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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Orange Zones decisions - Release of Cabinet papers on the October 28th announcement

Cabinet Papers and Minutes concerning the October 28 Orange zones decisions are available from the CERA site here.  On the same website are Cabinet Papers and Minutes relating to the Kaiapoi Orange zones.

An interesting issue arises in reading the relevant Cabinet Paper (the second of the two in red below). The Minister talks about being able to rezone Orange properties to Green because "... many of the remaining areas can be repaired on an individual basis." Cabinet Paper, Section 15. What is not discussed is the timeliness criteria. How long will it take? What period of time fits within the initial criteria? Two sections from this part of the Paper have been withheld, along with details of work in some Orange zone areas (Sections 29 and 30).

As to the near future, Section 31 of the Paper reads:
Of the remaining Orange Zones not discussed above (NOTE: this is a reference to the two deleted paragraphs), I expect to receive final zoning advice in time for an announcement over the coming weeks. In these areas, T&T has indicated that further assessment is required to determine if an individual solution is practical, and if not, the nature and cost of area-wide works which would be required for rebuilding.
For those who are statistically minded Appendix 3 of the same Paper lists the number of houses being made Green by suburb or location, and another table for the suburbs and communities that remain Orange. 

The October 28 related releases are listed below. Some of them have had sections removed - withheld under the Official Information Act.  The Cabinet Minute and Paper relevant to the decisions released on the 28th are in red, and link directly to the document.

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    Friday, October 28, 2011

    The remaining Orange zones

    The Minister's media release is here. Amongst other things it says: "A letter from CERA will also be posted to all orange zone area homeowners with further information on Monday."

    The Orange zones have shrunk significantly, or disappered, except for our area. Within those that remain are 1,666 houses. The suburbs with Orange zones are: Kaiapoi, Brooklands, Central City, Avonside, Dallington, Wainoni, Burwood, Parklands, South New Brighton, Southshore, Woolston.  CERA has maps showing these areas. Click on the area to go to the map.
    An overall map is available here. CERA's Orange zones information is here.

    The green zones

    Most of us are Red or Orange, however there is a small portion of Green. Being Green is complicated by the varying risks of liquefaction requiring three Green Zone or TC (Technical Category) classifications. Anyone in our area who goes from Orange to Green will be in TC3.

    Wherever you live on the flat (i.e. not the hill suburbs) you can find your TC by clicking on one of these categories:
    The following is extracted from the Department of Building and Housing brochure on the subject. The technical categories only apply to houses that require their foundations to be repaired or rebuilt due to damage from the earthquakes. If your house was not damaged by the earthquakes then you will not need to upgrade your foundations. The full brochure is available from the CERA website here.
    TC1 grey
    Future land damage from liquefaction is unlikely. You can use standard foundations for concrete slabs or timber floors. Foundation requirements changed in 2011 and information is available on the Department of Building and Housing’s website at: www.dbh.govt.nz/canterbury-earthquake-residential-building
    TC2 yellow
    Minor to moderate land damage from liquefaction is possible in future significant earthquakes.
    You can use standard timber piled foundations for houses with lightweight cladding and roofing and suspended timber floors Or enhanced concrete foundations – i.e. more robust floor slabs that better tie the structure together as outlined in the Department of Building and Housing 2010 Guidance on house repairs and reconstruction following the Canterbury earthquake www.dbh.govt.nz/canterbury-earthquake-residential-building
    Homeowners whose land is in TC2 can get on with rebuilding their homes with confidence. The only further site-specific geotechnical investigation required is the simple shallow soil strength testing which is standard for all homes.
    If you are carrying out repairs to foundations or other areas of you home these should be carried out in accordance with the Department of Building and Housing’s 2010 Guidance on house repairs and reconstruction following the Canterbury earthquake (NOTE: an emended version will be issued in November)
    The average additional cost for homeowners in Technical Category 2 with foundations that need to be repaired or rebuilt due to earthquake damage is expected to be around $5,000. However, depending on site circumstances costs may range from no additional cost to around $10,000.
    TC3 blue
    Moderate to significant land damage from liquefaction is possible in future significant earthquakes. Site-specific geotechnical investigation and specific engineering foundation design is required.
    For houses that have earthquake damage that do not involve repairs to foundations, repairs should be able to proceed without geotechnical assessments. For houses requiring foundation repairs or new foundations, homeowners in Technical Category 3 (TC3) will need site-specific geotechnical assessment and specific engineering foundation design.
    If you need to rebuild or carry out repairs to foundations and your house is in Technical Category 3 (TC3) you are advised to talk to your insurer in the first instance. Your insurer should be able to arrange for a geotechnical engineer to carry out an assessment of your property as part of your claims process.
    Costs will vary from property to property. The Department of Building and Housing is conducting a research trial to test a range of innovative foundation solutions for houses in Technical Category 3. It will develop further guidance for properties in TC3 when it has tested these foundation options.
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    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Earthquake Royal Commission - addendum report on the performance of earthquake strengthened URM buildings

