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!


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.


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,

8.         Received an incredible 5.11 million views over its first 24 hours of the 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.


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.


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.


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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The Press investigates Christchurch housing

February 27th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press has done an investigation:

Is there a housing crisis in Christchurch? The Press examined statistics, attended open homes and spoke to experts and members of the public. Anna Turner reports.

Difficult, pressured, heated – yes. But a crisis where ordinary people can’t buy or rent homes and flats and many homeless are roaming the streets or living in cars – No.

Those are the findings of a two-week investigation by The Press.

Well done to The Press for doing a comprehensive investigation and going beyond the headlines.

High and average income earners were simply in a more competitive market, with people having to pay more and make an offer faster to get a house.

People on low incomes and benefits, as usual, were suffering the most, The Press inquiry found.

Residential property prices were up across the city since the earthquakes – but not outrageously – and the number of homes being sold was at a level similar to before the earthquakes.

Figures from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) showed median house prices across Christchurch city have risen 8 per cent from January 2010 to January 2013. The median house price in January 2013 was $28,800 more than in January 2010.

Median house prices in Auckland rose 13 per cent in the past three years and the median price of an Auckland house sold in January 2013 was almost $60,000 more than it was in January 2010.

Auckland needs more land.

Timaru’s median house price rose 20.4 per cent from January 2010 to January 2013, while on the West Coast the median rose 10 per cent.

So an 8% increase in house prices over three years isn’t to bad.

The Press’ investigation found Christchurch’s rental market was closer to crisis than the property market.

Tenants Protection Agency manager Helen Gatonyi said many of the issues of substandard housing and poor access to housing were there before the earthquakes.

“There have always been these issues around housing and people who are living in houses of a poor condition. There have always been people living in garages and sleepouts. It’s not new,” she said.

“It’s just more visible now and people have to live in that kind of housing for longer than they did before the earthquakes because there are fewer options.”

Trade Me figures showed in Christchurch the average rent was up 26 per cent between the last quarters of 2012 and 2011.

And that is a lot. But the answer to that is to increase the number of houses available for renting. A rent freeze will do the opposite and make the problem worse in the long term.

Kennard Real Estate director Colin Lock said the rental figures in Christchurch were “misleading”.

“If you take a snapshot of all the figures across the whole rental market you’d think rents had gone through the roof.

“There’s two distinct markets – people renting fully-furnished properties at a higher price for a short time and people renting properties long-term for lower prices,” Lock said.

His own rentals had gone up an average of 11 per cent in the year to January 2013.

“My insurance has virtually doubled and my rates are up. The tenants aren’t being ripped off by the average landlord.”

That is a fair point on insurance and rates. The Council has just put rates up, and even in Wellington insurance premiums have doubled. Blaming the landlord for everything is unfair.

Mayor Bob Parker said he had never spoken to anybody, even those who were struggling, who hadn’t been able to find somewhere in the end.

The Press spoke to many people who said they had found a rental easily.

Kim Thompson said: “We moved after all the earthquakes, have an awesome house with fabulous landlords and great rent.”

Serra Kilduff said while it took her longer than usual to find a nice place, she and her partner managed it.

“It took a couple of months to find a place that wasn’t falling down, had insulation and heating, a garden, and wasn’t $600 a week. We have been very lucky in finally finding a great place with fantastic landlords.”

Christchurch’s social housing also failed to reflect a city-wide crisis. Housing New Zealand had recorded a marked decrease in the number of people on its waiting list for social housing units – dropping from 744 people in 2010 to 195 in 2013.

Again really good to see a story that both looks at the hard data, but also interviews a variety of people, not just those with the loudest voice.

That is not to say things are not very tough for many. Of course it is. But the term “crisis” has implications that do not match the reality.


