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Saturday, 27 November 2010

What is liquifaction? - Part 1

There are websites in NZ with explanations of liquifaction however few of them seem particularly useful in understanding what happened in our area. The best local site so far is that of the Selwyn District Council. The following is an extract from their webpage which can be found here.

Q. What is liquefaction?

A. Liquefaction occurs in loose sand and sandy soils when it is saturated and subject to strong seismic shaking. In a dry sand, the shaking would normally joggle the sand particles into a denser, more compact arrangement, but with water filling the voids between the particles, the water becomes pressurised instead. This can result in the
  • almost complete loss of friction between the particles and hence soil strength
  • consequences of liquefaction including:
    o Foundation bearing failure as the soils under shallow footings loses strength and it is no longer able to support the loads.
    o Ground settlement, as the originally loose sand settles back into a somewhat denser state, sometimes as much as 0.3m or more.
    o Ground movement as the surface unliquefied crust breaks and is jostled by the earthquake shaking (analogy is that of ice floes on the sea).
    o Ejection of sand and water from the pressurised liquefied layer(s).
  • lateral spread along any change of slope such as terrace risers and river banks, which may result in permanent ground displacement of 1.5 – 2m at the “free” face (ie the bank) and measurable displacements up to 300m back from the bank.
The majority of the ground movements will occur during and for a few hours following the earthquake. However, in some soils it takes many days for the excess pore water pressures to dissipate. This means ongoing creep of both lateral movement and settlement can occur for one to three weeks after the event.

Once the groundwater pore pressures have returned to normal, the sand is essentially back to its pre-earthquake state. As such it can be built on again, in a similar way as before, except that it must be recognized that sands which liquefy in one earthquake have been shown to re-liquefy in a subsequent earthquake; it's not a one-off phenomena which can now be ignored .

Cowlishaw Street - School Traffic and Parking

As has been discussed at recent meetings the problems of school traffic and parking are increasing. This does not bode well for 2011 and beyond when work is being done to remediate land and repair or rebuild houses.

Gail and Sharyn will be visiting houses in the street later this morning with a petition to the Council on this issue.

Any questions or whatever please give Gail a ring or e-mail me at this e-mail address.

Friday, 26 November 2010

MP visit to EQC's Christchurch Headquarters

MP Nicky Wagner visited the Christchurch Headquarters of EQC earlier this week. Her website has a record of her visit along with photographs and a description of how the Christchurch EQC operates its 6 day week of 15 hours per day.

There are no answers, or much comfort, to be found in the article however it does help confirm the size of the problem.

The article can be found here.

Earthquake Rates Relief - CCC double dipping? Part 2

In the Backround section of their rates relief page the Council justifies a partial remission of rates in this way:
Christchurch City Council does not normally waive or remit rates payable on properties damaged during a rating year, such as by fire. This practice is based on the fact that rates are legally payable and that insurance cover provides alternative accommodation for the owners/occupiers of that property.
The silent assumption in this statement is that insurance cover for alternative accommodation will not be subject to any reduction for the rating component.

Depending on who your insurer is there may be a problem coming up. For example, if you have a contents policy with AMI there is a section headed Temporary Accommodation where Clause 1, part b. says
"We will deduct your normal household expenses from the amount we pay you."
What are these normal household expenses? 

It is possible/likely insurance companies will classify the rate component of rents to be "normal household expenses" and deduct it from the compensation paid. The fact that the Council has already dipped its hand into your pocket may not sway the insurer.

To summarise it would appear that the Council wants 60% of the rates to be paid, figuring the insurer will provide full alternative accommodation. The insurer may not pay the rates component of accommodation costs because these are classified as normal household expenses.

I have asked the Council whether they have checked with all insurers to see if the accommodation support they provide includes a component for rates. I am also exchanging e-mails with AMI over this.

Will keep you posted and, again, if I've missed something fundamental here, please let me know.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Earthquake Rates Relief - CCC double dipping? Part 1

There seems to be an element of Council double-dipping in the way some aspects of the rates relief are being applied.

Take the case of a house that needs to be demolished and rebuilt. For a period of time that property will be unused. Clearly the infrastructure services can't be used so there should be no charge for them. Thus 40% of the rates will be remitted.

The balance of the rates remain payable because they are for services still consumed by the residents concerned, as stated by the Council:
Only a small proportion of Council’s services are delivered directly to a property. Water, wastewater, refuse collection and, to an extent, land drainage services are provided directly to properties. Residents and ratepayers access all other Council services such as libraries, recreational facilities and roading remotely from their properties. These are funded through the General Rate and UAGC.
The full text can be found on its website here.

Unless the residents leave the city, or stay with relatives, they will be in accommodation for which they pay rent - and a portion of the rent will go towards paying the rates the landlord incurs on the property. This will include the things under the Council's description "all other Council services such as ...". So, if you are paying at the old address, and also at the temporary address, a large portion of the rates are double-paid.

I have e-mailed the CCC about this, and will post any response that I get.  If I have missed something blindingly obvious, please let me know.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Home Security

The court reporting website mentioned in the previous post has a page on home security. Check it out here.

Looter sentenced to imprisonment

The New Zealand Herald (Auckland) is often the quickest newspaper off the block. This afternoon they reported that a man had been sentenced to 17 months jail for looting (although his sentence included time for other offences).

