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Written By: - Date published: 10:50 am, February 24th, 2011 - 76 comments
Categories: disaster - Tags:

Frustration had rightly been growing at the lacklustre leadership of the recovery from Christchurch’s September earthquake. Obviously, this new quake is going to require a whole new level of energy and resource. I don’t think the government will be so negligent as to go at this half-arsed or half-cocked. Here’s some things it can do.

A proper plan
With so much destroyed, there is an opportunity to rebuild in a planned manner. What do we want Christchurch to be for? What economic activities should it be designed around? What issues like climate change and peak oil should planners take into account when redesigning Christchurch? This doesn’t have to be an incredibly drawn out process but it has to be done. Just rebuilding what was lost as if nothing has happened is a waste.

A dedicated Minister for Earthquake Recovery
It’s ridiculous that the government passed the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act (the Gerry Brownlee Enabling Act) claiming Brownlee needed the power to overturn or amend nearly any law on the books at a moment’s notice and, yet, being Earthquake Recovery Minister was occupying so little of his time that, when the new quake struck, he was over in Saudi Arabia leading a trade mission (to the right is a photo of him about the time the quake struck). The last public statement Brownlee made on Christchurch’s recovery was to reject the notion that the programme needed a more unified and driven leadership saying “the last Tsar got shot

Brownlee has, apparently, spoken to John Key about being relieved of his other portfolios to focus solely on earthquake recovery. I think he should keep the other portfolios and we should get Simon Power in as Earthquake Recovery Minister. Where Brownlee is autocratic and heavy-handed, Power is deft and a uniter. Where Brownlee has failed to deliver on any of his policy initiatives and doesn’t show a good grasp of detail, Power is meticulous and comes through. Where Brownlee is lazy and pompus, Power works hard.

One of the first things I would expect Power to do as minister would be create a cross-party recovery committee of all the local MPs, electorate and list. There’s no place for political bickering in this and the MPs get that.

[update: we’re stuck with Brownlee, unfortunately]

An Earthquake Recovery levy
The Crown faces enormous costs from the earthquake. Not only its own uninsured losses but the need to step in with a far more comprehensive income support scheme than it provided last time. We cannot expect businesses closed by the quake to keep paying their staff and we can’t let them go bust because that will undermine the economic foundations of the rebuild. Likewise, we can’t leave Christchurch families destitute. The government will need to step in and pay a good portion of those wages.

The good news is that the ratings agency Moody’s has said that our credit rating is not under threat because the Crown’s debt is low compared to other Aaa rated countries. Nonetheless, it’s idle to think we should finance this recovery from more borrowing, heaping the cost on our children. Many households’ balance sheets are also stretched and are becoming worse due the double-dip recession, which now looks set to extend to the middle of the year before the small and temporary boost from the Rugby World Cup. There’s only one sector of the community with the cash to front up with, and that’s the people who have received massive tax cuts under National.

I would suggest the government, when Parliament resumes in March, moves to pass tax legislation instituting a one-year income levy of 1% on incomes over $50,000, 3% on incomes over $100,000 and 6% on incomes over $200,000. That would only partially undo the splurge of unsustainable tax cuts in the last three years and would raise on the order of $600 million. The coming reduction in the corporate tax rate to 28% should also be scrapped, raising another $400 million. That $1 billion raised is $3,000 a head for the Christchurch population, which is a start, especially assuming many won’t need government assistance.

Reprioritising spending
The government is spending $680 million this year on new state highways and state highway renewals (that’s separate from the state highway maintenance bill). Many of these projects have benefits that the New Zealand Transport Agency calculates are less than or barely more than their cost. And even those projected benefits are premised on growing state highway traffic and low oil prices when, in reality, state highway traffic has declined to 2005 levels and oil prices are through the roof. Let’s stop wasting money on these white elephants and put the money into Christchurch.

A clean slate
I think that this shock, and the oil shock that’s also happening but we’ve hardly had a chance to look at, on top of the double-dip recession gives all political parties the chance to go back to the drawing board. Vague promises of ‘boosting growth’ aren’t going to cut it, real economic planning is needed. National should drop its asset sale idea, even if you believe their spin it’s overly complex tinkering for no guaranteed results (and we actually know it’s a backwards step aimed at enriching the rich). Likewise, Labour should drop its tax policy. Now’s not the time for slicing a tiny sliver off one group’s income and giving it to another. A successful economic policy now has the government taking an active role as planner and major investor in the economy, shaping the economy itself, rather than trying to play around with market forces to influence the decisions of the private sector. The private sector in Christchurch is wrecked, the government needs to step in, just as it has in the immediate disaster response phase.

76 comments on “Rebuilding ”

  1. lprent 1

    I think you’re right. Simon Powers is probably the best choice. I was just running through the list of effective current ministers in my head.

    Most haven’t spent enough time as a minister or shadow to know what is required to work with the arms of government.

