Saturday, November 20, 2010

Doomed Brooklands 2 months after Canterbury Quake

Two months post 7.1 magnitude Canterbury Quake, 04.09.10, during 5 days I visited Canterbury towns to coolpix quake & aftershock damages. I started at Brooklands on Saturday 12 November, during Agriculture & Pasturage Show weekend, & finished coolpixing the following Saturday at Pines Beach.

I drove beside Styx River to Spencerville, en route to Brooklands, built on a floodplain between Styx River, west, Brooklands Lagoon, east, & Waimakariri River, north. Given the massive volume of water around sandy, flat Brooklands, including Pacific Ocean further east by Brooklands Spit,  Brooklands was doomed, with damage to roads & underground pipes that would keep road workers & plumbers busy for months. Orange & yellow, roadside pumps & colourful portaloos showed that Brooklands (like Bexley) was in deep shit. Brooklands was the second suburb where I saw portaloos on pavements & in gardens. Portaloos would be common in later quakes.

I'd already seen many WARNING CONTAMINATED WATER signs along Avon River & Heathcote River banks & beside Avon-Heathcote Estuary. Several WARNING signs were attached to power poles beside Styx River. The ubiquitous sign read:


Due to sewage overflows this water is unsafe for human contact and activity and is a Public Health Risk.

Please keep all people and pets out of contact with the water and do not consume any seafood and shellfish from this area.

City Council

Prior to the quakes, Council had intermittently pumped sewage overflows into Christchurch rivers for years. Post quakes, Christchurch rivers became open sewers.

A South African family we knew at Brooklands shared portaloos with neighbours for 2 months post quake, after which they had a dodgy sewage reconnection to their home.

5 images, Lower Styx Rd:

12.11.10. WARNING CONTAMINATED WATER, post quake sign erected by Christchurch rivers, Styx River, Lower Styx Rd, Spencerville

The SA family's Brooklands home was so badly tilted by the quake that marbles placed on floors started rolling on their own. When doors were opened they continued opening on their own. Yet more than two months post quake, they still waited to hear from the EQC whether they could rebuild their Brooklands home or not.

Reading weekly EQC information in newspapers, paid for by taxpayers, I realized EQC's clever language & graphics were just excuses for delays. Example:

"We now have over 138 000 claims in our system which has exceeded our expectations and there are obviously more to come... The quantity of claims and the flow of new claims will make it more difficult to meet our targets of settling claims under $10 000 by Christmas and to inspect all claims by March. While that remains our intent we will review the situation after the December 4 deadline for claims when we will know the final numbers." (The Star 01.12.10).

For several weeks EQC full page adverts in newspapers gave increasing claims totals, bar graphs of claims progress & South Island maps of claims inspected. EQC didn't cope well with the volume of claims, scurrying around employing more staff, growing quickly, but not quickly doing what it was supposed to do - quickly settling claims, repairs & rebuilds.

EQC on quake trashed sewer pipes: "There has been some publicity about the need for and benefits of having sewer pipes between a house and the road checked out even when there is no obvious sign of damage. This is up to the property owner. The usual method is by video survey. You can get your sewer pipes checked out at your own cost. If earthquake damage is confirmed, then EQC will repay the cost of the video survey and meet the cost of repairs according to our policies" (The Star 01.12.10.)

It was hard to know what quake damage was underground, as broken, weakened pipes & roots growing into pipe cracks would be a problem long after the EQC claims deadline, 4 December, 3 months post quake.

Given all the hidden quake damage & many aftershocks, the EQC 3 month deadline was absurd, as EQC admitted in newspaper adverts that EQC would take many months longer to process claims, complete repair work for claims & reinstate damaged land. Classic case of hurry up & wait by breathless EQC & ad hoc, temporary staff.

Another aftershock while typing ~ shook & creaked our house: 11.44 pm; magnitude 3.4; depth 7 km; 10 km west of Christchurch (GeoNet 27.11.10).

12.11.10. Christchurch City Council post quake sign, Lower Styx Rd, Spencerville, trying to stop public going to Brooklands

Christchurch City Council, blue / white signs were erected in liquefaction devastated Christchurch suburbs post Sept 4 quake. The signs were insulting & expedient, as they omitted to name & shame councillors, planners, surveyors, architects, engineers, builders, tradesmen, developers, estate agents who built the waterside, liquefaction prone suburbs.

