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What future for Christchurch?

Written By: - Date published: 9:34 am, June 15th, 2011 - 35 comments
Categories: disaster - Tags: ,

Lack of certainty is killing the spirit and economy of Christchurch. Before the latest quakes there were already threats of protests because Brownlee has failed to announce which areas can’t be rebuilt on. That information is even more needed now. Brownlee says it’s ‘blindingly obvious’ which areas must go. He needs to drop the arrogance and inform people.

There are tens of thousands of households who are stuck right now and can’t move on. They have mortgages on munted houses and land which may never be rebuilt on. But until the government announces which land is to be abandoned, the people can’t get payouts and move, nor can they invest in rebuilding. Statements that which suburbs will be abandoned is ‘blindingly obvious’ without naming them only heightens the distress.

This stuff is obviously hard and the government can’t stop the aftershocks but people need solid information conveyed to them as unambiguously and quickly as possible to plan their futures and assure themselves.

For all I can see, the main activity of the government has been to spin, rather than act. Just in the past couple of weeks Brownlee, Key, and Bennett have started spouting a line that things ‘aren’t as bad as the doomsayers predicted’. They based that on the fact that the number on unemployment benefits hadn’t risen much in Christchurch by the end of May. But that is because, until the start of June, people were getting the special earthquake benefits. These have now stopped and the jobs are disappearing fast. The government must have known this would happen but, rather than do anything, they just distorted the facts for the purposes of spin.

Now, after the latest quakes, the government’s behaviour hasn’t changed. They spin that ‘we will stand beside you’ and tell people not to leave Christchurch but they don’t give them any reason to stay or any firm hopes.

Nearly 10% of schoolkids had left the city before the latest quakes, which suggests a similar portion of the population has packed their bags. The negative feedbacks of so many people leaving will force more people out of jobs and out of the city. Unless the government provides some leadership.

Don’t hold your breath.

35 comments on “What future for Christchurch?”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    It’s sad to see that this country is leaving tens of thousands of Cantabrians in ghastly financial and physical living arrangements full of uncertainty. We seem to be unable or unwilling to come up with any answers.

    Options including the mass resettlement of people and businesses to the edges of Christchurch or perhaps nearby centres like Timaru must be put on the cards and publicly debated.

    Someone tell the banks that everyone in the most heavily effected areas needs to go to interest only mortgage payments with interest rates halved. Steps for rentals as well.

    Why is our leadership and our systems so fucking slow. These are not hypothetical refugees living in a hypothetical war zone; these are our own people 30 minutes drive down the road. WTF.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      Someone tell the banks that everyone in the most heavily effected areas needs to go to interest only mortgage payments with interest rates halved.

      Nope, the mortgages should have been put on hold until the house fixed up, declared safe/liveable or condemned and the insurance was paid. This should have been done by government decree after the first earthquake and reiterated after the second.

      Why is our leadership and our systems so fucking slow.

      Because it’s NAct in government and they’re more worried about how much of our wealth that they can transfer to themselves and their rich mates.

  2. Jeremy Harris 2

    Lack of certainty is killing the spirit and economy of Christchurch.

    BS. Citizens not having access to their property and businesses due to pencil pushing morons is killing the spirit and economy of Christchurch.

    But hey why not use a crisis as an excuse to have a delusional swipe at the Nats?

    • Andy-Roo 2.1

      Who is in control of the pencil pushing morons then?

      I mean, that IS the obvious response.

      • Jeremy Harris 2.1.1

        There are plenty of valid reasons to swipe at the Nats. The delusion is that the problem is the Nats aren’t telling people what to do enough or what to do fast enough.

        • bbfloyd

          get a grip jerry. people are smarter than that. the fact that the govt is engaging in nothing more than politiking and blame shifting is causing a bad situation to become an insurmountable one..

          nobody living in the real world expects the govt to do more than facilitate the recovery process that should have been moving at a much faster rate. the issue for most is that brownlee has become part of the problem.

          • Colonial Viper

            nobody living in the real world expects the govt to do more than facilitate the recovery process

            I do.

            Because the NZ Govt should always have kept a strategic, highly capable $2B p.a. Ministry of Works tasked with building up our national infrastructure, building state housing, etc. This capability would have swung into action within days of the original quake and we wouldn’t be buying kitset homes from China for gawdsakes.

            Instead we broke down our capabilties and sold it off, and now the Government has very little operational ability left except make speeches and sign cheques for the private sector.

