Jobless moving to Christchurch

September 12th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A scheme dangling a $3000 carrot for jobless to relocate to Canterbury for work has had a five-fold surge in takers in the past two months.

The Government’s “$3k to Christchurch” has brought more than 350 newly employed workers into the region at a cost of more than $1 million.

In total, the incentive scheme is expected to cost up to $3.5m and aims to shift 1000 workers.

A quarter were aged between 20 and 24, and 197 of them landed work in the construction industry.

In July, a month after its launch, 40 men and 10 women met the criteria and had moved.

To receive a grant, clients must have a confirmed fulltime job offer (30 hours a week or more) in the Christchurch area and be ready to relocate.

350 jobless people have now moved to Christchurch with the grant and gained work. A win-win.

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A train set for Christchurch

September 3rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

Labour leader David Cunliffe promised that if a Labour-led government were elected it would devote $100 million to create a commuter rail service in Canterbury. …

The idea of a rail link has superficial appeal but it is one that needs to be carefully examined. Cunliffe appears to be getting a little ahead of himself in making a commitment before its overall feasibility has been established. Environment Canterbury, which is responsible for public transport in the region, the Transport Agency, and the Waimakariri District and Christchurch City councils, all of whom have an obvious interest in solving the problem, decided earlier this year that a rail proposal they had closely looked at would be too expensive and would not deliver people to their places of work.

But nevertheless Labour will throw $100 million of our money at it!

In general, bright-eyed rail schemes have a terrible habit of incurring huge cost over-runs and turning out to be expensive white elephants. One in Edinburgh recently has crippled the city’s finances. Christchurch people in particular have no great love for public transport. The last commuter trains were dumped decades ago for lack of patronage. Buses are much more responsive to demand than trains and Christchurch people shun buses in droves.

Trains also require a huge commitment of public money. Nowhere in the world do they make money. Cunliffe’s proposal speaks of a $100 million commitment (a suspiciously low figure) but says nothing about extra ancillary costs and running losses. The day of the train might come eventually, but Christchurch’s finances are under enough strain already without the burden of a punt on rail now.

So taxpayers would incur the initial cost, and then ratepayers saddled with the white elephant’s running costs.

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Christchurch Old Boys Network

August 21st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A reader e-mails:

I’m not a huge supporter of Collins but I read this article and it made my blood boil.  This is everything that is wrong with Chch.  The most senior justice in the country dies suddenly and a group of Chch old boys complain about a street being named in his memory.  Clearly he is not one of the First Four Ships and clearly didn’t go to school here.  I’m not a great fan of Brownlee either but you can see the mentality that he has had to put up with in the rebuild.  The old boys network in Chch is alive and well and looking after their own.  This is mean spirited of the lawyers who opposed this.  

I can only agree.

 

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Labour wants taxpayers to pay more for Christchurch

July 11th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour has raised the possibility of the taxpayer shouldering an even greater proportion of Christchurch rebuild costs, saying it would sit down with Christchurch Council to review the existing cost sharing agreement if it won the election.

I guess $10 billion or $20 billion or whatever the figure is isn’t enough. Labour wants to bail out the high spending Mayor. If the Council saved  $100 million on not restoring the Town Hall that would be better than sending the bill to taxpayers.

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Another possible $5 billion from taxpayers for Christchurch

June 13th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government’s contribution to the rebuild of Christchurch was likely to end up as high as $20 billion, Prime Minister John Key says.

Key said the Government’s commitment to the reconstruction could increase by $5b, and that Christchurch people had turned a corner following the difficult times brought about from the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes.

”We’ve put about $15b of taxpayers money into the rebuild, but it will probably end up being the best part of $20b over time,” Key said.

Yet a small minority claim that isn’t enough. I’m not sure any OECD Government has ever spent more on a natural disaster, as a proportion of GDP.

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A rare letter from the Chief District Court Judge

June 13th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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Hat Tip: Whale Oil

It is rare for the Chief Judge to write a letter to the editor. She is obviously concerned that Labour’s policy paints a false picture of the situation in Christchurch,

The key aspects if her letter are:

  • A specialist list has been in place since February 2012
  • Earthquake cases get priority over other civil cases
  • Court cases get before a judge within 55 working days
  • Of 76 cases filed, 43 have been disposed of of which only 1 went to a full hearing
  • Of the remaining 33, 17 are on track for a negotiated settlement
  • 10 further cases may be negotiated also

So basically there are possibly only six cases that may go to a full trial at the District Court.

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Only 1,500 claims not settled in Christchurch not 10,000

June 12th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Insurance Council points out:

Insurers involved in the Canterbury earthquake recovery have 22,455 over cap dwelling claims with 87% fully settled or agreed with customers.

Based on figures collected in the CERA quarterly survey, at the end of March 2014 there were 9,877 (44%) dwelling claims closed and completely settled.

“There is a further 9,755 (43%) which CERA refers to as ‘pending settlement’, which essentially means the insurance company has reached an agreement with their customer and is in the process of being settled, so contrary to what Mr Cosgrove suggests there is no dispute,” says Insurance Council spokesman Samson Samasoni.

