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The faltering rebuild

Written By: - Date published: 8:04 am, September 19th, 2011 - 24 comments
Categories: disaster - Tags:

The Press reports: “The Central Christchurch recovery is under threat as quake-weary property owners start using their insurance money to buy new buildings in Auckland and overseas.”

Hmm. If only they had been repeatedly warned about this for the past seven months.






Gerry Brownlee has blamed everyone from the council to the building owners to the insurers this year. Like Murray McCully and John Key, he doesn’t want to admit that the buck stops with him. He just wants to make excuses.

Hopefully, we’ll see a real plan from Labour today.

24 comments on “The faltering rebuild”

  1. vto 1

    There is certainly a steady leak draining all sorts, not just these people, from the city. And the longer things take the more will drain away.

    Mind you, these central city property owners have been squawking like this for a while. Their main claim is in fact a fallacy – that a certain height limit is required for a development to be profitable. Bullshit. What they are really squawking about is the fact that these decreasing height limits have dramatic impacts on the value of their property, not the profitability of any development on that site. It is understandable that people would squawk like that but that is a risk around most any property. The current high height limits were imposed by Council regulation and now they are being removed by council regulation – they have feasted on the Council’s limits before and now the fasting comes.

    In addition, I would surmise that these height limits are going to go back up following the consultation process. The Council has already said that existing use rights will be in place for previous high rises. So that, combined with the remaining high rises, combined with low rise for all others is going to make for a mish-mash of a downtown.

    The above combined with the continuing inability to secure insurance for new builds means no building. And uncertainty. And more holes for people and capital to leak away.

    These are unfortunate realities. Two leak holes can be plugged easily – Council complete the new central city plan urgently, which is being done – and government step in with a form of state-provided insurance (as happenned in Napier).

    • Sanctuary 1.1

      “…and government step in with a form of state-provided insurance (as happenned in Napier)…”

      I am not sure where you got this bit of information from, but it is wrong. Napier was left to fend for itself by the useless Forbes government of the day. The link below is pretty interesting in its coverage of the aftermath.


      A few things stand out from the Napier experience.

      1/ “…FOUR WEEKS after the quake, Napier Borough Council and the coalition government of the day appointed two commissioners to get the city on its feet: John Saxon Barton and Lachlan Bain Campbell…”

      The speed of this action is astonishing. While they were “…known colloquially as dictators…”, they in fact worked closely with local government and reconstruction committees.

      The degree of control given to locals to rebuild their own city is in marked contrast to our current National government, who via an interfering minister want to micro-manage everything – but only primarily to ensure their own PR image remains intact rather than to achieve decent real world outcomes (see also: The Cloud, trains, Murray McCully). it seems to me the Christchurch recovery is primarily seen as a PR exercise, with local control and rebuilding only allowed if and when it makes the government look good.

      2/ “…BY MARCH (i.e. within 5-6 weeks of the disaster) the city had “Tin Town” – a 54-store complex of corrugated iron built by Fletcher Construction at the edge of the burnt-out business area…” (Actually, it was on the site of the current Clive square).

      The contrast with the dilly-dallying around the Christchurch CDB cannot be stronger. Why no near instant “tin town” in Hagley Park?

      3/ “…In 1931 Parliament had passed the Hawke’s Bay Earthquake Act, which provided loans for local companies and individuals to rebuild their premises. Because of the economic depression, however, the funds granted were far from adequate, and repayment terms were harsh. Much of the money for recovery came from charity, which poured in during the weeks after the quake… …The Hawke’s Bay Earthquake Act 1931 granted 1.5m to the province, of which 1.25m was for private relief and 250,000 for local bodies… …the government gave 274,000 for repairing public buildings, railway lines and bridges and immediate relief expenses. The province received a further 1m in charity from a relief fund and donations from around the world, meaning all up about 2.5m was contributed to the Bay, leaving a 1m shortfall.

      The sum was nowhere near enough and local bodies were forced to raise loans. The council itself could not service the interest on its government loan, let alone the capital, and businesses were crippled by interest payments. BY 1938 Napier was on the brink of bankruptcy and the Labour government of the day came to its rescue by writing off the council’s loans, prompting howls of protest from Hastings, which was not granted the same favour…”

      A long quote, but worth it. it shows how Hawke’s Bay was effectively abandoned by central government. Today, the state is much more powerful and richer and can and should do better. Back in April, the government agreed to bail out AMI insurance potentially to the tune of a half billion taxpayer dollars. Yet today, the rebuild is stalled by a market failure – the failure of the insurance industry. Why doesn’t the government simply direct AMI to offer appropriate insurance? Why is the minister running around Europe begging the failed markets to help us out, while the city lies prostrate and rebuilding is stalled? This is a failure of imagination and leadership of the highest order.