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Editorials on Chch schools

February 19th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The big reduction in the number of schools being forced to close or merge, announced by Education Minister Hekia Parata yesterday, is more than welcome. It ends the anxiety of the many Christchurch people who faced their most cherished community asset being torn from them or drastically altered, reduces pupil and parent fears and gives teachers more certainty about their jobs.

The Government should be congratulated for at last properly consulting people about the plan and for taking heed of concerns. Even greater congratulations should go to the schools, parents and supporters for gathering the facts and ensuring that the Government took them aboard. This was a demonstration of people power at its constructive best.

There is nothing as good as winning an argument by having the facts on your side.

Now it emerges that much of that outpouring was avoidable had the Ministry of Education built its plans on sure facts and consulted more effectively before the wholesale announcement. Had it done so, the first plan would have been something like that now proposed and would not have hit the city like a load of lead. People would have been much more accepting of change because they would have been informed about its need and contributed to its detail.

It is clear the original proposals were not just communicated badly, but were in some cases based on faulty info. The Herald touches on this also:

The outcry that greeted the announcement of the plan in September made its revision inevitable. The revised version appeared yesterday. Instead of closures and mergers of schools across the city the closures now appear to be confined to areas worst hit by the earthquakes or where rolls had been in steepest decline.

While there is anguish in any school that has to close – and the date has been set sooner for them under the revised plan – some of them had to go. The city’s schools had a combined capacity for about 5000 more pupils than attended them before the earthquakes and its school-age population had dropped by a further 4300 by July last year.

It is hard to argue that nothing should change at all, based on the surplus of 9,300 places.

If the original plan had been confined to those sorts of areas it would probably not have incurred the wrath and derision it received. But somewhere in the higher echelons of education, the earthquake was seen as an opportunity to redesign schooling as we have known it in this country. The whole of Christchurch was to be a template for “something different and innovative to support improved outcomes in education”.

The ministry’s document talked of “shared campuses” for everything from early childhood to tertiary education, and educational institutions that would comprise not just schools but “dental clinics, doctors’ surgeries, mental health and other support services such as counsellors, social workers and therapists”.

To this end, the planners hoped to knock down and rebuild much more public property than had suffered serious damage.

The original plan was based on the “ideal” but failed to take account of how disruptive change can be. The revised plan appears to be based on necessity where change is minimised unless there is little alternative.

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Why bother getting insurance?

February 18th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Homepaddock highlights this policy from NZ First:

All Christchurch uninsured red-zoned land owners who accept the current Government’s 50 per cent compensation offer will get the other half should New Zealand First become part of the next coalition Government.

Ensuring these landowners are treated fairly and receive the full rateable value of the land will be a bottom line in any coalition negotiations.

Very unwise for a party on 4% to start laying down non-negotiable policies two years before an election.

Ele points out:

The party obviously doesn’t understand that what it regards as treating these landowners fairly would be treating insurance companies, their staff and shareholders, and taxpayers most unfairly.

This would kill the insurance industry because no-one would bother insuring their properties if they knew the government would pick up the pieces after a disaster.

This policy passes all the risk and costs from private property owners and insurance companies to the government which means taxpayers.

Exactly. The precedent would be horrible. You’d be mad to ever get insurance again.

Now remember that NZ First has said this is a non-negotiable bottom line policy for any future Government.

Isn’t MMP great!

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Christchurch Schools details

February 18th, 2013 at 12:22 pm by David Farrar

The details are all on the dedicated website. A summary:

  • Only 19 out of 215 schools in Canterbury are affected, representing around 5% of Canterbury pupils
  • 12 schools that were proposed for closure or merging will now remain as they are.  They are Bromley, Burnham, Burnside, Duvauchelle, Gilberthorpe, Linwood Avenue, Okains Bay, Ouruhia Model, Shirley Intermediate, and Yaldhurst schools, and the two kura – TKKM o Waitaha and TKKM o Te Whānau Tahi
  • Seven schools are proposed to close
  • 12 schools are proposed to merge into six schools
  • Five schools in Aranui are proposed to merge into one Year 1 to 13 campus but this is still being consulted on
  • Two schools have closed voluntarily
  • Two schools are being rebuilt on their existing sites
  • Five brand-new schools are being built
  • Eight schools are being rebuilt on new sites
  • Further consultation on interim decisions has been extended to 31 March 2013

It will be a hard day for the pupils, teachers, staff and parents of the 19 schools that face closure or change. My thoughts are with them. Also with those who will now not be impacted and will be very relieved and can focus on the future of their schools.