“Pending settlement means that there are builders on site completing the rebuild or repair, it’s scheduled for a rebuild or repair or they’re waiting to receive their cash settlement. Insurers don’t call it ‘completely settled’ until the key to the front door has been handed over or the cheque is banked,” he says.

Mr Cosgrove says that ‘sending an offer to a claimant is not settlement’.

“Our members don’t call that a settlement either. There are 1,508 over cap dwelling claims in that category, where the insurer has made their customer an offer but the insured hasn’t made a decision, many are saying it’s because they’re waiting to know what their land settlement is going to be from EQC before making a decision,” says Mr Samasoni. “We anticipate that there may be small percentage of this 1,508 that will end up in some form of dispute”.

So the actual numbers that go to court will probably be low hundreds.

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The Press on Labour’s Christchurch policy

June 10th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The idea of extending the jurisdiction of the District Court to create what would amount to a specialist earthquake court is undoubtedly eye-catching.

Its aim would be to provide a faster, less costly (to claimants at least) jurisdiction to deal with the multiplicity of disputes that have arisen over earthquake claims.

Whether it is necessary and whether it would achieve its aims, or achieve them without introducing perverse incentives, needs significant analysis. Insurance disputes can be complex and difficult. A new court is unlikely to make them any easier, though it may have the potential to streamline the process through them.

The High Court has for some time devoted large resources to a specialist list to deal with earthquake cases.

It began in May 2012 following a commitment by the Chief High Court judge that earthquake cases be dealt with as swiftly as the court’s resources permitted.

Most judges in the High Court are experienced and highly skilled commercial practitioners, well equipped to deal with insurance disputes.

A serious line-up of similarly skilled judiciary would be a bare minimum requirement for the newly proposed court.

Labour’s idea would allow claims of up to $1 million to be brought before the District Court, which has less expertise in complex commercial matters and would require expanding its jurisdiction from the present limit of $200,000.

Simply finding judges equipped to handle the work could be a problem. Labour says they would be found from among retired judges (which means they would be 72 or older) or suitably qualified senior lawyers.

What The Press is saying is that cases will be heard by retired district court judges, rather than high court judges.

Labour also says the government would cover all costs which means that claimants would have an incentive to lodge a claim, no matter how weak it was.

That’s the real problem. The courts would get swamped.

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Christchurch starting to move

June 3rd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

The rebuild of Christchurch’s CBD is finally starting to happen, city leaders and investors say.

After a rocky few months where parts of the recovery blueprint looked like they were failing, a series of positive announcements are being labelled by some as the turning point of the rebuild.

Vodafone is expected be confirmed today as the anchor tenant of the innovation precinct, and at least two other private sector developments are in the pipeline.

Meanwhile, rumours that British high street chain Topshop could be coming to Christchurch are not being denied.

Earlier this month, Christchurch’s Carter Group announced it would rebuild the Crossing car parking building, providing much-needed certainty for would-be developers in the retail precinct.

The promised multimillion-dollar overhaul of the central city transport network was finally approved by the Christchurch City Council last week, and consultation with affected property owners and businesses would soon start.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said “key commercial arrangements” had been cemented recently and he expected more positive news to land in the coming months.

The first few tenancies tend to be the hardest, as you don’t want to potentially be alone. Once some large tenants have confirmed, it makes it easier for others to do so.

But Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend believed “things are starting to crystallise” in the central city.

Townsend also expected more positive announcements from both the private and public sector soon.

“I think we will find more information coming out of the Christchurch Central Development Unit that will promote investor confidence, and we will be hearing about some private sector developments in the central city too.”

Carter Group chief executive Mary Devine said the city was “at a turning point”, especially after its car-parking agreement with the council.

Carter Group bought the Crossing car park land off the council, and will manage the demolition of the existing building before building a 534-space car parking facility.

Devine said Carter Group was now “running flat out” with final design and planning of its $100 million Crossing development.

Nice to see progress.

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Herald on $3k to Christchurch

May 8th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

It is almost 35 years since Norman Tebbit infamously told the unemployed of Britain to get “on yer bike”. The Employment Secretary was frustrated that, unlike his father in an earlier time, people out of work were not prepared to take to the road to find work. His plea for a less static workforce fell on deaf ears, however, not least because jobs were thin on the ground in the early years of the Thatcher Government.

No such problem exists these days in Christchurch, however. The rebuilding of the city has created plenty of opportunities. Any initiative that makes it easier for beneficiaries to move to this work is, therefore, welcome. …

As well as helping the beneficiaries, the scheme will, obviously, aid the rebuilding of the city. The need for more workers is evident in Canterbury’s 3.4 per cent unemployment rate, which is much lower than the 6 per cent national rate. According to the Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, work is available not only in the construction sector, which has increased its workforce by 90 per cent since the earthquakes, but in hospitality, retail and many other industries. If the pressure on housing in Christchurch could cause a problem or two, that is hardly a reason to scrap the scheme, given its potential value.

All up, the initiative will cost, at most, $3.5 million. That is an insignificant sum for something that could be a life-changing experience for those who seize the opportunity during its 12-month span.