            Oh yeah and “facilitate” whatever the hell that means.

            • johnm

              Hi CV
              That’s the Neo-Liberal reduce government to a bathtub madness we’ve bought hook line and sinker.

        • Colonial Viper

          The delusion is that the problem is the Nats aren’t telling people what to do enough or what to do fast enough.

          Plan-less, clue-less, leadership-less National is hardly a delusion for Christchurch, it’s a very stark reality.

  3. Lanthanide 3

    They had an interview with Brownlee this morning on Nine to Noon that I caught on my way to work.
    Brownlee was very convincing. He said they must only release all of the information once it is all together, because whatever decision they make some people are going to be upset about it. Releasing full information together lets the upset people know that they have actually gone through a thorough process.
    He also made another very salient point – this is the first real test of EQC land insurance, which is unique in the world. How the situation is dealt with here will set a precedent for the future, so it must be done properly and rigorously. The specific outcomes are also likely to affect insurance premiums across the whole country, not a thing to trifle with lightly. If it is handled badly there’s also the possibility that land re-insurance could be scaled back or dropped altogether if international companies no longer wanted to re-insure us because of lack of faith in how it was handled this time.

    • Bunji 3.1

      Interesting, Brownlee wasn’t scheduled to be on…

      Did you hear the Bexley Residents Association dude who spoke just after 9? He was very convincing too – I’m guessing Brownlee must have got in touch to put the other side, because the Bexley guy made some very strong, logical points about how slow it is, how those who are left in limbo feel powerless as various organisations and the govt have the knowledge but refuse to share it. How they feel they’re likely to be presented with a solution, rather than consulted, or given options about what happens to their own lives.

      I’ll post the link to the audio once it goes up.

      • Lanthanide 3.1.2

        I heard some of that but didn’t really listen to it, as I had to get dressed and ready for work (yes, I get out of bed at 9:10 am!).
        I can see his concerns, but I’m perhaps not quite so pessimistic about it as he is (easy for me to say, of course). They seem to be talking about entire suburbs being abandoned, as in 1000’s of homes. This means that the process is *not* going to be quick in any aspect whatsoever. Because it’ll take so long, there will be lots of time for them to complain, and on the flipside lots of time for them to be consulted.
        It would be quite difficult for a bunch of bureaucrats to make a decision that affects 10,000+ people that is iron-clad and immutable for 3 years before is it ultimately all implemented.

        • vto

          Lanthanide, fellow quake-shaker, you are very considered.. what about a good bit of heated yelling and cursing. I can give you some lessons if you like hee hee.

          Couple of things. Firstly, the EQC land insurance issue is probably very important as you outline however it is not as important as the tens of thousands waiting to hear. These people should not be kept waiting until those details are sorted. It is entirely possible to get on with things prior to sorting out issues of liability, payment and other obligation.

          In fact, in proof of this I take my hat off to the Council who last week decided to do exactly this with regard to some significant earthquake repair work on land on part of the port hills. They said “we are getting on with the work now and not waiting to first sort out issues of who should pay and who is responsible. We will sort out issues of liability, payment and other obligation later”.

          I applaud that thunderously. Central govt, CERA, Brownlee, Key, take note of Council’s approach in this.

          Secondly, I do not accept Brownlee’s assertion that all i’s must be dotted and t’s crossed before telling people. The people of Chch are grown adults who have been through several life-threatening earthquakes. They can handle stuff. Key has admitted that they know which areas are to be abandoned. Tell us. If there are some remaining issues, tell us what they are too. Bloody condescending arrogance of Key and Brownlee. For evidence, see council example above.

          • Draco T Bastard

            They said “we are getting on with the work now and not waiting to first sort out issues of who should pay and who is responsible. We will sort out issues of liability, payment and other obligation later”.

            I think it’s even easier. Get in, do it and then send the insurance companies the bill after. If they don’t pay up, seize their assets and close them down.

            Secondly, I do not accept Brownlee’s assertion that all i’s must be dotted and t’s crossed before telling people.

            The people need to be informed as the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 3.2

      Don’t think anyone wants all decisions made instantly, but it would be nice if they could actually make some decisions by the end of this year. The government makes the laws of NZ not the insurance companies. Are we really that dependent on Lloyds of London that we can’t make any decisions without their say so?

      • Lanthanide 3.2.1

        “Are we really that dependent on Lloyds of London that we can’t make any decisions without their say so?”
        If we want to have future business dealings with them, then yes, it pays not to simply run roughshod over them.

