Wellington quake 6.6 – August 16

A large earthquake – magnitude 6.6 – struck central New Zealand today, August 16. The likelihood of a bigger shake is now elevated, following the severe earthquake felt around 2.31 pm.

Latest information from WREMO – 17 August 11 am:REGIONAL UPDATE #4 (FINAL): The Wellington Emergency Operations Centre has deactivated, but we will continue monitoring the situation throughout the weekend and will provide updates if there are any significant developments. Wellington CBD is open for business, however some areas may be cordoned off due to broken glass. Please respect cordons and exercise care.

An information centre for affected residents will be open at Wellington City Council, 101 Wakefield Street, from 10am – 4pm for the next few days. 

Aftershocks are continuing. Some buildings have sustained minor damage. Structural engineers are assessing buildings in the CBD today (Saturday), but there have been no reports of major structural damage so far.

Lukes Lane, closed after the earlier big quake, due to threat of a nine storey lift shaft structure collapsing, has been cordoned off again, with emergency demolition of the tower ordered.

Trains are running again. 

Please share this information with your network ‪#‎eqnz‪#‎wellingtonearthquake

16 August 4 pm – Advice to residents of affected areas: When you get home tonight, please ensure you check your grab-bags are easily accessible and you have fresh water, first-aid kit, warm clothing, toilet paper, rubbish bags, strong shoes and gloves, and if you have them – some hand sanitiser, latex gloves, and dust mask. A non-electric land-line phone would be good to dig out too if you have one. Keep the pressure off the phone lines if at all possible. Also, if you’re about to leave Wellington city, bear in mind the roads are pretty jam packed as everyone is having similar ideas. 

The quake was centred (as with the last severe one on July 21st) near Seddon in Marlborough, at a depth of 8km. The magnitude has been revised down (from 6.9) to 6.6, with the largest aftershock so far 5.7 (update – three sequential aftershocks around 5.30 pm have come in at 6.2 and at varying depths, with the shallowest occurring 25 km east of Picton 5 km deep). Trains are NOT running, and there are no bus replacements at this stage (4pm).

Check for WREMO (Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office) facebook updates.

Wellington CBD has stood up well, with no reports of injuries, although the shaking continues, and a number of buildings in the CBD are evacuating for safety reasons. 

No tsunami warning issued. Keep well clear of power lines and non-safety glass. Stay safe everyone. 

Notes from GNS

  • Look for and extinguish small fires. Fire is a common hazard after an earthquake.
  • Be aware of possible tsunamis if you live in coastal areas. When local authorities issue a tsunami warning, assume that a series of dangerous waves is on the way. Stay away from the beach.
  • Be careful when driving after an earthquake and anticipate traffic light outages.

If you are looking for some tips on how to help children deal with earthquakes and all the aftershocks – try this site: SKIP – Earthquakes and other scary stuff.

More information

Wellington earthquakes July 2013

This video shows a press conference convened by Mayor Celia Wade Brown, following the earthquakes that began shaking Wellington and Eastern Marlborough on Friday 19 July, just after 9 in the morning (centred in Seddon, near Blenheim). It provides a reasonable level of scientific detail,as well as discussing the state of buildings and the potential for further earthquakes, The first earthquake was felt at 09.07 on the 19th (see the GeoNet report for details), with the more severe and damaging quake (magnitude 6.5) occurring on Sunday 21 July at 17.09. There were no fatalities.

Much of Wellington’s CBD was off-limits while buildings were inspected and fallen masonry and glass were cleaned up. Power was lost in some areas, and all trains were halted until tracks could be checked.

Volunteer student army – A Wellington student volunteer army has formed, and anyone wanting help with cleaning up after the earthquakes in Wellington can contact them via their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/svawgtntwitter.com/WellingtonSVA or you can email wellington@sva.org.nz.

Alternatively, you can ask Council for help by phoning 04 499 4444.

Insurance – If your home, land or contents suffered damage in the recent earthquakes, you have three months to make a claim through the EQC (Earthquake Commission). Take photos, keep good records and make notes to help with your claim. If it’s safe to do so, hold onto damaged items until they can be inspected.

Call EQC on 0800 326 243 or go to their website http://www.eqc.govt.nz

Civil Defence  The Wellington Region Emergency Management Office (WREMO) posts up-to-date information on its website (www.getprepared.co.nz). Their Facebook page is worth a visit, especially if you have questions or are wanting to offer help.

The table summarises New Zealand’s earthquake numbers over the past week, month and year.

