Commemorating Avonside on Feb 22

The Avon-Otakaro Network have organised a commemoration of Avonside at Retreat Park with a memorial and exhibition this coming Friday starting at 11.00 am. Retreat Park is on the corner of Retreat Road and Patton Street. All are welcome.

The programme is:

11am                   Mihi whakatau and karakia: Te-Kaharoa Manihera

11:05am            Mayor speaks and then officially opens the Memorial by unveiling the entrance signage

11:10am            Haka by boys from SBHS

11:12am            Local Avonside Resident says a few words

11:15am            AGHS Student Leader speaks from the school perspective

11:18am            Waiata: Linwood North Primary

11:22am            UC School of Fine Arts representative speaks to the exhibition.

11:27am            Closing karakia

11:30am            Community BBQ and get together in the reserve – people can have an opportunity to view the panels at their ease and/or chat to the folk from UC re the exhibition


12:15pm            Folk are invited to join a walk through the Avonside red zone to Avonside Drive at the Medway St Footbridge memorial to arrive by 12:40pm

12:45pm            Start of a small River of Flowers ceremony

12:51pm            Two minutes silence

12:53pm            SBHS boys do haka and then lone piper plays Amazing Grace while people throw flowers in the river.

Ceremony ends.

There is a Facebook page for the event here

Earthquake Recovery Symposium

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods has announced an earthquake recovery symposium to be held in November. There is a news release concerning this on the Council’s website here.

The news item in Tuesday’s Press says it “… will be held on November 29 and 30 at the University of Canterbury. Up to 250 people from the public, private, community and academic realms will be invited.” Mayor Lianne Dalziel is quoted as saying the symposium will be preceded by a series of workshops.  The full article is on the Press website here .

Maybe my opinion is unduly cynical but it seems to me this is yet another high-risk situation. Many of the principle participants may be serial symposium and conference attendees, rather than practical and experienced people. If so it could end up being a talk-fest for a range of folk who neither directly experienced the after-effects of the earthquakes, nor made a valuable contribution to the recovery effort. Minister Woods is quoted by the Council:

“The Symposium will be an event of national importance, sharing lessons from the Canterbury earthquakes so that New Zealand as a whole can be better prepared in future for any similar natural disasters,” Dr Woods says.

“The Canterbury earthquakes were unprecedented. They provide us with many valuable lessons, which we continue to review and learn from to ensure our communities are more resilient and prepared.

While these people will have something to share, can we be sure about how well the lessons are understood? Such sharing is premature in the absence of substantial external investigations into how well various agencies performed. Some time this year EQC will be up for scrutiny, which is good. However we still await investigation into the performance of CERA, private insurers, Council, and the health system. How can we learn from our experiences if only official respectful, constructive, and forward-focused versions of events are available? Will, with the passage of time, institutional memories be created of heroic and insightful efforts to the exclusion of inconvenient realities? What harm will that do in misinforming future recovery efforts?

And what of Mayor Dalziel’s workshops? Is this a polite way of saying the experiences and knowledge of the ordinary person will funnelled into well managed groups where minders with flipcharts, or sticky notes to put on the wall, will record what is said, promising it will be relayed to the higher-ups? Hopefully Minister Woods will ensure that those who experienced it all first hand, the workers who fixed the problems, the scientists who walked through the silt, the medical professionals who handled the harm, will have an influential and undiluted voice.

As an aside, Minister Brownlee cancelled an earlier proposed symposium in November 2016. A Press article about the cancellation (here) stated “Fifty-one speakers, including overseas attendees, had been confirmed and “speaker guidelines” were produced to ensure a “respectful, constructive, and forward-focused event”. Among those invited to speak were ” … Prime Minister John Key, Sir Peter Gluckman, former EQC boss Ian Simpson and numerous international experts.” Dinner was to be held at the Tannery. A really experienced and well-informed bunch? Will it be a similar cast of characters this year?

Avonside photography project – Official opening of Thx 4 the Memories

Yesterday was the official opening of the Avonside photography project Thx 4 the Memories. I was invited to speak on behalf of Avonside, and the following are my notes which were pretty closely followed. What was said didn’t cover everything, but seemed right for the day. The things left unsaid are raised further down.

To Tim Veling, Bridgit Anderson and Glenn Busch (who is in France) For your integrity, insight, perseverance, sacrifice, ability and especially your circumspection you have no equal. Thank you very much. What you have achieved is a revealing, sensitive and intimate record of individual participants in a tragic event. Each record is an eyewitness account of the earthquakes and their aftermath. Collectively these accounts are something that will soon become tomorrow’s history. An important part of the historical record. Having said that, history is a perverse thing. Understanding other peoples’ history, in a different place or a different time, seems reasonably clear-cut. You can read about it, or watch a documentary. Important facts are laid out, key figures make their explanations, conclusions are easily reached. When you live in the middle of an historical event nothing is clear. We who live in Canterbury are experiencing the unfolding events quite differently to the way others measure or describe them. The important facts, key explanations and easy conclusions seem very distant from what we see and experience. So, what is the truth of our earthquake aftermath? Please look at the photographs and read the stories. For every Barbara, Judy or Shane, or any of the people who took part, there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of similar stories from those who have struggled in the Red Zones, and are struggling in the Green Zones and on the hills. Please read the stories, look at the people and where they lived. Hopefully you will find for yourself some of the truth of the times we have shared since the first earthquake. Thank you.

