Wednesday, June 29, 2011


No... nothing as dire or dramatic as shifting. Well, not yet anyway. Tonight I'm packing a suitcase 'cos tomorrow me & my darling are off for a break. 10 days rest from Shakeytown and all its broken bits.

I never used to be this happy about leaving my hometown. Now that I think about it, that's a pretty sad development but one that is perhaps unavoidable - certainly understandable - given the circumstances.

Before I abandon this town (& this blog) all so briefly, I have a few things to share.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Devil is in the detail

As well as being instant geotech and seismic experts, many Shakeytown citizens are now also becoming all too familiar with the intricacies of insurance fine print. First it was the businesses in the CBD who found that business interruption insurance didn't cover inaccessibility. The insurance companies' argument was, it wasn't the earthquake that was preventing businesses from trading, it was the cordon - introduced by Civil Defense and now maintained by CERA - and that wasn't covered under the policy.

Now there's a whole lot of homeowners suddenly finding that their insurance company's interpretation of the situation is not what they expected. The issue was highlighted by Dr David Haywood, on his blog Southerly - part of the Public Address stable - and picked up by The Press and the NZ Herald. Again the argument is that it's not the earthquake that has caused the issue, it is the government's zoning of the land. As far as the insurance company is concerned if a house is repairable that is all they will pay out for, so even if the homeowner has total replacement insurance, they will only get the (2007) market value of their house at best. And, as David explains, that's not nearly enough to replace/rebuild a 1900's character villa on a new section that has to be purchased at 2011 prices. John Key seems to be aware there are problems, so maybe things will change but I think we're more likely to see people end up short-changed.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Community spirit

There's been a lot of talk about community lately... with the recent focus on land reports & the government's payout offer for red zone houses, many wonderful little tight-knit groups are being highlighted in the media.

Here's Press reporter, Olivia Carville, in Seabreeze Close, Bexley.
The rum-drinking club of Arnst Place was featured twice - on Campbell Live and in The Press. Bloody marvellous way to cope with it all!
Here's another Campbell Live piece, the day of the land status/payout announcement. It features residents of Bexley, Dallington, Avondale, Kaiapoi & Kairaki Beach reacting to the Red Zone/Green Zone decisions.

One of my favourite communities however, is still in the White Zone... awaiting further assessment. They've taken a few knocks, my harbourside friends, but there has never been any doubt that the community spirit would hold fast even while the ground was swaying. Here's a tribute from a former resident, James Muir, featuring music from The Eastern.

Love in a Little Town from James Muir on Vimeo.

And one more warming moment... literally... a brilliant notion from a couple of local women, well-realised with the help of Rural Women NZ and the NZ Sock Co... Aftersocks!!

Get yours now via the website - apparently they've become quite the rage, so get in now before they're all gone. Ours are on their way :)

The patient is now at home recovering and yes, we're still smiling.
Now listen to me universe, that's not an open invitation for things to get even worse, mmkay?!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Still smiling......?

You know the old saying, 'smile, for things could be worse'...

On September 4th, when the earth first shook and part of our blue brick wall fell down, we were smiling. After all, we'd just gone through a massive seismic event and only lost part of a wall. There were people worse off than us, in Darfield and Kaiapoi, as well as Christchurch, who'd lost their homes or had massive fissures in the front lawn. We were lucky, we counted our blessings and we marvelled at our collective good fortune to have come through as a region with no loss of life.

On September 11th, when the nice structural engineer told us that our house was unsafe to occupy, we were smiling. After all, we had insurance cover for things like this, so we decamped to a Riccarton Rd motel unit with two bedrooms and a spa bath, which saw the kids sharing a room for the first time in about 14 years. We spent the next week frantically clearing out the house before anyone came round to tell us we couldn't go in there at all. There were people worse off than us after all, people who had no chance at all to retrieve possessions because their homes just completely collapsed. We sorted & boxed, we stacked & packed & looked for a place to live.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dear Mother Nature: Go the f*** to sleep!

There's a cool little project just starting up which asks quake-shaken C-city residents to write a letter to Mother Nature. Writings will be collated and used as the basis for a short film currently titled "Dear Mother Nature" - you can find out more about the project (& submit your letter) via this Films of Afternoon facebook page.

When I shared the link to my friends I borrowed the name of a hilarious recently released book, 'Go the fuck to sleep' by Adam Mansbach. To hear the original version, narrated by Samuel L. Jackson (how awesome is that?!), check out this linky here... I hope it stays up, it seems the YouTube clips are being pulled down faster than a speeding toddler.

