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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Weather-proofing and Home heating

Two very up to date websites that may be of interest: Community Energy Action, and CERA.

Community Energy Action

Community Energy Action has a web page Keeping warm after the earthquake, with information and advice for houses damaged by the earthquakes. The information provided is useful and worth a look if your house is not weather tight, has lost heating, or is cold anyway. Their website is here.

Community Energy Action also take an interesting look at the "trojan horse" consequence of having a free heat pump installed. In their view the immediate and long term consequence of having a heat pump is high electricity charges if homes are not insulated at the same time. Read their comments and suggestions about insulation here.

CERA

CERA's interim CEO has issued a media release: Winter health and wellbeing top priority.

The media release contains the standard references to services provided by Fletchers/EQR and the Clean Heat Hub. Also included is a recommendation to have a flu shot (I've had mine, have you had one?).

CERA's heating fact sheet, a useful reference, can be downloaded from the bottom of the media release page here.
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Friday, April 15, 2011

CERA on land remediation

In a wide-ranging news update today CERA's CEO adressed a number of issues. Towards the end of the release were three paragraphs on land remediation processes and timelines. The relevant paragraphs are:
We understand people want answers about their homes and land and we are working towards providing them with certainty as soon as we can.  Those answers will be based on the best engineering and scientific advice available.
A great deal of work and expertise is going into building a comprehensive picture of the damage to both residential and commercial land and to identify the key issues for rebuilding.
It hoped that by the end of May people can be given an initial indication about the state of the land and that options will be identified for the worst affected suburbs. At the same time we aim to indicate areas where there has been relatively little damage to land and where repairs and rebuilding can start.  We hope to also give some timelines then for when more detailed information will be available and when further decisions and announcements will be made.
The full media release can be found here.
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Joe Davies - Community Organizer

The National Distribution Union (Paul is the NDU's Southern Regional Secretary) has employed a union organizer to act as a community organizer. The appointee is Joe Davies, and his role is to help people, anyone. This position has great potential as Joe comes from a background of providing and building strong advocacy support, a form of assistance not available from most other agencies.

We have been sent the following information, which will better explain how Joe can help individuals (you don't have to be a union member), streets, and communities.
After the February 22 earthquake, the National Distribution Union, like many other organizations, wanted to make a contribution to help the people of Christchurch. Instead of making a donation to one of the charity appeals, the Union decided to do something more practical. They decided to employ a Union organizer as a community organizer to help people with problems and enable the communities affected to have a voice in decisions being made that affect them.
Joe Davies, an experienced Union organizer, is working mainly in the worst affected eastern suburban communities, helping people initially with problems in their streets and neighbourhoods, and helping them organize collectively to ensure that they receive the support they need and ensure their voices are heard in the corridors of power, especially regarding decisions being made that will impact on the quality of life in their communities.
Problems Joe can help with include things like dealing with WINZ and the various government agencies dealing with the earthquake, help with accessing agencies and community organizations set up to provide assistance, advice on where to go to get building and plumbing problems sorted out and general advocacy for earthquake victims. In the longer term, Joe will be trying to strengthen community organization and networks that will help communities to advocate for themselves, especially regarding rebuilding plans.
Joe is available to help anyone who is having problems related to the earthquake, whether they are (or have been) members of the Union or not. You can contact Joe through the Union, ph 0800 438 638, or via the Union's website at www.ndu.org.nz
NOTE added 16/04 - You can ring Joe direct on 021 618 394

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rally for Christchurch

Rally for Christchurch are organizing a meeting for Sunday 17th April, 1pm at Linwood Park.

You can find more about Rally for Christchurch here.
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The New City - Earthquake Safe - 1

Structural Issues

In his message to the people of Christchurch, as part of the first message from CERA (here), the mayor makes the following statement:

"There are so many challenges, but I am confident that by working together we will succeed with our ultimate goal of building the most earthquake safe city in the world. We have a huge opportunity ahead of us."
Unfortunately there is unlikely to be any formal enquiry into the broad aspects of what happened and why, in the February earthquake, and what is needed for a next time. Without this type of analysis there is no way of having confidence that decisions made now will be sufficient. The current specifications for earthquake-prone buildings, or the construction of new buildings, have become outdated as a result of the February 22nd earthquake. The same is likely to be the case for infrastructure design (roading, water, sewage, power and communications). At present there is nothing to give guidance or direction on what is required to protect against such a violent earthquake.

Equally unfortunate is the high risk that the council will take it upon themselves, with the help of a small group of experts, to design, implement, oversee, and approve what is built. A very useful, and potentially reassuring, act would be for the mayor to expand on what he means by people "working together". This is important because part of the risk is that the wrong groups will become involved as dominating and unaccountable influences, to the exclusion and ultimate detriment of the residents of greater Christchurch, and the future of the city.

Local architects and developers, for example, have decided they should have a leading part in designing the city's buildings (see here and here). How can they do this if the safe-city criteria is not yet known? Why should it be be them? Do they have world leading credentials in designing earthquake safe buildings and cities? Are they world leaders in environmental design, or architectural beauty? Ought we not involve architects from a country like Japan, or a state like California, or perhaps elsewhere? Ultimately professionals must be chosen for their credentials, not because they have nominated themselves.

On the financial side, serious and potentially life and death risks lie in the trade-off between building to a specification and building to a price. Safety requires that a structure be built to meet stringent specifications; failure to meet these must mean that building cannot proceed. Profits require that costs be minimised, and building to a price is simple: as much useful space as can be built should be constructed for as little time and money as possible. There is an irreconcilable conflict between these two objectives: in which direction will the decisions fall?

