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Saturday, 18 June 2011

Blindingly Obvious 3

It is unfortunate that Gerry Brownlee and John Key feel the need to withhold vital information: the areas to be removed and the criteria by which "go or stay" decisions are being made. Despite that, we all know there will be people who will have to go, and that has to include a number of households in this area. For those of us who have to go, finding a new location involves dealing with issues and problems as raised in the first part of this blog series (here). There are other issues too.

Geographical location is more important than just the practicalities of social cohesion and mobility. Relocate someone onto the plains more than about 20km from Cathedral Square and they no longer live in Christchurch. Their identity, and identification with the city, has changed. Whatever time, effort, and money they have invested into the city will be a loss. What identity will we have? For some this is very important. Does the package deal with this? What support will be given to the new locations to replace the investments left behind (health centres, sports fields and clubs, libraries, community focal points, religious centres)?

As a small community of just a few streets, some of us have discussed the desire to be co-located if we go. The doesn't necessarily mean having adjacent houses, however being close together in the same street would be just fine. Achieving this means some of the core intangibles, a feeling of continuity and community, will come with us. Will the package allow for this, even if we are insured with different companies and have different levels of cover?

Those who are leaving communities and streets established many decades ago will be leaving an eclectic range of architecture, life styles, and gardens. How much of that will be transferable? Can Gordon's chickens come too? If G & K have to move, can they relocate their historic 100+ year old house and somewhat younger rabbit? Can any sound house be relocated? Does the package allow for these things? If so it would certainly create a community of diverse appearance.

Modern subdivisions are, however, often orchestrated by narrow minded style and quality police to the point that living there is tantamount to relocating to a communist country. Will the package allow for communities to be created in a way that reflects the values of those moving in? Will there be an absence of restrictive covenants that stop the expression of individuality in buildings, gardens, and domestic animals?

All these things can easily be checked against the package, and an assessment made. What if the options presented are unsuitable? This is a possibility, because those designing the package may have been tightly focused on cost, and overlooked the humane application of their creation. What provision will there be for fine tuning the package at the community or individual level? If there is, how will this be done? Where there is choice, how much time will there be to make an informed decision?

Stepping back from the individual level, who will be in charge? Who will have the responsibility for ensuring the quality and completeness of the process? Quality means many things. How will individuals be able to make informed decisions? How will the vast number of legal transactions take place? Who will pay for them? Who will ensure that when values, costs and prices are discussed they will be set at a fair and reasonable level? Who will orchestrate the whole thing? Will it be CERA, the three council's involved, or insurance companies jointly or separately? No matter how well the package is designed, it cannot work unless it is implemented with great precision and diligence.

Apparently John Key will be announcing something to various groups on Tuesday, and then we may get to find out ourselves on Wednesday. I wonder how that will happen, and how much detail we will receive. A progressive release would be acceptable as long as there was an indicative timetable showing what remains to be released, and when we can expect it. As a minimum we need to know the first cut on which streets are likely to go and who are likely to stay, the criteria used to make these decisions, the range of packages plus the why, how, and conditions of their application, and the geotechnical and economic information and decisions underpinning the lot. Hopefully CERA will be as good as the word of Roger Sutton and all information, good and bad, will be released on the day.

Roll on Wednesday.

Added 8.20pm - for the source of what may be happening on Tuesday and Wednesday see the Press article of the 16th of June here.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Blindingly obvious - revisited

The last blog looked at the two sides of the land issue: who goes, and where to. The decision on who goes has clearly been made, because the government is looking at a package for those affected, and such a package couldn't be calculated and negotiated without knowing specifics.

To the extent that information is available, it seems the package concept does not skimp on the financial side. As earlier promised, the government intends to restore everyone to the equity situation they were in on the 3rd of September. How this is calculated will be interesting: the QV value current at the time, the rateable value, or the market value, all of which could be different.

There is no legal obligation on the government to restore anyone to that equity situation, and in many cases the end result will be better than could otherwise have been expected. This is especially so, for instance, for those who live on small pockets of reasonable ground and would be left behind. They in particular would be vulnerable to future problems with liquifaction, land movement, flooding, the availability and cost of insurance, and a likely inability to sell their property ever. Through the government this is a contribution to us from the whole country.