After listening to SLJ reading this book it struck me just how similar the feelings of tiredness and exasperation are between parents of non-sleeping children, and all of us living here in Shakeytown. So here's my version... non-censored (just like the book), 'cos some words need to be said/written without any bleeping, especially when living in an active seismic zone.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday in the park

It's been a tough week... it must be true, it even says so in The Press! But it really has been one of those weird, exhausting weeks in which so much happened & life got put on hold again. Just 7 days ago I was in Hagley Park taking part in a strange little competition with a small bunch of hopeful locals. There wasn't much pre-promotion of the Grabaseat Standby event - I saw a mention in a tiny online news story via The Press, and others heard something on the radio.
 The optimistically worded press release urged everyone to get there early, as only the first 300 people could register to take part...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Retail therapy

A number of businesses have been unable to operate as normal since February's quake, among them the iconic inner city department store Ballantynes. I have a certain fondness for the store, not because I'm a regular customer (my income does not match their price tags) but because I worked there when I was in my early twenties. I flitted through a few different departments during my time - Mailorder, Ladies Underfashions, Boys Schoolwear - and learnt a lot about the social fabric of C-city from both customers and workmates.

I also worked at a few of the famous Ballantyne's Sales and saw many well-heeled ladies drop their prim & proper facade long enough to elbow their way through to the sales tables. On one memorable occasion I was on the shop floor as the doors were opened for Day 1 of the first floor sale (Ladies Fashion, Underfashions, Accessories + Childrenswear) and my jaw dropped as this horde of normally respectable adult women surged towards their destination. The few that waited for the lift were swiftly overtaken by those who simply ran up the stairs, and woe betide anyone who got in their way. Just as you should not get between a mama grizzly and her cubs, never ever get between a Merivale matron and a Bally's sale table.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Deja vu all over again

Today has been a day filled with low-flying aircraft, police sirens and plenty of shakes. This morning I headed off towards C4HQ2 to pick up some coffee beans, travelling up the newly-lumpy surface of Fitzgerald Ave and down Tuam Street which has again been hit by liquifaction. Driving down Tuam is like being on a mogul slope at times except the bumps are sand volcanoes, pouring out grey-brown sludge.

It is evident that the inner city has taken another big hit from these latest quakes... in fact, the pattern is repeated across the city. Some buildings that were already damaged have now collapsed, in some cases injuring people who were trying to save significant architectural elements like stained-glass windows.
Most places that had liquifaction in February have got it again, and a few new places as well. NZ Herald has some quake pics here, while The Press has some impressive aerial shots here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Just another bouncy day in Shakeytown

Today has been a particularly shakey day, even for Shakeytown. Here's a few articles if you want all the details:
Powerful earthquakes rock Christchurch - The Press
Christchurch hit by swarm of earthquakes - NZ Herald
Cold night ahead for quake-hit Canterbury - NZ Herald
Chch residents look to quake cleanup, again - TV3

Here we go again, another clusterf*ck of seismic shittery to ruin your day, just when things seemed to be quietening down again. I know it's totally within the expected aftershock pattern but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

There's only one thing for it... time to bake some cookies. Chocolate chip ones of course - is there any other kind? I've promised darling daughter that I'll visit tomorrow with comfort food, and who knows what shops will be open in the morning. After the shakey afternoon we've had, I need some chocolate!

I tell ya something though, if these bloody aftershocks don't settle down (they're still rolling through with monotonous regularity) I may just eat the whole damn batch myself :)

EDIT: mmmmm yum! extremely large ChocChip Cookies... recipe here if you wanna indulge yourself (note: 1 stick of butter is about 100gms, temp in Celcius is about 165)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Winter of discontent

It seems whinging season is well & truly open lol... the letter I sent into The Press earlier this week appeared in this morning's edition.
Second letter on the page too... is that like second-best pic in ANTM?? :-)
Righto, enough marvelling at my published whinge, must go & cook dinner. Life - albeit strange - carries on regardless!!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Get over it

A friend of mine was at a function in the North Island last week, when someone asked him how he'd been affected by the earthquake. Before he could answer, a man standing with the group groaned loudly and said "oh I'm f***ing sick of hearing about the earthquake!". Not quite knowing what to say in reply, my friend simply turned on his heel and walked away.

I guess I can understand how people elsewhere may be suffering from 'earthquake fatigue'. It's old news to them now, the crisis is past and we Cantabrians should all just get over it and move on with our lives, right?