Magnitude Last week Last month Last year
< 2 308 591 4806
2 – 3 1350 1997 10957
3 – 4 389 541 2582
4 – 5 60 75 345
5 – 6 2 7 22
>= 6 1 1 3
Total 2110 3212 18715

http://www.geonet.org.nz/quakes/region/newzealand/statistics

Link

Damage to shop front Christchurch, February 2011. Image Robyn Moore

  • 7 August 2013, First night at Christchurch’s cardboard cathedral – The opening of the new cardboard cathedral was celebrated last night, with the first of 10 performances by the Christchurch City Choir,as part of the Joyfully Un-Munted Festival. The $5.3 million temporary cathedral can host 700 people and has been built to last 50 years.
  • 29 July 2013, Emergency architecture – Christchurch’s cardboard cathedral – The Cardboard Cathedral is a significant rebuild project for the CBD, and as the name suggests, the structure is substantially cardboard – a world first. The Transitional Cathedral temporarily replaces the original badly damaged Cathedral in Latimer Square.
  • 26 July 2013, Court of Appeal rules on Cathedral’s fate  – TVNZ news story on the Court’s decision to allow the iconic cathedral to be demolished and rebuilt, without obligation to replicate the original.
  • 21 July 2013, Two severe earthquakes strike central New Zealand – damage to Wellington and Eastern Marlborough
  • 1 March 2013, Christchurch Urban Village Project finalists chosen  – The four finalists of the Breathe – Urban Village Project competition were announced in Christchurch last night by Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson.Village greens, vege gardens and vibrant laneways are among the features presented by entrants. (The Press – stuff.co.nz)
  • 22 February 2013, Canterbury marks two years since quake  Hundreds turn out to the official ceremony in Christchurch, marking the second anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake (Radio NZ National)
  • 22 February 2013, Live – Christchurch quake second anniversary – Photo gallery: Two years on from Christchurch’s disastrous earthquake, remembering those lost and looking to the future (stuff.co.nz)
  • 1 February 2013, Wellingtonians invited to briefing on policy changes around earthquake prone buildings – 5th February meeting at Michael Fowler Centre. Public consultation on the Government’s proposed changes closes 8 March. Submissions to dbh.govt.nz
  • 24 January 2013, Earthquake prone building threshold should remain at current level – says Wellington Chamber of Commerce (wecc.org.nz)
  • 20 December 2012, Zoning decision appeal lost – Minister Brownlee acted unlawfully in use of powers when he should have ‘reasonably considered alternatives’ – ruling upheld by Court of Appeal (nzherald.co.nz)
  • 13 November 2012, Kapiti and Hutt out in front on emergency preparedness (stuff.co.nz)
  • 11 November 2012, Most of 158 buildings unlikely to be in CTV league – Govt (radionz.co.nz)
  • 11 November 2012, EQC welcomes admission of false insurance claims (radionz.co.nz)
  • 10 November 2012, Christchurch earthquake archive of news and images from NZ Herald (nzherald.co.nz)
  • 8 November 2012, Red-zone clearance to accelerate next year (stuff.co.nz)
  • 4 November 2012, Archbishop of Canterbury stunned by Christchurch damage (nzherald.co.nz)
  • 4 September 2012, Being the best at preparing for the worst (stuff.co.nz)
  • 1 August 2012, Christchurch Press – Christchurch businesses forced out of the central city after the February 2011 earthquake are queuing up to return. Several key tenants, including law firm Duncan Cotterill with 120 staff, have said they are keen to shift their workforces back as new office space becomes available.
  • 30 July 2012, Stuff – Rebuild plan for Christchurch unveiled 
  • 20 July 2012, Wellington City Council News –  a collaborative project is underway, which will see architecture students from Victoria University come up with design concepts for the seismic upgrade of buildings on Cuba Street. Wellington City Council and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust are supporting the project. 
  • 14 June 2012, Radio NZ National  The Earthquake Commission (EQC) has secured another year of reinsurance cover, for all of New Zealand, with a 50% higher price tag, a smaller increase than the last. Reinsurance is a major issue for the commission, as it is for private insurers. The fund was at $6 billion before the Canterbury earthquakes, and with costs estimated to reach $12.5 billion, there is a shortfall to deal with. Insurance covers most of this, while taxpayers will contribute close to $1.5 billion. New Zealand is unique in its coverage of land value. Hear EQC boss Ian Simpson talking with Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon
  • April 30 2012, CERA News – three months extension for Red zone property owners – update from Roger Sutton.  With some 4200 people having accepted the Crown offer, the Government and CERA are offering an extension to assist those who have yet to decide on which of the two options is best for their situation. Option 1 has the Crown purchase the property based on the most recent rating valuation for land, buildings and fixtures, taking over all insurance claims for damage. In Option 2, the Crown buys the property at its most recent land rating valuation, thus taking over the EQC claim for land damage only – property owners will need to deal with EQC and their private insurer to settle claims for damage to their buildings and fixtures
  • March 30 2012, EQC News – On a global scale, what we’re doing is right up there. Hurricane Katrina in the United States in 2005 was the costliest natural disasters in history, resulting in roughly the same number of insurance claims as the number we have received from our customers. – EQC Chief Exec Ian Simpson commenting on the news that $3 billion has been paid out to claimants, of a total $12 billion liability (690,000 claims) – making the Canterbury EQ the second costliest insured disaster in history, close on the heels of Hurricane Katrina 