    Of course they could go for someone outside cabinet or indeed outside parliament. My pick for that would be to co-opt Michael Cullen or maybe even Jim Bolger if he is still active. Both have proven to be effective working with the government arms in quite large scale projects.

  2. Jasper 2

    Definitely something to think about in the long term. In the short term there’s the other issues.

    How many jobs in the CBD are now lost? The CBD will be closed for many months, so there’s no work. 50,000 jobs? 20,000? Who knows. They will need jobs and benefits.

    Government departments in Christchurch: IRD, 111, Corrections, and the rest. Move these to Dunedin, Wellington, Auckland, Palmerston North. i.e. everywhere that there are empty buildings. Our government departments still need to remain functioning (though this is a good excuse for National to have their much vaunted public sector cuts. Pay for people from Christchurch that worked here to relocate, if they want to.

    Victim Support/Counselling Organisations: More money needs to be given to these organisations as there will be a LOT of PTSD coming from this event.The psychological toll needs to be considered i.e. The Human Element (something very foreign to many in National)

    Offer assistance to business owners to set up in provincial areas, Tokoroa, Putaruru, West Coast, Nelson, Blenheim. Bring the economy back to the regions where unemployment is amongst the highest.

    Move displaced residents to areas where there are high vacancy rates in housing. Pay for their relocation costs. The number of people moving to Auckland and Wellington will put strain on the already constrained rental market, exacerbated by the lack of new home builds in the last 3 years.

    These are the issues we need to be discussing before any rebuilding plans. Its too soon to talk about rebuilding. This clean up will take months, and definitely won’t be over before RWC.

    As for the clean slate. Christchurch benefited hugely from it’s grid layout, which should be kept, wherever it’s built. Bring Back Trams! It’ll provide a great tourist attraction in the vein of Melbourne trams.

  3. Nick C 3


    I think the reason it was Gerry is that he is an electorate MP in Christchurch

    • Marty G 3.1

      of course but doesn’t seem like the best of reasons.

      • Lanthanide 3.1.1

        In fact, it looks like pure populism. “Our man on the ground, Gerry Brownlee!”. Of course it has transpired that September was simply a practice-run for this quake, but now we’re stuck with some of the decisions that were made at that time, like Gerry.

    • The Economic Illiteracy Support Group 3.2

      Yes, but let’s be clear about Gerry’s actual abilities … he’s an ex-woodwork teacher. Based on his track record, abilities and training, he wouldn’t be on the long list to lead an earthquake recovery, let along the short list. It might be more useful to the people in Christchurch if Key appointed someone who might actually be qualified to the role.

      • Jilly Bee 3.2.1

        Hey TEISG – I’ve got no truck with Gerry Brownlee in fact he’s bloody useless, but please don’t blame that on him being an ex woodwork teacher. I’m married to a retired woodwork teacher, in fact they’re not even called that now, thank goodness and have met a few over the years and they could all run rings around the big fella. Most ‘wood work’ teachers came from the building trade, presumably they still do, and have excellent qualifications – my husband has his City & Guilds qualifications from England – which helped with his salary package when working.

  4. weka 4

    These are important questions Marty, peak-oil issues especially. There are a couple of other things that need to be taken into account –

    What are the geological issues of having a city centralised on this particular area?

    It’s likely that there will be more large disasters in NZ related to quakes and climate change. How is this being factored into the economics of the situation?

    It would seem prudent to also look at local economies that rely on local resources, rather than relying predominantly on national and globally based solutions.

  5. big bruv 5

    Jesus!…you guys never let a chance go by to push your tax hike message do you.

    Other things that Key could and should do are …..

    1. Reverse the 3.7% rise in benefits announced last week.
    2.The government should instruct the NZRU to tell the IRB that New Zealand will no longer be able to host the Rugby World cup, the 50 million of tax payer dollars that Clark so happily agreed to give away would be far better spent on the people of Christchurch.

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      Tax hikes please – we should not rebuild Christchurch using even more debt than English has already led us to, and paying even more interest to foreigners.

    • Marty G 5.2

      “1. Reverse the 3.7% rise in benefits announced last week.”

      that would require a law change and mean that benefits don’t rise with inflation. effectively, you’re calling for impoverishing the already impoverished to help other impoverished.

      Key is already talking about a levy, I’m just suggesting numbers

      “2.The government should instruct the NZRU to tell the IRB that New Zealand will no longer be able to host the Rugby World cup, the 50 million of tax payer dollars that Clark so happily agreed to give away”

      doing that would just increase the country’s loss from the RWC. All the building investment has been done, all you’re saying is we should give up on the $700 million gdp injection from hosting the actual games.

      I honestly don’t think you ever think anything through before speaking. It’s quite a sight to behold.

      • big bruv 5.2.1

        Gee Marty, and who is going to benefit from that 700m?