The signs read:

Stronger Christchurch

Non-residents are asked not to enter this area.

Traffic may cause further damage to roads and properties.

Please respect the needs of local residents.

City Council

Besides trying to emotionally blackmail curious citizens, discouraging signs caused a ghost town effect in forbidden suburbs, which would've been bad for businesses in forbidden suburbs like Brooklands. In reality the blue / white signs meant the suburb was doomed to extinction. I'd already seen those blue / white doom signs at Avonside. (Post 22.02.11 quake, I'd see more of those Council signs in doomed suburbs, like on Horseshoe Lake roads).

12.11.10. EQC vehicles, Lower Styx Rd, Spencerville

12.11.10. Yellow, Hi Vis vested, EQC inspectors, Lower Styx Rd, Spencerville

By mid November the Earthquake Commission claimed, "the EQC is handling the largest number of claims by any single insurance company ever in the southern hemisphere." The EQC was extremely slow in processing & settling damage claims. By 27 November over 129 000 damage claims had been received by the EQC & settled as follows: 15 218 fieldwork complete; 19 441 fieldwork in progress; 82 549 fieldwork not started; 11 587 claims complete. (EQC Claims Information, The Press 27.11.10).

EQC claims totals had increased for weeks & by 01.12.10 their media totals were: 15 372 fieldwork complete; 20 278 fieldwork in progress; 88 656 fieldwork not started; 13 501 claims complete. Given that EQC boasted, "1 100 staff working full-time on the Canterbury earthquake. There are almost 600 staff in Christchurch at any one time..." EQC was a laughing stock. (The Star 01.12.10).

Complaining about tardy EQC & insurers, reliant on EQC for information, a doctor awaiting settlement for his quake damaged, Avonside home said, "We are just stuck between inertia & dithering." (The Press).

12.11.10. Christchurch Mobile Libraries Service quake notice, Lower Styx Rd, Spencerville. Brooklands mobile library service stopped due to quake damaged roads

A Christchurch City Libraries sign attached to a power pole read:

Christchurch City Libraries
Mobile Library Service

Because of the recent earthquake at the present time we are unable to service the Brooklands stop.

However, we have resumed the service for Spencerville and Kainga and have extended the time to accommodate for Brooklands customers.

Therefore until further notice the dates and times are as follows...

City Council

11 images, Hayders Rd, Lower Styx Rd:

12.11.10. Quake damaged garden wall & patio, cnr Heyders Rd / Lower Styx Rd, Spencerville

12.11.10. Liquefaction damaged road & drain, Heyders Rd, Spencerville

12.11.10. Liquefaction damaged road & raised manhole, Heyders Rd, Spencerville

12.11.10. Orange pump & yellow digger, post quake repairs, Heyders Rd, Spencerville

12.11.10. Post quake 30 km speed limit on quake damaged Christchurch roads, Lower Styx Rd, Brooklands

12.11.10. Grey portaloo & quake damaged Lower Styx Rd, Brooklands

12.11.10. Post quake, blue portaloos, Lower Styx Rd, Brooklands

12.11.10. Yellow pump & liquefaction raised drain, Lower Styx Rd, Brooklands.

WELCOME TO BROOKLANDS: Speed limit on the road to Brooklands was reduced to 30 km to prevent more road damage. The closer I drove to Brooklands the more lumpy & bumpy Lower Styx Rd became.

On Brooklands bumpy roads, after counting 30 liquefaction raised, concrete & iron manholes, I stopped counting. There was huge quake destruction of underground water pipes & sewage pipes. On Lower Styx Rd, a yellow pump pumped sludge from a manhole into a roadside tank.

Brooklands was in deep shit - broken sewage pipes & sewage polluted Styx River, shown by WARNING CONTAMINATED WATER signs lining Styx River bank.

Brooklands was portalooland, smelly portaloos lined streets & in gardens. Although liquefaction silt heaps were largely cleared from Brooklands, the new normal in Brooklands was grey liquefaction dust, everywhere.