  • March 23 2012, CERA News – more homes in red zone – 251 Avon river border properties re-zoned from orange to red
  • March 23 2012, My Property updated – search your address to find the land zone and technical category that applies to your Canterbury property 
  • March 22 2012, Ziln TV News – NZ Herald – Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Labour MP/affected Christchurch Resident Lianne Dalziel – supplementary questions on red zone decisions
  • March 2 2012, Business Day – Christchurch CBD red zone – more time needed
  • March 2 2012, Stuff – Christ Church Cathedral’s fate decided
  • February 17 2012, Stuff – a council report into Wellington’s resilience finds the city’s economy would take a near $40 billion hit, should it suffer an event like the Christchurch earthquake. Some key businesses and services – including government – may vacate Wellington permanently. Costs to strengthen private un-reinforced buildings to comply with the building code (and create a safer city) are estimated at half a billion dollars. Read more
  • February 17 2012, CERA News – Riccarton Road building under cordon, as structural integrity is investigated.
  • February 10 2012, CERA News – Residential zoning changes announced by Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister. Gerry Brownlee – “CERA progress is nothing short of commendable.” Cera’s Roger Sutton – “Positive things going on in the community” – “like Gapfiller’s bicycle-powered cinema” (see cinema cycle-power in action on YouTube)…Brownlee suggested he’s “coming back for the slow-motion films…” Also, insurance workshops are up and running and “universally useful.” See the briefing on YouTube CERA media briefing 10 February – Roger Sutton and Gerry Brownlee
  • February 4 2012, Radio NZ News – The official death toll of the February earthquake has risen to 184, after a ruling by the Chief Coroner that the deaths of three elderly women were the result of complications from quake injuries
  • February 4 2012, Radio NZ News – Two new grants from Red Cross, for people still being affected by the Christchurch quakes.
  • February 4 2012, The Press “Police investigate Bexley burglaries” – Thieves have targeted chattels in red-zoned homes being demolished.
  • February 1 2012, Rebuild Christchurch – Christchurch company, Fabrum Solutions, has secured a major international contract to supply parts for a drilling product designed in Timaru.
  • January 27 2012, CERA News Cantabrians are reminded to have their say on how they want to rebuild Christchurch’s city centre” – Property and business owners, tenants and customers can give CERA their feedback online at www.centralcitystudy.org.nz. The survey aims to capture property owners’ and users’ intentions so CERA can help government and Council to action the Draft Christchurch Central City Plan. Survey results are to be presented to CERA in February.
  • January 19 2012, NZ HeraldCoke puts $29m into quake-hit ChristchurchCoca-Cola Amatil, stationery firmOfficeMax and SOE Meridian Energy – all making significant investments in the city since the quakes.
  • January 15 2012, Stuff “Quakes push up estuary bed” – Overall, the bed has risen by 14cm, shrinking the area of the estuary covered by water by around 50 hectares”
  • January 15 2012, The PressDisrupted sleep anyone? – The fourth 5.0 plus magnitude quake to shake ChCh this year – no reports of damage or injury
  • January 13 2012, Stuff Christchurch City pupils achieve best NCEA results” 
  • January 13 2012, The Star – Canterbury Cera’s CEO Roger Sutton talks about the recent swarm of aftershocks and responds to some (outside) commentators”
  • January 11 2012, Rebuild Christchurch “New grant for Canterbury businesses” Posted by RecoverCanterbury
  • January 11 2012, Stuff Christchurch, one of NZ’s most exciting cities – Lonely Planet” What to do in Christchurch? – your post-quake guide
  • January 10 2012Healthy Christchurch “22 February 2012 Commemorative events now confirmed”
  • December 31 2011, Geonet “NZ Earthquake Report – Magnitude 4.8, Saturday, December 31 2011 at 1:44 pm (NZDT), 10 km east of Christchurch”
  • December 24 2011, Rebuild Christchurch “Rebuild Christchurch – Civil Defence Update Number 6” Posted in CERA/Govt , Christchurch City CouncilRecent Quakes
  • December 21 2011, www.cera.govt.nz/support-and-assistance “Information on Support Services – ranging from counselling services to assistance with temporary accommodation for those whose homes are not currently habitable”
  • December 21 2011, CERA “Update from Roger Sutton, Chief Executive”
  • December 3 2011, Herald Sun “Wellington, South Island rocked by quake” (heraldsun.com.au)
  • November 28 2011, Foreign Policy “16 Global Cities to Watch: From Singapore to Christchurch, the urban centers that are shaping the next century” – Photo essay rating Christchurch as a city with “a unique opportunity to rethink urban form”
  • October 23 2011, The CEISMIC Project “Digital archive of people’s earthquake experiences officially launched”
  • October 19 2011, Stuff “Just 45 minutes away from Armageddon – Allan Freeth”
  • October 18 2011, Stuff “Rotary Forum – Bollard says Wellington can learn from Canterbury quakes”
  • December 15 2011, NZ Herald “Building up to another construction boom”
  • October 19 2011, NZ Herald “Bollard highlights costs of safety”
  • October 18 2011, Businessweek “NZ quake rebuild to stoke growth, inflation – Alan Bollard”
  • October 10 2011, Scoop “Seismic risk raises major questions for Wellington – Rotary and VUW hosting seismic risk conference”
  • June 6 2011, Wellington City Council News “Civil Defence Volunteers numbers swell” – 53 civil defence volunteers graduate in Wellington Wednesday 8 June. Mayor – Wellington vastly better prepared than a year ago
  • March 4 2011, Scoop “Press Release – Rotary helps earthquake victims in Christchurch”
  • February 23 2011, Stuff “Christchurch Quake (Feb 22) – first images”

