Friday, September 30, 2011

All Quiet at Avonside Girls High

On its present now red-zoned riverside site since 1919. Demolition was scheduled to begin yesterday on the school's condemned earthquake-damaged blocks. All fenced off today, though not much activity yet. Pupils are currently attending Burnside High, and the school is set to temporarily reopen with prefab classrooms next year. After 2013 its future is uncertain.

Across the river the willow is the first to show springtime greenery.
For the meantime the old pumping station is still in place.

"Cantabrian Has Turned On Cantabrian"

September 11 2011: Avonside residents protest their treatment by
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee

A refreshingly candid article by English rugby writer Peter Bills in South Africa's Cape Argus captures something of the recent mood in post-quake Canterbury:
'The Canterbury earthquake has forced its people to look inwards at themselves, their lives and their shattered city.
"Christchurch is studying itself and it does not like what it is seeing" said one local.
Bitter in-fighting has replaced the initial shock and grief. Cantabrian has turned on Cantabrian.' 

While there's plenty of rancor born of frustration in evidence in the comment sections of local online media, the editorial tone has until recently attempted to manage rather than analyse the public mood. Faced with an aloof and authoritarian Earthquake Recovery Authority, and a largely sidelined City Council headed by a vapid former game show host, people have grown weary of simply being praised for their stoicism. Right now the mood seems to be shifting from blaming one another to demanding constructive answers.

The public support for Wellington property magnate Bob Jones's recent criticism of the City Council's nebulous scheme for a central city rebuild as an unsustainable fantasy has shaken the complacency of local government. Hopefully this will lead to a more genuine form of public consultation than the Council's recent stage-managed "Have Your Say" distraction.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Scenes From the Doomsday That Wasn't

It seems there's been a prediction circulating on the religious fringe that Wednesday 28 September was to be Christchurch's turn for a massive tsunami. As it happened, lots of spring sunshine, with quake-related demolition continuing at the pace we've grown used to.

Corner of Cashel & Durham Streets

Decabling in the demolition zone

Coming down, corner of Victoria and Peterborough Streets

Safety straps

End of the no cruising zone

Doomsday lunchtime

Sticker poem, Bridge of Remembrance barrier

It may have been built on a swamp, but -
We will never take pity on our beautiful garden city!

Not too far from the demolition activity, a trout in the Avon River.
Some say that they're especially plentiful this year.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Voices From the Red Zones

For those unfamiliar with the situation here in Christchurch, a little background:

In the wake of the series of earthquakes that have devastated much of Christchurch and its environs, the Government has established an authority to manage the area's recovery. CERA, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, has divided the district into color-coded zones, according to the degree of damage they've suffered. Properties in the red zones are deemed to be beyond repair. They'll be acquired  by the Government for eventual 'remediation', and their owners compensated. While some have welcomed this as an end to their troubles, others are discovering that they've barely begun.

CERA is an organisation with potentially draconian powers, such as being able to acquire land without being subject to the usual processes of consent. Unfortunately it's so far been less than proactive in assisting those worst affected by the biggest natural disaster in New Zealand's history.

Despite being a Government agency, CERA shows little interest in ensuring that people are able to reestablish their disrupted lives in the face of land shortages and rising prices. While the Government insists that such things should be left to the market, it consults with insurers before releasing policy. 'Geotech' information - seismic engineers' reports on the status of affected land - is currently withheld from affected landowners, while the responsible Government Minister has publicly toyed with the possibility of making it available to their insurance companies.

When somewhere over two hundred aggrieved red zone residents and their supporters gathered in Kaiapoi last Sunday they were part of a groundswell of protest taking place across the region. There was a similar event in Avonside two weeks earlier, with another scheduled for Sunday September 9 in Bexley. Their reasons are as diverse as their situations - some dispute that their properties are beyond repair, others find that the total replacement that they'd insured for in good faith has vanished into a convenient loophole expedited by Government collusion with their insurers.