There should be no shortage of applicants. About 19,000 beneficiaries are required to be available for part-time or fulltime work in the 18-to-24 age bracket alone. Some of that number may be loath to leave the relative comforts of home and family. But rather than being disinclined, they should heed the “need work, will travel” mindset that has become common worldwide. Take, for example, the Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and others from central Europe who have moved thousands of kilometres to become part of the British workforce. …

Most beneficiaries also want to be doing meaningful work. Helping to rebuild a shattered city surely fits that bill. Nor are beneficiaries being asked to travel to another country and culture like the Poles and Czechs in Britain, or, indeed, the many people from overseas who have come to work in Christchurch. There is every reason for them to grasp the opportunity.

Hopefully they will.

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$3k to Christchurch

May 6th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

John Key has announced:

So today I am pleased to announce a new initiative to further support the rebuild and at the same time help job-seeking beneficiaries outside the region gain work.

It’s called ‘$3k to Christchurch’, and it has two parts.

The first part is Work and Income actively promoting through advertising and direct marketing, job opportunities in Christchurch and surrounding districts to beneficiaries outside the region.

This will involve staff discussing with beneficiaries if moving is an option, and looking at whether their skills and a job in Canterbury can be matched up.

The second part is providing a lump-sum, one-off $3000 payment to beneficiaries interested in moving to Christchurch or surrounding districts who gain a confirmed job offer.

To be eligible, a beneficiary would need proof of a confirmed full-time job offer of at least 30 hours a week and for more than 91 days.

Sounds a good initiative.  Getting people into work is excellent.

  • Beneficiaries will not be required to provide proof of costs.
  • The money will be paid in one lump sum, and it will be non-taxable and exempt from any income and asset tests.
  • In most circumstances the payment would be non-recoverable, but situations where it may have to be repaid would be for cases like misconduct leading to dismissal.
  • The offer will be open to all ages who are on benefits, but with a particular focus on those aged 18 to 24.

Non-taxable makes it more attractive.

Also announced:

The apprenticeship reboot I announced in January last year was so successful that by October, 8000 people throughout the country had signed up for training in apprenticeship programmes. 

That happened in the space of just seven months – when the normal sign-up rate for a full year was 7000.

Because of this demand, in December last year we expanded the reboot to a total of 14,000 places.  And they too have been filling up quickly.

Today, I am pleased to announce that the scheme will be expanded again because of continuing high demand.

Budget 2014 will provide up to $20 million to expand the Apprenticeship Reboot by 6000 places.

This move will boost the total number of places to 20,000.

This extension means we have doubled the number of apprentices that can get their training costs subsidised since the scheme was first announced.

Both are about helping young people get into work. The first job is often the most important one.

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Christchurch Cycling

November 3rd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reported:

The Government’s transport plan for Christchurch is being hailed as another big boost for cycling in the city.

Keith Turner, chairman of the cycling advocacy group Spokes Canterbury, said the cycleway initiatives could put Christchurch on a par with bustling cities like Copenhagen.

Earlier this year the Christchurch City Council agreed to invest nearly $70 million on creating a new network of suburban cycleways.

Now the Government has confirmed plans to turn the new central business district into a cycle-friendly area by slowing down traffic and building separate cycle paths where possible.

“It is everything we hoped for and everything that people were asking for as part of the Have a Say campaign,” Turner said.

Under the government plan released on Wednesday, key cycling routes will be prioritised for cycling and some paths will be for cyclists only.

Christchurch is such a flat city, that it is made for cycling. In Wellington cycling to and from work can be a form of Russian Roulette!

Would be good to see Wellington City Council do what it can to make Wellington a safer city for cycling.

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Key in Christchurch

November 1st, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

David Cunliffe would have you think John Key is a hated neo-lib who would sell his own mother. But a fair few Christchurch people seem to disagree. Stuff reports:

Shoppers in central Christchurch gave Prime Minister John Key a rock-star-like welcome when he visited the Palms Shopping Centre this morning.

Key, who was in town to launch the National’s Party’s Christchurch East by-election campaign with its candidate, Matthew Doocey, was mobbed by shoppers as the pair walked through the shopping centre.

Key posed for dozens of photographs and even filmed an impromptu video on an iPhone for the Whanau School Community’s student attendance class which is graduating soon.

He mingled with mothers and their children, staff from nearby retailers and barely made it past the first five shops in one wing in 30 minutes – such was his popularity.

The shopping centre is in Shirley, which isn’t like Fendalton. The average income is near identical to the city as a whole, and their average deprivation is decile 8 (10 is most deprived).

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Seems a fair compromise

August 29th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Will Harvie at The Press writes:

But the two groups are distinct and should be treated differently. First are the people with empty sections, who could not buy insurance in the marketplace and were expressly forbidden from buying insurance under the EQC Act.

The second group is people who chose not to insure their residences, or forgot or made some mistake that meant they were uninsured.

It’s unfair that bare-land owners were offered just 50 per cent. It should be 100 per cent. These people did nothing wrong, took all steps practicable and suffered as a result of a natural disaster.

Those who did not have insurance when it was available should be offered 50 per cent. They also did nothing wrong, but did not take all steps necessary to protect themselves and their investments.

