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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Red Zone maintenance

In his weekly update released yesterday Roger Sutton covered a number of issues important to those living in the Red zones or nearby.

Extracts from the update appear below. Some of the content needs to be seen as a starting point in discussions and negotiations between CERA and various communities. Areas where this will apply include destruction of established trees of various species and sizes, habitat protection, and how risks and security issues can be dealt with promptly and before damage, loss, or harm occurs. Not mentioned below, but starting to become a widespread health issue, is the growing number rats which will need to be tackled on an area-wide basis. 

An excellent concept is contained in the last bullet point where a single phone number will become available to deal with concerns.

  • Demolitions in the residential red zone will start in the new year with built structures such as houses and garages removed first. Remaining fences, vegetation, driveways and paths will be removed later. People may remove favourite trees and plants before they vacate the property.
  • CERA has been working with Fire Service, Police, Insurers, ECan and Councils around safety and security of properties in the residential red zone. Canterbury typically has dry summers and winds which increase the fire risk and the Fire Service continues to identify fire hazards and has a process in place to respond.
  • Responsibility for properties ultimately lies with the owners which includes mitigating risks on their properties including fire, security, hazardous wastes, swimming pools etc Owners may be private, Council, Department of Building and Housing, insurance companies or CERA. Councils have processes in place to inspect properties and can require owners to take steps to mitigate any risks or security issues.
  • Waimakariri District Council has a plan to mow grass on some of the empty sections before Christmas and Christchurch City Council mows the grass verges and is currently working with CERA to provide a service to red zone property owners who can call them to arrange to have their grass cut.
  • ECan has been funded by the Ministry for the Environment to collect hazardous waste from Red Zone properties – that might include garden sprays, engine oil, gas cylinders, fridges with refrigerant, paint etc.
  • We are concerned that people may either leave hazardous substances unsecured in empty properties or pour substances down the drain which will ultimately go into the storm water or sewerage system and into the environment. We are encouraging people to phone ECan to access this service.
  • We are also working together to produce one phone number for people to call if the have concerns about a property and hope to have that set up after the Christmas break. In the mean time, we encourage people to call ECan, Council or CERA if the have any concerns about properties – we can’t be everywhere and we appreciate people bringing any issues to our attention.
The full update from Roger Sutton can be found here.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Crown entity to manage AMI's earthquake claims

The information below is from today's media release by Bill English (Finance Minister, Minister responsible for EQC). The full media release can be found here.
IAG's agreement to purchase AMI Insurance, announced today, will strengthen the Canterbury insurance market and reduce the Crown's liability, Finance Minister Bill English says. As part of the deal, the Crown will take over ownership of AMI Insurance’s Canterbury earthquake related claims.
"The part of AMI dealing with earthquake claims – along with its reinsurance for those events - will be retained as a new Crown company and will continue to manage AMI's customers' earthquake claims," Mr English says. This will ensure those claims are managed effectively and with the minimum of disruption.
"For earthquake affected AMI policyholders, this means their existing earthquake claims will be managed by the new Crown company, while the IAG group will manage their ongoing insurance cover. For AMI policyholders around New Zealand, the IAG group will manage their insurance cover."
The Government has appointed Nelson-based company director Ross Butler to chair the new Crown company. Mr Butler has a background in finance and insurance-related companies and is currently chairman of Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology and deputy chairman of GNS Science.
The agreement is subject to regulatory approval, including from the Commerce Commission.
The media release includes information in a Q&A format. The following are selected from there:

AMI Insurance update - takeover by IAG

AMI has been purchased by IAG. The result is the Crown (government) through a Crown owned company will take over settling AMI's earthquake claims using AMI and government money.

The new AMI insurance company will be owned by IAG and carry on business as normal, with the exception of the earthquake claims. IAG today issued a commitment to AMI customers which can be found here.

AMI have a questions and answers page here to explain how policy holders will be affected. Some choice bits:
Does my AMI Insurance policy still offer the same protection?
Yes it does. Your current policies are exactly as before with the same renewal dates.
On what date will these changes become effective?
The changes are expected to be complete early next year subject to IAG obtaining the necessary regulatory consents.
Can I still take out new policies and will this new policy be with AMI or IAG?
Yes, we welcome your new business subject to current and future underwriting conditions that may be apply.  Policies taken out after settlement will be effectively underwritten by IAG, the new owner of AMI, but will be under the name of  AMI Insurance.
If I live in Canterbury, will AMI continue to insure my property when AMI is owned by IAG?
AMI remains committed  to continue insuring our Canterbury customers.
Can I still make a claim?
Yes - The claims process will remain unchanged. You will contact AMI in the normal way, via one of our Branches, by phone or by mailing a claims form to lodge your claim. If the purchase process is completed, you claim will be managed by AMI, a company owned by IAG.
Will my policy be renewed?
Yes, all policies will continue to renew on their annual renewal date.
Who do I contact – AMI or the separate government-owned earthquake claims company?
At this time please continue to contact us on 0800 100 200 for all your insurance needs.  If you have an earthquake claim with AMI please continue to use the direct dial POD phone number provided to you until otherwise advised.
If there was another earthquake or other natural disaster, would claims be referred to the separate government owned earthquake claims company or handled by AMI?
If there is an earthquake after settlement date, all claims will be referred to the insurer in the normal way. Up to that time, the Government backed earthquake company will be responsible for the management of earthquake claims.
Who will own the separate government owned earthquake claims company?
The Government will own the Canterbury earthquake claims company, including the existing earthquake reinsurance receivables associated with those claims.
 What about the earthquake claim I have already lodged?
You won’t even notice the transition to the separate government-owned earthquake claims company. Your claim will continue to be processed by the same people who are working on it now.
Will the separate government owned earthquake claims company have any income?
It will draw on Government provided capital to settle earthquake claims and will not generate any income from policyholders.
What happens if it runs out of cash and there are still earthquake claims to settle?
Based on the estimated claims cost and assuming the sale is completed, it is not currently expected that further Crown support will be required beyond the amounts already provided. However, if necessary the Government will contribute extra cash to settle every valid claim.
Do all the current rights of policyholders continue when the company is split?
All AMI current policies continue in force as before and can only be varied by agreement with the policyholder. 
More information is available on the AMI website here.

