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Who’s bulldozing Christchurch business?

Written By: - Date published: 8:47 am, March 18th, 2011 - 60 comments
Categories: business, disaster - Tags: , ,

There’s a large number of reports coming out of Christchurch of businesses that have been demolished without Civil Defence consulting with the owners, as is procedure, and giving them a chance to recover vital equipment and records first. Disturbingly, some of these demolitions seem to have been carried out by ‘cowboys’ without CD approval.

Demolitions are being conducted without the owners having a chance to even know about it first. The wrong building has been knocked down at least once and others have been demolished before owners had a chance to present the case that their experts’ opinion was the building was salvageable.

I can understand that in limited circumstances immediate demolition may be necessary but what is happening here is the gradual, wholesale destruction of red-stickered buildings. There’s no immediate time constraint. If there’s disagreement over whether a building can be saved, have the discussion while knocking down buildings that everyone agrees have to go. If the owners want to go in before demolition, see if that can be done safely or not. But that’s just not happening. And it’s not CD, necessarily, that’s at fault. Blame is being directed at overzealous private demolition companies.

Kurt Langer, who led a protest of 30 business owners outside CD HQ yesterday, calls the high-handed and seemingly arbitrary manner in which things are being conducted “communist”. With respect, that I think he means is ‘authoritarian’.

This is all happening under the auspices of Gerry the First’s CERRA powers and the national state of emergency that National keeps on extending. And it’s so typical of Brownlee’s whole approach to life. He’s like a bull in a China shop but with less grace and patience. His initial call for all Christchurch’s historic buildings to be destroyed has undoubtedly been seen as a licence by people involved in demolition to do whatever they want. It’s well known that Brownlee has strong links with certain developers in the city. They’re probably right to think they can go ahead and destroy property because Gerry can and will exempt them from any legal implications that they aren’t all ready exempted from by the state of emergency.

This lack of subtlety and foresight from Brownlee is why he was such a bad choice for the role of earthquake recovery Minister. Where a bit of thought, planning, and, above all, honest up-front communication with the people is needed on residential housing, he point-blank refuses, preferring to be secretive and autocratic instead. Where a little bit of patience and consultation is needed in the CBD to minimise the damage and save businesses, he unleashes the bulldozers and, in the process, destroys untold value in salvageable equipment and records. His brutishness will only send more small businesses to the wall, destroying more jobs. That’ll only make the recovery even less likely to appear out of thin air, as the Nats seem to assume it will.

60 comments on “Who’s bulldozing Christchurch business?”

  1. Wyndham 1

    ‘Brutish’ is the very word that I used to classify Brownlee some years ago when he physically assaulted a pensioner and literally threw him out of a Nats. meeting. It cost Brownlee a substantial fine.

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0203/S00109.htm

  2. Daveo 2

    Brownlee hid from the protest. What a coward.

  3. “These are not the buildings you are looking for !”

    It didn’t work with androids for Jabba the Hut. It won’t work on buildings with Gerry the Hut.

    He is impervious to Jedi mind tricks. Like Jabba, Gerrys fate will ultimately be sealed in liquefacting sandpits.

  4. grumpy 4

    It’s worse than that. Under the State of Emergency the demolishers get salvage rights to everything in the building (including stock etc). They hardly want the owner removing all the “good stuff”.

    This is looting.

  5. prism 5

    CD spokesperson today – from The Press demolition rethink
    However, he said it was likely there would be fewer – or no – demolitions as it re-examined the Red Zone access plan.
    The news came as 30 business and property owners yesterday protested outside the Civil Defence headquarters at the Christchurch Art Gallery.
    Protest organiser Kurt Langer, who owns a photography studio within the zone, said the city had been turned into a “communist state”.
    He had no information on the state of his studio and no opportunity to retrieve negatives, photos and hard-drives.
    “If they demolish it, my whole 15 years of taking photos is gone,” he said.

  6. Red Rosa 6

    Lots of disturbing stories along these lines emanating from ChCh. Many cowboy demolitions, totally unauthorized. Owners arbitrarily denied access or info. First some owners heard of their building was when they saw it demolished on TV.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/4782165/Civil-Defence-calls-rethink-as-Christchurch-building-owners-protest

    The local Labour MPs working on this but getting far less publicity than they deserve.

    http://www.labour.org.nz/canterbury-earthquake

    Parker and Key are grabbing the limelight, but looking increasingly like a couple of lightweights who have lost control of the situation.

    • Bright Red 6.1

      I’m sure the work of the Labour MPs is getting the attention it deserves from the locals.

      And I’m sure we’ll see a big drop in Gerry’s majority in Ilam this election.

      • grumpy 6.1.1

        Don’t underestimate the business community’s disgust over this. National have just got a wake up call. Already, demolition has been halted for 3 days (probably more) – Brownlee has been told to get his act together.

        National’s Canterbury power brokers are not happy!

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1

          I am betting that a fair number of those inner city buildings are owned by Canterbury rural interests.