        Those nasty big corporates that you hate with a passion.

        Don’t be a moron, the money we spent on building Eden Park is spent, the idea of another 50m of tax payer funds being wasted on the NZRU’s piss up cannot be justified.

        As for the law change, no big deal, just change the law to reverse the rise in benefits.

        • Marty G

          actually, the beneficiaries of the $700m will be all the businesses and workers supplying tourists with food, accommodation etc. and the government getting some of its loans repaid.

          we’ve spent all the money on the RWC, now you’re saying we should give up the income on that investment. It’s simply stupid.

          I can’t believe that your idea of helping the 350,000 people in Christchurch is to cut the incomes of the 350,000 poorest Kiwis.

  6. ianmac 6

    Now is not the time but ….. Size and scope of rebuilding will be very interesting though. Imagine the opportunity to raze all the central city damaged buildings and developing a modern 21st Century city centre. Pedestrian and transport friendly. Attractive to business and shoppers and recreation. Maybe building heights would be restricted but wow. How great that could be! Out of the ashes there is promise.

    • SHG 6.1

      Out of the ashes there is promise.

      You think the present site of Christchurch is a good place to have a city?

      • Marty G 6.1.1

        I think it is. the odds of another major shake hitting christchurch are minuscule – indeed, the aftershock being closer and shallower is very very unlucky – and you rebuild better.

        you’ve got to consider the hundreds of billions of dollars of capital that makes up a city. You don’t just walk away from that.

        • Colonial Viper

          I think it is. the odds of another major shake hitting christchurch are minuscule

          I’m sorry Marty, but the odds of having a far more devastating earthquake after the magnitude 7.1 in September were also miniscule.

          You admit that by saying that the latest event was “very very unlucky”. At the end of the day when it happens, it is not the probability of the event which is important, it is the severity.

          Regardless, the city should be rebuilt to be able to withstand a similar event – and whether that event occurs in 20 years or 200, New Zealanders will still need the protection of our foresight.

          • Marty G

            actually another aftershock in the 6 range was a 50/50. the odds of it being closer and more damaging though…

            • ianmac

              Though there are many places which have the same probability if not more. Imagine Wellington, the Beehive, and the Hutt Valley. In fact their risk would be greater wouldn’t they?

            • Lanthanide

              GNS has said the chances of a 5+ aftershock was 34%, and of a 6+ just 4%. The fact that we had a 6M isn’t that extraordinary, the problem was the location and depth.

              • SHG

                Then of course an important question is: was this an aftershock of the Sept quake, or an entirely new and separate quake?

                I imagine this is a big question for insurance companies too, because I’m sure they cover for one but not another.

                • Lanthanide

                  Statements by GNS scientists have been a bit conflicting – some are saying “technical aftershock” while others are saying that it is on a separate fault system.

                  See this very informative blog post: http://all-geo.org/highlyallochthonous/2011/02/magnitude-6-3-earthquake-rocks-christchurch/

                  It seems the best description is “triggered earthquake”, where this is a separate fault that is a result of the Sept 4th event

                  As for insurance, my boyfriend said that he had heard a report that for EQC/insurance purposes this was being considered a separate event.

              • lprent

                Especially the location….

          • The Baron

            Remember as well CV that while there is indeed widespread devastation, that there is plenty of functioning infrastructure left. For example, power and roads and water are still in place for a fair whack of the homes, and I understand restoration for up to 80% shouldn’t be too hard.

            Yeah, restoring the last 20% will be tricky. But less tricky than rebuilding 100% and the forced relocation of 300,000 people, and all that will entail.

            Every city placement has its pros and cons. I doubt you can find a location near christchurch that is as risk free as you are promoting here.

            • Colonial Viper


              Although I will say that 60% of power supply back to homes =! 60% of homes now have reliable power supply able to withstand another hit.

              A lot of stuff which is still working (and yes I agree with you there is plenty) – is only doing so by the skin of the teeth. Like many of the buildings which are still standing.

          • V

            As far as the US forensic engineer who was looking at the Grand Chancellor hotel was saying, the newest buildings (within last 10-15ys) have fared quite well, look at the new art gallery for example, all glass and not a pane broken. But the older building stock isn’t engineered to the latest standards and hence you are likely to get more damage and need to retrofit after a large eq to guarantee performance in the next one.
            Most of the issue is with old buildings, you simply can’t demo every building built pre 1990 and rebuild. Remember we are talking buildings here that were building in the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s etc

            I’m sure the next generation of buildings that get put up will use the latest engineering techniques and will take into account the geological and seismological data.

            • Colonial Viper

              NB New art gallery was over-engineered in order to serve its designed role as a civil defence operations centre during times of disaster.

        • lprent

          Yeah I would agree. Earthquakes are actually rare close to Christchurch. There was a smaller cluster in the 19th century. But really nowhere in NZ is less likely to get quakes.