Holy Trinity Avonside - Christingle Service

Holy Trinity Avonside is holding a children's service, a traditional telling of the birth of Christ, at 4.00pm Sunday the 18th (this Sunday).

All are invited to take part and children are invited to dress as angles, shepherds, animals or kings. There will be a barbecue afterwards.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

Is this depression?

The Ministry of Health have a website called Depression.

Featuring John Kirwan, the website is designed to help people analyse how they feel and what they are going through, and determine if they are experiencing depression.

From the website:
Most people feel miserable now and then, often when something upsetting or stressful is happening such as a relationship break-up, or losing a job. Feeling down in response to difficult situations is pretty normal, and usually the feelings fade over time and you get on with life. But when the feelings of unhappiness are intense and persistent - and they don’t go away even when things improve - this could be depression.
Those who want to can take a short on-line questionnaire and then join John Kirwan's programme. There are pages of explanations, techniques for finding a way through and a guide to staying well.

Equally important, there is information on how to help others and links to resources. 

The website is here.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Land stability in the inner city - Tonkin & Taylor report

The city council has released Tonkin & Taylor's interpretative report on the central city (land within the Four Avenues - Fitzgerald, Moorhouse, Deans & Harper, Bealey - but excluding Hagley Park). A copy of the report can be downloaded from here.

The following are from the report's executive summary:
No areas within the CBD or adjacent commercial areas were identified as having ground conditions that would preclude rebuilding on those sites, although more robust foundation design and/or ground improvement may be required. The risks of lateral spreading adjacent to some sections of the Avon River will require detailed geotechnical assessments, however, the adoption of a minimum 30m set-back required for creation of the Avon River Park will likely preclude the worst affected areas from future development.
Christchurch is not unique in being located on soils susceptible to liquefaction within a seismically active region. There are a number of cities and large urban centres around the world (including Wellington on the North Island), where the level of seismic hazard is similar to or greater than that at Christchurch. Presuming that it is economically feasible to utilise appropriate foundation / ground improvement systems, there are few sites that would be considered unsuitable for development purely on the basis of a liquefaction hazard.
The following are a few extracts from the body of the report. While repeated here out of context, they may help understand the complexity of the geology of parts of the inner city.
It is important to appreciate that, whilst the presence of sand boils is a confirmation that liquefaction has occurred, the absence of sand boils or other ground disturbance does not mean that liquefaction has not occurred beneath the surface. The extensive coverage of land within the central city by large footprint buildings and thick pavements may have prevented significant formation of sand boils. Additionally, there are many locations within the central city where a relatively thick crust of non-liquefiable materials may have prevented surface expression of liquefaction. (pp 46-7)
The change in ground elevation since 04 September 2010 (inferred from the LiDAR data and taking account of likely regional tectonic uplift/subsidence), suggests that ground deformation has occurred in areas where little or no land damage was observed. (p 47)
The analyses indicate that a liquefaction hazard is present across virtually the whole of the CBD and adjoining commercial areas, and is not limited to those locations where liquefaction-induced land damage has been observed (i.e. suggesting that area wide deep liquefaction is likely to have occurred). This observation is considered generally consistent with the LiDAR data which suggests settlement may have occurred in some areas where no land damage has been mapped at the ground surface. (p 51)
It should be recognised that, apart from a few localised areas, the overall impact of liquefaction and lateral spreading on the central city resulting from the recent seismic events, has not been as severe as that which has occurred in many of the eastern suburbs and Kaiapoi. This is considered to be due to a combination of the generally better ground conditions present, greater land coverage from buildings and heavy pavements, lower groundwater levels and more substantial foundations. (p 56)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

News from Nowhere

Good news helps raise the spirits, especially if there is an element of humour in it.

Leanne Curtis of CanCERN fame, and formerly of the Avonside Red Zone, has moved out into the middle of nowhere near Waikuku Beach. Here is her latest report of life way out there.

