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Saturday, 27 July 2013


In November 2011 there was a blog entry Photographing the loss of Avonside (here) about a project to record a number of post-earthquake personal experiences. The purpose was to record, over a period of years, the lives of some Avonside residents as they and the suburb experienced the after-effects of the earthquakes.


The first phase of the project is more or less complete and those of you who took part may have noticed that part of it is to form a centre piece of next month’s Arts Festival.

Under the heading THX 4 THE MEMORIES, it will be an outdoor poster display of pictures and words and will run along Worcester Boulevard from the museum to the Square. There is information on the exhibition on the Arts Festival website here. Sadly there is no sneak preview of the images. It will be necessary to wait until the festival which starts on the 22nd of August.

For those who don’t know about this project, it was a long and arduous piece of work (still not finished) undertaken by Tim Veling, Bridgit Anderson and Glenn Busch from the Place in Time project. Tim has prepared a video back-grounding the project and you can see it on YouTube here. In the video Tim talks about how it came together. I would like to add to his words by thanking the people at CERA who lent a quiet hand behind the scenes to help with access to Red Zone properties.


Thursday, 25 July 2013

Sum insured - what amount should you insure your house for? What could go wrong?

As mentioned in previous posts, future house insurance policies will be based upon what YOU have assessed as being the cost of rebuilding. This isn’t just the cost of time and materials, it also includes costs relating to demolition and disposal of the rubble, surveys, local and regional council consents, legal fees, plus others that are complex (e.g. disposing of asbestos) or don’t come to  mind at the moment. You also need to know what limitations or conditions insurers put on certain aspects of your property (e.g. the technical category of your foundations, retaining walls, hazardous materials). It is not going to be easy to get this right. Get it wrong and you loose in a devastating way.

Not only is it going to be a difficult exercise there is also, as highlighted in a recent item on the Australian website (here), the issue of avoiding unqualified valuers.  In that item NZ Property Institute CEO David Clark is quoted as saying:

“We are concerned that these so-called professionals have no training or qualifications in valuation or quantity surveying,” Property Institute CEO David Clark said.

“Worse, they may not carry professional indemnity insurance, giving you virtually no recourse in the event they let you down.”

Many thousands have experienced the incompetence of EQC’s assessors, so the warning is timely.

Adding more smoke than light to the situation, the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) Insurance Manager John Lucas is reported as saying insurers offer online valuation calculators tailored to their policies.

“The council believes they should be fairly accurate, but often people want second opinions and we would be very concerned if homeowners were being duped by people who were not qualified,” he told

“It can have devastating consequences if you are underinsured, and if you are overinsured you are throwing money away.”

This seems a reasonable enough comment to make, until you read the disclaimer that is associated with such on-line calculations (e.g. here):

The Cordell Online Calculator does not necessarily take into account every feature of your home, nor does it provide advice. So, if you haven’t been asked about a certain feature of your home by the calculator or you want advice, you should contact a builder, architect, valuer, quantity surveyor or other building expert to help estimate your Sum Insured.

How exactly do you reconcile “fairly accurate” with “does not necessarily take into account every feature…”? As an aside, are builders and architects the most suitable people for the job?

As far as I can tell on-line calculators don’t cater for TC foundation categories so, if this is correct, they are a waste of time for everyone in Canterbury. More importantly, if this is the case, why did ICNZ’s John Lucas say: “The council believes they (calculators) should be fairly accurate …”  Surely that is confusing at best and, more probably, quite misleading. 

It should be incumbent upon the ICNZ to prepare a list of what qualifications or accreditations will be accepted by its members as suitable for the purposes of their insurance policies. Failing that, each insurance company should produce a list of the categories of trades and professions they consider acceptable for the purpose of creating a sum insured figure.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Earthquake Assessment Service for Wellington

EQC have publicised a house assessment programme Quakecheck, that uses services offered by the New Zealand Master Builders Federation and Certified Builders Association and is available anywhere in the Wellington city area.

The purpose of the programme is to assess the risk an earthquake will pose to your house. The cost is $160 (see here for cost information and inspection details), and it is necessary to book an inspection.

Earthquake information for Wellingtonians.

EQC, Civil Defence and other agencies produce a range of information sources that are useful pre and post earthquake. New Zealand’s highly variable geography and geology means that the information is of a general nature.

For those who want to do a bit of research on earthquake preparedness for a city with some characteristics similar to Wellington, the San Francisco area offers a range of useful resources (click on the name to go to the website).

The US Geological Survey (USGS) published Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country in 2005 as a handbook for those living in the San Francisco Bay Region.  While not intended for a New Zealand city, it does provide a wealth of information yet to be emulated here in New Zealand.  A copy can be downloaded here.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

For Wellington

It has been a hard day for many of you. Like other forms of strife, being in the centre of it creates a perspective few others can truly appreciate. Hopefully the night will be quiet and sleep comes quickly. Take a couple of days off and celebrate the fact that the worst didn’t happen.