I accept the ”moral hazard” argument that compensating the uninsured at 100 per cent would encourage people to skip insurance in the hope that the Government would bail them out.

That sounds pretty fair to me.

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The need to restore balance in Christchurch

July 1st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A reader e-mails:

Not in the Chrustchurch Plan

By 1879, serving the population (13.500) of Christchurch were 60 grocer’s shops. 41 hotels, 14 churchs, 6 banks, five chemist shops, six breweries.30 priests and ministers of religion, 24 barristers and solicitors, 18 architects, 18 doctors and 5 dentists.

Christchurch needs to restore the balance between breweries/hotels and the general population and definitly the balance between breweries/hotels and the legal profession

A sentiment many would agree with!

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The Christchurch anchor projects

June 28th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Christchurch will have $4.8 billion invested in its rebuild – $2.9b from the Crown and $1.9b from the city council.

There are many things that my taxes get spent on that I resent having to fund. But rebuilding Christchurch is not one of them.

Repair to horizontal infrastructure:  The council has committed $1.1b to the costs of repairing and rebuilding Christchurch’s earthquake-damaged roads and underground pipes. The Crown’s share of $1.8b is based on agreed subsidies of 83 per cent for roading and 60 per cent for sewer, water and stormwater.

Anchor projects: The council’s contribution for the Anchor projects – the frame, the convention centre precinct, the stadium, car parking, the metro sports facility, the town hall-performing arts precinct, the earthquake memorial, Central Library, Avon River Park, Cathedral Square, the transport interchange and transport plan – is $782.9m, including escalations. The Crown will pay $1.1b.

Convention centre: The Crown will lead the convention centre rebuild. It is hoping to secure private sector investment but has allocated $284m to the precinct. There is no council funding towards this in the form of capital or operating costs.

The frame: The Crown is funding this project at a cost of $481m and when completed will transfer the public areas back to the council.

The stadium: The proposal is for a 35,000-seat covered stadium for sport and entertainment events over three city blocks between Hereford and Tuam streets, bounded by Madras and Barbadoes streets. This agreement caps the council contribution at $253m – the amount the council allowed for rebuilding the original AMI Stadium at Lancaster Park. The Crown will contribute $37m.

Metro sports facility: The Crown will lead this project, but the council will have final approval of the design and scope for the project. The council is contributing $147m of the total cost of the facility, which includes a competition pool, an indoor sports stadium and a movement centre. The Crown will pay $70m.

Transport interchange: The project includes a new central-city bus interchange, two central-city super-stops in Manchester St and at Christchurch Hospital, the Riccarton and Northlands malls suburban interchanges and Riccarton Rd bus priority measures. The Crown is seeking private sector investment to build and operate the transport interchange, but if this is not successful, the fallback position is that the council will own and operate the interchange.
The council will pay $40m and the Crown $51m.

Avon River precinct: The Crown is leading this project, with the council’s contribution being $6.4m. The Crown’s contribution is $89m.

Cathedral Square: The Crown and the council will work together on a joint project to enhance Cathedral Square, with the council contributing $4.6m, an amount the Crown will equal.

Performing Arts precinct: Given its determination to save one of the city’s landmarks, the Town Hall, the council will consider several options before August 31. These include saving all or part of the Town Hall and developing a cultural arts precinct adjacent to the Theatre Royal. The council has budgeted $158m, including the Town Hall rebuild, for this project. The Crown will pay $8m.

Central Library: The council will lead this project to build a flagship Central Library fronting Cathedral Square. The council has budgeted $60m for this project, with a further $29m from the Crown and philanthropic sources.

Car parking: The council will work with the Christchurch Central Development Unit and the private sector on central-city parking. At this stage there is a need for three central-city parking buildings. The council has budgeted $70m, which will be funded by repair funds and insurance proceeds from the Manchester, Lichfield, Crossing, Farmers and Crown Plaza car parks. The Crown will not contribute.

Earthquake memorial: The Ministry of Culture and Heritage is leading this project on behalf of the Crown, which is also funding the memorial. The council may be required to maintain the memorial.

Transport plan: The council is providing $27m towards changes to the layout of the central-city transport network and the Crown will pay $44m.

Great to have the all important issue of who pays for what, and how much sorted. This means the focus is more and more on implementing the rebuild rather than debating it.

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Brownlee on Christchurch Town Hall

June 17th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Gerry Brownlee writes in The Press:

The Christchurch Town Hall is broken and unusable, and fixing it would be an expensive challenge, says the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee.

it would cost around $130 million to repair it, and insurance would cover only half.

In April 2012 we established the Christchurch Central Development Unit, of which the Christchurch City Council is a part, with the Crown and Ngai Tahu.

Council staff advised and played a significant role in developing the blueprint, ensuring it reflected what Christchurch residents told them. There was strong community support for a performing arts precinct, which was developed into an anchor project.

In 1974, Christchurch opened the premier performing arts facility of its generation.

The Christchurch Town Hall was state of the art for its time. The ultimate compliment was paid when in 1975 the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington was commissioned using the same architects and acoustic engineer.

A building younger than me, is not a heritage building.

Today the Christchurch Town Hall is badly torn apart.