If we move, I will be grateful for what underpins the package. That does not, however, place me (or anyone else) under an obligation to accept anything inappropriate or unsuitable. This brings us to Bill English's comment in the Press (here) where he implies the package will provide "reasonably definitive answers". As we don't know the questions they asked themselves, we can't easily anticipate how definitive the answers will be. Certainly they will be reasonably definitive in specifying the areas to be abandoned. It won't be a final list, as land is still moving and settling, but it should set out what is known and what will happen if circumstances change. Some properties will be in the category purely because of location, and not problems with the land under them. Will there be some review process for those who are unconvinced by the assessment that has been made? Considering the number of shonky property assessments made so far, there will be a high level of scepticism in some parts.

The areas where Bill English's "definitiveness" will be open to question are: timing, the new locations, who will be in charge, when is it expected to be finished, and the amount of choice that will be offered. Of these, the two where individuals will especially want to make choices, involve timing and location.

Timing is essential for everyone living in a house where the land has sunk and is at risk of flooding from tidal flows or storm water. Timing is just as critical for those who had to abandon their homes some time in the past and are having to pay rent. No doubt there will be a schedule of priorities included in the package. Will this be negotiable? How?

Moving to a new location has at least six interpretations: having a new property built within the greater Christchurch area, having a new property built outside of the greater Christchurch area (or Canterbury), buying an existing property in the greater Christchurch area, buying an existing property outside the greater Christchurch area, relocating the existing house onto new land within the greater Christchurch area, relocating the house outside of the greater Christchurch area (or Canterbury). What choices will there be from these options? It might be useful to have a preference sorted before the package is announced, as that will provide a good base for assessing its suitability to you.

More issues tomorrow.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Blindingly obvious, and the not so obvious about the land

Gerry Brownlee has said it is blindingly obvious which areas need to be abandoned. Despite that no one has been prepared to name areas and streets. Some say the insurance companies are the cause of the delay, others that Treasury is still playing with numbers. Neither of these can have any effect over the status of the land, or the people who live on it. What is patently unclear is why there are delays, and what exactly is being discussed.

Gerry Brownlee talks about getting the best deal for homeowners, which is most meritorious, if his idea of a good deal coincides with yours and mine. If it does, we will all be happy, our gratitude will increase and he will continue to grow in our esteem.

So what is a good deal? From my perspective it is one that provides each household with a safe and appropriate location. There are constraints, most noticeably the urgency required to move a few thousand households out of the way of water or rockfall hazards. Scarcity of land is a significant constraint, and not all available land is affordable or desirable.

What is not blindingly obvious, or even slightly transparent, is the extent to which the issues of safe and appropriate locations are under discussion. There has been a rumour doing the rounds that insurance companies have been buying land for housing. CERA has asked to be notified of current and planned housing subdivisions. Then what? A common mantra is that of "choice". What choices will there be for those being relocated?

Some areas are likely to be inappropriate for practical or health reasons. Most subdivisions are devoid of social infrastructure, and the use of cars is obligatory to have access to both essential and recreational facilities. Some people don't have transport and cannot operate independently away from a frequent and reliable transport service. This is going to be important, or even crucial, to a wide range of people from those who need to commute to work, those who have children, and those who are retired. Others need regular access to health facilities and distance will present major difficulties. Many are sufficiently traumatized by earthquakes already experienced that the prospect of moving to, or near, Rolleston would further endanger their health.

Given that the social infrastructure for most land developments exist only on paper, what discussions are there on ensuring these happen quickly? In most cases it will be inappropriate to shift people first, with a vague promise of social infrastructure following soon. Even if the promises were to be fulfilled, which past experiences with developers and local government show to be unlikely, what happens in the meantime? Will part of the package include enforceable obligations on developers and local authorities to begin providing the infrastructure as soon as the package is announced?

The other issue not revealed is that of land size. In the Lockyer Valley project (see here) a like-for-like approach is being applied so everyone ends up with a section the same size as the one they abandoned. Here EQC have an 8 metre rule - what discussion, if any, is there on this?

