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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Earthquake Recovery Briefing, 19/02/11

I went to this briefing on behalf of our residents' society. Christchurch City Council will send out minutes but here is a quick view of issues raised during the 5 hour meeting.

Need for a Recovery Programme: there was widespread concern about the lack of a timeline for repairs with milestones and a person responsible for the recovery programme. Gerry Brownlee declined the idea of appointing a Recovery Tsar. Said it needs to be a Council led recovery. Amazingly, the Cabinet quake committee manages to meet weekly but Christchurch City Council is so busy it can only meet fortnightly.

Getting through the Relocation: Ivan Iveala of the Ministry of Social Development has recruited 34 co-ordinators who will work in the hubs, liaising with people who have to move out of their homes while repairs are done. It is their job to help you find alterative accommodation and liaise with government departments/agencies on your behalf. 0800 673 227 or 0800 777 846. The Department of Building and Housing is investigating taking out head leases on properties as temporary accommodation for 'displaced' people, as landlords are not keen on multiple short-term lets. 350 rentals needed for those whose homes need to be rebuilt and 3,500 for those who will have to move out while repairs are being done.

Concerns about Variation 48 of the Proposed City Plan: Variation 48 is a change to the Proposed City Plan for making sure homes are built on a high enough foundation to avoid major flooding. Lianne Dalziel asked to meet with Tony Marryat, the council's chief executive, to discuss this with him before he takes options about it to council on 7th March. If a house is rebuilt to this standard but borders one that isn't being rebuilt, it will mean rainwater will flood from the new house into the lower level repaired house. Chris Ryan of the Insurance Council said insurance companies are worried about Variation 48 and wanted it sorted urgently.

Huge variations in damage assessments: Ian Simpson of EQC agreed that homeowners had received widely varying estimates of damage. He believed that many of these were for houses with concrete slab foundations. When assessments were first done they were thought to be expensive to fix but the Department of Building and Housing has now come up with technological solutions which are much cheaper, which is why EQC's estimate may be much lower than your insurance company's estimate. .

Insurance Companies. Councillor Brougham and Chris Ryan of the Insurance Council said people need advocates to help sort out disputes between EQC/insurance companies. Tom McCready of CanCERN said people in Zone C want their insurers to talk to them collectively. John Lucan of the Insurance Council said the Privacy Act prevents this but people pointed out that it is possible to opt out of the act. Chris Ryan of the Insurance Council said insurance companies wanted a high standard of repairs done so they could protect the capital of houses and continue insuring them in the future. They don't want to see slab foundations slumping 10 years from now because of shoddy repairs.

EQC Payouts affecting Beneficiaries: Lianne Dalziel pointed out that people on benefits were having them reduced because of the interest they were earning on payouts. In effect payouts were being treated like ordinary income. Gerry Brownlee said Cabinet would be taking steps next week to prevent beneficiaries being penalised in this way.

LIM Reports: Lianne Dalziell said that CCC intended putting red and yellow stickers on people's LIM reports from 4th March to indicate the properties were damaged. Brownlee said he would investigate this as remediation work will mean stickers aren't necessary.

Homes without Heating: delays and confusion about getting heat pumps into thousands of homes with damaged chimneys before winter starts. Installers are going off to Australia because they can't find work here, and EQC experiencing delays in getting heat pumps imported. EQC, Fletchers, ECCA to meet to try and get this resolved ASAP.

Policing: tagging, burglaries, theft of whiteware from abandoned houses, theft of builders' materials and domestic violence are increasing, but the projected rise in suicides has not eventuated. Police made a plea for people to clean up graffiti as soon as it appears as it creates a sense an area has been abandoned and leads to burglaries and arson. Also asked that people who have had to move out of their properties keep the grass cut and place tidy to avoid attracting attention. Police going to national executive for more resources next week.

Communication needs improving: several MPs, Council Board members and community groups complained about not being briefed about decisions. The mayor, EQC and other agencies acknowledged this was an issue.

Dams and land remediation: believe it or not, this was a great presentation. Unable to give direct answers, Tony Marryat called on Rod Cameron of CCC Infrastructure Rebuild to take over. He started by saying he wasn't surprised that the CEO didn't know about the timeline because "he has no relationship with his chief executive". Explains a lot. Anyway, Rod says delays are happening because there aren't enough pipe layers and not enough rigs for compacting the soil. He reckons it "will be the back end of winter" before remediation begins and it will take 18 months. I hope he still has a job to go to on Monday.

Resource Consents: a new team has been set up at CCC to handle these. Tony Marryat has told them to do the paperwork after work is completed if need be, rather than letting repairs/rebuild be held up by paperwork.

Business owners: a representative from the Business Recovery group said businesses in inner city struggling and 4 suicides could be attributed to this stress. He asked Gerry Brownlee what help the Government was going to offer. Response was a package would be announced this Friday but it would not contain any tax breaks, wage subsidies or grants.

Earthquake Recovery Canterbury: Murray Sherwin, chair of this dinosaur of a structure which supposedly liaises with all other quake agencies and removes barriers to progress and reports to Cabinet. The only good thing was that they have just set up a website where agendas and meeting notes will be available online.

Gail.
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