Canterbury Earthquake – good information here:

Aftermath of September 4th Earthquake in Chris...

Image via Wikipedia

One Stop Shock – Earthquake recovery information sheet (PDF) from the good folk at healthychristchurch.org.nz. Print it and keep handy.

Radio NZ National

Canterburyearthquake.org.nz

Christchurch Earthquake (archive – no longer updated)

Rebuild Christchurch News Archive (regularly updated)

CERA News (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority)

Civil Defence (New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management www.civildefence.govt.nz)

For information on grants go to www.redcrosseqgrants.org.nz

Applications for the Independent Advice for Small Business grant (announced 11 Jan 2012) are available through Recover Canterbury.  A business wanting to apply for the grant can contact Recover Canterbury on 0800 50 50 96 or at www.recovercanterbury.co.nz.

Government Hotline for emergency assistance: 0800 779 997

For local emergencies: 111

Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation Service (CETAS): 0800 6732 27

Christchurch City Council customer services: 03 941 8999 – for help with essential council services like as water supply and sewage disposal.

Earthquake Commission (EQC): 0800 DAMAGE (0800 326 243) 
For information on EQC’s insurance cover, cleaning up and making a claim.

Links

Container shops Christchurch CBD open for Christmas trading 2011 - Image by Brett Atkinson, Lonely Planet
Related Articles (Themes of the Rotary Forum – thefaultlineforum.com)

Image via Richard Ballantyne

Link

Presenters: Pat Walsh (Chair),  Colin JamesIan AthfieldRoger Sutton

Additional commentary: Dr Helen Anderson, Margaret Jefferies, Peter Townsend and Jacki Johnson. Speakers are identified in bold type.

Theme 4 – Rebuilding our future: Is an earthquake required? (Download the PDF)

Presenting in the first session on Building resilience, some of the observations by Dr Helen Anderson are relevant here. This section begins with her comments on re-thinking the status of buildings.

Wellington Fact BoxAlready, there are changes in the commercial landscape, especially round Wellington’s CBD. These changes are going to be, and already are, driven by insurers increasing their premiums –  and linking those increases to the status of the building and its percentage of the new building standards. Insurers, tenants, schools, board members, many of us, are rethinking what it means when a building is not 100 per cent of code in respect to earthquake. We’re seeing a change in the market that may lead to some buildings not being economically viable. This will present challenges, especially for smaller businesses – if you were going to trade-off low rent for the safety of yourself and your staff, maybe you should think differently.

Margaret Jefferies is the Chair of Project Lyttelton. This grass-roots community group is working together to achieve their vision of a vibrant, sustainable community. She emphasises the most human elements around rebuilding the future, describing some of Project Lyttelton’s notable successes.

We set up the first Time Bank in New Zealand. It is going really well and has played a significant role in rebuilding our future after the February 2011 earthquake. People share their skills with one another – measuring by the hour, not the dollar. And everyone’s time is regarded as equal. Civil Defence was called into action too – they didn’t normally have a presence in Lyttelton. The Time Bank is about sharing skills, hour on hour. We have a population of 3000, with over 400 people registered. So we have a system that works – we might send out broadcasts saying that we need people to take a chimney down, whatever the need – it is strongly coordinated. We link with other services too.

We also have a farmers market. It creates a sense of community, provides a meeting place and provides food. While you may bump into the odd person you know at a supermarket, you can do a lot of your local networking at your farmers market – always building on the sense of community and building relationships.  Relationships are key.