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Getting it right this time

February 18th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reported:

The Government will announce interim decisions for 31 schools earmarked for possible closure or merger as part of its ”education renewal plans” for the city at noon on Monday.

Schools will have six weeks to respond to those decisions. A final decision on the schools will be made in late May.

The 31 affected schools have a total roll of about 5500 kids, or 7.6 per cent of the school population in greater Christchurch.

The schools will be informed of the interim decisions first on Monday, at their schools as they have requested, before the decisions are publicly announced at noon.

A letter for parents will also be sent home with all children at the affected schools outlining the decisions and what it means for them.

Information about each school will be available on the website.

An 0800 number has been set up, which parents can call if they have any questions. That number is            0800 746 338       and will be active from noon Monday.

I have to say it looks like the Government has learnt from what went wrong last time, with the way they have handled this latest round.

Last time people were summoned to a room, and found out the proposed fate of their school from the colour of their name tag.

This time, the process looks much much better. The schools have been asked how they want to be told. Each school has someone coming in to them – to tell them first. The Government has made clear any decisions are interim, and that there is six weeks to submit before final decisions. There is a letter to each parent, a dedicated website and an 0800 number.

Now this doesn’t mean everyone will like the decisions. Inevitably any decisions on mergers and closures will be upsetting for those affected. But the population loss and damaged buildings and land has made change inevitable. Also 92% of pupils in Canterbury will be unaffected by any decisions.

Also important to recall that the education unions have called a strike for tomorrow – regardless of what is announced. The unions have decided in advance to oppose whatever is announced. [It seems the strike may have quietly been called off according to one report.]

I, for one, am going to wait to see the details.

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Stopping a 40 tonne boulder

January 25th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rachel Young at Stuff reports:

A 40-tonne boulder has been turned into a political football after it smashed into an unoccupied house in Christchurch’s Port Hills.

Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee said the rockfall, which may have been caused by the recent dry weather, vindicated the Government’s decision to take no risks when it came to red-zoning some Port Hill properties.

But some residents forced out of their homes by the Government’s zoning decisions still believe rock protection work is possible.

I would have thought a 40 tonne rock would convince people that safety should be a real concern, but it seems not.

But Sumner resident Phil Elmey, who has vowed to fight the red-zoning of his land, said the house in Finnsarby Place was in a “bowling alley”. He said most of the red-stickered houses could be saved if money was spent on rock protection work.

“Even a rock that size could be stopped by the right protection . . . We think it’s disgraceful that it hasn’t happened.”

I am not an engineer, and I suspect neither is Mr Elmey. But if anyone out there is, maybe you can give us some idea of what sort of protection will stop a 40 tonne rock from ploughing through a house? And what if it was 100 tonnes?

UPDATE: Mr Elmey is an engineer, so I am happy for him to assess his own risk. So long as he is willing to pay for the rock protection himself, and also recuse himself from cover by ACC, health and welfare in case any rocks fall – then he should be free to stay in his house at his own risk.

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Brash on the rebuild

January 21st, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Olivia Carville at The Press reports:

The Government should turn a blind eye to illegal migrants working in Christchurch’s rebuild because the city needs all hands on deck, former high-profile politician Don Brash says.

Brash, a past leader of both the National Party and ACT Party, believes officials should focus on rebuilding the city rather than hunting down unlawful workers.