Our move to Waikuku Beach has been great and I know it's not always easy to hear the good news stories when you are still stuck in the thick of it but I tell it because we need to know there is a future after the Red Zone and it can be a great one. Below is a summary of the first two weeks.

We have officially moved out to the wop wops - no internet access until a port becomes available (what?) and very limited cell phone access unless you put the phone onto speaker, leave it in the perfect place on the kitchen bench and shout at it. So we are satisfyingly disconnected from the social media world and that is all good from where we sit.

We thought the garden was pretty cool when we bought the house but now that we are slowly whacking away three years of growth, we are realising the garden is amazing. The whole place is being transformed and I'm not even a gardener!. The wind doesn't even begin to think it can enter our property such was the brilliant designer who made the extensions. We now have four carparks instead of two after Andrew took the weedeater to the driveway. It is truly a haven of peace and calm (unless the kids are there) and we couldn't think of a better place to recover from earthquake sh*t.

There were three gorgeous wee ducklings and parent ducks running around the backyard when we arrived and a not so gorgeous hen and baby chick. Some bastardly dog (not ours) put paid to the ducklings so we are almost bird free. Andrew is eying up the chicken to see how far it will go in a stirfry. Our dog is in seventh heaven swimming in the river, chasing rabbits and rolling in dead things. The cats have all lost weight and have become pro stalkers even though they have developed a healthy respect for the ducks. The kids are mostly gone from the house and when we asked if they wanted a trampoline for Xmas which we have been meaning to buy for about 5 years they told us it would be a waste of time because there's  too much to do - LOVE IT!!!

The drive in and out is not too annoying yet although we have to look for other people's houses to visit if we have a bit of spare time between city events. So if we casually drop in for a coffee, be kind to us and don't feel used. We chose you because you were special!

I think the coolest part of the shift is the school the boys will start at next year. The Principal wants to market is as the 'anti-safe school - we run with scissors'. I love that and it is going to be the making of Louis. He's into managing risk, they have a hedge with a magical labyrinth in it and guess what - the kids are allowed to play in it (just like the old days). They have a deal going that any kid who can do a lap of the netball court on the unicycle gets morning tea shouted from the Principal. Louis told him he could buy him lunch if he mastered it in less time and although he was told he would bleed trying, he's gearing up to the challenge. The school is designed for boys (bullrush included) and it is going to be great. It almost makes me want to go back teaching.

So that's a wee sum up of what's happening in Waikuku. We're happy to be there, happy to explore and happy to feel like we're living at the bach. Xmas will be happier for being out there and for that we're thankful.

I hope you're all well and getting into the Xmas spirit.

Four more new geotech factual reports

EQC have released four more T&T geotechnical factual reports. These reports cover:
  • St Albans
  • Waimairi/Queens Park
  • Wainoni
  • Waltham
These, and the previously released reports, can be found here.

To repeat what was said in previous posts: much of the material is impenetrable to the normal mind but may have some useful background and summary information in the main part. The appendices have the bulk of the technical stuff. Appendix A defines the area under investigation, shows where the testing took place and what sort of testing it was. The other appendices vary in content and intelligibility.

The full list of releases is now:
  1. Aranui
  2. Avondale
  3. Hillsborough
  4. Hoon Hay
  5. North New Brighton
  6. Opawa
  7. Papanui
  8. Somerfield
  9. Spreydon
  10. St Albans
  11. Sydenham
  12. Waimairi/Queens Park
  13. Wainoni
  14. Waltham

Monday, 12 December 2011

Earthquake Royal Commission - building fatalities hearing

The Royal Commission has commenced hearings on the buildings (other than CTV and PGC) that caused fatalities.

The following is an extract from the opening submission by Mark Zarifeh, one of the counsel assisting the Royal Commission. The full 4 page submission can be downloaded from here.
The fact that over 80% of the deaths caused by these building failures were in relation to people outside the buildings - in the main, pedestrians and motorists -highlights that the issue of what we are to do about URM buildings is a very real community problem.
It also graphically highlights the futility of a Territorial Authority or Local Council having a passive earthquake prone policy and the need to urgently implement policies throughout New Zealand to, at the very least, address the potential dangers these buildings pose from collapsing facades, walls and parapets.
These hearings will also address other issues raised by the Royal Commission's Terms of Reference including:
  • The inspection and assessment of buildings following a large earthquake - in this case the September 2010 earthquake.
  • In particular the unreinforced masonry building failures highlight the need to look closely at the way these buildings are assessed and the need to take into account the potential for collapse in a significant aftershock.
  • Another issue that will come through in some of these hearings is the issue of cordons in front of a damaged building following a significant earthquake. In particular the need to ensure the placement of such cordons provides protection of the public by blocking, off footpaths or, if necessary, roads in the event of a significant aftershock.
  • Another important issue some of these hearings will address is the strengthening or retrofitting of unreinforced masonry buildings and the need for retrofit or strengthening measures to be able to provide effective protection and not fail in a significant earthquake.
  • An issue of communication will also be addressed. The importance of communication of potential dangers posed by a building after a significant earthquake to relevant authorities and to potentially affected neighbouring properties.