Welcome bags are another fabulous project, such a tiny thing – but fabulous.  Everyone new to Lyttleton gets a welcome bag. The bag is sewn by Time Bank members, with new people coming to our notice through neighbours or real-estate agents. In the bags are useful things like bus timetables, details about the time bank, the community garden, and there’ll be some fresh home baking too. It’s about going to your new neighbours’ door and saying welcome to our community. It touches people.

A lot of people ask about online communities, but if a beam falls on top of you, it’s not your online community that’s going to save you, it’s going to be your neighbour.

Communications is another important project. We are lucky to have a monthly insert in one of the free newspapers. So we are building relationships all the time, and we are doing it from an appreciative inquiry point of view. We’re not moaning, we are being positive and saying good things about what we’re creating. We have a website, Facebook, all of the usual mediums to easily connect. Just don’t forget the personal touch – to talk and connect. That’s what I’ve loved since the earthquake – all the random hugs.

Community vegesThe next thing to mention is local food production. We realised that without connection, no tunnel, the roads cut off, food was an issue – where would it come from? I’m excited that Lyttelton is now looking into improving food security in light of the earthquake. We have Crown funding to set up as a co-op and get the whole community into business together.

A key lesson – have a good time while you’re doing it all. You want people to come on-board and people won’t respond to a doomsday thing. They won’t respond if they’re in a state of fear.

We have a lot of fun while we’re doing these projects. It’s also important to have compassion and realise that people react in different ways. Even if you have every system in place, people can still feel anxious.

Peter Townsend is CEO of the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce. He sets out a vision for the rebuilding of Christchurch:

It’s not just about torches, batteries, ropes and first aid kits, it’s about the real issues facing business. So Christchurch’s future – we have a Draft Plan now, Christchurch City Council presented it. There’s a lot of work being done. I’m confident that we are going to end up with a fantastic offering in Christchurch.

It is going to be an iconic city, it is going to be a green city. It will be framed by our four Avenues that our forefathers had the foresight to put in place all those years ago. This will be interspersed with high quality housing, high quality accommodation, high quality iconic retail offerings, and high quality office space.

You will all see a completely different central city Christchurch. It will be a city that faces the future, in the same way that 150 years ago our forefathers laid down this city that has looked after us so well in the past. But it’s going to be different, it’s going to take time, it’s going to take an enormous amount of perseverance from the Christchurch community and the rest of New Zealand.

Jacki Johnson leads insurance company IAG in New Zealand. She comments on the Plan for rebuilding Christchurch:

The recently released Central City Plan presents a vision for a rebuilt Christchurch.  We are seeing some groups raise concerns. The requirement for higher-spec building is of real concern to developers. Architects think the proposals are too restrictive.  I understand that the business community supports the principles of the Plan. Clearly more detail, science and economic work is needed.  Nevertheless, the Plan provides a starting point for thinking about the future and building confidence in a new central city.

Roger Sutton is CEO of CERA. He describes the role of CERA, and what the priorities are for rebuilding Christchurch.

CERA – we don’t do everything, we’re a coordinating organisation. We’re the guys who try to ensure that things can happen, that the bits of society that need to come together and make the recovery, can happen. We also have the role of making sure that things like orders in Council get written, because we have this role of government. The CERA legislation gives us all sorts of special powers.

We were originally going to be a ‘skinny’ organisation – of 50 people or so. Over time, the job gets bigger and bigger. In particular, all the land issues – the damage to the land is enormous, and we need people managing that.

We’ve got ourselves established in an office in the CBD, in an eleven-storey building. I’m getting an office on the top floor, and we’re getting handles fitted from the ceiling just like you’ve got in a bus, that way you know if things start rocking you’re not going to fall over.

I’m not joking actually.

I’m not. Just talking about it though, maybe when I’m talking to people about the size of the event, it can be hard for people to get a feel for how big was the physical event. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake was equivalent to dropping a thousand of the worlds largest oil tankers from about 500 meters above the ground, onto the ground. That’s the sort of energy released. That’s enough energy to make a pot of tea for every single person in the world. And that’s the hard thing, because nature gives us so much wonderfulness, but in the September 4th quake, and on February 22nd – just in a few seconds, it took away so much, and it’s going to take 5, 10, 15 years to pull it back together again.

Talking about our priorities, the first priority is around the land.

There’s never been an earthquake event anywhere in the world that’s done so much damage to land as we’ve had in Canterbury. So at the moment there’s something like 6000 properties where we’ve said it’s not going to be economic to rebuild again.

Associated with those 6000 properties, we’re trying to bring more land to market more quickly, and that’s not a small job. We’re talking about the fact that we need to keep communities together, that we need to try to engage with communities. It’s very difficult to engage with people, when 6000 people know they have to move, and on top of that there’s another 8000 properties, that are what we call orange, we don’t know whether they’re going to be red or green? And then there are another 3 or 4000 properties in the Port Hills and we don’t know what’s going to happen to them.