Driving around Brooklands, I saw quake cracked pavements, curbs, roads & car parks. At Styx River Mouth, by the boat ramp a large crack slumped waterside. Below the stop bank, grass regrew through dry, liquefaction silt, near the public toilet.

Months later, Brooklands was trashed by the 22.02.11 quake.

12.11.10. Post quake WARNING CONTAMINATED WATER sign & other signs, Styx River, Lower Styx Rd, Brooklands

12.11.10. Post quake, blue portaloo, Styx River, Lower Styx Rd, Brooklands

12.11.10. Quake tilted house &yellow portaloo, Lower Styx Rd, Brooklands

9 images, Seafield Lagoon & Harbour Rd:

12.11.10. Seafield Lagoon sign, Brooklands. Roads were quake damaged at this housing development

A year before the quake, a South African family asked me about Seafield Lagoon housing development, as a Kiwi in SA was trying to sell them property there. As I was wary of water developments & river flooding I advised that there were many housing developments in Christchurch & they could try Port Hills developments with grand views, after their arrival, rather than buying unseen NZ swamp property while in SA.

12.11.10. Post quake WARNING CONTAMINATED WATER, Seafield Lagoon, Brooklands

12.11.10. Liquefaction silt, rubbish bin & & blue portaloo, Harbour Rd, Brooklands

12.11.10. Blue portaloos & liquefaction silt, Harbour Rd, Brooklands

12.11.10. Concrete block supporting quake tilted power pole, Harbour Rd, Brooklands

12.11.10. Blue portaloos & liquefaction silt, Nirvana St, Brooklands

12.11.10. Quake cracked road start to Seafield Park, Brooklands Lagoon walk, Harbour Rd, Brooklands

12.11.10. Quake cracked curb & car park, Harbour Rd, Brooklands

12.11.10. Quake cracked car park, Harbour Rd, Brooklands

10 images, Blue Lagoon Dr, Styx River Mouth:

12.11.10. Quake buckled road bricks, Blue Lagoon Dr, Brooklands

12.11.10. Quake crack by boat ramp, Styx River mouth, Brooklands

12.11.10. Quake crack, Styx River mouth by Brooklands Lagoon

12.11.10. Public toilet view of liquefaction silt by Styx River stop bank, Brooklands

12.11.10. Liquefaction silt by Styx River stop bank, Brooklands

12.11.10. Styx River stop bank view of liquefaction silt, Brooklands

12.11.10. Undamaged stop bank view of Styx River mouth entering Brooklands Lagoon, with Brooklands Spit behind

12.11.10. POLLUTED WATER sign, concrete blocks & cable, top of Styx River mouth stop bank, Brooklands

12.11.10. Concrete block & cable cordon stopping vehicles entering liquefaction silt below Styx River stop bank, Blue Lagoon Dr, Brooklands

Days later I drove to Kairaki Beach & Pines Beach, north of Waimakariri River mouth, with a watery view of the end of Brooklands Spit, Brooklands Lagoon & Brooklands, with Port Hills beyond. Brooklands houses were specks amongst vegetation in a vast expanse of water.

Future quake liquefaction would destroy Brooklands.

16.11.10. Kairaki Beach view of Waimakariri River & Brooklands Lagoon confluence. Brooklands Spit left, Brooklands right. All that water doomed Brooklands to liquefaction hell.

The Star 08.12.10. EQC said: "The deadline for claims for damage to residential properties for the 4 September earthquake has been and gone. We now have 160 000 in the system. This breaks down to part-claims for buildings, content and land of over 195 000...

Some damage from the 4 September earthquake may not become apparent until after the deadline (now passed) for claims. This is most likely to happen when an assessment is done of your property. This damage will be added to your existing claim as long as we are notified within a reasonable period of time." [Reasonable?]

"If you have not made a claim for the 4 September event and damage from it now becomes apparent, then we are not able to accept a new claim. If an earthquake after 4 September causes damage then we will accept new claims for this..."

EQC claims: "17 510 fieldwork complete; 20 680 fieldwork in progress; 105 180 fieldwork not started; 17 288 claims complete."

More then 3 months post quake, I would hate to be one of the 105 180 ghosts whose quake claims haunted EQC files. As the 4 September quake was once in a lifetime, why an EQC 3 months deadline rush, then an EQC go-slow on claims settlements?