          And no, they will not be happy at all.

          • grumpy 6.1.1.1.1

            Correct, owned is one thing but most of the contents are property of the lessee. A friend of mine owns 6 heritage buildings and he is not worried – wanted to knock most of them down after the first quake – but his tenants, the ones who run the businesses, will lose everything.

    • prism 6.2

      Red Rosa – A point – I had already put the link to the Press in my comment above yours.

    • Swampy 6.3

      Oddly enough, there isn’t yet even a posting on the Labour Party blog, as there would be if they were pushing it seriously.

  7. Oleolebiscuitbarrell 7

    How do you demolish a business?

    • grumpy 7.1

      Like Bogor’s woodsman’s exam:
      Q. “how do you selectively log a forest?”

      A. “first you select a forest, then you log it”

      • Oleolebiscuitbarrell 7.1.1

        I know it’s pedantry but a business is not the same thing as the building in which it is housed.

        • grumpy 7.1.1.1

          To some the building is both their business and their home.

        • Colonial Viper 7.1.1.2

          I know it’s pedantry but a business is not the same thing as the building in which it is housed.

          It’s true quite that the legal entity of the business remains, even if all the assets and facilities the business used to actually conduct business has been destroyed or looted.

          So its the legal entity which gets wound up after that point.

          • Oleolebiscuitbarrell 7.1.1.2.1

            Closer. The business is the expectation of repeated custom. It is owned by a company, partnership or person. That company, partnership or person leases or owns the premises from which the business operates.

            It has no bearing on the central issue of the post, but it is not really possible to bulldoze the abstract thing which is the business.

            (I am in no way saying that demolition of the premises from which a business operates is not likely to be highly detrimental to the business.)

            • felix 7.1.1.2.1.1

              Christ on a bike, I thought I was pedantic but you really take the biscuit!

              Of course you’re right though.

              • Oleolebiscuitbarrell

                I know. It’s annoying but I can’t help myself.

                • mcflock

                  But the expectation of custom ceasing to exist is the final consequence of a direct causal sequence initiated by the person who instructed someone else to drive the bulldozer into a particular building.

                  It’s almost the opposite to the anti-gun control maxim “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”, where the immediate cause of demise has its responsibility transferred up the causal chain. The argument that bulldozers can’t be used to destroy businesses is positioning responsibility further down the causal chain.

    • prism 7.2

      oobb Question – How do you build a business? If you are really interested in this Christchurch problem perhaps you can think up or collect some useful and pertinent points which could be helpful if posted. A business might not get demolished, but it can feel like it, say it is an analogy. When your effort over years to build a brand, expertise and goodwill is like a physical frame that stands as an entity. Then there are as the tools, equipment, records, planning documents, bills payable with no money coming in, it could feel like personal demolishment, the weight of sadness on top of difficulty already experienced.

      I guess you have not tried being in business yourself as it isn’t a real funny subject when you’re involved in one. Though someone like Bill Bailey could probably do something with it, and provide some rueful laughs about the problems and hard learning.

  8. Alpha Sud 10

    Fact check Marty. Gerry Brownlee doesn’t order demolitions. As much as you might want to tarnish any National MP, including Brownlee, you are way off the mark with this post.

    Demolition of buildings has nothing to do with reconstruction of Christchurch. They are a civil defence operation. The Civil Defence Commander–not a politician–is ultimately responsible for demolishing individual buildings.

    Are you seriously suggesting that Commander Hamilton would have chosen a different path of demolition under a Labour Government?

    • lprent 10.1

      The procedure may have been in place before Brownlee got there (I have no idea). But Brownlee has the authority and responsibility to fix problems to do with the reconstruction of Christchurch post-earthquakes. He is specifically responsible for doing what is required for the rebuilding. Part of that would be deciding what gets destroyed as being too damaged to fix vs deciding to adding extra resources to prop up a building.

      Effectively he sets the policy for the search and rescue goes in. It is a policy decision on based on resources. To date he appears to have said, just do it the easiest, fastest and safest way. This probably eventually increases the costs of reconstruction since they seem to be knocking over virtually everything. But it also means that they don’t appear to be contacting the people who have businesses in those buildings or in some cases the owners. I guess that is to ensure there isn’t an argument?

      He carries at least part and probably much of the responsibility for deciding the destruction policy. If he isn’t looking at it now, then he should be.

      • Alpha Sud 10.1.1

        Wrong.

        Decisions to demolish buildings are based entirely on safety, which is entirely a civil defence issue. Which reports to the civil defence commander. Who is a neutral public servant.

        • Colonial Viper 10.1.1.1

          Hey Alpha you just described the powerpoint slide. But pay attention to this minor detail:

          that’s not the way it is happening

        • lprent 10.1.1.2

          Actually you’re sort of right (having had a dig around), . This is all under control of the Minister of Civil Defense – John Carter. You’d have to be silly to think that civil servants aren’t responsible to a minister. The only real exceptions are the militias – NZ Police and the armed forces.