So, we have these fantastic powers to ride over the RMA and other planning processes, trying to get land to market more quickly. Rather than sitting in Mr Brownlee’s office with big felt pens, drawing circles on maps and saying, “Well that looks like a jolly nice place to have another subdivision,” what we’re trying to do is speed up the process by using what has already been through  the conventional consenting process. Land that was, in general, getting held up by appeals put by other developers that hadn’t wanted a particular development to happen.

The infrastructure – I could talk for hours about infrastructure. There’s three or four billion dollars worth of work to be done there. It’s maybe a 5, 6, 7, maybe an 8 year programme. Already, we’re doing work at two or three times the rate you would normally see in Christchurch. The scale of it is quite extraordinary.

Then there’s the demolition. There’s something like 1200 buildings to bring down in the CBD, that’s about half of all the buildings inside the CBD, and about 600 have come down so far. Someone said today that the Wellington City Council building is at 14% of code – is that true? That’s outrageous, extraordinary, I really think that is extraordinary.

Christchurch have really struggled to get their city going again, and their Council buildings were pretty much up to code. Just all the light fittings and that type of thing fell down. The whole notion is that you can run a recovery, as long as your City Council has a response centre. And Christchurch had that. So I guess the question for Wellington is: have you got facilities for your 1000, 1500 staff to work in a week later? Have you got somewhere that is completely up to code?

Image R Moore

Brick building - Wellington CBD. Courage is needed to make the hard decisions around these types of buildings.

I guess I’m just a bit cynical about some of the local bodies’ ability to make hard decisions. It would have been better in Christchurch if Christchurch City Council had more courage around brick and masonry buildings a long time ago. But I don’t remember the last time a City Council in New Zealand did something really gutsy around those earthquake buildings. It’s the nature of local bodies. But the demolition thing is a really, really big issue. We’ve got the CBD cordon down to about half the size it was, but it’s not going to be down completely until roughly April of next year. The time frames are pretty extraordinary.

We’re writing a recovery strategy. And one of the key things is around the speed of recovery. We can have a conversation with the people of Christchurch, and say look, the recovery can take 3 or 4 years, and we’ll fill the town up with people from Ireland, Indonesia, the Philippines.

We’ll fill the town up and do it in 3 or 4 years. We’ll have maybe 20 or 30 thousand extra workers.

Or we’ll do it over a longer time period – 7 or 8 years and it will be a bit flatter, what do you want? They might say “Oh, we’ll have it in 2 or 3 years, please.” And that’s the thinking, educated people.

There are two dimensions to the speed of recovery. The first one is how thoughtful you’re going to be in making it happen. Are you going to get proper architects involved? Are you just going to draw lines on map, depending where your mood takes you? How many people are you going to throw at this issue, and to what extent you are going to create opportunities for your own people?

Or are you just going to bring a lot of people in – with the associated social issues? That’s a conversation we haven’t yet started in Christchurch. If left up to the pure political process it might just be – lets throw lots of resources at it, really quickly. So one of my roles as the guy who runs CERA, is trying to get the key leaders in Christchurch to start talking to a common theme – we have to make this a calmer, slower more considered recovery and avoid the riskier top-down approach.

Getting everybody wanting to row their waka at a more considerate pace won’t be easy.  I don’t for a moment say, people who are living in squalor shouldn’t get out of that squalor quickly. Because there are literally thousands of people living in badly broken houses at the moment, and we have to get them out – fast. And if necessary, we’ve got to bring pre-built houses from China, or wherever. We should do that, but we’ve also got to be more considered about how fast we rebuild.

The last of what we do is around communication. At the moment, there are a lot of communication messages that we’re not getting out there. So one of my roles is trying to coordinate all the players, to make sure they are communicating with the people, so people have confidence. So they can see the milestones. They can see where we’ve got to, where we’re going, and when we’re going to get there. That’s a key thing. We must get people believing that we are eventually going to get there. We will get there, but it will take longer than 2 or 3 years – it’s going to be much longer than that.

One of the guys I hired has come down from Wellington, he talks about the fact that when he came down, he was starting in the afternoon, he came via Uncle Trevor – and his name really is Uncle Trevor – and I’m not really sure where he lives in Christchurch, but Mike got to Uncle Trevor’s place at 10 o’clock in the morning. And Uncle Trevor’s in his 70’s, and Uncle Trevor was still sitting on the end of his bed in his underpants at 10 o’clock in the morning.

So when I talk about CERA, about how we have demolition to do, infrastructure to rebuild and all those sort of things, we’re not really doing enough, if Uncle Trevor in a year’s time, is still sitting at the end of his bed in his underpants, at 10 o’clock in the morning. At the end of the day, this recovery is about the people. It’s about giving people a sense that things are going to get better, we are going to be stronger, and that it all has a purpose. So we say – what have we done today to try to make Uncle Trevor’s life better? What have we done to try to make communities that support Uncle Trevor stronger? So they can give support to him.

