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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Life by the sea returns to a kind of normal

Life by the sea returns to a kind of normal

Last updated 05:00 16/06/2011
The scene on Sumner streets yesterday almost belied Monday's aftershocks.

Residents walked their dogs, cycled, bought coffee and went to work.

The normality was only betrayed by the fresh destruction on the hills, and the water cans and bottles carried by most people.

Like many eastern areas, water is yet to be restored in Sumner.

Sumner fire chief Alan Kerr said the station was returning to normal. After 25 to 30 callouts on Tuesday, he decided he could not keep commanding all his volunteers' time.

"The decision was based on the number of calls we had yesterday. It was reasonably quiet. Also, the fact that the guys work. I can't really justify telling them to take time off work when we're not going to be turning out to emergency situations."

Infrastructure repairs moved past the bottleneck at the Ferrymead Bridge yesterday, and the water supply was restored to McCormacks Bay, Mt Pleasant and parts of Redcliffs.

However, Christchurch City Council water and waste manager Mark Christison said further progress would be more difficult.

"The key in the hill suburbs is to get water in the [hillside] reservoirs and work back down," he said. "We're having some trouble pushing water up the hills.

"The entire city should have water back within 10 days, he said. "If we can get some reservoirs filled up, it might be quicker out [in Sumner], but the water won't be out anywhere near as long as it was last time."

At a communal water tank outside Sumner School, James Roche filled the containers he first used in February.

Water was not a big issue, he said.

"Power is the main thing. If you've got power, that's OK. You can come and get water. OK, you missed your shower, but I'm sure there's people worse off than us."

Mother nature's mag-4.4 alarm clock

Mother nature's mag-4.4 alarm clock

Last updated 07:11 17/06/2011
Cantabrians had no need to set their alarms this morning as an old-fashioned wake-up call from mother nature did the trick.

At 6.37am, a magnitude-4.4 aftershock shook residents awake.

The tremor was five kilometres deep and centred on the Godley Beach Park area in the far east of Christchurch.

There were three other aftershocks overnight, with the largest being a magnitude-3.5 shake at 3.41am, centred on Sumner-Evans Pass roads and 11km deep.

- The Press

Farm track is now like 'Colombo St'

Farm track is now like 'Colombo St'

Last updated 17:59 16/06/2011
Clifton Hill residents are getting by on goodwill as the earthquake claims the only road in and out of their suburb.

Clifton Tce is usually the sole access to the area, which sits just above Sumner beach, but the base of the road is off limits while road works crews clear it of debris brought down in Monday's aftershocks.

That may have left residents stranded but local couple Ken and Bev Loader have opened up their private road, allowing residents a supply line.

Their property at the top of the hill backed on to public land and an old track ran between the two, connecting Clifton Hill to Summit Rd.

Contractors were upgrading the road to allow all traffic on what was previously a four-wheel drive-only route.

Ken Loader did not think twice when the Christchurch City Council asked for access.

"We're very glad that we can make the road access available," he said.

"It's normally closed to the public but it's become like Colombo St through here. Or at least how Colombo St used to be."

Loader said he had been "directing traffic" and acting as guide for some of Clifton's more disoriented residents.

"There's the odd people who live on the hill who have never been up this far."

Revelation Dr resident Daphne Manderson said the Loaders had been "absolutely wonderful" in agreeing to the thoroughfare, even if she was a reluctant user of the road.

"I haven't been off the hill yet. I'm not that keen and I'm not keen to be coming back from work at night when it's dark but I'll have to use it so I'll be using it.

When people did venture down walking tracks for supplies they were sure to help the hill's many elderly residents, she said.

"It's getting supplies in and if we lose water [again] it's getting down to get water and bring it up for a lot of people that can't get down."

Her neighbour Julie Densem said the road was passable "as long as you go slowly and keep your wits about you."

"I used to drive ski roads and it's better than a ski road but if you're not used to it it's quite frightening. It's really just a farm track."

Densem used the track for the first time on Wednesday when she became "desperate for a shower."

The road was built by the army during World War Two as an access road to be used during a Japanese invasion.

Chch firms invited south

Chch firms invited south

Last updated 05:00 22/06/2011
Dunedin wants to attract earthquake-affected Christchurch businesses south, rather than lose them to Australia or the North Island.

Dunedin city councillor John Bezett, who chairs a working party on the proposal, said it was not offering any financial incentives to lure businesses to Otago.

"We have been particularly sensitive in not wanting to offend any Christchurch institution with the perception that we are trying to poach business to Dunedin," he said.

However, the ramifications of the Canterbury quakes were an issue for the whole South Island, he said.

It was better companies relocated to Dunedin on a temporary or permanent basis, rather than moving overseas or to the North Island.

"We don't necessarily want people to move here from Christchurch, but if they are thinking about going to Australia, we would much rather they came here."

A pamphlet had been produced for Christchurch businesses, detailing how to contact the Dunedin City Council's economic development unit. "It outlines the particular facilities and institutions available, and outlines the various advantages of moving to Dunedin," Bezett said.