What is left of it sits on some of the worst land from the geotechnical perspective in the central city – in part why it is so seriously damaged. It lies broken and unusable, and fixing it would be an expensive challenge.

We have a clear choice: try to recapture the magic of the past and patch up the town hall, as some want to do; or deliver modern facilities that could again have Christchurch leading the world for quality performing arts spaces.

The blueprint proposes developing an arts and entertainment complex with multiple theatres and performing arts spaces.

It would deliver auditoria of differing sizes, for multiple purposes, across a range of entertainment genres and with the performing arts community’s needs in mind.

This proposal encompasses the things Christchurch residents told the city council they wanted through the Share an Idea process.

It would incorporate space for our music schools.

It would have space for art house cinema and documentaries.

Performance spaces of varying sizes would take some risk out of mounting shows; if more seats were required, they would be at the same venue.

Sounds a much better plan to me, and something that would be used by many many more people than the old Town Hall.

But I have no doubt the Council will vote the other way.

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The Press on the next 1,000 days

May 31st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press has two nifty features on this story.

At the top of the page they have  a recovery meter showing the percentage completed for various recovery tasks such as home reparis, EQC claims and payouts, infrastructure rebuilds, demolitions and opening of the red zone.

Down the bottom they have a calendar of likely future events.

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100 actions in 1,000 days

May 30th, 2013 at 12:45 pm by David Farrar

Tomorrow is 1,000 days since the first Canterbury earthquake. Gerry Brownlee has produced an interesting list of 100 things the Government has done in that time. Some are significant, and some of course less so.

Since 4 September 2010 we have:

1.         Passed two pieces of special legislation allowing the Crown to respond appropriately to the Canterbury earthquakes

2.         Established a dedicated government department, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority

3.         Passed 24 Orders in Council to amend or suspend laws to affect timely recovery

4.         Hosted 250 public community meetings, speaking to at least 30,000 people

5.         Had the Ministry of Social Development begin an outbound calling campaign to evaluate the immediate needs of older and vulnerable members of the community and get help to them.  Contact was made with over 20,000 people this way in the days after the February earthquake

6.         Zoned 181,000 residential properties in greater Christchurch according to degree of land damage

7.         Created a website identifying residents’ land zoning, landcheck.org.nz

8.         Received an incredible 5.11 million views over its first 24 hours of the landcheck.org.nz website operating

9.         Hosted two expos covering insurance advice, council information and a winter wellness programme

10.       Hosted a Rebuild and Recovery Expo attended by over 5000 people

11.       Held 43 residential red zone land decision meetings for thousands of residents

12.       Held 20 residential red zone offer workshops for hundreds of residents

13.       Held 10 other red zone-related meetings

14.       Held two orange zone meetings for people awaiting final zoning

15.       Held six residential green zone land decision meetings to inform residents what the zoning meant for them

16.       Held 43 residential green zone technical land category meetings

17.       Held 21 Port Hills white zone meetings explaining the basis for investigating final zoning

18.       Held 15 Accessible City Transport briefings for members of the public

19.       Held 15 special workshops with professional and technical experts on a range of issues related to geology, geotechnical investigations and information we believed the residents of greater Christchurch wanted to know

20.       Produced 320 different CERA publications

21.       Produced and distributed over 1 million CERA newsletters highlighting major recovery news and initiatives

22.       Produced and distributed 36,000 CERA information and assistance brochures to specifically inform residents of the Crown offers, Technical Category 3 information, earthquake support services and other information about recovery

23.       Translated our factsheets and brochures into seven different languages; Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Samoan, Simplified Chinese, Traditional  Chinese and Tongan

24.       Sent out 6160 CERA tweets

25.       Held two celebrity bike races to celebrate the re-opening of key city streets

26.       Zoned 7860 homes red, as being on land unsuitable for residential occupation, and to date have entered into sales and purchase agreements with 7082 property owners

27.       Carried out maintenance at 6021 residential red zone properties

28.       Overseen demolition or removal of 2153 houses in the residential red zone

29.       Completed vegetation scopes of 795 properties and identified 975 individual trees and plants that will stay in place

30.       Planted 12 tonnes of grass seed in the CBD and the residential red zone as part of our clearance and maintenance programme

31.       Removed and recycled 200,000 metres of fencing from red zone properties

32.       Spent $1.2 billion purchasing residential red zone properties and been so proud to see those people moving into warm homes on safer ground – most of them still in Christchurch.  That’s right, they didn’t leave!