EQC media information was self-serving gobbledegook. (What's an "event"?) EQC didn't define differences amongst earthquakes, aftershocks & tremors, all of which caused damages. EQC deadlined quake damage claims for 3 months, yet EQC would take more than 3 months to process claims.

Experts varied as to the length of time aftershocks happened: first it was aftershocks for 3 months, then 6 months, with aftershocks lessening in magnitude & frequency for 200 days after 4 September quake, 3 months beyond the EQC claims deadline. (The Press).

In reality aftershocks would carry on for more than 3 years post 04.09.10 quake.

NZTV news 09.12.10: When grilled by parliamentarian questioners, EQC representatives said EQC had received 190 000 quake claims. EQC reminded me of delay, deny defend insurance company, delaying settlements as long as possible & looking for excuses to reduce settlement amounts.

Coda: 17.11.11. Gerry Brownlee, minister of Earthquake Recovery announced that Brooklands was red zoned, meaning the suburb must be be abandoned, as it was too damaged & too expensive to fix. All that water around low lying Brooklands ~ Styx River, Waimakariri River, Brooklands Lagoon, Pacific ~ not a hope in hell after 4 major quakes & 1 000s of aftershocks, during 2010-2011.

Brownlee's announcement was made a month before the 23.12.11 Xmas quake swarm in Pegasus Bay.

It took months post 22.02.11 & 13.06.11 & 23.12.11 Xmas quakes for dithering CERA to make red zone decisions.


Mark: Saw a sink hole in Elmwood Rd, Merivale yesterday. Two months post quake, besides pot holes, sink holes are appearing on roads, due to recent rains & quake loosened ground. Christchurch Mail reported an "ever deepening sink hole" in Orrick Crescent.

A & P Show Day today: Leah & I went rubbernecking. Luke is with mates, Okains Bay. November 12 at 11.16 am.

Maggie (RSA): Looks as if the folks your way are still having a hard time. November 13 at 6.22 am.

Mark: Maggie we're OK, [in Burnside] but some peoples' lives are devastated. Two months post quake, north of Chch, Brooklands town, with nearby Brooklands Lagoon, Styx River & Waimakariri River mouth, is a ghost town with portaloos on every street & in many gardens, road cracks & road crunches (like giant wrinkled paper) pot holes & grey liquefaction sand everywhere. Sewage reconnections are dubious.

Saw 2 Earthquake Commission evaluators in yellow, Hi Vis vests, with a 4x4 & quad bike towed on a trailer, sniffing around Brooklands yesterday, first time I've seen EQC bods since the quake. EQC settles quake claims.

Kaiapoi riverside town north of Christchurch was badly damaged, full of portaloos too. More livelier than Brooklands, with repaired roads Like Charles St & Courtenay Dr. Concrete road curbs snapped like twigs & concrete driveway slabs were cracked & moved several inches. Raven Quay is also getting a facelift with wrecked footpaths regraded, quake cracks filled, ready for new tar seal. The riverside road below Raven Quay was severely cracked & slumped for several hundred metres.

A woman who lives at Pines Beach just north of Waimakariri River mouth told us yesterday that 70 houses out of 300 houses in the seaside town were devastated by the quake. Her hillside house was unaffected, only plains houses were damaged, all built on beach sand. November 13 at 10.08 am.

Mark: Maggie again. Same lady told us all Pines Beach sewage & water pipes have to be reconstructed post quake. November 13 at 11.12 am.

* Wandered Lower Styx Rd, Hayders Rd, Seafield Lagoon, Harbour Rd, Blue Lagoon Dr, Styx River Mouth.

Contents & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Brooklands off the map (The Press / Stuff Co).


  1. Hello from England! I stumbled upon your post while searching for portable toilets for my company. I stayed to read and found it incredibly interesting. I found it especially ironic that the polluted river was called Styx; wasn’t that the one in Greek mythology that went from this world to hell?

  2. Hi toilet guy. Ironic indeed & myth true: Charon was the boatmen who rowed the dead across the River Styx. There's even a Charon St in Brooklands, well named with all that polluted water around.