Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christchurch Sucked, PGC Collapse, Port Hills White Zones, Bowenvale Valley

Wed 30.11.11, while I drove Luke to Sullivan Ave tech we rattled along Bealey Ave, over quake bumps, behind a sucker truck, with INFECTIOUS SUBSTANCES label on the tank & a happier label, SUPER SUCKER.

Another sucker truck label I'd recently seen: SUCK 4 YOU.

Post Sept 4 quake, nearly 15 months ago & post Feb 22 quake 9 months ago, there were many sucker trucks around Christchurch, sucking shit & other dubious substances from quake damaged homes, businesses, roads & messed pipes. Jake flatted in Geraldine St, where sucker trucks regularly parked after sucking.

Despite huge quake damages in the CBD & eastern suburbs, our Burnside suburb got off lightly in the 2010-2011 quakes, lots of shaking, but no liquefaction, due to less silt in the ground. Happily Burnside was built on alluvial shingle. Little sucking in Burnside.

Over the last 9 months, the landlady & EQC inspectors twice inspected our rental house in Heath St. First inspection before the Feb 22 quake: Landlady told us there was about $10 000 quake damages to the house, including roof truss damage.

Since the first EQC inspection, the house experienced more quakes & aftershocks. I was in the house during the big quakes, Sept 4, Dec 26, Feb 22, June 13 & vouched for the shaking & creaking going on, having to rush to front or back door frames (whichever closest) for protection in wild shaking during the Feb 22 & June 13 quakes.

Thurs 01.12.11, another EQC inspector (he was so young, he looked like he didn't shave yet, paid $75/hour, on the job for little over an hour, plus out of town expenses) & the landlady checked the house again: more cracks in walls, ceiling & floor joins since the last EQC check. The landlady told me Fletcher Construction would make a third check before any repairs were done to our green zone house. (Two years later we still waited for the Fletcher checkup).

Why was EQC taking so long to pay?

Why was EQC checking our house more than once?

Quake damaged houses I saw, waited so long for repairs, that new yellow boards, closing quake trashed windows, doors & walls, had weathered brown in the sun, from months of exposure, while EQC's chosen few slurped the gravy, overpaid, inexperienced assessors.

God help those in Port Hills, red stickered houses. Never mind those on Canterbury Plains. There were 500 odd homeowners in that ghastly, red stickered, white zone position in the Port Hills, where CERA took its time deciding on land condition of white zone houses.

Council harassed homeowners with eviction threats. Some home owners refused to leave their red stickered houses. Some never left, no money for rentals. Some camped in their gardens before leaving.

Port Hills, red stickered homeowners had to cope with CERA; EQC; Council; insurers; mortgages on red stickered homes; rates (60%) on red stickered homes; new rental homes; rental home accommodation allowances insurance expiring; displaced families; packing & moving costs at short notice; quake shattered businesses; kids moving to temporary schools or tertiary education; indifferent bureaucrats...

Citizens mistrusted Council, as Council butt covered post quakes about liability regarding red stickered homes & recalcitrant owners.

Yet Council green stickered CTV bldg & PGC bldg, several times post Sept 4 quake, allowing business to proceed in those bldgs. Despite post quakes complaints from businesses renting the bldgs - shaky bldgs, cracks in bldgs, Council did nothing to stop apocalypse. The bldgs collapsed in the deadly Feb 22 quake - 115 dead CTV bldg, 18 dead PGC bldg. Others died in Port Hills rockfalls & masonry collapses in the CBD. Feb 22 death toll 185.

Over the last week, we heard news from the Royal Commission why the PGC bldg collapsed: Council green stickered PGC bldg was only strengthened 30-40 % of the bldg code.

Why not 100% Council?

Council faffed about dangerous bldgs post quakes: Bishopdale Library was closed by Council, after green stickering it for 8 months use by Council workers & citizens. Excuse: Bishopdale Library bldg needed quake strengthening. Fendalton Library was also closed for "earthquake repairs" after being opened for a few weeks.

Images, quake damaged Jeffreys Rd:


30.11.11. Green stickered, Fendalton Library, closed for post quake repairs, Jeffreys Rd


When I went to Fendalton Library to return books, several citizens stood around outside, shaking their heads, muttering at Council incompetence, blue & white closure stickers on windows & doors. Signs told us to go to Papanui Library, open 7 days a week. Council was spooked about liability for past & future quake damages.

The Royal Commission revealed finger pointing & ass covering by dissemblers claiming innocence of negligence & incompetence regarding PGC bldg collapse in the Feb 22 quake:

PGC bldg owner said he didn't know PGC bldg was "earthquake prone" when he bought it in 2009, as his lawyers & real estate agents hadn't told him about bldg reports stating the PGC bldg was quake prone. The owner was a real estate tycoon. It was his business to know. He said he would've paid for PGC bldg strengthening had he known.