33.       Completed 30 individual cordon reductions

34.       Reduced the CBD cordon by 352 hectares

35.       Demolished 1470 commercial buildings across the CBD and suburbs

36.       Assisted 196,000 public visitors into the Cathedral Square area via bus tours and walking tours

37.       Registered 7309 cases with Earthquake Support Co-ordinators

38.       Answered 13,000 calls to the 0800 Earthquake Support phone number

39.       Undertaken 15,188 appointments through the Avondale and Kaiapoi earthquake assistance hubs

40.       Built a temporary stadium in 100 days – a stadium which this weekend will receive its 300,000th paid customer

41.       Hosted 20,000 local kids and parents at a free stadium open day with a range of fun events and refreshments

42.       Ordered 301 emergency demolitions through Civil Defence

43.       Established the Canterbury Earthquake Temporary Accommodation Service (CETAS)

44.       Assisted with 3392 CETAS requests for accommodation

45.       Built three temporary accommodation villages with a fourth under construction, which will bring the number of dwellings available for temporary stays while houses are being repaired to 123

46.       Had over 350 households stay in our temporary villages

47.       Granted 2163 temporary accommodation allowances, equating to an average $333,614 being paid each week

48.       Issued 97 CERA press releases

49.       Issued 127 Ministerial press releases

50.       Live-streamed seven press conferences

51.       Responded to over 4500 individual media enquires

52.       Conducted a Wellbeing Survey in conjunction with local councils, the Canterbury District Health Board, and Ngai Tahu which 2381 residents completed

53.       Published the Wellbeing Survey’s results and put in place initiatives to address areas identified as needing greater effort

54.       Co-ordinated 70 ‘Summer of Fun’ events over summers of 2011 and 2012 for kids and families hit by the quakes, many of them in Christchurch’s eastern suburbs

55.       Received 682 Facebook likes for the ‘Summer of Fun’ events, and 2874 likes on the main CERA page

56.       Hosted over 30,000 local kids and parents at those ‘Summer of Fun’ events

57.       Hosted 200 emergency services personnel and their families at a Christmas lunch

58.       Posted 158 educational and informational videos on the CERA website, ranging from five minutes to two hours in duration, resulting in 230,237 individual viewings

59.       Had 521 of those videos shared by viewers through their own social media channels

60.       Got agreements in place to purchase $228 million worth of central city land so we can build the anchor projects identified in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan

61.       Got contracts or agreements in principle now achieved for 43.4 per cent of the total land area required for the anchor projects

62.       Reached final settlement on 31 CBD properties required for the city’s rebuild

63.       Signed contracts for the purchase of a further 33 properties

64.       And reached agreement in principle with the owners of another 48 properties

65.       Spent $231.6 million on CBD land purchases required for rebuilding the city

66.       Begun construction on the first phase of the Avon River Precinct

67.       Got seven onsite Development Plans approved for the CBD’s Retail Precinct

68.       Completed a draft concept design of the East Frame – one of the priority anchor projects in the CBD

69.       Released an Expression of Interest document for potential tenants of the city’s Innovation Precinct

70.       Sent 1100 big yellow Amazing Place resource packs to Canterbury school children so they could compete in designing what we think will be the coolest kids’ playground anywhere in the world

71.       Had 6000 Canterbury children take part in the Amazing Place Playground Competition – and we thank every single one of them

72.       Announced that the playground will be named in honour of the amazing children’s author Margaret Mahy ONZ

73.       Completed over 96,000 EQC repairs in total, including emergency repairs

74.       Installed 18,740 heating systems

75.       Received a total of 467,135 EQC claims, 116,660 of which have been settled and closed

76.       Paid out $5.3 billion in EQC claims

77.       Established the Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT), an alliance of CERA, Christchurch City Council, NZ Transport Agency, as well as City Care, Downer, Fletcher, Fulton Hogan and McConnell Dowell, to fix Christchurch’s destroyed underground water and wastewater infrastructure, and the battered roads

78.       Completed 257 SCIRT projects worth $122 million dollars

79.       Laid 23 km of fresh water pipe – that’s 33 per cent of the fresh water damage repaired

80.       Laid 161 km of wastewater pipe – 24 per cent of the damage

81.       Laid 10 km of storm water pipe – 40 per cent of required repairs

82.       Laid 211,083 square metres of road pavement – that’s only 16 per cent of the work to be done

83.       Had 8978 face-to-face interactions with locals about SCIRT work

84.       Distributed 1382 SCIRT work notices to 353,637 residents

85.       Got another 129 SCIRT projects worth $467 million dollars underway

86.       Issued 33,000 CERA passes to individuals

87.       Issued 1500 of those CERA passes for access to the residential red zone

88.       Issued over 200,000 renewals of CERA passes

89.       Held 18 elected members’ meetings for 120 councillors, community board members, CDHB members, Ngai Tahu representatives and Environment Canterbury commissioners

90.       Received 1958 letters to the Minister and 1377 letters to CERA’s chief executive

91.       Responded to 22 oral and 197 written Parliamentary questions about earthquake recovery

92.       Received 593 requests under the Official Information Act

93.       Funded dozens of key exporters to rapidly visit their key clients overseas so they knew their businesses were open, and how much their custom would help the recovery.  This resulted in a continued flow of business, and in some cases resulted in new business

94.       Directly supported 8000 businesses and 63,500 individuals (employees and sole traders)

95.       Paid $214 million in wage subsidies following the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes, which bought businesses time to adjust to the events and avoided massive redundancies which would have caused great harm to Christchurch’s economy

96.       Established the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust, which has raised over $100 million in pledged and received funds and has funded more than 100 projects so far

97.       Helped bring business back to the CBD by launching the Re:START container mall project, with a $3.36 million interest-free loan from the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust to help fund it

98.       Completed the Government share offer of Mighty River Power, which raised $1.7 billion for the Future Investment Fund, which will help fund important rebuild activities including more than $900 million in new capital funding for Christchurch including the Christchurch and Burwood hospitals redevelopment, funding for the justice and emergency services precinct, and tertiary education institutions

99.       Announced a $600 million plus redevelopment of the Christchurch and Burwood Hospitals, with the Government contributing $426 million towards it

100.    Announced the Government is investing $1 billion in restoring and renewing the education sector in greater Christchurch, including building or rebuilding 16 schools

Gerry also announced today that the Government has purchased almost two thirds of the land it needs for the CBD priority projects rebuild. The last two times I’ve been to Christchurch all the activity has been demolitions. Hopefully next time I’m down there, there will be some buildings going up!