    The Earthquake Royal Commission has received another report on unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings, following up on the initial report by Professors Ingham and Taylor.

    From the Royal Commission's website:
    This report comments on the performance of earthquake strengthened unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings located in the Christchurch CBD, during the 22 February 2011 earthquake. The report also provides details on the performance of various earthquake strengthening techniques used in these buildings. The report should be read in conjunction with the authors' earlier report and the peer review reports of Mr Turner and Mr Lizundia.
    The initial report, The Performance of Unreinforced Masonry Buildings in the 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquake Swarm, is here.

    The follow-up report, The Performance of Earthquake Strengthened URM Buildings in the Christchurch CBD in the 22 February 2011 Earthquake: Addendum Report by Professor Jason M. Ingham and Professor Micheal C. Griffith, October 2011, is here.

    The peer review reports are here (Turner) and here (Lizundia).
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    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Aaron Gilmore - please stop trying to help

    On his blog yesterday MP Aaron Gilmore took the opportunity to explain in a somewhat disastrous fashion why land zoning reports had not been released, and why they would not be released. His blog is here .

    Aaron starts in a confusing way, but does his best to explain some of the problems facing the government:
    ... engineers continue to work out what is the right information and what are the options for Government. Areas like Brooklands and South Shore are in low lying sand spits and are natural hazard risks at the best of times from flooding. It is therefore important to get the right information for people.
    This may well be true, but why complicate matters with irrelevancies? The height above sea level of these areas at the best of times has no bearing on the stability of the land under seismic conditions.  

    Some information is useful in general and there is an amazing insight into how carefully the zoning is being done:
    The suggestion that the government is withholding any geo-tech reports is a red herring being put about by the opposition.  The geo-tech reports which informed and continue to inform government land zoning decisions were area wide ones.  These reports are available on the EQC website; and the land decision presentations and support materials are on the CERA website. Labour keeps saying the government is refusing to release residents’ individual section geo-tech reports, pointing this out is taking a few calls a day from my office correcting the misinformation.
    The first thing to note about these is that those reports played no role in the government’s land zoning decisions.
    Really? While someone in the middle of a zone may be comfortable with the thought that an individual section report paid no part in their zoning, those on a boundary between Red and Green (e.g. as in Kaiapoi) would be desperate to know that a lot more careful consideration had taken place. They would also want to know why they were Red and the land over the fence, a fence maybe just a centimetre or two deep, was Green. How could this come about? 

    Aaron then proceeds to explain why the reports will not be released:
    The second is that the government, be it through CERA or any other agency, does not hold or have access to, or have any right to release those reports.  Individual property geo-tech reports are compiled on behalf of EQC, private insurers and the property owners as part of each property’s full damage assessment.  They are none of the government’s business; the government is not withholding them.
    The government is withholding the geotech reports - Gerry Brownlee has said so himself.  Detail down to individual property level is being recorded - many in the affected areas have seen the data donkeys taking measurements one property at a time. Most of the geotech work is being undertaken by Tonkin & Taylor on behalf of EQC, EQC is covered by the provisions of the Official Information Act and so must provide the information if requested. There are grounds to delay the release, but none to prevent it.