Less well know (almost invisible really) is the Christchurch website Christchurch Court News which gives a daily account of the comings and goings in the Christchurch courts. They carry the story of the looter as well as the sentencing of another person for shoplifting (the shoplifitng being "doubly bad" to retailers struggling afterr the earthquake).

Government approves $850k to re-survey Canterbury land

This is from a ministerial press release. It appears that getting this sorted is a prerequisite to being able to re-lay pipes, fix roads.
Land Information Minister Maurice Williamson has announced an $850,000 Government approved fund for Land Information New Zealand's re-establishment of critical surveying information in Canterbury following the 4 September earthquake.
Mr Williamson says Canterbury's landscape has changed significantly since the earthquake.
"Re-establishing control of the geodetic network is vital to ensuring that councils and infrastructure providers have accurate information about the land and can get on with rebuilding and re-instating services like roads, water, waste-water and sewerage systems quickly," Mr Williamson says.
Work is expected to be completed by the end of February.
The funding will also support the restoration of coordinate markers vital to hazard monitoring, mapping property boundaries, and re-building infrastructure like telecommunications cables and water reticulation systems.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Police and policing

Early this morning, while pottering around the river, two police cars went slowly past in the space of 10 minutes. It was heartening to see and reminded me of the many calls for a greater police presence.

That thought then led back to a 17 November article in The Press headed: Vandals, speeding drivers add to misery which described the problems of speeding motorists, the tipping over of portaloos, and other antagonistic and anti-social behaviour. As most such articles do, it included a plea for more police action.

Amongst the online comments on the article was one from someone claiming to be a police officer (genuinely so I think). The words are worth reading so here is the bulk of his/her comment:

Red&Blues #12 11:26 am Nov 19 2010

I live in a damaged house & it will probably be demolished so I understand the frustrations that go with that (esp. when a vehicle goes past our place at speed). I have tried my best (as workload allows) to catch speedsters & criminals in your area. We have arrested several burglars on different occasions in the last two weeks on the shifts I have worked, again in your area. There have been many arrests on the other shifts as well since Sept 4. I have caught a number of speeding drivers - both residents and non-residents and missed many as they were on the other side of the river. There does need to be more of a presence but unfortunately we are limited somewhat by staffing numbers & other emergencies across the city - for example an innocent member of the public was seriously assaulted the other night - one of our two-person cars was tied up for at least six hours on that (as well as several other staff for varying lengths of time). I managed to patrol the Avonside area the following shift for about an hour before being called away again to another critical incident, then another, then another, then another. I wish I could do more but I can't.

Poor sod, no wonder police morale is low. Anyway, how many police, how many patrols would it take? Look at the size of the various branches of law enforcement there are in Iran and they can't keep a lid on things. Do we want that many enforcers? The lawless behaviour problem is endemic, won't be fixed by more law enforcers, so perhaps we need to look at taking the initiative through neighbourhood watch?

Insurance cover for damage during repairs

From Alan Cooke

After receiving my cheque for contents from EQC I have approached the Insurance Company and apparently any damage caused by repairers to household contents will be a claim to one's own Insurance Company.

Earthquake Rates Relief

The CCC today, via its Stronger Christchurch Recovery eNewsletter, released information on the level of rates relief available for residential and business properties.

The information, along with a rates relief application form, is available on the Council's website here.

For residential properties the rates and criteria are:
The residential package is to remit:
•40% of rates for residential properties on land requiring remediation by the EQC, from 1 September 2010 until rebuilding has been completed or six months after land remediation has been completed if building has not commenced – whichever is earlier;
•40% of rates for residential properties requiring demolition and rebuild by insurance companies, for the period which the house is unable to be occupied;
•40% of rates for three months to those properties that remained unable to connect to the reticulated wastewater network at 31 October 2010;
This package applies to churches and other non-rateable properties.
A link to an application form is on the page.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Nicky Wagner MP - November update

Nicky Wagner has a website which can be found here.

One part of her website is dedicated to post-earthquake issues and is updated from time to time. The most recent update occurred today and you can find it by clicking here.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Community Law Canterbury - free law help

Community Law Canterbury is a free law help and advice service. As they describe themselves on their blog: 
"Community Law Centres are non profit organisations which work to reduce and remove barriers to the law. Community Law Canterbury services provide quality, free legal help to people in Canterbury who face barriers in accessing justice."
"Community Law Canterbury has prepared factsheets in the area of insurance, employment and tenancy.  Feel free to download these from below.  If you require any further information or would like some advice on these issues please contact us."
I can anticipate there will be some who find themselves in difficult or harrowing situations resulting from the way claims are assessed and the decisions made by assessors (EQC and the insurance companies). This service may become invaluable for some residents of Canterbury, including us.

The three Earthquake Factsheets covering Insurance, Employment and Tennancy issues. They can be found here.

Help and Support - Massey University School of Psychology

Massey University has a Joint Centre for Disaster Research which is a joint venture between Massey University and GNS Science, within the School of Psychology at the Wellington Campus of Massey University.

On their site is down-loadable material aimed at equipping us for the needs of children, adolescents and adults.

The website is here.