      • vto 1.1.1

        Oh. Thanks for the correction. Nonetheless my points remain. And I daresay, as with many other Nat policies, the truth will come out about their intentions post-election (if they win).

  2. Build a steel grid and in a Tetris style of different levels and shapes, hang all of them containers in Cashel st with cables. It’d probably be easy as to hang a monorail off it as well…

    …always liked the idea of a modular hanging city replete with gardens and walkways.

    Rather than property developers looking to build something grand, lasting and expensive. Build something lo-cost, funky and deconstructable to get the tenants in and start getting businesses moving downtown again.

  3. graeme 3

    Is it more to do with the fact the ground is still shaking and people just want to get on with their lives?
    or am i missing something…

    • pollywog 3.1

      I reckon it’s more that property developers and commercial landlords would rather take the money and run if they can’t get insurance for any new buildings or strengthening…

      …can’t blame them either.

  4. Afewknowthetruth 4

    The global economic system is imploding and governments everywhere are experiencing record deficits. This is all much as predicted years ago by those aware of peak oil and its implications.

    In NZ there may be a very short term improvement in the finances of a few people connected with RWC, after which the meltdown will accelerte.

    Talk of rebuilding Christchurch is delusional nonsense, rather like all the talk about rebuilding New Orleans we heard nearly five years ago. Such talk is just a one of many components of the culture of denial of reality that characterises all mainstream thinking.

    ‘Hopefully, we’ll see a real plan from Labour today.’

    The chance of that is exactly zero, since the majority of people in the upper echelons of Labour are just as deluded as National when it comes to the future of industrial society. It doesn’t have one.

    • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell 4.1

      I hope you haven’t bought int that earthquake nonsense, Afewknowthetruth.

      The PGG building came down neatly, symmetrically, and completely. And it contained bankers.

      It is just so obvious.

      • Afewknowthetruth 4.1.1

        The ignorance, arrogance and stupidity of certain people never ceases to amaze me.

        I always forget how low some people are prepared to go in order to attempt to denigrate or slinece truth-tellers, yet history is replete with examples …… Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin, Lincoln, Einstein, Hubbert, Carson, Meadows, Hansen ……..

        • The Gormless Fool formerly known as Oleolebiscuitbarrell

          Did you just compare yourself to Galileo?

          • Afewknowthetruth

            As the first person to observe a phenomenon and in state the obvious in a society locked into denial of reality because it was under the controol of vested interests, no.

            As a person to observe a phenomenon and state the obvious in a society locked into denial of reality because it is under the control of vested interests, yes (along with tens of thousands all around the world).

  5. The problem in chch lies with the insurance companies ,not building owners, not local government, or the government, but the insurance companies.

    • vto 5.1

      Not quite Brett. The insurers are simply being prudent – would you put up your own money to insure someone in Chch at the moment? I wouldn’t.

      The problem is the ongoing shaking and its consequent lack of available insurance. A solution to that problem lies with the government in putting in place a form of state-provided insurance. Like Napier 80 years ago. Simple.

      If the government does not provide such a solution to the problem (and no other organisation has that capability) then the city will continue to leak. It is an issue for the entire country. Does the rest of NZ want to see its second city, and largest (and in many ways most important) South Island centre, wither down to a stagnent level? If the rest of NZ is not overly concerned at that reality then so be it – let Chch whither through lack of insurance. But if the rest of NZ does want to save the city and rebuild something quite astounding then the government needs to step in very shortly imo.

      It is a question for the rest of NZ. Not that many realise that yet. And time is not on our side.

      • johnm 5.1.1

        Hi VTO
        The market and Privatized wealth care not a jot for the bad insurance risk of CHCH. However the Common Good represented by a Government for all the people of NZ, not a Government for Business alone, Corporations, Banking interests etc. is our saviour and will be in the future as well.
        That is why selling off the Public Income and wealth producing sector is evil. For when the day of disaster hits again there will be no money to help New Zealanders-all wealth will be in Private hands which only care for personal gain aside from charity. We must not sell our Energy Soes, we must as a society take responsibility for ourselves-the free market makes us serfs in our own country.