Optimism. Am I optimistic about Christchurch? I am optimistic about Christchurch. I’m optimistic for three reasons. The first reason is insurance. New Zealand is well-insured. Christchurch is really well-insured. We’re lucky that 98% of houses are insured, and their land is largely insured. Businesses largely have insurance – so insurance is the first reason for optimism.

The second reason is physically, it’s still a great place. We have our wonderful parks, the mountains are just down the road, they’re a bit further away because of the way that the fault is. The Port Hills are still there, they’re a bit higher than they were – that’s a good thing. But seriously, Christchurch is still very much a great place, physically.

The last reason for optimism are the people. Christchurch is very much a community. All the key people have each other’s cell phone numbers. Everybody wants to work together, everyone has largely the same common vision, and I think we’re lucky in that way – we’re not so big that we can’t pull everyone together.

Ian Athfield, a prominent NZ architect. He talks about Christchurch, past, present and future – and offers some lessons for Wellington.

Before these earthquakes, I had always thought of engineering as a science. We have a building in Christchurch, which has heritage order and after 4th of September, we went straight back in. After February 22, the engineers said, “This is perfectly good, you can go back into the building.” So we went back in and everyone said, “It was a bit of a bloody shake you know.”

Anyway, we have a woman called Jane in the office and she’s got a fairly large frame, she’s tall and bears 10 pound babies. She was leaning against the wall in the middle of the office, and Ashley said, “The bloody wall’s moving Jane!” And she said, “You mean like that?” And all of a sudden the building started creaking and the glass started moving right throughout the building. The engineers came straight away and said it was 20% of the code – that’s 10% of the Wellington code – and we were out within one hour. A good example of engineering as a creative art?

To talk about the future of any settlement, one must look at the past. Here we have the Edward Gibbon Wakefield plan. Edward Gibbon Wakefield plan 1877Like many New Zealand cities, Christchurch was designed in Britain. They drew it up on the other side of the world. Luckily, they never ran up against hills. Woodward Street in Wellington was supposed to go out to Karori! But in Christchurch, they could go anywhere, never meeting a hill or a sea, and they just kept on going!

So this is a plan, about 1877, and the only thing that happened differently was they put a diagonal through the orthogonal plan drawn in England, mainly to get people from the Port through to the churches and back out to the sewerage system. And if we look at the pattern of growth in Christchurch, we trace it through 1886, 1926, 1946 and 1976, and like most new cities of the world, developed cities, it was based on that suburban model. Car driven, subdivision driven, maximum lot size, set-backs, and based on the nuclear family – 2 adults, 2 children and a guaranteed vote. Christchurch of all the cities, barring parts of Auckland, was one of those places that developed closely along these lines.

One of the interesting things which developed along with the suburban area, was the train system. As a kid, I remember going into the square – and the most important things about the square were the seven picture theatres, two milk bars, and the men’s toilet right in the center. And the settlement patterns were based around a transportation system, which assisted the city up until the mid 1950s.

Tram Cashel St. Image via Ian AthfieldHere we have an image of Christchurch, from Cathedral square looking down High street – this is early 1900’s. I can still remember these scenes from the 1950’s, and one thing that happened in 1947. Dad worked for Whitcombe and Tombs. My mum would send us up by tram from Sydenham to get the staff discount. From outside Whitcombe and Tombs, we watched the fire engulf Ballantynes. We saw people going out the windows, and for 10 years I got up every night, dreaming of fires. The last 13 months, I’ve changed those fire dreams to earthquakes, and thank God, in the last month, I’ve stopped thinking about them, and now get a decent night’s sleep.

Straight after the February 22nd earthquake, Richard Ballantyne approached us and asked, “Would you be prepared to talk, and work with the owners in the Cashel Mall area?” Cashel Mall and CBD Red Zone - Image Ian AthfieldWe knew that they had a start-up program with Buchan Group and Warren and Mahoney, but we felt it was important to sort of talk to people and try to get them to work together for the future of this sort of area.

So we spent a lot of time with them, we talked about those areas, we talked about amalgamating sites, and we talked about how we should inform the Council in the new District Plan. And to do that, we started talking about the bigger issues – to make them feel comfortable about the particular issues we were looking at for them. And so we have a plan, with Hagley Park on one side. We said, get rid of the one way street systems, get rid of all that transport through town, and start thinking about how you will develop housing around small ‘pocket’ parks. Think about how those parks can be used collectively by children safely, and how the streets can also become children’s playgrounds. We had the opportunity of 10 minutes to present to Council – and it was like presenting Roman Catholicism to Destiny Church.

