More sensible earthquake strengthening rules

May 11th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Major changes to the rules around assessing buildings means the number of structures needing inspection has dropped from 500,000 to 30,000.

The Government was revising its policy on managing earthquake risk by better targeting regulations on buildings which posed the greatest risk to life, Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith announced on. 

The policy’s priority was public safety and minimising future fatalities, he said. 

The timeframe for assessing and strengthening buildings that posed a risk would be varied from the current assessment period of five years and require any strengthening work be carried out within 15 years.

The country would be split into low, medium and high risk seismic risk zones with respective timeframes for assessment of five, 10 and 15 years, and strengthening to be carried out within 15, 25 and 35 years.

Linking the timeframes to risk is much more sensible than the same requirements over the whole country.

Smith said the more targeted approach would reduce the estimated cost from $1.360 billion to $777m while retaining the safety gains. 

The policy would result in an estimated 330 fewer deaths and 360 fewer serious injuries from earthquakes over the next century, he said. 

So cost less, and be more effective. Good.

A rare judicial review application by the Govt

March 25th, 2015 at 2:02 pm by David Farrar

Normally private sector bodies take judicial reviews against the Govt, but in a rare move the Government is seeking a judicial review against the  Institute of Professional Engineers of New Zealand (IPENZ).

Stuff reports:

The Government has lodged a legal challenge against a decision not to investigate the Christchurch engineer involved in the failed CTV building design.

The Government has applied before the High Court to seek a judicial review of the decision by the Institute of Professional Engineers of New Zealand (IPENZ) to drop its investigation into Alan Reay’s role in the design of the CTV building.

Building and housing minister Nick Smith said the decision to drop the investigation into Reay after he resigned from IPENZ was flawed. 

“We want the decision overturned and IPENZ to complete the investigation into the professional conduct of Dr Reay’s role in the design of the CTV building.”

“We owe it to the memory of those who lost their lives to hold those responsible to account for the building’s flawed design, and to ensure every possible lesson is learnt by the engineering profession to minimise the future risk.”   …

“It is important that we clarify the law as to whether a professional can avoid disciplinary proceedings by simply resigning. Completing the IPENZ investigation will also be important in clarifying the professional standards expected of a senior engineer supervising the work of a more junior engineer,” Smith said.

Resigning to escape a disciplinary hearing is a cop out, especially when the issue at hand was the collapse of a building killing scores.

Good to see the Government taking action on this.

The quake story you should read

February 21st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Olivia Carville, formerly of The Press, writes of her first anniversary of the quake away from Christchurch. I won’t try to summarise it, just to say it is well worth reading.


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.

Shaky Wellington

July 22nd, 2013 at 4:02 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Police say sink-holes have opened up in the Wellington CBD following a severe magnitude 6.5 earthquake that damaged buildings, cut power, trapped people in lifts and injuring at least two.

Inspector Ian Harris, of Police Communications, said there had been sink-holes reported on Featherston St between Johnston and Waring Taylor streets.

The sink-holes were on the road but it was not known how big of how many there were, he said. The road has been closed.

Good that there were no serious injuries, but a reminder of how vulnerable Wellington is to earthquakes.

I worry how Wellington will fare when an even bigger quake strikes. If the CBD comes down, like in Christchurch, then different parts of the city are effectively cut off from each other, including the hospital. The road links north are also very vulnerable.

Wellington CBD workers are being urged to hold-off heading into work till noon tomorrow to give landlords and engineers time to assess quake-damaged buildings.

Wellington Region Civil Defence Controller, Bruce Pepperell, said people should check with work before heading into the CBD and if they did come in, stay away from quake-damaged facades.

“I am worried about some of the facades. It would only take a little shake to move some of that stuff and it could end in tragedy.”

KiwiRail spokeswoman Sophie Lee said there had been no reports of damage to the tracks this evening. But because much of the assessment was done after dark, the call had been made to do a more thorough check in the morning, she said.

“Given the seriousness of the aftershocks and the fact that (the inspection) is taking a lot of time, we’ve decided to take every precaution.”

