hastily built shack is going to be an improvement even if it doesn’t have power/water. Japan is also a lot more competent at organising fast social responses to things like this.

      • felix 1.2.1

        “Japan is also a lot more competent at organising fast social responses to things like this.”

        Do you mean something inherent in their genetics makes them better at it?

        I suggest its simply that their govt doesn’t have its head up its arse.

        • Lanthanide

          No, their cultural society is a lot more suited to dealing with disasters. They get on and help each other and don’t complain in the face of adversity as much.

          • Zaphod Beeblebrox

            “No, their cultural society is a lot more suited to dealing with disasters. They get on and help each other and don’t complain in the face of adversity as much.”

            Actually that describes NZers pretty well as well as far as I can see.

            The problem is our TEA party government who are intent on destroying our civil institutions. Lets put the blame where it lays.

  2. aj 2

    Did I hear on the news, they are charging a rent on temporary housing?

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      I think that’s always been the plan. It is expected that your insurance will go to cover the rent, and I’d expect they’d also lob an amount of money towards people who need it (probably not really enough to fully cover everyone though).

  3. Drakula 3

    Ah yes you are always going to find preditors who are rubbing their hands over the wonderfull opportunity disasters are going to offer.

    The loan sharks are already offering loans to those who have lost their homes or who need to replace usefull belongings like cameras, computers etc. I would be interesting to see how much interest they charge.

    Harcourts have made a switch to the rental industry itching to handle the short accommodation situation. Will they take the usual cut?

    Some landlords are hiking the rents on the back of this as was mentioned on one of the other threads, so building temporary will go some way to address this but not all.

    The state of emergency (that could have been acted upon without pushing CERRA) could enforce a price freeze, rent freeze and a freeze on skilled tradesmen emigrating the country.

    But that is too late now the horse has already bolted!!!!!!

  4. Swampy 4

    People were still in FEMA trailers by choice, not because the rebuilding was too slow.

    • prism 4.1

      I have thought about the practicality of people such as those affected by Hurricane Katrina and the regular others that result in the area being called hurricane alley. They recognise that constantly rebuilding only dwindles their scarce resources even further. I can understand why trailer parks seem to be used for permanent homes. The possibility that all can be lost forces a simpler gypsy sort of life.

      In Christchurch the same could apply in the eastern suburbs. Housing uses in some cases, 50% of our weekly income, and with long-term commitments. A cheaper option of buying one’s own trailer or renting would probably leave money left at the end of the week instead of vice versa.

  5. Tel 5

    I suppose credit might be due, but given that this is the best Key can dither out (2500 maybe 5000 houses, built to NZ standard) is nothing short of a disgrace and borderline practical joke, considering this is the best he can come up with after a whole month. This is yet another classic case of sitting on their collective arses picking the 8 hour lunch out of the teeth that is a hallmark of this government.

    I’m curious as to why a website was not set up by government (easily done via the Civil Defence webpage) asking engineers, designers and architects to submit design proposals for modular homes, on the day of the earthquake. I for one would have volunteered my time to the cause, without hesitation, or any desire to get any financial compensation for a design they might choose to go with. Pooling ideas in this way would have been advantageous to large construction companies in many ways, not least of which is a business opportunity creating modular shelters for offshore markets for emergency relief housing. God forbid a manufacturer lead recovery takes place. Meanwhile back on planet real life….

    As usual with NACT we’re being dished up “temporary housing” as a solution that could so easily have been a village of homes that people, not only admired, but desired to live in. Properly conceived small homes and/or shelters could easily be designed to exceed our national code requirements by double today’s standards and in this way make them not only future proof but marketable to the general population as a new home. I’ve not seen an image of the temporary housing I heard described on the radio yesterday, so overwhelmed by the sound of skinflint Key grinding his teeth as he talked of spending money to stop people from freezing to death. I’m sure the homes will be warm (enough?) and welcomed by the people of Christchurch, where are they going to end up after they’ve completed the purpose of temporary shelter? I fear the Christchurch disaster, will live on the form of a visual blight of soulless shitboxes that a wallet moth would not live in being railed/trucked to the outer poorer regions of our towns and cities to live on as a semi-permanent monument to yet another John Key lead National Party failure.

    Future slum lords form an orderly queue please.

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