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Saturday, 15 September 2012

Press newspaper’s expose of CTV builder’s fraudulent qualifications

For those of you living outside of Christchurch you may have missed the Press newspaper’s lead story this morning.

Headed A life of lies it documents how William Anthony Fisher, construction manager for the company that built the CTV building, was a fraud. He was actually Gerald Shirtcliff, who had stolen the identity of another man and his engineering qualifications.

The online version is here.


Friday, 14 September 2012

Earthquake Royal Commission – transcript of the Roles and Responsibilities hearing held on 11 September 2012

The Royal Commission has published the transcript of the first day of the Roles and Responsibilities hearing held on the 11th of September. The transcript can be downloaded from here.

The first submitter to be heard was John Scarry, a structural engineer who, for some years, has been critical  of the quality of structural engineering and building construction in New Zealand. The following is from the beginning of his submission (page 7):

New Zealand can only claim to lead the world in seismic engineering in the same way that an army could claim to be undefeated because it has never fought a war. As soon as a major modern New Zealand city was hit  with  a  decent  seismic event,  a very short  one,  devastation  was caused. Of  something  like  200  buildings over five  storeys  tall in the 15 CBD, at least  100  will  definitely  be  demolished  and  many  of  the  rest may still be. To claim that except for the CTV building all modern post-1982  buildings  performed  their  life  safety  function  is  at  best disingenuous. That claim  was  fair  only  if  all  of  these  buildings  had performed  as  intended,  forming  perfect  plastic  hinges  at  the  ends  of  20 beams  and  at  the  bottom of  columns and shear walls. That  did  not happen. Most  of  them  developed all sorts of potentially catastrophic failure modes that simply were not meant to occur, and if the earthquake had been a big one from the main Alpine Fault, less intense than the 22nd of February 2011, but of two minutes’ duration, there would've been  25 wholesale collapses.  Appalling  standards  of  diaphragm  design and construction and the brittleness of welded wire mesh form the major part of the warnings I issued in 2002, particularly in the first version of my open  letter  which  I  will  only  now  show  to  people  in  camera.  These concerns  were  dismissed,  but  I  have  been  fully  vindicated  by  the  30 earthquakes  of  2011. I  have  tried  for  10  years  to  get  these  issues addressed,  only  to  be  ignored,  or  in  the  case  of  IPENZ  deliberately subverted.  Only now is brittle mesh slowly being banned.  Progress on  diaphragms is negligible and these are just the tip of the icebergs of the dangers I have raised.  

After  starting,  after  I  started  drafting  my  open  letter  the  O’Sullivan brothers’ revelations on leaky buildings came out. Together these led to the  re-drafting  of  the  Building Act. Unfortunately  the  people  at  the Ministry  of  Economic  Development  charged  with  the  task  under  Peter Mumford simply did not know what they were doing and ignored all of my  submissions,  suggestions  and  warnings.  The  Act  has  been  a disaster.  The worst leaky buildings have almost been dealt with but the rest  are  still  in  absolute  crisis. One  of  the  most  important  reforms  I pushed  for  was  a  strong  technically  competent  building  authority.  Instead  we  got  the  Department  of  Building  and  Housing,  described recently by an engineer who is certainly no ally of mine as having two and a half structural engineers.  The senior management is full of ex-Treasury,  MED,  local  government,  WINZ  and  Department  of  Social  Welfare bureaucrats.  

Reading his comments, especially as he correlates bad earthquake design and construction with the incompetence discovered through the leaky building disaster, is both fascinating and depressing.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Government offer for uninsured properties in the Residential Red Zones

From the CERA website.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has announced the basis of Government offers to owners of vacant and commercial/industrial land within the flat land residential red zone, as well as residential properties that are uninsured.

Today’s announcement affects four categories of land and ownership within the residential red zone:

  • 65 parcels of vacant land
  • 50 properties that were occupied at the time of last February’s quake but which are uninsured
  • 22 insured commercial/industrial buildings
  • 6 insured houses on leasehold land

For those with uninsured residential properties on Red Zone land the offer is:

The owners of 50 properties in the flat land residential red zone which do not comply with the Crown’s insurance requirements will also receive offers.

“In these instances the Government’s considerations were similar to those for owners of vacant land, and therefore the same offer of 50 per cent of the rateable value of their land will be made,” Mr Brownlee says.

“If owners decide to take this offer, the land and any buildings on it will become property of the Crown from the settlement date.

“What the owner chooses to do with any buildings on the land up until that day is entirely up to them.”

Fact sheets for those affected, and the full media release, can be found here.

Insurance issues for older houses.

The Otago Daily Times reports that insurers in Dunedin are declining to insure houses built before 1935. It may be that this is the case in Christchurch too?

From the beginning of the ODT article:

As many as one in 20 Dunedin house sales are falling through at the last hurdle because insurance companies are declining to insure houses built before 1935.

And for many real estate agents, vendors and purchasers in Dunedin, the situation is beginning to cause headaches.

Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) finance and regulations manager Terry Jordan said reinsurers of New Zealand insurance companies were focusing more intensely on risk in New Zealand as a consequence of the Christchurch earthquakes.

That was making many insurers more risk averse - particularly when it came to insuring pre-1935 houses.

"They are looking at whether they have been rewired or replumbed. The wiring in pre-1935 houses was rubber-coated - it deteriorates and breaks down, exposing the wires, which can cause short circuits and fires.

"It's based on insurers' experiences over many years - not just since Christchurch."

Mr Jordan said pre-1935 houses could previously be insured under an indemnity policy, but some insurers were now declining insurance until the houses were rewired.

The full article is here.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Capturing the Legacy of the Red Zone Communities

The following is from a message put out by CanCERN:

Capture the Legacy of the Red Zone Communities

What made these communities precious and what memories should we save?

You can help us to create a legacy for the people of Canterbury that celebrates the places where we have lived and played.

Send us your words, thoughts, memories, stories, and pictures as CanCERN is commissioning Bryan L’Estrange and his team to create an artwork from your ideas.


This is an easy job - use this link, which is an online form for people who want to write their words or phrases OR if you’d rather draw or add photo memories,

email them to us at

Ideas will be collated by area and presented to Bryan’s team who will generate possibilities for you to vote on.

The favourite idea will be turned into container art and gifted to the people of Canterbury.

So spread the word, help generate ideas and let’s make a bit of history


We need to raise about $2700 for this project. Any donations will be most appreciated  and can be deposited in the CanCERN account

06 0817 0320607 00. Please use the reference, ‘ART’

and put your name in the code for a sponsors list.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

NZ Constitutional Advisory Panel

With the regional council election deferred until 2016 democracy isn’t exactly functioning in Canterbury.  Chris Trotter has written about it in the Press here.  I’m yet to  establish  Commodore Bainimarama’s view on the matter.

Despite this, there is an exercise in enhancing our democracy underway. Written in the standard gobbledegook associated with such agencies, the Ministry of Justice has launched a website about “New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements”.  The website is here. An information booklet can be downloaded from here.

The exercise will involve a five step process. We are currently at Stage 1.

Stage 1 Preparing the resources and building relationships that will form the foundation of the process

Stage 2 Building public understanding of New Zealand's current constitutional arrangements

Stage 3 Engaging with a broad and diverse range of communities

Stage 4  Working with a cross section of New Zealanders to consider the views reported to the Panel

Stage 5 Reporting to Ministers by the end of 2013

If memory serves me right this review is a sop to one of the minority parties propping up the current government, so chances are the exercise may go nowhere.  If current practice is followed we are unlikely to be noticed, let alone considered, unless a noise is made. The engagement strategy can be downloaded here.