          This last one was so dangerous simply because the strike was directly below the city (even though the epicenter was further out). The fact that the city is largely intact is miraculous. Most cities hit b this the of quake would have been leveled.

        • weka

          Surely it’s not an all or nothing situation – ths city doesn’t have to shift, but it doesn’t have to be ‘rebuilt’ either – it could be built differently.

          Isn’t the issue about the nature of the land under Chch, not just the statistical probability? What is there’s not another really big quake but another series of medium ones over the next 10 – 20 years? Do we know what’s likely?

          I agree that after the event it’s not the probability that’s important. The GNS people said pre Lyttleton quake there was a 4% chance of this quake within the next few months. 4% isn’t miniscule now.

          I’m not suggesting that Chch should move, but that the idea of what a city is should be looked at in the context of the geology, peak oil and the fact that it’s likely that the NZ economy will have to deal with multiple disasters over then next 50 years.

          We could design a city that takes into account the land it’s on eg decentralise, build lower buildings, put in all those post peak oil infrastructures that are so needed, focus on local economies…

          captcha: warning

          • Zorr

            Or. Just. Stop. Building. On. Fucking. Swamps.


            When it comes to the economic damage that has come to Christchurch (ignoring the tragic consequences of the quake), the majority of the work has been created by the very poor choice of building site. Christchurch has a very high water table (essentially just under the grass) and most of the land is reclaimed swamp or unstable sand. This has resulted in a city that has been unable to weather this storm due to massive infrastructure damage that is going to be impossible to repair (Orion has already stated that there will now be city areas with overhead power lines because the underground network is unrecoverable) and the damage to residential areas through liquefaction. After the Sept 4 earthquake the liquefaction was limited to certain areas mostly, this time it is everywhere by comparison.

            Sure, the likelihood of another quake as damaging now occurring in the next long time is statistically improbable, but if we want our city to survive another disaster shouldn’t we start by fixing the most important issue at frickin ground level.

            • RascallyRabbit

              But given that of New Zealand’s 3 main centres Christchurch was generally considered to be the least susceptible to a major disaster despite being built on a swamp and when compared to what Wellington – Wairarapa/Wellington Fault and Auckland – The Auckland Volcanic Field are built on – following your logic shouldn’t we just be abandoning New Zealand completely?!

              I’m a Chch local and I have complained about the place as much as anyone in the past but after being in town when the quake struck and abandoning a trip back overseas so I can assist where I can in the clean-up I think that the saddest thing to do would be to abandon what has been built here – both in physical terms (buildings etc) and in terms of lives.

      • Scotty 6.1.2

        Well, if we’re wondering if Christchurch is a good place to have a city, we’re going to have to start seriously considering if these islands are a good place to have a country.

    • LoveWitchYo 6.2

      Join our FB group Christchurch Rebuild – Let’s create NZs 1st Green Eco City

  7. freedom 7

    a link to an accommodation resource

  8. Mike 8

    Surely going by current National Party thinking, the best way to raise revenue to pay for the quake would be to cut marginal tax rates for the highest earners?

    • Lanthanide 8.1

      Many of the ‘highest earners’, being based in the CDB, won’t have jobs now. They’re going to become beneficiaries…

      Thankfully my work is out in the suburbs. I went there yesterday to check it out and was surprised to find huge amounts of water leaking from the 3rd floor into the 2nd floor. Somehow it managed to miss my cube (just), and the water appears to have leaked onto clear floor spaces rather than people’s desks, computers and equipment. I spent a bit of time helping with the cleanup – it was funny dropping 60+ liters of water over the balcony and watching the waterfall.

      My boyfriend however is just finishing up his PhD (he decided to take Tuesday off and wasn’t at uni, luckily) and was applying for jobs – it’s likely he’s not going to get any employment for months now.

      • felix 8.1.1

        “Many of the ‘highest earners’, being based in the CDB, won’t have jobs now.”

        No no no Lanth, they CREATE the jobs, remember? And the less tax they pay, the more jobs they create.

        • The Economic Illiteracy Support Group

          Good point … in fact, given that their taxes have fallen to zero (as their incomes have stopped now their businesses are in ruins) they should be able to create an infinite number of jobs! Rejoice – the unemployment crisis is over!

          Such is the logic of the RWNJ.

  9. Pete 9

    There’s a lot more to it than rebuilding the CBD. And more than rebuilding Lyttleton, and Bexley, And Sumner, and the many other housing areas badly hit.

    It also involves rebuilding confidence in living in Christchurch. People frazzled by shake after shake won’t care about the probabilities of another major quake. They had finally begun to think that the worst of the September aftermath may be finally over, and they’ve been struck far harder.

    Who would want to move to Christchurch? Buy a house in Christchurch? Start a business in Christchurch? How long will it take to overcome natural resistance, and fear?