          Marty was looking at a separate issue – liability.

          They’re probably right to think they can go ahead and destroy property because Gerry can and will exempt them from any legal implications that they aren’t all ready exempted from by the state of emergency.

          • Pete 10.1.1.2.1

            That’s a serious claim to make – is there anything to back it up? Of course it’s possible, “Gerry can”, but to say “will exempt them from any legal implications ” (certain developers he “has strong links with”) suggests there must be solid reasons to believe it. Or….?

        • prism 10.1.1.3

          Alpha Sudreports to the civil defence commander. Who is a neutral public servant.
          I don’t think it is that simple. It would be truer to say that he has a mandate from the government in which safety is paramount. The government requires compliance within a narrow set of demands. Serving the wider public interest is not part of his instructions.

          Edit- Though Chris says that he operates under the Civil Defence code of operations. Safety first and what buildings come down second. Chris says that is not political. I think the buildings part definitely is.

          anti-spam = droppings. Is that a nice way of saying s..t. I don’t know what these machines are coming to.

        • Swampy 10.1.1.4

          Who is empowered by the state of emergency, a Government process.

  9. Chris 11

    ‘Iprent’ you are incorrect. It is clearly under the Civil Defence code of operations not Brownlees. It is based on safety first and second second what building gets demolished. It is not based on ‘politics’. Stop being silly. The latest Morgan opinion poll has the Nats. gaining and Labour loosing. Labour really need to stop being critical, negative and reactive. ‘Attacking’ Key / Brownlee etc. will not work. The current plan of character assassination will simply not work. We also need to dump Goff who has made enough gaffes and been too hypocritical and ineffective the past year. Being on 5% popularity for 2+ years does not win elections. Let’s face facts.

    • lprent 11.1

      You were correct after I looked it up. It is John Carter who is responsible.

      Being on 5% popularity for 2+ years does not win elections. Let’s face facts.

      Now you’re being silly. Helen Clark had even worse preferred PM poll figures from 1993 to most of the way to the 1999 election. Brash had crap preferred PM figures for large chunks of his time at the head of the National party and almost got over the line in 2005. I seem to remember that he was regularly outpolled by Winston Peters.

      Preferred PM figures are a very stupid political indicator only looked at by the politically inept.

  10. Swampy 12

    If we want to get on with our lives in the city then we need the CBD reopened as soon as possible and dragging out the demolition process is something many, many people criticised after last time.

  11. ropata 13

    The destruction of Christchurch’s heritage buildings is a cultural disaster for residents and the nation, second only to the loss of lives. Tsar Gerry IS responsible for creating a climate of frenzied demolition with his irresponsible and inaccurate comments,

    Mr Brownlee said there were no plans to ease the safety cordon around the central city, as older buildings have damage and were unsafe.
    “Those buildings will have to be sorted out fairly swiftly — they don’t have a future”, he said.
    “As a general premise, older buildings are the buildings where people have suffered loss of life.”

    Heritage buildings were not the sole cause of loss of life, or even the biggest cause of it. The greatest number of deaths occurred in two reinforced concrete buildings the Pyne Gould Corporation building completed in 1964 and the CTV building built in 1979.

    Sydenham Heritage Church: demolished without warning
    Fortuna Books: demolished without warning
    Addington flour silos & 450 cub.m. Oregon timber: demolished without warning
    Democracy in Christchurch: ” ” ”

    The minister responsible for earthquake “recovery” is “cutting through red tape” and causing his own aftershocks.
    If the govt can’t monger a decent war then I suppose a natural disaster is a fine opportunity to suspend democracy.

    • Swampy 13.1

      Sydenham Heritage Church may be prosecuted. You have listed but three examples. Three too many but not in itself a huge problem.

      • Colonial Viper 13.1.1

        Given that we know of three examples, there is a likelihood that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

        There’s no smoke without fire.

  12. Swampy 14

    There’s a number of reports, but it’s not a large number. The number of situations is relatively small.

    We have to face up to the fact a significant number of buildings are too unsafe and will be demolished forthwith.

    There have been at least a couple of instances of buildings being knocked down without authorisation and I hope those companies will be prosecuted.

    Some people in this blog have alleged the demolition companies are going about seizing buildings along with their contents for private profit. I hope that those claims turn out to be untrue.

    I think there is plenty of room to question whether the state of emergency or CERRA does give too much power to Civil Defence or the council. I have heard allegations that CERRA was used to permit the council to drop agreed spending not directly related to the earthquake without the public consultation normally mandated.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      We have to face up to the fact a significant number of buildings are too unsafe and will be demolished forthwith.

      demolished forthwith =! demolished arbitrarily.

      • Swampy 14.1.1

        Don’t see the difference. For example the Smiths City carpark is being knocked down right now. That didn’t take long to happen did it. Should the public have been consulted or whatever over it.

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