Thursday, August 29, 2013

Post Quake Squabbles: Town Hall & Theatre Precinct, Uninsured Red Zone Land

Friday 30.08.13. Over the last week there were post quake, NZ govt / Council / citizen squabbles in the news:

High Court judge Panckhurst rapped NZ govt over the knuckles, judging govt was mistreating Quake Outcasts red zoners by offering 50% RV for red zoners' uninsurable bare land. Judge Panckhurst held govt to its CERA promises of looking after quake devastated citizens. After all, NZ govt had created the residential red zone to protect reinsurers, as govt's EQC was underinsured by govt pre quakes (despite timeous warning to govt by EQC) thus pre quakes homes were only insured by EQC for a risible $100 000 cap, which forced insurers to pay mega bucks above cap.

Post quakes, to protect overseas reinsurers govt created red zones, thus immediately reducing red zone land values (ditto later green TC3 zoning) & land-grabbed residential red zone land, with forced offers & threats of services removal & forced acquisition of red zone residential land & uninsurable red zone bare land, thus evicting red zoners.

The iniquity of red zoning was that a lot of red zone land wasn't damaged by quakes. It just happened to be near quake damaged land (e.g. Brooklands with perfectly sound housing post quakes) with govt threatening not to rebuild services like roads, sewage pipes, fresh water pipes, drain pipes, power lines... Council went along with the red zone rip off & continued to charge homeowners pre quakes rates, until homeowners were evicted with a CERA red zone deadline date to leave. Or else!

True to jackboot form, PM Key threatened to walk away from the govt red zone 50% deal for Quake Outcasts, after having "fun" gambling with ratepayers' & taxpayers' money, land-grabbing big chunks of riverside, Port Hills & CBD land. Key thought it was "fun" having property trashed by quakes, enduring a red zone imposed by govt & threatened by govt with forced acquisition & removal of services, if one didn't accept govt's crap offer & / or leave the govt red zone. Quakes or no quakes, forced acquisition of citizens' land by govt was big time theft, no matter how much "fun" it was for Key.

While most residential red zoners accepted govt's gun-at-head, red zone offer (home insurances were taken over by govt as part of the red zone deal & used to pay out red zoners) Frame land owners in the CBD weren't so gullible. Purchase of CBD Frame land by CCDU & the threat of forced acquisition of N, E & S Frame land in the CBD went slowly.

The problem with the govt imposed CBD Frame was that CERA / CCDU bureaucrats were forcing commercial land owners to sell their land at reduced value with the same gun-at-head approach used by CERA with residential land owners. Sell to govt or forced acquisition! Govt's idea for CBD Frame land to was to increase land value in CERA's core CBD & to revamp Frame land as parkland / flatland, usurping the citizens' idea of City in a Garden.

Something was rotten in the state. Govt didn't say what it would ultimately do with all the residential red zone land it cheaply acquired, nor did it say what it would do with CBD Frame land it cheaply acquired, after it stopped having "fun" in red zone land & Frame parkland.

Sat 31.08.13, I wandered around CERA's core CBD. Little was going on. Most bldgs still standing were abandoned. There were few rebuilds & mostly weedy demolition sites. The lethargic demolition of Copthorne Hotel by Victoria Sq was stopped for the weekend. I stood on Kilmore St / Manchester St corner & could see W across Chubbs & Repertory Theatre demolition sights right through to abandoned Town Hall. SW I could see across demolition sights beyond Avon River to abandoned Christchurch Cathedral. There were huge numbers of CBD demolition sites wherever I looked. Even CERA's vaunted "meadows" on some demolition sites were weedy.

Deja vu: Key needed to read up on forced acquisition of land in apartheid SA to know how totalitarian his jackbooted "fun" was. I witnessed many examples in apartheid SA, similar to Key's "fun." One example: I grew up in Durban North & Durban North Indians, living by Umgeni River & along the N freeway, in the early 1960s, were jackbooted out by means of SA's Group Areas Act to townships like Phoenix & Chatsworth on Durban's borders. SA's land clearances were based on melanin skin pigment & govt greed. NZ's land clearances were based on zone pigments - red, orange, green, white... & govt greed.

Key soon expediently apologized for his callous "fun" comment.

CERA minister Brownlee appealed Panckhurst's judgement to the Appeal Court, another Brownlee delay. Regarding CERA's land zoning, Brownlee's MO was delay after delay. CERA's appeal used taxpayers' money of course, while lawyers rubbed their greedy paws in glee.    

28.08.13. CERA media release: True to delay form, Brownlee postponed a Port Hills zoning review using the Appeal case as an excuse.

Clever councillors, after actually visiting Christchurch cordoned Town Hall, only 30 months post 22.02.11 quake, wavered about their previous unanimous decision to restore the quake trashed, abandoned Town Hall, then again unanimously voted to spend $127.5m (including $68.9m insurance pay out) to restore the Town Hall, teetering beside Avon River. That was after expedient badgering by architect, Sir Miles Warren, scared that all his ugly bldgs were being demolished. It amounted to flogging a dead horse, using ratepayers' money & a last gasp attempt by some councillors to appease heritage fanatics before the next Council election.

Images, quake damaged Kilmore St:

30.08.13. Quake trashed, abandoned, Christchurch Town Hall, Kilmore St. Town Hall was repaired in 2016

Brownlee said it was a "lost opportunity." I'd part agree, as the Town Hall looked like a crematorium, but the Theatre Precinct in CCDU's Blueprint actually duplicated Town Hall facilities. If Brownlee & captive CCDU architects & planners used their brains, they'd see the "lost opportunity" could convert CCDU's loss maker, Convention Centre idea into a combined Convention Centre / Theatre Precinct, with a lot of taxpayers' money saved buying quake trashed land for disparate CSO, Christchurch Music School, Court Theatre...