Red zoners must deal with a deliberately distant and disinterested Government agency, along with a City Council lacking the political will to take any meaningful initiative. Earthquake recovery Minister Brownlee has implied that the disaffected are greedy and naive. Rather than attend to the needs of those he's been appointed to serve he plays to what he seems to hope is the rest of the country's compassion fatigue. As Kaiapoi rally organiser Brent Cairns told last Sunday's crowd: "We are doing this for maybe the whole of New Zealand. Our concern is, earthquakes could happen in Wellington, they could happen in Auckland, and if this Government is going to treat us so badly, here in Kaiapoi, in Christchurch, in Canterbury, they're going to continue and do it again if someone has a natural disaster like we've had, so essentially that's why we need to stand for our rights."

There were some excellent speakers at Kaiapoi's meeting. First, a brief interview with Avonside red zoner Mike Coleman.

An excerpt from Mike Coleman's speech, in which he illuminates some of the darker recesses of the zoning jungle, and reveals why some are rated red while others will be forever spared.

Finally, the speech that truly resonated with the crowd. The distinguished Kaiapoi maritime artist Craig Smith, with five minutes straight from the heart.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Images From the Kaiapoi Red Zone Protest, Sunday 25 September

Protest organiser Brent Cairns

Lawyer Brent Selwyn

Waimakariri MP Clayton Cosgrove

Mike Coleman

Evan Smith

Craig Smith, getting the message out

Faces from the crowd

The media

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Little History

Christchurch Central MP Brendon Burns and Christchurch City Councillor Yani Johanson
at the Avonside red zone community rally, September 11 2011.

Despite representing the worst-hit areas of the city, for some time now Christchurch's Labour MPs have been thwarted in effectively representing the concerns of their constituents by the easy accusation of "playing politics".  Even within their own party there's been a sense that their hard-won first-hand experience has been somehow ring-fenced, so it's encouraging to see something approaching real policy at last.

Christchurch's own journal of record has provided little long-term recovery-related information in the past week, apart from garbled and contradictory spin on Earthquake Recovery Minister Brownlee's fruitless trip to plead the region's case with overseas insurers. It's disappointing, though hardly unexpected, that they'd run an ill-informed piece attacking a proposal that offers some alternative to the current malaise of demolish and hope.

The always excellent Avonside Blog has an illuminating post that provides rather more background information on earthquake recovery issues than most mainstream media have so far shown the will to provide:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Punting on the Avon

Proud Mary

Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the river

Mighty oak on the right grown from one of seven acorns gifted by Queen Victoria

If you come down to the river
Bet you gonna find some people who live

I'sarn Redux

I'sarn Thai food. After losing their restaurant at the corner of High and Hereford Streets to earthquake damage, now open on Bealey Ave:

Roger Sutton - CERA a Poisoned Chalice?

The Roger Sutton who won the affection of quake-hit Christchurch back in February when he oversaw the restoration of power to damaged suburbs is seldom seen of late. Sadly the earthquake recovery CEO is no longer the unassuming guy who'd cycle to community events.  Unless they're part of the tightly managed script he's nowhere to be seen, as was the case on September 11 when Avonside residents turned out to protest CERA's failure to address their concerns.

They'd be delighted to see you at Kaiapoi this Sunday Roger, just as they'd love to have access to the data that your organisation currently privileges to their insurance companies. It's not too late, not yet.

Waimakariri Red/Green Zone rally
Sunday 25th September, 2pm, Band Rotunda on Charles Street, Kaiapoi

Update, Sunday 25th: 
Roger Sutton a no-show at Kaiapoi red zone protest.
No surprise.
A proven talent blighted by association with a cynical and incompetent politician.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo

The Emperor clothed

Sunday Morning, 18 September

The City From the Hills

                                     There lies our city folded in the mist,
                                      Like a great meadow in an early morn
                                      Flinging her spears of grass up through white films,
                                      Each with its thousand thousand tinted globes.

                                      Above us such an air as poets dream,
                                      The clean and vast wing-winnowed clime of Heaven.

                                       Each of her streets is closed with shining Alps,
                                       Like Heaven at the end of long plain lives.

                                                              Arnold Wall, 1906

Not Happy, Bob

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

First Bunch of Images - Welcome to Assorted Goodies

Christchurch Botanic Gardens, 1st anniversary of September 4 quake.

Conference Street, February 22 2011.

Avonside, 11 September 2011.