        Yes the People’s Government must step in and insure CHCH if the T*sser market won’t.ChCh must be rebuilt. It’s pathetic seeing Brownlee grovelling overseas to people whose only concern is private gain and who haven’t even heard of CHCH.

        • Draco T Bastard

          ChCh must be rebuilt.

          Considering that large parts of it is going to be under water by the end of the century due to Climate Change why must Chch be rebuilt?

          • ropata

            whose idea was it to establish a City on a flood plain and a fault line with silty foundations near sea level.. (to paraphrase the Wizard) ?

            • lprent

              Someone who came in the 1840’s from a country that has very few earthquakes and no significant mountain fed flood plains (the areas that flood in the UK are quite different). They would have had no idea of the dangers. It was kind of amusing reading Wakefields glowing statements for the NZ Land Company’s promotions of the Canterbury land forms. Their surveyors reports were just about as bad. They didn’t even realize that they siting the place next to rather large volcanic field.

              • vto

                Yeah that’s right.

                And the silly nincompoops went and built the biggest city on the edge of a harbour which had a volcano blurst through a few kms away only 600 years previously. Oh, and which also sat right smak on top of another few dozen volcanoes which were dormant only.

                And get this, they then built another city which they made the capital no less, right on top of one of the country’s biggest faultlines of all. Which, if they had looked closely they would have realised.

                Oh, and then they went and built another set of large towns atop the bubbling cauldron of Taupo, site of one of the world’s largest ever volcanoes, and Rotorua, which had a massive eruption killing 180-odd people and destroying great swathes of countryside about 20 years later.

                Not to mention great chunks of town and country right scross the land built on slip-prone land. And other chunks like Oamaru on the edge of receding coastline. And of course all of the low-lying waterfront properties in the path of mr and mrs tsunami, soon to pass out way. And that was only recently too – like the last property boom.

                I don’t know. They were useless then and we think we are so onto it now ……………

                • lprent

                  Yep… Despite its 50 odd ‘recent’ basalt volcanoes and the looming presence of the Waitakeres containing many hundreds more, Auckland is actually one of the safer places (geologically speaking) in the country… One of the reasons I live here..


                  • vto

                    No, that’s not right. Christchurch is one of the safest places geologically in the country … well, up until about 12 months ago when the unheard of cracked our existing knowledges again. I wouldn’t rely on existing knowledge there lprent – it’s been proved wrong on countless occasions recently.

                    Do you seriously consider Auckland one of the safest given that Rangitoto arrived in, what was it, about 1350? What would happen to the city if another similar burst forth tomorrow?

  6. Richard 6

    Insurance was always going to be the sticking point for alot of people rebuilding… not just getting a payout, but being able to get insurance for building new houses and buildings in the CBD… makes you wonder if the ‘container ship mall’ is going to be insured

  7. Jim Nald 7

    “Hopefully, we’ll see a real plan from Labour today.”

    Hmm. Ok.

    And meanwhile the Nat Govt continues to blunder and plunder, blame others and make excuses for their incompetence and cynical effort to protect their vested interests and their cronies’.

  8. And Labour’s policy is out.  Details include:
    * Resolve the stand-off over re-insurance and, as a last resort, be prepared to intervene in the insurance market “on a short-term basis” to get the market functioning again.
    * Establish an independent insurance commissioner to protect consumers and resolve disputes
    * Immediately release all geotechnical information with a plain English guide and
    * Take action to fill critical skilled worker shortages with training and by converting dole payments to apprenticeships subsidies.

    • No way near good enough. ‘Intervening’ in private market to ‘get it going’ always means a hefty subsidy to the market when it has manifestly failed everywhere and is headed into total bankruptcy. Its just another bailout guarantee to remove moral hazard. The market is being kept alive on its death bed by hefty blood transfusions leeched out of the working class. It needs to nationalise insurance and spread the cost across those who get the biggest gains, property owners. But that would mean taking the ruling class head on and Labour lost its class mojo long ago.
      The ruling cabal in Labour cannot see that whoring after ‘middle NZ’ will leave it as road kill unless it takes up again the cause of the downtrodden masses. A first step would be to come to a tactical arrangement with Mana party to get rid of the Maori Party and unite the working class behind a government prepared to renationalise state assets and nationalise the key sectors of the economy. Who in the Labour Party or the union leaderships would risk their careers for such a move? But anything less than that will give the US pension funds and Aussie banks and their local NACT agents another 3 to 6 years to put NZ thru a Greek style meltdown, food riots and generation zero uprising.

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