        • Zaphod Beeblebrox

          How long can a negotiation like this take? Its mid-June and the big quakes were in Nov. and Feb.

          IMO the whole structure of CERA is the problem. Instead of having an independent board (which is what an authority normally has), a politician was put in charge. This means every decision gets made in a political context. Not really conducive to good evidence based, decisive choices. Why they chose to do this who knows?

          The insurers will fight tooth and nail not to pay up. We can’t just roll over and gve them what they want.

          • Lanthanide

            The big quakes were Sept and Feb.

            The negotiation wouldn’t have taken that whole time period. The negotiation would have started (in earnest) once the geotech report was actually completed, which was probably only in the last 4-6 weeks.

            Also, Gerry Brownlee is not in charge of CERA, Roger Sutton is. Before that, John Ombler was the temporary head. Much the same as government departments have CEOs and responsible ministers, so does CERA.

      • hate rocknroll 3.2.2

        Finally today it seems that the Government will say honestly what areas are going to be irrepairable. Its job as Government is to come up with a range of solutions so that those most affected get the most say.

  4. vto 4

    I firmly agree that if the govt knows which areas are which then they should so advise. Key’s woeful responses on Nat Radio last evening were pathetic. He actually sounded like he did not knwo what he was talking about. Had no grasp. All he could do was repeat “b;ah blah, there are a number of factors b;ah blah”. If you listened carefully you could hear thinking as he spoke ‘shit I’m outta my depf here’. Hopeless.

    Anyways, Key also kept saying the reason for the delay now is the “negotiations” between the govt, eqc, the insurers and the re-insurers”. Well FUCK THAT. That shit can follow. Announce the decisions. It does not require those negotiations to be completed first. It can follow. They are big boys aren’t they? They can sort it out later can’t they? Or can they… perhaps they really are buffoons. The proof is in this particular pudding right fucking now.

    Anyways again, I agree that Chch now has a larger problem, hinted at pre-June earthquakes.. namely loss of population and confidence. You simply must bet that there will be another earthquake of the same intensity and producing as much damage again. If you do not then you bet against the odds. I deeply fear that this has been a form of death-knell. I know that for us, our confidence in the stability of the location is gone until a number of months pass without earthquakes. Many will not be prepared to put families at risk of injury and death. Again.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      “Anyways, Key also kept saying the reason for the delay now is the “negotiations” between the govt, eqc, the insurers and the re-insurers”. Well FUCK THAT.”
      Um, I’ll give a simple example of why they have to wait.
      GOV: Lets abandon Bexley. EQC, what do you think?
      EQC: Sounds like a good idea to me. I better check with my re-insurers though.
      GOV: Great! Let’s announce it to to the public
      — 2 days later —
      EQC: Right, my insurers have gotten back, and they say abandoning Bexley is going to be very difficult, unless you do X Y and Z.
      GOV: Oh shit, we just promised we were going to abandon it!

      • vto 4.1.1

        But lanthanide, the govt has already said they have the required information.

        The stall at the moment is clearly around who pays what, not where can be built and can’t be built. The information around land physics is in, the decisions have been made. Any dispute from some laggard insurer is around payment, not what land is liveable.

        Those decisions around payment can be sorted later.

  5. freedom 5

    There was a very interesting Stuff Poll yesterday ( that i am unable to locate  today) that was for residents of CHCH.  Certainly others may have contributed but i chose to respect the Poll Question. At the time i viewed it, the data showed  18% of people had left, 16% were seriously thinking of leaving, and 13% were unsure of what to do and a staggering 24% admitted being stuck by financial situations and lack of information

    for clarity- i do not recall the other two categories that made up the 100%

  6. I’d just like to point out that CERA is subject to the OIA: http://fyi.org.nz/bodies/cera

    You might be able to get some information out of them, albeit after up to 20 working days’ delay.

  7. What would happen here if Labour said that it will compulsorily acquire land at its own valuation to provide replacement sections and also provide no-interest state advances loans to cover any insurance shortfall to rebuild on low risk land adjacent to ChCh, and do a state-to-insurance Co deal to cover some of their loses? Don’t you think that would shift the NACTs from their micromanaging the election run up into a huge backdown in meeting the immediate needs of ChCh workers? It would expose just how cynical and self-serving this bankster ruling class is and knock them off their coasting to victory on the back of ‘national’ emergencies.
    But of course Labour doesnt have the imagination or interest to do this having long been defenders of capitalism and trapped into a Blairite celebration of neo-liberalism and its balanced budgets and individual responsibility.
    What a surprise. Looks like we need a revolution here too.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      But of course Labour doesnt have the imagination or interest to do this having long been defenders of capitalism and trapped into a Blairite celebration of neo-liberalism and its balanced budgets and individual responsibility.