If only it were that easy. When I talk about us living in a constantly changing environment, it's not just the ground that's in upheaval. Our business & political landscape is also in constant motion, and the implications of February's quake are yet to become clear in some areas. Our city's finances have been hugely impacted by the damage to infrastructure and the sudden loss of many income streams - this applies to individual people and businesses as well as the city council.
Many of the details - issues & suggestions - are contained in the council's draft annual plan (available here, large file = long download) which I actually sat down and read through a couple of nights ago. As a home-owner and ratepayer I don't always stay up to date with the intricacies of local government but with all that's going on at the moment (a large proportion of which directly affects me & mine), I figured it would be wise to be informed. There will be opportunities coming up very soon for us to make submissions on this draft annual plan and until this morning I was thinking about commenting on two areas that directly concern me - rates rebates & Vbase.

Earlier this year (even without a letter of demolition) we were able to satisfy the council that we qualified for a rates rebate on our house, as it was uninhabitable thanks to the September quake. That rebate ends on June 30th, which is not very far away. According to the draft annual plan, staff recommend a course of action that would see rates rebates only available to those whose homes or businesses are still behind the cordon. The rates on my uninhabitable home would go back up to 100% until such time as it was finally demolished. I know there are a million things that need fixing around here but why should owners of totally munted suburban homes bear a full rates burden? In fact, we're paying twice over - on our own dodgy dwelling, and via the rates our landlord pays on the rental property we're currently living in.

The other issue that concerns me has lead to another concerning issue. Sound circular? You bet it is. Implications of the earthquake can be slow to play out. Plans and decisions rest on other plans and decisions being made beforehand, and these things take time. Both hubby & I work for Vbase (the company that manages the 4 big venues in Chch), him full-time and me on a casual basis. With 3 of 4 venues out of action for a considerable period, it is clear that it will not be business as usual for a long time and the company has been working on new operational plans for these changed circumstances.

But Vbase is ultimately a council-owned company and as such, its operating terms and conditions are at the discretion of those who hold the purse strings. Vbase has borrowed heavily to finance the redevelopment of AMI stadium, in order to get it ready for the Rugby World Cup. The Vbase business plan has taken a hit not only from lost income opportunities and large repair bills, there have also been changes to depreciation rules which have shifted the financial goalposts.

Even before the February earthquake the council had been discussing the options for Vbase, and in the draft annual plan they recommend transferring $45million of debt to the council and leaving the business/asset structure unchanged. But in the paper this morning it seems a different intent is emerging, which raises some interesting issues. Council chief executive Tony Marryatt is advocating another option, that would see the operations of Vbase turned over to the council for an unspecified time period while the venues were repaired. This has now been confirmed by a press release.

It is possible now that we could see a large proportion of the management team & office staff gone and many other workers forced to reapply for their jobs. I'm not sure of the logic behind this decision, especially seeing as it flies counter to the recommendation in the draft annual plan... the same plan that is yet to open for consultation but was discussed behind closed doors at today's council meeting.

There's a meeting for Vbase staff on Monday, in which the management team will set out their plan for the immediate future. With the impending transfer of operations to the council, that future is very short-term indeed.

Dear city council
Your people take part in the consultative process with the hope that their voice will be heard.
After what I've seen and heard today I fear that all the decisions have been made already, against recommendations, and without anyone apart from the chief executive & the council members being able to speak for or against.

Consultation... yeah right.

Yours etc,
A concerned citizen & ripped-off ratepayer.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Montreal meanderings... from Dux to Knox (Part 2)

Another illustration today of how quickly things are changing around here, post-quake... one of the buildings featured in yesterday's post was demolished today, adding another empty lot to the landscape.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Montreal meanderings... from Dux to Knox (Part 1)

Last week I had an hour between appointments on opposite sides of the inner city wasteland. So here's another photographic tiki tour of inner city Shakeytown: a trip down Montreal Street (then onto Victoria St), past some notable landmarks... with a few empty lots & quirky sights thrown in for good measure. With so many photos, I've numbered the locations on this here map :)
My first stop was the Dux de Lux (1), and the colourful ducks that are once again decorating the fence.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Past, Present & Future

Some linky love for a change... I don't have the mental energy to write up the next CBD photo travelogue tonight and these are worth sharing :)

First, a look back to the past - Christchurch as it was not so long ago, when exchange student Lucas Kaupenjohann took more than 10,000 photos (3.5 per second) to create this timelapse movie. I love the way the effects make it look like a tiny model town. Lovely images from around C-city including Cathedral Square and the Arts Centre, plus the beachside suburb of Sumner - places that all look rather different now.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Going walkabout

I work amidst a constantly changing landscape, one in which buildings are being reduced to piles of rubble and eventually to bare lots awaiting the outcome of insurance & regulatory issues. Every time you look to the north, the leaning tower of Chch (the Hotel Grand Chancellor) looms perilously overhead.