    Confidence and perceptions of safety may be far harder to build than a few buildings. How can you plan for that?

  10. spam 10

    There’s no place for political bickering in this and the MPs get that.

    Pity commentators here don’t.

  11. Good call about the levy. Key was reported in the Herald this morning not ruling it out.

    I think he should lead and agree to it. If so it will be interesting on how much the rich pay and how much the poor pay. I don’t think Marty’s proposal will be followed …

  12. arandar 12

    As far as rebuilding goes it is interesting, and encouraging to us all in quake prone NZ, to note that the Art Gallery, several stories of glass frontage, is the civil defence HQ obviously standing undamaged in the centre of the city. Does that not suggest that modern methods of building can withstand a shock like this one?

    • Lanthanide 12.1

      The Art Gallery was purpose-designed as a civil defense headquarters. It is kind of bizarre seeing this architectural curvy glass facade with apparently zero damage, but I suspect the glass is actually very thick and well reinforced.

      • ianmac 12.1.1

        I thought that the Civil Defence Centre was elsewhere but was broken in September, so they shifted to the Art Gallery?

        • Lanthanide

          The “new council buildings” were also supposed to act as civil defense headquarters, but they hadn’t quite been completed and had apparently suffered some damage. The Art Gallery has always been intended as a civil defense headquarters though.

      • Colonial Viper 12.1.2

        Costs real money to build a highly disaster resilient building. Can definitely be done of course.

  13. freedom 13

    as there has been a declaration of a National Emergency, should there be a complete wage and price freeze during the period of emergency? This question is particularly applicable to the rebuilding costs

    • Marty G 13.1

      wage and price freezes are notoriously ineffective, and avoiding them is a rich man’s game, so inequitable too.

      • freedom 13.1.1

        i do recall how freezes hurt wages in the long run but the international Corporate pressure to raise prices on building supplies is going to be unavoidable, and perhaps it is the lesser of two evils.

        The world’s support will not last for very long, as soon as the suppliers ask for the chequebooks, the sympathy will quickly erode

        • Draco T Bastard

          …Corporate pressure to raise prices on building supplies is going to be unavoidable, and perhaps it is the lesser of two evils.

          You address that not by putting in place a wage and price freeze but by banning the export of construction materials. I said that needed to be done after the Sept. earthquake – it definitely needs to be done now. NACT won’t do it though same as they won’t do any planning for the reconstruction – they’ll just leave it to the all-mighty market and it’ll take nearly as long to rebuild as it took to build it in the first place.

  14. Tel 14

    While I agree in principle with most of what Marty wrote in his post, the lacklustre leadership cannot be overcome for CC. Currently we have a poll driven (drivel?) Govt and a City Major that can speak well, but has absolutely zero vision. Combine these two and CC is left with a penny pinching patch up crew, that will muddle and fumble there number 8 wire way to a rebuild that will make an Aucklander cringe. BTW I’m not taking side’s here I think under a Labour lead Govt we’ll get pretty much the same outcome. Mother nature has done in one moment to CC what developers, architects and planners did to Auckland City for the last 30 years, quite literally erased the city’s architectural palette.

    Quality public rail transport is a great idea! Any system would need to be carefully considered though. Any future earthquakes on soil so prone to liquefaction would cripple the city that relied on a rail network. CC has a huge task just upgrading the entire sewer network. My plumbing and drainage lecturer expressed serious concerns about design outcomes in boggy soils 30 something years ago. Manholes can sink or float depending on their density relative to the surrounding vibrating soil, and hence break away from the drain itself. The cost to upgrade the entire utility network on dodgy soil will be prohibitive, and so on it goes. Napier was rebuilt after the quake and while it is a quaint town, packed with character and style, and a delight to visit, I would never live there. I wonder how many other people are thinking the same thing about CC?

    I recall a Simpson’s episode where they polluted the town so badly, they put Springfield on a truck and moved it down the road to get around the problem… I’d start by setting up building (rebuilding) a town on something other than quicksand.

  15. Zaphod Beeblebrox 15

    With sea level rises almost inevitable, a lot of cities built on alluvial flood plains or close to the mouths of major rivers (which is a lot of them) are going to face difficulties with flooding and sinking sediments. All that agricultural produce still needs to go through Lyttleton and Timaru. There is no reason, however why businesses and govt departments could not locate to the east or south. Given the price of oil in the you’d have to put it close to the main trunk rail. The airport could stay where it is.

    PS Why is it that NZ has absolutely no idea about urban planning. Have a look at Auckland. Worst traffic system in the world for its size. Highest amount of GDP spent on transporting workers anywhere.

    And the politicians are hopeless. All they want to do is decrease the rates- too bad about the economically dysfunction urban form they are creating. We keep getting served up the worst of everything.

    • Colonial Viper 15.1

      Its madness to have 40% of NZ living within 40km of K Road.

      That is all.