The city went their own way and produced some pretty pictures. They also produced another set of regulations, compounding the frustrations of people – like permanent buildings, no less than 3 storeys in height, and no more than 7 storeys. The architects went out and did exercises. Finally, after they talked to their insurers, they realised that it’s going to be more expensive to upgrade the buildings than to redo them. So we have a city now that has a density less than Berlin at end of the Second World War.

So in Wellington, what are the lessons?

We have to look at our heritage buildings differently - Athfield Image R Moore

We have to look at our heritage buildings differently - Ian Athfield

We have to look carefully at our heritage structures. We have to look at them quite differently. If we have no business plan for a building, we have no building in the future. We actually have to look at the adaptive reuse. This particular building might have housing in it, on unit titles, so it has to be strengthened on the outside. So that is going to change the way the building looks, and if you want to keep it, then you have to think differently about it.

And then those important buildings within our city, which need quite a bit of work to bring them up to code, and one of the realisations for Christchurch is that we are seeing many modern buildings coming down.

An example is Gallery Apartments. It’s completely intact, but with very poor foundations and liquefied ground. If it had pile foundations and base isolation, it would remain there, but this is the sort of building that we are going to see come down in Christchurch, and we have so many of them. Around us we have six multi-storey buildings, five of them are now being demolished, and that’s outside the red zone.

I think for the future, we have to get our Territorial Authorities talking to each other, working together. Now, before an earthquake. We have to deal with the country, the urban area and the suburban area, all together, as one. We won’t get the answer by dealing with one aspect in isolation. Thank you.

Colin James is a political journalist commentator and analyst. He has the last word in this post on rebuilding our future, with the suggestion that we need a more solid core that will lend us better capacity to emerge from seismic shifts.

The economy has the advantage that exports are based principally on products and services for which demand can be expected to grow. But that advantage is not an immutable given. To make the most of it over time, we will need constantly to innovate and to reset policy to facilitate or promote an innovative capacity, so that earned incomes rise through higher-value activities.

If we don’t do that successfully, we will be more vulnerable to the globalisation of labour and talent and to the congregation of elites in certain offshore cities and locations. We would, as now, need to import human and financial capital to compensate for those who leave and that is a potential cost to social harmony, which is a core ingredient in economic success.

If we are to be resilient through the next 15 or 30 years, we could usefully start now to think through the policy frameworks we will need to perceive, develop and exploit human potential.

That is, we need to agree what our core is and secure it. We need a strong core to be secure in the new world order that will emerge from the seismic shifts in geopolitics and geo-economics. No one yet knows what that new order will be. Our relationship with China is interesting but still formative. Our relationship with India is formative, but based on shared goodwill, though we take too much for granted from cricket and our shared (though different) imperial history and we don’t study Indian history, heritage and language.

It’s those international connections we need, in addition to a strong core, an intelligent flexibility. That is because power shifts often in unpredicted and sometimes in sudden ways. Managing foreign policy, including trade policy, over the next 15 or 30 years is going to require suppleness and skill. It might also drive us close in to Australia (and vice-versa) but it is far too early to guess at that.

Then there are man-made and natural shocks.

The Rena incident reminds us that it is not only tectonic plates that jolt and holes in the ground that go on fire.

At one level there has been a failure of foresight in not updating our subscription to international conventions, a failure to keep the enveloping materials in top condition. At another level, the backbiting and anger in the media and among residents reflect a corrosive lack of trust in authorities, which undermines effective governance and management. That suggests the core is not solid and there is work to do.

The flexible, elastic, compressible and adaptable envelope is mostly in place, as the country’s relatively light damage from the great financial crisis indicates, though there is work to do on domestic economic policy and there is other maintenance work needed, as the inadequacy of safety measures at Pike River, the leaky regulatory environment which allowed leaky homes to be built, the permits to build houses in areas of Christchurch known to be at risk of  liquefaction and the failure to update maritime disaster conventions.

There is work to do on the core. As a people, a nation, we need to be able to constantly innovate, and be able to reset policy to facilitate or promote innovation and capacity.

Summary

The response, recovery and rebuild following the Christchurch earthquakes has not been a smooth, steady pathway. Uncertainty is the new norm, with continually changing plans, ongoing disruptions. Rebuilding our future requires intelligent flexibility and foresight, within a strong core, and as Fran Wilde observed in her summary, “That’s a pretty good recipe for organisational effectiveness. It’s a recipe for the big challenges in this world, where the speed of change just keeps increasing.”

The lessons for Wellington are clear. Build resilience now. Make our CBD safer. Make solid, but adaptable Business Continuity Plans, and test them. Connect people in organisations – and have people who know other people’s jobs. Connect organisations with their local communities. Drive community engagement and be positive about messages, wherever possible. Provide the collaborative and informed environment that will ensure we can make and support the considered decisions that are required – to build a better prepared, more resilient, confident and effective Wellington.

Download the PDF Rebuilding our future/Forum summary