    The matter is more complicated than portrayed because there are a number of factors being taken into account when declaring an area Green or Red. Land stability is the primary issue, but not the sole one. Reading the cabinet papers and minutes on the CERA website would have made this clear (see the CERA site here, and previous items on this blog here and here ). Many property owners, especially those on apparently sound land, want to know why they are Red. Equally there are some on apparently unsound land who want to know the criteria used to put them in a Green zone. The government has to demonstrate that the decisions made, most especially at and close to the zone boundaries, are neither arbitrary nor the result of guess work.

    I appreciate Aaron is a junior MP and lacking in experience. Considering the importance of the issue, and the fact he is a government MP with access to all the material needed to do a good job, there should have been a lot more thought and accuracy put into the construction and content of the article.  Why cause additional stress and confusion when we have more than enough?

    Building on land prone to natural hazard or disaster: risks and liability

    The website NZLawyer online has an interesting land related article this month: Building on land prone to natural hazard or disaster: risks and liability.

    The topic headings are:
    • Addressing the risks at the outset of a building project
    • How is land identified as having a natural hazard?
    • Addressing a hazard during the construction process
    • Liability where land/property damaged by a known natural hazard
    The article is here.
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    Ecological effects of sewage and silt in Christchurch's streams and rivers

    Environment Canterbury has carried out a number of surveys and studies into the effects on streams and waterways of wastewater inflows and silt deposits, and have released reports on their findings.

    ECan's media release on the effects of untreated sewage being discharged into the lower parts of the Avon and Heathcote rivers and the estuary is here. According to ECan's map (here), the lower Avon is the part of the river downstream from the Fitzgerald Avenue bridge.

    Also available are the following reports:
    • Ecological effects of the Christchurch February earthquake on our city rivers
    • Ecological effects of the Christchurch February earthquake on our city estuary
    • Effects of wastewater overflows on oxygen and ammonia in the Avon and Heathcote rivers
    • Christchurch February Earthquake: Effect on aquatic invertebrates
    • Christchurch February Earthquake: Effect on freshwater fish of the upper Avon River
    • Christchurch February Earthquake: Effect on invertebrates of the lower rivers
    • Effects of seismic activity on inaka spawning grounds on city rivers
    • Mapping earthquake induced topographical change and liquefaction in the Avon-Heathcote Estuary
    • Effects of the Canterbury earthquakes on Avon-Heathcote Estuary/Ihutai ecology
    The reports and map are here.
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    Tuesday, October 25, 2011

    New solvency requirements for insurance companies

    The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) has issued new solvency requirements for non-life insurance companies. The purpose of the change is:
    • to protect the government and taxpayers from having to financially support an insurance company as has happened with AMI
    • to protect policy holders by requiring insurance companies to have adequate reserves and reinsurance cover
     The requirement is that insurance companies must be able to demonstrate they have sufficient reserves and reinsurance to cover the costs of a 1-in-a-1000 year event.

    A copy of the policy, which is quite detailed in parts, is available from the RBNZ here and the policy position paper here.

    The views of the New Zealand insurance industry are reported by insuranceNEWS.com.au here.
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    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Reinsurers still interested in New Zealand - at a price

    It appears that as a result of rising insurance premiums reinsurance continues to be available, and new reinsurers are entering the New Zealand market.

    According to the insurance website InsuranceNEWS.com.au (selective quotes):
    Money has triumphed over fear in the New Zealand reinsurance market. Higher reinsurance rates are attracting reinsurers who have not normally operated in the market, offsetting fears that capacity is shrinking.
    .. reinsurers from Bermuda and Europe as well as Lloyd’s have entered the New Zealand market as a result of higher rates.
    But with reinsurance rates for New Zealand increasing up to 500% at the July renewals, Mr De Souza says Aon has been able to find takers for all the business it wants to place.
    ... while the largest insurers – such as the Australian companies which dominate the New Zealand insurance market – will continue to get reinsurance cover (“they are just going to have to pay more”), smaller companies might find the cost of operating in New Zealand is prohibitive and not worth their while.
    For a lot more information, and the quotes in context, see the analysis report here.
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    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Battle at the Basilica - now on-line

    If you missed the documentary Battle at the Basilica, the battle to save the Catholic Cathedral, you can see it courtesy of TVNZ's On Demand service here.

    Information about the documentary is here.
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