      PS the main trunk line needs to be double tracked the whole way (if it is not already) and fully electrified.

      • Luxated 15.1.1

        NIMT certainly isn’t double track and I’m fairly sure SIMT isn’t either. Hell NIMT isn’t even double track Auckland-Hamilton (nor electrified over that distance either despite electrification from Palmerston North to Hamilton).

    • Tel 15.2

      Zaphod, regarding your urban planning question
      Auckland traffic is a festering sore, and it’s not a scab you want to pick for so many reasons…
      Firstly blame the ‘traffic engineers of the 50’s and 60’s who saw cars as a transport nirvana. Once we became committed financially to motorways, it became hard to justify any extra spending on Public Transport from the get go. This has compounded over the years because politicians (except Sir Dove-Myer Robinson) never took PT seriously, just motorways. I’ve heard from senior planners that it would take 20-30 years of good money spent on PT for it to catch up with the motorway system because it’s been neglected for so long.
      Add to the equation development pressure (read Steven Joyce wants to get more motorways so we can have ‘easy development’ and urban sprawl, so you have to ask why and who is profiting from this?) Planners have always been advocating for compact city and better PT and higher housing density in selected areas (i,e town centres based on good PT nodes and interchanges), but politicians don’t want a bar, especially central govt who hold the purse strings.
      Also keep in mind the civil construction industry is biased towards building more roads and motorways (not PT), so unless there is a structural change in balancing of resources, PT will always fall behind.
      The key is landuse/transport integration. Easy to say but hard to do (in practice). The mind set of NZ’ers (esp. Aucklanders) is based on cars, They want more motorways, so they vote for politicians who say they can fix the transport problem and that motorways are the best way to fix the problem…

  16. tsmithfield 16

    “Frustration had rightly been growing at the lacklustre leadership of the recovery from Christchurch’s September earthquake.”

    I think the “proceed carefully” approach has been justified given the aftershocks. Imagine if we had rushed into rebuilding before this shake. We would have had a lot of money wasted on new work that was destroyed by the latest and much more damaging quake.

    • Lanthanide 16.1

      Yes and no. There were obvious issues that should have had an effective organized response to, such as families having only 6 months accommodation expenses paid by their insurance companies and that money starting to run out.

      Also everyone being told to “wait for the geotechnical report”, and when it came out it didn’t really tell anyone anything they wanted to know, and the response afterwards just became “we don’t know”.

      • Zorr 16.1.1

        Before I left Christchurch I was hearing of families moving back in to their red-stickered homes because they had run out of insurance money for their temporary accommodation and had nowhere else to go.

        Can only hope they weren’t home when this one hit.

    • Marty G 16.2

      oh, so gerry brownlee was prescient and knee that an extremely unlikely event was going to happen? The odds against a aftershock being more damaging were astronomical. remember, this quake only released a tenth of the energy of the first one but happened to be a third of the distance from the cbd. if this quake had been at the same site as the first one, or ten km in another direction away from the city, or at a more normal depth, it wouldn’t have caused much damage at all. That’s why we’re not hearing of damage outside the city.

      by your logic, we shouldn’t rebuild now in case there’s another aftershock, even closer to the cbd.

      I’m not saying don’t proceed carefully and with good planning. I’m saying gerry brownlee is a lazy minister who was coming in for plenty of criticism and no praise for his performance in the earthquake recovery portfolio.

  17. tsmithfield 17

    “The odds against a aftershock being more damaging were astronomical.”

    Agreed that an aftershock this damaging was unlikely. However, the likelihood of an aftershock substantial enough to cause significant damage to rebuilding work was probably likely enough to warrant waiting until aftershocks had died down. Time spent in planning and co-ordinating resources during this period would undoubtably speed up the rebuilding process when it started, so it wasn’t time wasted.

    • Colonial Viper 17.1

      “The odds against a aftershock being more damaging were astronomical.”

      This is the type of statement which leads to disaster.

      How astronomical? 1:1000 severe earth quakes? 1:10,000 severe earthquakes? 1:100,000 severe earthquakes?

      Statements like this are based on theory without any kind of observed empirical fact.

      As far as I know, no one has researched 10,000 7+ scale earthquakes so how would anyone know that it was a 1:10,000 chance that an after shock would not be more damaging?

      ANS: they don’t. They just estimated it using theory not real world observations so how would they actually know.

    • Lanthanide 17.2

      “However, the likelihood of an aftershock substantial enough to cause significant damage to rebuilding work was probably likely enough to warrant waiting until aftershocks had died down.”

      Absolutely no one had been saying this, though. After about mid-October, no one was saying “we’re deliberately going slow to prevent potential damage from more aftershocks”.

      So retroactively justifying slow progress because of fear of aftershocks is just ass-covering of the 1st order.

      • Colonial Viper 17.2.1

        So retroactively justifying slow progress because of fear of aftershocks is just ass-covering of the 1st order.