ADDED 19 June: Parts 2 & 3 of this blog are here and here.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Dallington bridge and Swanns bridge

Dallington bridge is closed again. Swanns bridge has a weight restriction of 3500 kg.

New Zealand and the Safety Paradox

The website, based in the UK, has an opinion piece about demolitions in Christchurch. It looks at the tension between working as quickly as possible to deconstruct or demolish unsafe structures, and protecting workers from hazards on the job - especially aftershocks.

Pressure to save old buildings, or get buildings down quickly, will increase the hazard risk. As the article mentions, those working on the timeball station had a narrow escape. Deconstruction of old stone and brick buildings has proven too risky; it would be better to say goodbye and just bring them down. Big modern buildings should be brought down in however long it takes to do it safely. Artificial deadlines, such as getting ready for Show Week, arise only from the desire of some to make money. The safety of workers is more important than that.

The article New Zealand and the Safety Paradox is here.

Earthquake Ideas from Avonside Drive

David Hayward, a resident of Avonside Drive, is an engineer, science writer, and one of the science correspondents for Radio New Zealand (Nine to Noon). David has done three pieces relevant to our world: suitable house foundations for properties adjacent to the Avon (That CERA rumour), cycle infrastructure in the city (Copenhagenizing Christchurch), and composting toilets post-earthquake.

The first two articles are available as web pages on the website here (The CERA rumour - house foundations) and here (cycle infrastructure).

The composting toilet item can be heard as a podcast from Radio New Zealand here.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Photographs - Holy Trinity - morning of the 14th.

Holy Trinity has suffered further as a result of yesterday's two earthquakes.

South-east corner
North-east corner

Photographs - Silverdale Place and Keller Street - morning of the 14th.

These morning photographs show the remanants of the smoke haze from last night's open fires. Click on a photograph to enlarge it.

Silverdale Place

Keller Street

Keller Street

Photographs - Retreat Road - evening of the 13th and morning of the 14th.

Some of the morning photographs show the remanants of the smoke haze from last night's open fires. Click on a photograph to enlarge it.

Retreat Road, evening of the 13th

Retreat Road, evening of the 13th

Retreat Road, morning of the 14th.

Retreat Road, morning of the 14th - note the tide mark.
Retreat Road, morning of the 14th.

Streets and Dallington Bridge

Dallington bridge is open for light traffic.  (NOTE: this has now changed - added 15 June)

Retreat Road is still flooded and there is silt in Avonside Drive, Highbury Place, Lionel Street, and Silverdale Place. All are accessible but look for sinkholes as there are some under the silt.

The burst water main has been shut off, somewhere upstream of here. Best to turn water off at the road in case there has been damage to water pipes.

Dallington Dairy is open (those guys must be close to indestructable).

Brief update

As of 11.00pm last night our area is accessible from all areas except via the Dallington Bridge.

There has been liquifaction in Caddesden lane, Patten Street end of Cowlishaw (quite a bit with a few peoperties a mess, also the water main is broken again with water pouring into the street and flooding bits of it) and a little bit of Patten Street. Retreat Road is a mess with water right across it for some distance. Power and phone are on but it looks like water will be a problem for a while.

From the road there has been no major damage to houses (maybe a bit more sinking and/or tilting) but everyone has stuff thrown over the floors and lots of broken glass and china along with some furniture and appliances.

It is now light so off to have a look.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Disaster Planning and Mental Health

That disasters cause mental health problems is obvious to most people, and understood and accepted by many. In every large scale disaster there will be those who are pushed beyond their ability to understand or cope with the events around them. Disaster planning acknowledges this, and includes some provision for providing support to those traumatised by the event. Some sufferers, however, are apparently overlooked.

A team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics have published an article saying more attention should be devoted to helping those already identified as having mental disorders. Somehow, it seems, the ethical and practical issues of preparing to support people with existing mental or intellectual disabilities are not catered for, in either the planning or execution of disaster relief. There is no reference to Christchurch, however it does provide useful background for the time when we revisit the new city's state of preparedness.

The website Terra Daily has published an article More focus needed on mental health triage in disaster preparedness which discusses the research (here).

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Monday night

Don't forget Monday night's meeting, starting 7.00pm sharp. I will post a summary on the blog either late Monday night or Tuesday morning.