No buses were available on such short notice so rail commuters would need to make alternative arrangements, she said.

KiwiRail was hopeful of having at least some services back up and running by midday on Monday.

Rather glad I was out of Wellington for this one. Being on the top floor of an apartment building, we get pretty shaken about in even minor quakes. I’m told the TV fell off the stand, books all came off the shelves, glasses smashed etc.

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!

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.

Thank you very much for your kind donations

November 18th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

From the annual report of the Christchurch Appeal Trust. They have had over $100 million in donations. Major donations of over $500,000 were received from:

  • AEON
  • AMP
  • ANZ Bank
  • America New Zealand Association
  • Bruce Plested
  • Commonwealth Bank Australia
  • Fonterra
  • Fox Studios
  • Glenn Family Foundation
  • Governments of Canada, Indonesia, Oman, China, Russia, Victoria and NSW
  • Infinity Foundation
  • James Cameron
  • NZ Aluminium Smelter
  • New Zealand Community Trust
  • Salvation Army Hong Kong
  • Seven and I Holdings
  • The Southern Trust
  • Valar Capital Management
  • Warner Bros
  • Wesfarmers Ltd
  • William James Duncan

As well those very generous large donations, some great examples of community fundraising globally:

  • The Gherkin stairclimb, London – on 22 May 2011 around 1,000 people raised GBP25,500 in a sponsored ‘Step Up 4 Christchurch’ climb of the famous Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) in the City of London – that’s 38 fl oors and 1,037 steps – organised by Kent Gardner and Paul Kendrick of Evans Randall investment banking group.
  • South Point High School Ohio, USA – on 29 April 2011 the athletes of South Point High School in Southern Ohio sprinted, shot putted, and high-jumped for the Appeal, donating the $1,832 proceeds from their annual track and fi eld meet which is named after legendary Kiwi running coach Arthur Lydiard.
  • Radiothon, Cook Islands – the small Cook Islands community of Aitutaki held a radiothon and its Mayor of Aitutaki John Baxter said that in four hours the community collected $25,000 for the Appeal. Aitutaki is a small island more than 260km from Rarotonga with a population of about 2,000.
  • NZ university graduates, Vietnam – a group of Vietnamese who studied at New Zealand universities over 25 years ago (1950 – 1975) raised $62,000. The 100 former students and their families, who now live all over the world said: “We were given not only an education, but also hospitality and love by the people of New Zealand. We sincerely hope, as members of the big New Zealand family, it can lend a hand in soothing and comforting earthquake victims as they rebuild their lives.”

Great generosity and initiatives.

I must stop flying to Australia

October 10th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The last two times I flew to Australia, the first and second Christchurch earthquakes occurred. Each time as I landed, I was reading tweets and stories about the devastation.

I was feeling cursed, when I saw the headline at The Press about a quake shaking Christchurch. Luckily only a 4.3, so not that strong. As it was shallow though, I understand it was felt strongly.

A quake in Wellington: we’re all f***ed

February 17th, 2012 at 8:12 am by David Farrar

Katie Chapman at Stuff reports:

Major routes in and out of New Zealand’s capital city could be blocked by rubble from more than 400 buildings with unstable masonry in the event of a big earthquake.

A new council report into Wellington’s resilience has found the city’s economy would take a $37 billion hit if it experienced an event like the Christchurch earthquake, with many core businesses and services – including the Government – likely to leave the city permanently.

Among concerns highlighted in the report are the 435 buildings in Wellington with unreinforced masonry, 166 of which are heritage buildings.

The location of many earthquake-prone buildings along important strategic roads means routes needed by emergency services in the event of a big earthquake could end up blocked by fallen masonry.

The short version is if a big quake hits Wellington, we’re all fucked.

Transmission Gully will at least provide an alternate route out in the future , but even getting to the start of that will probably prove highly difficult.

Still it could be worse than being left to rot in a quake destroyed Wellington. The Government will probably relocate to Palmerston North – a fate worse than death!