30.08.13. Victoria Sq view of abandoned Forsyth Barr left awaiting repairs. Abandoned Victoria Square flats right, awaited demolition for CCDU's Blueprint Convention Centre. Foreground Victoria Bridge (later renamed Hamish Hay Bridge) was repaired in 2016

30.08.13.Victoria Sq view of quake trashed, abandoned Dandelion Fountain & quake trashed, abandoned Christchurch Town Hall, tilted into Avon River. Town Hall was repaired in 2016

Combining the Convention Centre & Theatre Precinct (CCDU's name was "Performing Arts Precinct") as one Quake Memorial bldg, or Bog Theatre bldg, or whatever, was win-win. NZ govt got its Convention Centre, Christchurch theatre buffs got new theatres, & heritage fanatics got dead horse Town Hall. 

30.08.13. Colombo St view of abandoned Forsyth Barr left awaiting repairs. Isaac Theatre Royal restoration right. Foreground demolition sites are CERA's / CCDU's Blueprint Performing Arts Precinct

30.08.13. Colombo St view of CERA's / CCDU's Blueprint Performing Arts Precinct left. Repaired Pacific Tower (Rendezvous Hotel) middle behind. The Press rebuild below. Repaired Novotel right

30.08.13. Colombo St view of repaired Novotel left. Abandoned Camelot Hotel middle awaited demolition for NZ govt's / CERA's Blueprint Central Library rebuild. Quake trashed, abandoned Christchurch Cathedral right

30.08.13. Cnr Colombo St / Gloucester St view of CERA's / CCDU's Blueprint Performing Arts Precinct left foreground. Isaac Theatre Royal restoration behind left. Repaired Pacific Tower (Rendezvous Hotel) middle behind. The Press rebuild middle. Repaired Novotel right

And I did have a clue: I met Leah at Durban's Cantabile choir in the 1970s & we represented SA at 3 Llangollen eisteddfods. Besides my sciences teaching in SA, before going completely deaf & arriving in NZ 18 years ago, I'd read a drama honours degree at Natal University & did amateur & professional acting in Natal, as well as directing school plays in Natal, Free State & Cape.

My drama teaching, swan songs at Selborne College, East London: Co-director, My Fair Lady, Guild Theatre (1990); Director, Murder at the Vicarage, Agatha Christie adaptation (1991); Director, Charlies Aunt, Brandon Thomas (1993); both at Guild Theatre, East London.

Why wasn't CERA consulting theatre buffs? The status of post quake, Christchurch CBD theatres was a mess, not only because of quake damages, but because there was no coordination or mediation between Council's & CERA's machinations. They'd been squabbling ever since the quakes. So far CERA had instigated 2 Crown observers / managers to interfere with Council's decisions. Brownlee had called mayor Parker a "Clown." Parker was not standing for re-election. CERA had instigated an expensive Council "communications" review, although Council communications with the public were still crap since the review. CERA had instigated town clerk Marryatt's demise over Council's poor bldg consents processing. Post quakes in 2012, there were public protests about Council's poor performance.

The Repetory Theatre, Kilmore St was demolished near CERA's N Frame. The Majestic (happy clappy church pre quakes) corner Manchester St / Lichfield St, was abandoned in CERA's E Frame. (Majestic Theatre was later demolished by CERA). The Odeon (non theatre pre quakes) in CERA's S Frame, was part demolished, auditorium exposed to the element for years, flies gone, salvaged fly roof stood on Manchester St pavement, Tuam St facade was protected by shipping containers. Isaac Theatre Royal, Gloucester St, was restored in CCDU's so-called Performing Arts Precinct. Court Theatre, pre quakes in the Worcester Blvd, Arts Centre (cordoned restoration) had relocated to Addington post quakes & still produced shows for the public.

Thirty months post 22.02.11 quake, Court Theatre was the only pre quakes, CBD theatre doing productions for the public, yet CERA & Council did nothing about its future. A fiasco.

The fact that CERA demanded resolution of Town Hall's future just before the Council election stank. The fact that Council just affirmed its former $127.5m restoration spend without any future for the Court Theatre & other performing arts organizations stank. Mayor Parker & councillors flapped around in terminal funk.

$127,500,000.00 to restore the quake junked Town Hall on Avon River bank meant throwing $127.5m into a liquefactioned, riverside bog. The Town Hall used to have good acoustics in the main hall, but bad acoustics in the James Hay Theatre. Never mind cost blowouts & rates increases for years to pay for restoration above insurance pay out.

Although Crowne Plaza Hotel next door to Town Hall & joining air bridge & the old Convention Centre across the road & joining air bridge were demolished, Council wanted to restore quake trashed Town Hall. Most bldgs along Kilmore St, from Manchester St crossing to Colombo St Crossing to Durham St Nth crossing, were demolished. Remaining pre quakes bldgs were abandoned. The only rebuild so far was Forte Health, an ugly glass box.

And that was just the Town Hall. CCDU's Blueprint Stadium on Turners & Growers site would cost about $300m. There were several more expensive, anchor projects which Parker & Council had agreed to with Isaac's CCDU. And CCDU couldn't make up its mind whether to leave the Frame as parkland, or add high density housing.

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Government postpones Port Hills zoning review announcement (CERA media release).

See Key treats red zoners with disdain (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Councillors vote for full Town Hall restoration (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Reversing Town Hall decision not impossible (The Press / Stuff Co).

See 20 000 people for city centre (The Press / Stuff Co).

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