        Its typical hindsight bias. Humans hate being caught out getting something really wrong so they rationalise their prior positions on things to fit in with current events.

        • tsmithfield

          I don’t think it was hindsight at all. We had already had the experience of damage that relatively small, shallow quakes, close to the city could cause: e.g. the Boxing Day quake. Also, we had been getting quite a number of shallow quakes in the Port Hills vicinity for awhile now.

          Therefore, it was reasonably predictable that a moderate to large aftershock, if it occurred within that vicinity, would be extremely damaging. A 6.3 was probably on the low range of probability. However, something between a 5 and 6 within the vicinity of the central city may well have caused considerable damage to any rebuilding had it started too early. Something of this size would have been at least moderately likely, I suspect, based on the quake history to date. Therefore, I believe it was prudent not to start major rebuilding until the aftershocks had died down for the reasons above.

          The first responsibility after the September quake was to ensure that everyone was housed safely, that services were on, and that people could travel safely around the city. I believe these objectives were successfully met. After that, the pressure was off, and time could be devoted to planning and ensuring the job was done properly.

          • Colonial Viper

            Therefore, it was reasonably predictable that a moderate to large aftershock, if it occurred within that vicinity, would be extremely damaging. A 6.3 was probably on the low range of probability. However, something between a 5 and 6 within the vicinity of the central city may well have caused considerable damage to any rebuilding had it started too early.

            Basically I agree with what you say here, but on the other hand civic leaders were encouraging people to return to shop etc in the CBD through the last several weeks.

            So it just makes me wonder if anyone really made these predictions and took them seriously.

            What’s done is done though. Can’t be changed. When Christchurch is rebuilt it needs to be rebuilt in a way to protect everyone from now to the year 2200 from any similar strength earthquakes.

            • tsmithfield

              There was the tension between safety and getting businesses in the central city up and running again. Personally, I think many of the buildings were unsafe and should not have been open for business. I have a son who was working helping strengthen the Guthrie centre so it could open again. He said he could see areas where the roof had completely detached from the walls. He felt that in a decent aftershock the whole thing could come down even after the strengthening. In the last quake it indeed did come down.

              On the other hand though, a lot of the buildings that have come down have been modern ones, so I guess that nothing in that area was really safe.

              I agree entirely with your last comment. We need to have a good look where we locate our central business district, where houses can be built, and the type of foundations for different soil conditions. The tilt-slab type construction hasn’t worked very well in a lot of situations. Houses that have been piled into a firm footing seem to have stood up quite well in the eastern suburbs that have suffered from liquifaction.

  18. Carol 18

    I agree that they should rebuild with the idea that another significant quake could happen in the next century or two: ie when did the building of Christchurch begin in that location?

    I got some interesting comments from a US friend in California yesterday. They also have problems of liquifaction, and continue to rebuild in those areas. Liquifaction was the reason for the big damage from the major San Francisco quake in 1989, the reason for such major damage in Mexico City in 1985, and in Santa Monica in 1990. Curiously, my friend says that in California, many of the liquifaction areas are quite “pricey”. I would have expected the wealthy to chose to build on bedrock, and leave the sandy/swampy areas to the poor.

    There are apparently technologies that can stabalise liquefaction areas, but I don’t know how successful they are. My friend reckons rebuilding in these areas is still unwise, but the powers that be always choose to do so.

    On the Auckland transport issues: there were plans to build a canal from the Manukau to the Waitemata back (I think) in the early 20th century. They dropped the idea when other forms of transport took off, and thought the cost of a canal was not worth it. But maybe it’s time to rethink ideas of reviving methods of water transport?

  19. todd 19

    You can donate an item or some work to raise money for the Christchurch Earthquake relief fund through Trademe:


    As part of the relief effort, our team have been working hard to build a new Trade Me Earthquake Support Section dedicated to helping people out in the aftermath of Tuesday’s earthquake. This new section sets out several ways you can help those in need, and ways you can get help if you need it.

    Since the earthquake, there have been heaps of members posting offers of housing and transport and all sorts of other things for earthquake victims. The new section lets people list and search labour, accommodation and transport. It also provides a place to list any lost and found pets. These categories are all free.

    As well as links to some online resources around the earthquake, we have also included information for members if they want to volunteer to help out with the relief effort, or make a donation.

    It’s a bit rough and ready, but we wanted to get it live as soon as possible to start helping people. We’ll be refining it and adding more stuff over the coming days and weeks. We hope you find it useful.

  20. Kevyn Miller 20

    As demonstrated by the Pegasys Town development it is technicaly and economicly feasible to mitigate against liquifaction and lateral spreading. The work that EQC have been doing to prepare for this approach to be taken before rebuilding the suburbs is possibly all that is needed to restore the dormitory areas of the city.