Of course there is much more to the truth of what has been experienced than that alluded to above. Many of the stories raise additional issues which I will try to summarise here. The first distorter of truth was the Christchurch City Council with it’s arrogant ineptitude, and inability to see past a  ‘business as usual” approach in a culture of non-disclosure. Insurers, their assessors, and the Insurance Council of New Zealand have espoused values and views we cannot understand from our perspective. Many of their truths are a dismissive contradiction of actual experiences. The government, Minister Brownlee’s office, have delayed and withheld, and continue to delay and withhold the release of information. At times there was the pretence we should be able to work it out for ourselves because it is “blindingly obvious”. Yet, what we can clearly see, what we experience day after day, the things that at times harm or destroy us, are carefully and wilfully unnoticed by them. Being unnoticed, there is no need to correct problems, or support those who are struggling. Being unnoticed there is no need to talk with communities about what is needed for a successful recovery. Their truths too are a dismissive contradiction of our experiences. Then there is EQC, the great Satan in our midst. What can be understood of all this? What is happening? Time and again, in my struggle to understand, the words of the late Justice Peter Mahon come to mind: an orchestrated litany of lies. So, what is the truth of our earthquake aftermath? Again, please look at the photographs and read the stories. That is where the truth is. .

Insurance Council and building consents – a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

Earlier this evening (Sunday) a media release was sent out from the Insurance Council (ICNZ) welcoming the progress being made by CCC on issuing building consents. At the same time ICNZ took it upon itself to warn CCC that “… the council “can’t take its foot off-the-peddle””.

Consider the on-going track record of most insurers – continuous failure to communicate, act, or negotiate with any sense of urgency, competence or diligence over the last two and a bit years. How can ICNZ consider itself to be in any position to criticise or advise CCC? Had insurers performed to a uniformly satisfactory standard would the bottleneck now being experienced have been so great? Is this being used as another opportunity for insurers to blame someone else for problems they themselves have created?

It would be ideal if consents could be granted more quickly, but at what cost? The process is there for a purpose – health, safety, quality and appropriateness. Think in terms of leaky buildings, shonky land, quick and dirty construction. Think also of the past mistakes made in consenting land and old buildings. These are the reasons we must have an effective consenting process.  Sure,  Minister Brownlee wants consenting done quickly to demonstrate that progress is being made. Insurers and their builders want to get the job done, reduce costs, remove the pressure they are under. These are not good things if done at the expense of the integrity of the checks and balances, and the quality of what is produced. Already there a strong murmurings of shoddy work being carried out that may equal the problems caused by the construction of leaky buildings. That’s not a road New Zealand can afford to travel twice.

The full ICNZ media release:

Christchurch City Council Building Consents Progress Welcomed

The Insurance Council of New Zealand welcomes the progress the Christchurch City Council is making on reducing the building consents backlog but warns the council “can’t take its foot off-the-peddle”.

The city council reported at the weekend that it was able to process almost 400 backlogged building consents in just four working days last week (17-20 June).

Insurance Council Chief Executive Tim Grafton applauded the progress but urges the city council to maintain the momentum with 1100 building consents still in the pipeline and the expected increase in consent applications that will be filed in the coming months.

“We’ve made a commitment to complete most of our rebuild programme by the end of 2015 with some in 2016,” said Mr Grafton.  “But every delay impacts on our ability to achieve that timeline and more importantly our ability to get the people of Christchurch back into their homes and buildings.

“Insurers fully appreciate the enormous pressure the city council is under but we’ve had reports from members that building consents are taking between 10 to 14 weeks, adding a minimum 1 to 2 months to our building programmes. Such delays are unacceptable given the statutory requirement for processing consents within 4 weeks.

“None of us can afford to take our foot off-the-peddle because anything that slows us down ultimately slows down Christchurch’s economic recovery,” said Mr Grafton.

The Insurance Council also welcomed the Government’s recent intervention and the assistance other local authorities are giving the city council to avoid it being stripped of its powers to grant consents by the International Accreditation New Zealand.

“The last thing anyone wants, particularly the people of Christchurch, is the resulting uncertainty and further delays that will occur should the city council lose its consenting function,” said Mr Grafton.


CCC – Cutting essential services to the Red Zone after 30 April 2013

In response to an OIA request:

Has the Christchurch City Council, either elected members or staff, received formal or informal enquiries from CERA about what services can be cut off in the Residential Red Zones after 30 April 2012?
If yes, please advise what requests have been made and how copies of them can be obtained.

the CCC have provided the following response:

Further to your request I have received the following comment from staff. We have not received any requests from CERA to date on what services can be cut off after 30 April 2013. CCC and CERA have worked on a programme of cutting off wastewater and water supply to houses that have been purchased by the Government and are vacated in order to reduce operational costs and risks in the residential red zones. CCC has also been collecting wheelie bins from properties that have been purchased by the government and the residents have left. The wheelie bins are owned by the City’s contractor and are attached to the property title and not the owner or occupant.

What does it mean? At this stage it looks as though the property has to have been purchased by the Government and vacated before the Council will cut off wastewater and water supplies. Be interesting to know if Minister Brownlee and CERA see it this way. It would also be interesting to know if Council staff will be prepared to cut services off where someone is still living in a Red Zone house after 30 April 2013.  Would they cross a picket line? NOTE: the OIA information was obtained via the website You can see the request and answers here. .