"I didn't know..." was the theme song for those in the hot seat at the Royal Commission.

Harcourts commercial manager of PGC bldg said he knew from a Plant & Building Safety Ltd report & LIM report about PGC bldg being quake prone, but didn't tell the new owner or Holmes Consulting engineers, but knew the engineers knew about the PGC bldg history.

PGC company secretary said he wasn't told PGC bldg was quake prone, as warned by a Holmes Consulting engineers report in 2007 & only found out about quake prone warnings after the fatal collapse of PGC bldg. (The Star 30.11.11).

Holmes Consulting Group engineers Boys & Whiteside had also done 4 PGC bldg inspections post Sept 4 quake. They'd just inspected quake damages & not overall strength of PGC bldg & passed the PGC bldg "safe to occupy." (The Press 06.12.11).

Council environmental policy & approvals manager admitted a Council green sticker was placed on PGC bldg on Sept 5, but it was the responsibility of the bldg owner & engineers to do more quake checks on PGC bldg. (The Star 30.11.11).

Engineers were dumb about bldg safety. If I saw any quake cracks in a bldg, especially columns (easy to see) no matter how small, I was wary of the bldg. My rental home shook to hell in any 4+ mag aftershocks. I was wary of the danger of the bldg, although green zoned.

Green stickered PGC bldg had quake cracks & was shaken by passing, heavy traffic, post Sept 4 quake & Dec 26 quake. Hare, the Holmes engineer, questioned by the Royal Commission, supported his engineer inspectors Boys & Whiteside, yet Hare was the principal engineer & advisor to CERA. (The Press 05.11.11.)

Hare said the PGC bldg owner should've asked for a detailed inspection of the PGC bldg, post Sept 4 quake, not just superficial damage inspections. Engineers were blaming PGC bldg owner for doing superficial bldg checks & not comprehensive bldg checks.

Gotta ask why engineers took easy money from the bldg owner & didn't insist on comprehensive bldg checks. So much for engineer integrity!

Engineers just covered their lazy asses. Never mind 18 dead in the collapsed PGC bldg & injured & trauma to affected families.

Council employed a private investigator to spy on citizens living in their red stickered homes in white zone Port Hills - Avoca Valley, Bowenvale Valley, Lyttelton... (The Press).

Council threatened that citizens could be evicted from their red stickered homes, if still living there. Pity Council wasn't concerned about Port Hills rockfall hazard pre quakes.

Thurs 01.12.11. Sunny afternoon, I drove to Bowenvale Ave to look at quake damages. Pre quake days, I'd done several Port Hills walks in Bowenvale Valley, walks starting from the car park at the end of Bowenvale Ave & climbing up to Summit Rd.

Images, quake damaged Bowenvale Ave:


01.12.11. Signs on gate at start of Bowenvale tracks, end of Bowenvale Ave. 4x4s forbidden sign right, due to rock fall hazard

A sign on the walkway start gate forbade 4x4 vehicles on the track due to rock fall hazards. There were no signs forbidding walkers in Bowenvale Valley. So much for rock fall hazards. I wandered up the track a bit to snap Bowenvale Valley board map below a rocky bluff. No signs of quake fallen rocks.


01.12.11. Bowenvale Valley tracks map, by rocky bluff, end of Bowenvale Ave

I wandered down Bowenvale Ave to Centaurus Rd by Heathcote River. I took particular note of so-called rock fall hazards. There were rocky bluffs above some houses protected by tall, mature trees. I didn't see any evidence of recent, quake rock falls - lighter coloured rocks on grey bluffs, rock slide gouges down grassy slopes, broken vegetation, which I'd seen in Heathcote Valley & Sumner Valley after quake rock falls.


01.12.11. Bowenvale Valley bluffs, no signs of quake rock falls above quake damaged housing, Bowenvale Ave




After 15 months of quakes I didn't see one fallen rock in Bowenvale Valley. There were no signs of slippery slopes in Bowenvale Valley, despite 15 months of 4 major quakes & 1 000s of aftershocks.

Council generalized rock fall hazards in all Port Hills valleys, after quake rock falls at Sumner, Redcliffs, Heathcote Valley & tracks above Lyttelton, to the detriment of white zone & red stickered housing. The release of geotech reports should help citizens decide their own fates, rather than faceless Council & CERA bureaucrats dictating.


01.12.11. Quake damaged, part repaired housing, Bowenvale Ave


01.12.11. Open concrete drain, Bowenvale Ave side

I didn't explore smaller roads off Bowenvale Ave & up valley slopes, but I saw enough damaged & part repaired housing on Bowenvale Ave to be convinced Bowenvale Valley was severely shaken in the 2010-2011 quakes.