    To my mind the most important question to ask is “what is the purpose of the central city?” On answer sms obvious from the history of th cntral city. Very broadly, for it’s first 50 years the central city was the entire City. Then for 50 years the tramways allowd the City to swallow neighbouring boroughs and the central city became the CBD because it was at the centre of the only transport affordable and adequate for the needs of most of the population. In the 25 years after WWII State Advances Loans and the Group Housing scheme pushed housing further away from th CBD so that suburban shops became easier than the CBD for most people to reach for most of their shopping needs. In the last 35 years computer systems and the corporate raiding unleashed by rogernomics has made the city centre increasingly redundant as the commercial centre of either the city or the region.

    Combining that historical evolution with the threats posed by peak oil and global warming and th conomic thory of Ayer and Warr that exergy efficiency has been the key driver of economic growth in OECD countries for at least the last hundred years (particularly important for the gap between OZ/Sweden and NZ since the 1970s when the domestic/import source of transport energy bcam critical) suggests that the rebuilt central city needs to be a residential-commercial mix of the type typically found in European cities, with an electric transport focus which is also typical of European cities. The latter point means that all the new buildings need to be built to LEED platinum standard.

    There doesn’t need to be any additional extra tax to pay for this. All that is needed is for the GST on the rebuild spending to be hypothecated to Christchurch instead of being shared with the rest of the country as the government clearly intended to do till a few days ago judging by Brownlees lame excuses for the govrnment’s tight fistedness. It would also help to change the tax status of the insurance payouts for commercial buildings which are currently regarded as being “sold” to the insurance company and thus subjected to a depreciation claw-back and for th GST to be payable when the construction paymnts are made instead of when the insurance payout is made. Also payouts to home owners that are invested while they wait for land remediation should be regarded as inflation compnsation rather than as taxable profit.

    • Colonial Viper 20.1

      More tax, more revenues to do a sturdier job of rebuilding Christchurch. We can’t afford to do this on the cheap or cut corners.

      You are talking about a $20B project.

      The GST increase only raised an extra $3B, much of which was given away again in income tax cuts. (So-called “fiscally neutral” if you remember”)

      • Kevyn Miller 20.1.1

        Viper, The GST on $20bn is $3bn. My point was that the governments response to the Sept 4 quake had been to hand out a few tens of millions in grants and income support while collecting 15% GST on the money paid out by insurers and the money being spent by ratepayers, NZTA and EECA. Of the estimated $5bn reconstruction spending from the Sept 4 earthquake, approx $750m would have been paid to Treasury through GST but Treasury’s committed contribution to the rebuild as of last week was less than $250m, assuming that the $190m for the earthquake dams was going to come from Vote Finance rather from an amendment to the EQC Act allowing it to pay for preventive work as well as remedial work.

        According to Russel’s post on Frogblog th extra tax will raise a maximum of $457m whereas, as you point at, hypothecating the GST on the rebuild will raise $3bn. The part of that $20bn provided from global reinsurers is really going to be new spending and therefore an actual increase in GST revenue above Treasury’s fiscal forecasts. I assume the parts of the $20bn provided by ratepayers, NZTA etc are reallocations of planned spending and thus already accounted for in forecast GST. Even if reinsurers only provide $3bn of the $20bn rebuilding cost then we automaticly have a tax increase (beyond Treasury’s forecast) as big as the amount that will be raised by the proposed. I hope i’ve explained my point so that its understandable. I just think its playing into the governments hands suggesting a new tax when the old tax is being abused to make the government’s books look better come budget day.

  21. LoveWitchYo 21

    I think this tragedy can be turned into an amazing opportunity to create a green city infrastructure and have set up a facebook group,Christchurch Rebuild – Let’s create NZs 1st Green Eco City, in hope of bringing this idea into the consciousness of those in power.
    Please join us at:

  22. Clubman 22

    1: Bashing Gerry Brownlee acieves nothing. He will be no better or worse than many other options. The job is after all one of liaison and making public statements. The real work is done by others, as always. Brownlee has the confidence of the PM & deputy PM, and that is important.
    2: This was not an “aftershock” – it was on a different fault line than in September. It was a whole new (and unexpected) earthquake.
    3: Buildings can – and must – be designed to survive liquefaction. It costs more, but they don’t fall over. Probably a combination of piles and raft foundations, with flexible seismic construction & isolation joints. Relatively simple design for experienced seismic engineers.
    4: Rebuilding should be relatively speedy. The ruinous cost of over-caution and prolonged consultation is too great, and there is no need for it.
    5: Divert the taxpayer $$$ from all pending Treaty settlements to the Christchurch rebuilding effort, which is immeasurably more important. In fact, just scrap them entirely, as should have been done many years ago.
    6: Ditto benefit payments, which should be based purely on genuine need, whether it is temporary or long term. Well overdue for a radical overhaul and audit.
    7: Divert some GST income to Christchurch business rebuilding for say 2 years.

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