      Labour have been a party of the capitalist elite for near on thirty years now.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    Here is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

    Set the distance to 25, the number of days to 7 and the magnitude to 4+.

    As can be seen, the larger quakes seem to be fairly rapidly moving away from Christchurch. If you I heard a geotec guy on the TV saying that the stresses were being transferred eastwards. That wasn’t very good for the east the other day. However, it caused a lot less damage around the rest of the city because it was further away from the city than the Feb 22 quake.

    As can be seen, the quakes we have had today have been around the Pigeon Bay region, which is getting a bit further away. The 5 we had this morning felt a bit more like a 3 or 4 I guess due to the increased distance.

    Hopefully this trend away from the city will continue. Looking at the trend on the map I don’t know that I would want to be living in Akaroa though. 🙂

  9. Just Right 9

    I can imagine the outcry of Big Jeeza turned up to a meeting with the people of Bexley (for example) and announced that their sections are now worthless and won’t be able to rebuilt on. Then said ‘that’s all the info we have for now Folks’ Can you imagine the outcome?

    It is right & prudent to go into that meeting with all of the ducks in a row. Give the bad news, then outline the solutions that have been negotiated on behalf of the people affected. Either way, it is a shit sandwich for all concerned, but at least they will leave the meeting with a plan and some idea of what next.

    These are complicated issues which set precedents, and involve commercial, public and private parties. Everyone has a stake and an interest they wish to protect. Those interests need to be balanced fairly. Rushing in is to be avoided no matter how tempting it is to give half the information.

  10. David 10

    As a Parklands resident it would be great to get some answers but big gerry is in a no win, he needs to get a deal with banks,insurers and availability of land to build on while looking after us and not welding the NZ taxpayers. Frustrates the hell out of me but I would prefer he got his ducks in a row first and had all the answers rather than going off half cocked.

  11. Just watched Campbell live, on about Chch and the EQC not looking at houses or paying out to people obviously due it.
    The govt and TPTB are saying there are X dollars in so called ‘funds’, these ‘funds’ have been doing what every fund has been doing these past 10 years or so, which is investing in the stock markets, then the dodgy banking industry (think John Key, and derivatives etc) so all the so called saved ‘money in the bank’ bullshit is just that bullshit, the money doesn’t exist, or most of it is in US mortgages, or Greek statues, or maybe Irish housing estates.
    So there is simply not enough money to start paying out. At least our earth quake refugees aren’t living in tents on pallets that are sinking into the mud, like the buggers in Haiti. … give it time though. ?
    The EQC has got enough money to keep the front office open, and the spin spinning, but when it comes to parting with some real money … yeah right.
    I guess there will be a time when you can’t fool most of the people most of the time …. maybe this never before moment is near/ 😉

  12. RedandBlack 12

    The EQC’s CEO should be fired and their modus operandi overhauled. Brownlie is not up to the job either but who could replace him? Collectively Cabinet seems to have about one brain between them.

    • Lanthanide 12.1

      EQC have gotten quite a bit better in the last month or so, at least from their public relations standpoint – doubling the number of staff dealing with tradesmen invoices, and they’re ahead of schedule for inspections.

      • RedandBlack 12.1.1

        There is no evidence of this happening at all with EQC – they are not delivering. They are just getting better at spinning the truth. Since when has Brownlee been convincing? In the eye of the perceiver I think.
        Admit it – Brownlee does not have the mental capacity for the job.

  13. Speaking to a contractor from Chch, yesterday, asked him if had been paid, yes he had, then he said that EQC were using the interest on investments to pay out. Which kind of confirms my thoughts that their ‘investments’ would be worth way way less if they tried to cash them in, and just like someone mortgaged to the hilt, they fear placing their house on the market, just in case it proves to be worth way less then the value they placed on it when ‘stacking’ the mortgage.
    So considering EQC have no real money they are doing a great job of postponing the inevitable, that is why they have Homer G Simpleton in charge, no one will be surprised when he doesn’t deliver.

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