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Christchurch boundaries

May 30th, 2013 at 8:44 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Christchurch East could be heading west.

The expected redrawing of Christchurch’s electorate boundaries may be the catalyst for further political shakeup in the region after big upsets at the 2011 general election.

In a big turnaround, Labour was rolled in the previously safe Christchurch Central and Waimakariri seats and suffered a dip in its party vote across the city.

Census data collected in March will form the basis for the new-look electorates after the earthquakes triggered significant population shifts from eastern and central Christchurch.

The Representation Commission is expected to release draft boundary changes in November, which should be finalised in April next year after consultation.

All electorates must have about the same population and South Island electorates are fixed at 16.

Christchurch East – the hardest hit by Government red-zoning – could grow to the west and claim chunks of neighbouring Christchurch Central to boost voter numbers.

The changes in Christchurch are likely to be significant, but are quite hard to predict. Before you even look at Christchurch, you have to look at what happens outside Christchurch.

The Representation Commission starts down South, in Invercargill. In previous years the population growth in Invercargill is less than  in the South Island as a whole. This means the electorate has too few people in it and has to grow in size to be within 5% of the average population. That means its boundaries move North. This means Clutha-Southland loses territory to Invercargill, plus is normally under quota itself, so its boundaries move North also – by an even larger amount.

But it is possibly that the depopulation in Christchurch may mean that this time those seats are not under quota. So until we know that, we don’t even know what will happen to the seats outside Christchurch. If it does follow previous occasions, then each rural electorate will move North, and Selwyn will take in more territory on the outskirts of Christchurch. Once you have done that, then you look at how Christchurch City electorates get divided up.

Dalziel said her electorate could have lost up to 10,000 voters.

A move west into central was the obvious change, while heading north to include Kaiapoi and Pegasus was a possibility but less likely because the Waimakariri district was not Christchurch.

Bromley – a former East electorate suburb – could be reclaimed from Port Hills, as well as Linwood and Richmond from Central.

There will be a lot of interest in the outcome.

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Press says Parata listened

May 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The proposal that the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, put forward yesterday for changes to five schools in the eastern suburbs is a compromise and will not please everyone.

It does, however, demonstrate that the minister has been prepared, as she promised, to listen to the submissions made to her from the community and to change her mind in some areas. The consultation process will continue – the schools still have 28 days to respond to this interim proposal before Parata will announce a final decision.

I’d say the Government has been very flexible and accommodating with its decisions around Christchurch schools. Around 25% of initial decisions have changed.

It is a pity that this level of consultation was not undertaken before rather than after the appallingly mishandled initial announcement for the reorganisation of Christchurch schools was made last year.

Yep. That poisoned the well. The primary fault lay with the Ministry, but the Minister is responsible and should not have just left it to the Ministry to do.

So far as the eastern suburbs were concerned, Parata originally proposed that five schools – Aranui School, Avondale School, Wainoni School, Chisnallwood Intermediate and Aranui High School – be combined at the Aranui High site to create one school that would take pupils from year 1 to year 13.

The idea was to take account of the fact that many of those schools had facilities and grounds that were damaged and had suffered sharp declines in enrolments that were expected to continue, probably for several years.

Parata’s new proposal is to combine four schools, leaving Chisnallwood Intermediate to continue to operate separately. This compromise, if it goes ahead, will please Chisnallwood, which strongly opposed the original proposal, but will disappoint Avondale, which also did not want to join with the other eastern schools.

It should also please Aranui, Wainoni and Aranui High, since it largely reflects their submission to Parata that they have a similar spirit, were a natural fit and should unite at the Aranui High School site.

Leaving Chisnallwood out of the new proposal makes sense. A very large proportion of its enrolment already comes from outside its zone. If it had been combined with the other schools, most of those pupils would almost certainly not have gone to the new site.

Does seem sensible.

Yesterday’s announcement leaves 17 still to hear final decisions on whether they will merge or close by the end of this month.

After the uproar at the beginning, the ending is much less tumultuous. To some degree, that must be because of the intensive discussions that have taken place in the interim.

If Parata deserved blame for the botchup at the beginning, she deserves some credit for being prepared to listen and if necessary change her proposals since then.

A fair editorial.

