Nearly three weeks after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that destroyed parts of our city and disrupted life on a huge basis, things have settled down. The state of emergency has been lifted, for many people life is business as usual. In our house things go on as they always have, even though we are living in a house that will probably be condemned as costing more to repair than it is worth.
Huge areas of the city are fine. The areas that aren’t though, really aren’t. Houses are unliveable, the sewers and water pipes are all destroyed. Many streets have rows of portaloos lined up on the footpath. Just up the road from us the road has been torn up and water and other utilities repaired and the whole lot replaced. All the houses from three past us to the corner, about 6 houses, have been “red carded”. That means that not only are they unliveable but they are so unsafe the owners aren’t allowed back inside to collect their stuff. They have lost it ALL. Thank goodness that is not us.
I have a friend who is a builder. It was he that I called on to check out that our house was safe to be in a couple of days after the quake. He’s signed up for one “tour” with the Earthquake Commission as an assessor and will probably sign on for one more. A “tour” is three weeks, working 10 days straight, one day off and back for another 10 days. Apparently there are 100 assessment teams on the ground. Each team averages 3 houses a day, and there are 68,000 damage claims to be assessed. Take a moment to work out the maths.
The assessors too can’t do this for ever; most have their own businesses that they’ve put aside to do this work. You can see why I don’t expect our place to be seen any time soon. Then when we do, finding builders to do any work for us is obviously going to take time too. If anyone has kids wondering what to do with their lives, taking on a building apprenticeship right now seems like a good idea. That and plumbing.
The aftershocks have decreased markedly. There are hardly any and they are generally small. For quite a while there would be a really strong one around 11pm, just when everyone was nodding off to sleep (well most people anyway). It left people very shaken and uneasy and scared to sleep. A lot of people were taking time away somewhere else in the country or even over the Tasman, just to be able to sleep easily for a couple of nights.
As for what is happening around the city, I thought I’d share the earthquake related news from yesterday’s (23 Sept 2010) Christchurch Press newspaper with you. We start with the headline Despairing plea for help. Christchurch people still without showers and toilets in the earthquake-damaged homes have made an emotional plea for more help. About 100 Avonside residents gathered on the silt-covered road and cracked footpaths of Ackland Ave yesterday, upset at the lack of communication from local government. People were unhappy that no one could give them any idea of how long it would take to get any basic amenities running again. There are emergency grants for people unable to live in their homes, but these people can live in theirs, they just have no amenity services. There was also anger that rent still has to be paid, that appears to be at the landlord’s discretion. There were no real answers given in this piece besides the council saying they would urgently bring in more portaloos.
The other two stories on the front page had nothing to do with the earthquake.
Page 3. Building repairs too dear, say owners. Two Christchurch heritage buildings badly damaged in the earthquake will be too expensive to save, the owners say. Over the next 10 days, city councillors will decide if three damaged heritage buildings need to be demolished. The fate of heritage buildings and the rebuild of the central city is shaping up into an interesting debate. Many people are for knock them down, rebuild and get on with things quickly. Others are calling for a more reasoned decision arguing that even if it takes longer, surely it is worth taking the time to see if these building really need to go, if facades at least can’t be saved? The whole look of the city will change if we are not very careful. Personally I love the way Christchurch has a mix of old and new buildings, a feeling of history, I don’t want to see it gone.
The next earthquake related news isn’t until page 7. That in itself says a lot about Christchurch’s recovery. This one about something that seems a little forgotten by the city, the surrounding farm land that has taken a pounding, Environment Canterbury rates likely to rise to restore farmland. Landowners who want to continue farming the flooded paddocks surrounding Halswell and Tai Tapu are being warned a rates rise will be needed to pay for major earthquake remedial work. That seems a bit rough when city rates haven’t been cited to rise in spite of the huge amount of repair of infrastructure that is going to have to occur.
Sadly on page 9 we get Theatre survives earthquake, but not hoons. The heritage building the Theatre Royal is one of those “classic” theatre buildings with the plaster work ceilings and stalls, circle and gods seating, a beautiful building and a lovely place to go see a live show. Anyway, due to renovation work that’s not long been finished it survived just fine, but then some idiots drove a car through the antique street doors! Yep, life is back to normal. The idiots are back on the streets. The paper is now covering the court news again too. The courts are back in session.
The business section predicts that the Economy might boom like Napier. Napier is a NZ city that was levelled in a quake back in 1931. Canterbury gross domestic product is likely to plummet 2.1 percent in the September quarter, because of the 7.1 earthquake, an economist says, but the rebuild could lead to a boom. The 1931 Napier earthquake provides some historical context to a recovery from the Sept 4 quake. Economists have worked with Treasury’s estimate of the cost of the disruptive earthquake being $4 billion, or 2.1 percent of gross domestic product. Figures like this are interesting. There are starting to be lots of figures floating around. 80,000 claims expected to be filed with the EQC and insurance companies. $4 million worth of food destroyed in warehouses. I can tell you that it means diddly squat from where I sit.
The opinions columns and letters pages are still full of quake stuff, but the letters show an interesting trend. The local body elections are getting some play again and people are doing their best to remind people of the (in their opinion) poor record of our current mayor for most of his term. No one had anything bad to say about him during the emergency, they’re all very careful to point that out, but please, they are saying, remember the controversies of his time in office. People are also frustrated with what they see as the “wrong” people placed in the committee in charge of rebuilding the central city and deciding the fate of heritage buildings. Yet if we’d chosen these people by a public vote the council would have been beaten up for taking too long when urgent action was needed. In other words the public bashing machine has reawakened. It really is business as usual.
This is a snapshot of my world, right now. We personally feel unsettled but realise we can do nothing but sit and wait. My brain is turning back on and I’m functioning again. The next issue of SoaringNZ is nearly ready for the design team of Rosalie and Le-Ann. Both of their houses survived. The printing company had to outsource work while their printers were off line; they had moved off their concrete foundations. They couldn’t reset them until the worst of the aftershocks had finished. By the time we got to print in 2 weeks they expect to be back to normal.
We have been very fortunate that the ghastly weather that seems to have afflicted the rest of the country, unseasonal spring snow storms in Southland and flooding in the North Island have missed Canterbury. Because of the topography of the Southern Alps, while the rest of the country has been suffering we’ve been experiencing warm lovely spring weather. The flowering cherry tree outside my bedroom is just gorgeous. I took the dog out to the botanic gardens on Wednesday to romp through the daffodil lawn. He wasn’t impressed (because he had to stay on his lead) but I was.
I’ve started looking at house plans and realised I don’t want a different house. I want this one back, but maybe I can tweak the plan a little to get the bathroom in the right place. It may actually be fun to do this. Thank goodness for full insurance. If I’ve learnt anything out of this it is the value of being fully insured. That’s my lesson for today. Stay insured, and as I’ve mentioned before, put bottles of water in your freezer.