“I want local and central government to show more urgency on the rebuild of Christchurch and if that means taking a lenient attitude toward people whose immigration status might not be up to scratch, in the peculiar situation which Christchurch faces, I would be all in favour of that,” he said.

I wouldn’t advocate employing people with no right to work in NZ, but what the Govt could do is allow those here illegally to gain a work visa if they are willing to work in Chch.

However, his controversial comments have been slammed by the city’s migrant agencies as “gutless”.

Patrick O’Connor, the co-director of Peeto, Christchurch’s Multicultural Learning Centre, labelled Brash’s suggestion as “anti-New Zealand”.

“It is totally hypocrisy coming from a man who was the head of ACT (which is an acronym for the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers). If he is so mindful of protecting the rights of taxpayers in New Zealand, how can he turn around and advocate for illegal migrants who evade tax?” O’Connor asked.

I don’t think Don is saying they should be employed under the table, rather than they be allowed to work legally despite not being entitled to be in NZ.

Brash posted: “I have to say that I couldn’t give a damn about so-called illegal workers helping to rebuild Christchurch . . . If I had somebody helping to rebuild my home after almost two years of waiting for anything to be done, I wouldn’t care what their immigration status was.”

Brash, who now lives in Auckland, grew up in Christchurch and told The Press he was frustrated to hear his retired sister, who has been living in a caravan since the February 2011 earthquake, would not have her house repaired before Christmas.

“My feeling is, if this were war, everybody would be saying: ‘Look, we want all hands to the pump and if anybody is willing to work hard to help that’s fantastic.’

If we do not have enough people to fill up the jobs available, then we should make it easier for people to work here.

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Who will People’s Choice choose?

January 16th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

The largest political grouping in Christchurch’s local government scene says it is determined to unseat Mayor Bob Parker at this year’s local body elections.

People’s Choice has set up a 12-strong electoral strategy panel to oversee the selection of a mayoral candidate and to chart the course of the election campaign.

The group is represented on the Christchurch City Council by Glenn Livingstone, Jimmy Chen and Yani Johanson.

Chairman Paul McMahon said informal discussions had been held with several people and expressions of interest in the mayoralty called for.

The group wanted to announce its candidate as soon as possible but wanted to make sure it selected the right person for the job.

“We are going to pick someone who can win,” said McMahon, who declined to say when the candidate selection would be made.

He said the selection panel was conscious of the need to work with mayoral aspirants outside of People’s Choice if it wanted to avoid splitting the vote and giving Parker another three years in office.

Livingstone is considered the group’s most likely contender for the mayoralty, but there has been speculation it could back Cr Tim Carter for the job, even though he is not part of People’s Choice.

Whenever a political ticket includes the term “people” in it I recall the maxim that any country that has “democratic” in its official name almost invariably isn’t, and any country that mentions “people” in its name also almost invariably oppresses them.

Parker could well face challengers from the left and the right. It will be fascinating to see who steps forward in the next few months.

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Canterbury job stats

January 14th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

The number of jobs advertised in Canterbury this week would cater for only half of those on the dole.

Even if this stat is correct, that’s a very high proportion. That suggests that if a job stays listed for say a month, then over two months there would be more jobs listed than people on the dole in Canterbury.

About 28,000 Cantabrians are out of work, with 3424 being paid an unemployment benefit, but there are only about 1700 jobs advertised on employment listings website Seek.

The Sep 2012 HLFS says there are 317,000 people working in Canterbury, 17,000 unemployed (5.2%) and 147,000 not in the labour force but of working age.

On top of 17,000 unemployed, there are 9,000 available for work but not seeking it and 3,000 seeking it but not available.

But the rather dodgy stat is using Seek as the indicator of jobs available in Canterbury. It is just one website. Trade Me by comparison has 1,577 jobs. Not all of them will be duplicates.

So how many jobs are there available in Canterbury? ANZ tracks both print and online ads and found in October 2012 there were around 33,000 jobs ads nationwide. If you assume they are proportional to population, then that would indicate over 3,000 jobs advertised in Canterbury.