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The Press Power List

May 4th, 2013 at 9:18 am by David Farrar

The Press has published its power list for Christchurch. As with all lists, they are just the opinions of the four people who compiled the list (two of whom are constant critics of the Government) but nevertheless an interesting list:

  1. PM John Key
  2. CERA Minister Gerry Brownlee
  3. Ngai Tahu Chairman Mark Solomon
  4. EQC CEO Ian Simpson
  5. ECan Chair Dame Margaret Bazley
  6. CERA CEO Roger Sutton
  7. The Press Editor Joanna Norris
  8. IAG CEO Jacki Johnson
  9. Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce
  10. Education Minister Hekia Parata
  11. Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings
  12. Cant Employers CEO Peter Townsend
  13. Chch Central Dev Unit Director Warwick Isaacs
  14. Civic Assurance CEO Tim Sole
  15. Chch City Council CEO Tony Marryatt
  16. Chch Mayor Bob Parker
  17. Chch East MP Lianne Dalziel
  18. SCIRT Chairman Mark Ford
  19. The Gough Family
  20. The Carter Family

As the Government is spending $15 billion of taxpayers money on rebuilding Christchurch, it should be little surprise that central Government figures are more influential than usual.

 

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$2b for Christchurch

April 29th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

The Government has taken another $2 billion hit to its books as the estimated cost of the Christchurch rebuild continues to escalate amid signs the bill could grow even more.

Yesterday, Prime Minister John Key revealed the forecast cost to the Government had risen from $13b to $15b since the Treasury’s December update was issued.

The new figures, to be included in the May 16 Budget, would also show the overall capital cost of the rebuild would soar by a third to reach $40b against December’s $30b estimate.

Speaking at the National Party’s Mainland Region conference in Hanmer Springs, Mr Key said the new figures showed the extent of the challenge of rebuilding the earthquake-damaged city.

“This is the largest and most complex, single economic project in New Zealand’s history. The scale of the rebuild is unprecedented,” he told delegates, who had earlier negotiated a mock “toll booth” placed by anti-privatisation protesters at a bridge on the way to the conference venue.

Even the Crown’s spend of $15 billion must be several times bigger than any other project in NZ? What would be the biggest to date before the earthquake?

UPDATE: I’m informed that the only “project” that has been a larger spend for New Zealand was WWII. Puts it in perspective.

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The red zone offers

April 3rd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key says it will be “bleak” for Canterbury residents who chose not to take up the Government’s buy-out offer for land in the red zone.

He said the Government would not support red zone infrastructure – water, sewerage, electricity and roading.

“It will be quite a bleak environment to be living in. But in the end you can’t force people to take the offer, it’s voluntary.”

He said 6500 people have either accepted and settled, or are about to settle. Only 213 have not.

So that is a 97% acceptance rate.

Some Christchurch residents with land in the red zone are calling in the Human Rights Commission.

I really don’t think there is a human right to require me (and other taxpayers) to purchase undeveloped or uninsured land that has been damaged in an earthquake.

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The Press on Council housing

March 19th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

On the face of it, the attack last week by the Minister for Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, appears to be amply justified.

While there may be room for quibbling about the exact numbers, the pace with which the Christchurch City Council has repaired and replaced the social housing damaged by the earthquakes has been slow.

Quoting from the council’s own latest report, the council has closed 327 social housing units but has managed, in a programme that is supposed to be urgent, to repair and relet only six of them.

Astonishing.

Brownlee is quite right to draw attention to it and to try to set a fire under councillors to get something done about it.

His singling out of Cr Yani Johanson for criticism was, however, misdirected. It is possible to understand the minister’s temptation to target Johanson. In the political spectrum of the council, Johanson sits on the gadfly Left wing.

After some years in office, he still has the slightly bumptious and irritating air of the student politician about him. He is also not slow to criticise the performance of others.

Indeed.

So when the council fails in a serious responsibility he appears to be in charge of, one can see how taking a swipe at him would be hard to resist.

It is, nonetheless, unfair.

For one thing, while Johanson is chairman of the committee that is in charge of the social housing stock, he is only one councillor among the others. He is not like a minister of the Crown. Any failure with repairs to social housing lies not with Johanson alone but with the other councillors on his committee and with the whole council.

I agree, Johanson is not solely responsible. However his share of responsibility must be greater than other Councillors as he chairs the committee in charge.

Taking the opportunity provided by Brownlee’s broadside to have a dig of his own at Johanson, Cr Aaron Keown suggested there were tensions between Johanson’s committee and council staff that were impeding progress on repair work.

If that is correct, the remedy is not, as Keown suggested, to transfer the work to the committee on which Keown sits, but for any difficulties to be identified and fixed. Council staff must provide councillors with prompt, accurate, complete information, and councillors must provide staff with clear and precise directions.

It is hard to say what the solution is, until we know what the problem is. The Council needs to clarify why it has only been able to fix six houses in two years and what changes are necessary to speed this up.

It was almost exactly a year ago that Brownlee lit a rocket under the Housing Corporation for its apparent lethargy on getting state houses repaired and replaced. More action quickly followed.

Beleaguered city council tenants will be hoping his latest blast will be as effective.

That would be good.

Personally this reinforces my belief that Councils should not be landlords. They tend to be very bad at it, and providing community housing is better done by Housing NZ and community groups. If the Council was not the owner, I suspect many more of those houses or apartments would be repaired by now.

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