01.12.11. Quake damaged housing with roof tarps, Bowenvale Valley slope, Bowenvale Ave


Bowenvale Ave tar seal was in good condition. Bowenvale Valley was a Port Hills water cachment, with open drains both sides of Bowenvale Ave, going down to Heathcote River by Centaurus Rd.


01.12.11. Quake damaged, part repaired housing, Bowenvale Ave




Life carried on in Bowenvale Ave - flowers blooming, cut lawns, flourishing trees, cars coming & going, people wandering by, amidst quake devastation.


01.12.11. Quake damaged, part repaired housing on Bowenvale Valley slope, Bowenvale Ave








01.12.11. Post quake, wood braced, garden wall, Bowenvale Ave


01.12.11. Quake damaged, part repaired housing, Bowenvale Ave


I snapped several quake damaged houses: loosened roof tiles; tarped roofs; a fire scorched roof; cracked walls; wall bricks fallen off & stacked; boarded house walls; broken garden walls; wood braced garden & house walls; broken garages; broken, boarded windows; plastic covered, broken windows; black plastic repaired walls; a demolition site...


01.12.11. Post quake, fire damaged house, Bowenvale Ave


Nine months post Feb 22 quake, most Bowenvale Ave houses I saw were inhabited, but quake damaged housing owners waited for insurance payouts, so permanent repairs could be done. Council, CERA, EQC, Fletcher Construction & insurers were slow.

EQC was especially slow, as it wasted years figuring out whether 1 000s of damaged houses were under cap $100 000, worthy of monopoly Fletcher repairs, or over cap $ 100 000, to be shunted by EQC into the clutches of tardy insurers.

Bowenvale Valley controversy: Council had red stickered some housing, enforcing abandonment, yet CERA hadn't yet zoned the housing. So there was conflict between Council rapid assessment, red stickering & slow CERA zoning. Home owners were piggies in the middle.   

The same conflicting actions & inactions between Council & CERA happened all over Christchurch & in the Port Hills - Avoca Valley, Heathcote Valley, Sumner Valley... Never mind houses on cliff tops & houses at the bottom of cliffs, which were were also rapid assessed, red stickered by Council, then had to wait months for CERA's slow zoning. Quakes were disastrous, but conflicts between CERA & Council were catastrophic.


01.12.11. Post quake, open drain, Bowenvale Ave side


01.12.11. Quake damaged, part repaired house, Bowenvale Ave


01.12.11. Quake damaged, wood braced, garden wall, cnr Oakview Ln / Bowenvale Ave


01.12.11. Post quake, house demolition site, Bowenvale Ave


01.12.11. Quake damaged & tarped garage, Bowenvale Ave


01.12.11. View of housing below Bowenvale Valley bluffs, cnr Bowenvale Ave / Centaurus Rd

Before the 04.09.10, mag 7.1 quake, seismologists & geologists hadn't a clue the quake was coming, but afterwards prattled about aftershocks & newly discovered faults.

Bowenvale Ave checked out on CERA Landcheck website as mostly white zone land, the rest green zone land. There were many other while zone roads in the Port Hills. So while CERA dithered, awaiting land reports, citizens waited.

Fri 02.12.11: Advert from a Burnside real estate agent, about a sold 3 b.r. house, Sevenoaks Dr:

"Now's the time to sell.

Yes, highly motivated buyers combined with an acute shortage of comparatively undamaged properties means that many properties are selling extremely well right NOW..."

"Comparatively undamaged properties?" Deja vu. The real estate agent hadn't learnt a thing.

Undamaged properties would do me fine.

Coda. Nov 2013. Two years later CERA still hadn't completed Port Hills zoning. Frustrated home owners waited all that time while NZ govt treated them with contempt - interminable zoning reviews & more Port Hills zoning delays, due to CERA appealing a High Court judgement. In the interim, Council organized its own Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences (GNS) report, which differed from CERA zonings regarding what were lethal land movements, or not.

All that NZ govt did was take over Council functions & cause strife. Instead of advising Council about its local govt duties, NZ govt interfered in local governance by means of CERA functions usurping and / or duplicating many Council functions, with farcical bureaucratic growth in EQC, Fletchers, CERA, CCDU & SCIRT. 

Despite all its Council interference, NZ govt took 2 years to produce rebuild house foundation specifications. National hadn't produced a bright & shiny future in Canterbury.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Family aghast at being told to go (Stuff Co / The Press).


See Man ignores rockfall warning (Stuff Co / The Press).

See Geotech reports (Rebuild Christchurch).


See 'Major change' due in assessment, regarding earthquake prone PGC bldg (Stuff Co / The Press).

See EQC to review recruitment process (Stuff Co / The Press).


See Legal challenges expose hasty process (The Press / Stuff Co).

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