Council has the role of establishing regulations and other controls to ensure that specifications and standards are suitable, and adhered to. It is, for now, unclear whether the council did a good job of this in the past. Given that there are no guidelines for making the most earthquake safe city in the world, how will designs be assessed and approved? Will the council look at the requirements of residents, which may for instance stipulate a low-rise city? Will there be "business friendly" interim decisions that pre-empt safe-city requirements? Will the council provide a system allowing for applications to deviate from the requirements; if so, will they be notifiable? Will concessions be made to encourage a speedy recovery, or is safety to be paramount?

On all these things we need to be assured that "working together" means the involvement of the residents of greater Christchurch, and the working together process occurs in the open for all to see, before irrevocable decisions are made. Perhaps, very soon, the mayor will satisfy us with an explanation of what constitutes his safe-city, how people will be involved, and what credentials will be required of those who will take a lead in the process.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Holy Trinity friendship afternoons

Every wednesday from 2pm onwards Holy Trinty Avonside's St Francis Hall is open for a cuppa and chat. Their invitation is:
If you or someone you know would like to come you are very welcome. Hope to see you soon.

CERA and CERM

Delivered in the letter box last night, in the midst of a pile of junk mail, was a message in pamphlet form from CERM. Gerry Brownlee is CERM - Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister

Along with the front page message from CERM was a message from the mayor. His words make interesting reading, particularly the bit about "the most earthquake safe city in the world". I look forward to him being held to that.

Also in the pamphlet is CERA stuff we already know, EQC stuff and timelines we already know, and an interesting page on how information is being gathered for land remediation decisions.

If you have a notice up forbidding junk mail you may not have got the newsletter. A copy can be downloaded from here.
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Voting in the 2011 election

Some of us have been, or will be, relocated because of issues with our homes (owned or rented). This has the potential to affect eligibility to vote in a particular electorate for the general election in November.

A guide to where you are eligible to vote has been published by the Registrar of Elections on the Elections NZ website. The guide is easy to read and the choices available are very sympathetic to your situation. You can find it here.
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Monday, April 11, 2011

Temporary accommodation update

Housing New Zealand has provided the following information update:
Housing New Zealand is no longer running the temporary accommodation service for Canterbury people affected by the earthquakes.
The 0800 HELP 00 number has been replaced by 0800 673 227.
The Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation Service (CETAS) has been set-up and is available to help those people affected by the quakes who may be having difficulty accessing alternative accommodation.
This service is being run by the Ministry of Social Development and Department of Housing and Building.
Can you please update your files/alerts so you now direct any inquiries to 0800 673 227 or the visit the website www.quakeaccommodation.govt.nz

The era of the new city

Rebuilding Christchurch is not just the replacement of houses, shops and offices. While many in business will be unable to focus on anything outside of this, nor see any reason to do so, there are other equally important aspects to be considered. City and urban planning will look beyond these things to determine what should go where, how they will be connected, and what can be done with areas unsuitable for building on. Having achieved this, most will feel the job is done.

Getting this far will be only a half-job. There remains the issue of how it will operate - the regulations and bylaws that will govern the city. Those, whose interests had been well served by the way things were, will want a business as usual approach. However, not all that existed before the earthquakes was suitable. Prior to September there were a number of regulations, rules, processes, procedures and approaches that seemed inappropriate then, and appear more so now. Other factors not yet fully identified will also need consideration.

Rebuilding the city requires looking at "the plans and the rules" to ensure the mistakes, inadequacies, and short sightedness of the past are not transferred into the era of the new city; while those things that did work ought not be taken for granted. The bottom line is: when planning the material things, the values of the city must be revisited and renegotiated with the whole community.

Some improvements can be made very easily. While introducing a cultural shift for some, they are as much a change of mindset as anything else. In some cases they will involve little effort, little or no extra expenditure, and can be done quickly.

This is where CERA comes in. In their own words:
CERA will operate as a greater Christchurch organisation, because of the need to achieve local engagement in the recovery effort. It will be the lead organisation with overall control and leadership of the ongoing recovery effort.

While I am sure CERA will have an idea of how they would like to guide the recovery programme, they need to know the views of the residents of greater Christchurch. Perhaps the council and mayor will presume to know the mind of residents, and wish to speak for us (and instead of us). Rather than let them presume, we should be putting our views forward for ourselves. We can do this as individuals, as our own society, or as part of an umbrella group. However it is done, it is important that the views do go forward.

More on this in a day or two.
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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Electricity supply

Orion have now connected the whole of the east side to the electricity supply (see the news release here).

The generator at Retreat Park was turned off on Friday and the cables linking it to the power system removed (in case some one stole them). According to earlier news releases some generators will remain in place until there is certainty that the system can cope with the load.  However some suburbs, including ours, have limited capacity and electricity use should be kept to a minimum (although electric heaters can be used).

If you still have no hot water Orion advise:
Where customers are supplied from a generator, their hot water cylinders may not heat. We ask those customers to contact their electricity retailer, i.e. Meridian, Contact, Mercury, to arrange the appropriate metering change.
We have arranged to do this. It requires an certified (or whatever it is) electrician and about 30 minutes of time. Costs can vary above and below the $100 mark. The downside is we had to go onto a much more expensive unit rate. Check when you ring.