Overall it is a good story, but the stats used are a bit loose.

Security One managing director Graham Larson, who has been hiring people for more than 20 years, said about a third of all applications he received would be thrown away, especially if they came with a generic CV.

“If I bother to put my name and number on an ad, I would expect to be addressed as more than ‘Dear Sir’ or ‘Dear Manager’,” he said.

“People need to say this is who I am, this is what I can do and this is what I can do for your company – and for goodness sake, clear up your Facebook page.”

Blake Surfacings owner Peter Scott said he had been trying to find someone to take on a $16.50-an-hour “unofficial apprenticeship” with his industrial flooring firm for about six months.

Two people had expressed interest, but after asking them to send copies of their CV, neither replied. The job was “semi-skilled”, but all training would be provided on the job as Scott said he would prefer to hire someone “fresh” to the industry.

No surprise more and more people from overseas are being hired.

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Victoria Park

January 12th, 2013 at 6:02 pm by David Farrar

Victoria Park

EveryTrail – Find trail maps for California and beyond

This track/s turned out to take three hours as the hill climbs were extensive, but over the 11 kms you get some amazing views of both Christchurch, and the harbour.

But in terms of track markings it was the total opposite of the tracks at Bottle Lake Forest Park. The latter had track signs every few score metres, making it so easy to follow. The tracks around Victoria Park were missing markers at many a fork or intersection, forcing you to guess.

It didn’t help that the visitor’s centre was closes due to quake damage, and hence no track pamphlets available. Anyway I started off down a path to Bowenvale Reserve. The path forked and the fork I chose was the one that goes down steep banks, rather than steps. Eventually rejoined the main track.

Then you walk along the Bowenvale Reserve in a lovely valley. Again they have dispensed with marking the track up the hill, so I walked all the way to the road, and then doubled back until guessing it was the zig zag track on the left.

The zig zag up is a vertical elevation of around 400 metres and you have a few sheep to keep you company. Finally you get to the top, and once again they dispense with anything useful such as clearly marked track names. I guessed that heading towards Sugarloaf would be the right thing to do, and after a short walk along the road (in 30 degree heat!) I saw the Crater Rim Walkway, which I joined and there were stunning views from.

After the crater rim walkway, I took another track around the back of Sugarloaf, which again had some great views. Upon exiting that track I saw the back of a sign, and upon turning around to read it, I discovered the track was closed due to rockfall danger. It really would have been useful for them to put these signs up at both sides of the track – not just one side!

By this stage I was bloody hot and tired and had been mentally anticipating a nice drink at the cafe at the Sign of the Kiwi. Would have been nice for them to have a sign up at Victoria Park itself that Sign of the Kiwi was also closed. I let out a small yell of annoyance, and then proceeded down some path (Harry something) back to the Victoria Park carpark. Once again they neglected to have signs up at any forks, and I choose the fork which took me down around 1 km below the carpark, so finished with a walk back up the hill. Was a rather annoying afternoon, despite the great views. Took me three hours in total.

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Bottle Lake Forest Park

January 11th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Bottle Lake Forest Park

EveryTrail – Find the best hikes in California and beyond

Thought I’d do a few walks during my break in Christchurch so headed north slightly to the Bottle Lake Forest Park.

I did the blue trail which is around 10 kms in length and is a very well signposted walk. Almost impossible not to follow the trail as they have markers every few score metres.

Most of the time you have a pleasant walk in the shade of the forest. There is a long stretch along the boundary of an exclusion zone, and then on the return leg there is a sandy patch which on a hot day is somewhat draining. Walking uphill on sand slows you down considerably.

The park is a multi-use area so you get walkers, cyclists, runners and horse riders. Not generally on the same track, but the paths often intersect so always need to watch out. Oh yeah, also the odd truck on the forest roads you cross.

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