Businesses that moved to Dunedin from Christchurch could apply for rates relief or funding through the council industry project fund.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said only a "handful" of businesses had left Christchurch and only site-specific sectors, such as tourism, were badly affected.

Brownlee off the hook - but it may not last long

Brownlee off the hook - but it may not last long

Last updated 05:00 24/06/2011
OPINION: Gerry Brownlee has done what he had to do. Finally. In the process he has spawned a new conversation starter in Canterbury: "What is your house zoned?" is set to replace "Where were you in that last shake?"

After months of purgatory, 5100 Canterbury households now know they can move – and move on, their houses having been classed as "red zone" residences.

Mr Brownlee admitted yesterday that, since the June 13 quakes, the process had been "sped up" – insiders suggest at the insistence of Prime Minister John Key, who could see the political danger building.

The latest big quake, Mr Brownlee conceded, "had a significant effect on the psychology of the greater Christchurch area". Enough became more than enough.

Now, homeowners who suspected they were on Mr Brownlee's "blindingly obvious" list know the Government agrees with them. They live mainly in the loop of Horseshoe Lake, Bexley, some Burwood subdivisions that were once part of the Travis swamp and alongside the Avon River, downstream of its intersection with Linwood Ave; classic low and middle-income Labour heartland.

The package shows a canny eye was on the politics as well as the humanity of the situation. Potential fish-hooks have been blunted.

Home improvements that have increased a property's value will be taken into account. Otherwise, the baseline pre-September 2010 value will be used to set a price: a fairer and quicker way than wrestling over individual valuations.

Those who take issue with the offer, and see an opportunity to make greater gains by pursuing their options with insurers, are free to try. Mr Brownlee even stopped short of saying he would compel those in the red zones to leave, hoping logic will do the job for him.

The decision to rush the package out has taken the political heat out of the issue for now. But, as Mr Brownlee always knew, the focus will now move to the 9000 residents in the limbo land of the orange zone.

Mr Brownlee will get grudging short-term thanks for yesterday's decision. But the lingering legacy of bitterness will only worsen if the thousands still in no-man's land do not get certainty soon.

Cathedral dome is being removed

Cathedral dome is being removed

Last updated 11:15 21/06/2011
The dome atop the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament "wobbled like a jelly" in Monday's aftershocks, destroying the plan to remove it intact in two weeks' time.

The extra damage from last Monday's shakes has also meant the rear portion of the cathedral, where the dome sits, would have to be demolished.

Work was now underway to cut the dome into four parts before removing it. Contractors are working from the top of the building, instead of alongside it which would have been required if it was removed as a single piece.

Work, delayed yesterday by the weather, is expected to take six weeks. The rear part of the building will then be demolished.

Cathedral management board chairman Lance Ryan said contractors were suspended from a crane when Monday's first quake hit and saw the dome "wobble like a jelly".

Ryan said it was still hoped to save the main nave of the cathedral and as much of the historic character of the building as possible, but that would depend on a full assessment once it was safe to enter.

Any rebuilding work would have to comply with much tougher regulations likely in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Owners' rights gone in demolition order

Owners' rights gone in demolition order

Last updated 05:00 17/06/2011

The owners of more than 100 earthquake-hit Christchurch buildings facing urgent demolition will have no right to appeal and cannot use their own contractors.

The central Christchurch red zone is in lockdown after Monday's quakes, and The Press understands that only a few approved engineers and demolition companies are allowed to enter.

City Owners Rebuild Entity founder Ernest Duval said that in a meeting with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) on Wednesday owners were told buildings classed as "urgent" would be demolished by Cera's contractor at the owners' expense.

Cera said it would try to notify owners before their buildings were demolished, but there would be no right to appeal or opportunity to have their own engineering assessments, he said.

Duval said his company, Equity Trust Pacific Group, had 15 buildings in the red zone, including two that must be demolished. Two could now be on the "urgent list", but without access it was hard to know.

"There's probably going to be a few innocent victims [buildings], but it is very hard to know," he said.

KPI Rothschild managing director Shaun Stockman said he had had no word on the urgent demolition of his central-city buildings, one of which was in the shadow of the crippled 26-storey Hotel Grand Chancellor.

If there were buildings earmarked for urgent demolition, the public and owners should be told, he said.

Ganellen business and development manager Michael Doig said the company had submitted a plan to demolish The Press building in Cathedral Square, starting on Monday. Despite attempts to contact Cera, he did not know if this private work could proceed, and his engineers were unable to access the building. Any attempts by Cera to take over the demolition in the name of urgency would be met with "very pointy questions".

"It will be a substantially larger cost for the owner if it is a forced demolition."

Cera interim deconstruction manager Warwick Isaacs said on Tuesday that 147 buildings within the red zone had suffered more damage on Monday, and more than 100 urgently needed to be demolished. He said demolition would start within days, but Cera said yesterday that no time frame had been set.

Cera has refused to release a list of buildings facing urgent demolition, citing the privacy of building owners, and declined to say how many owners had been given urgent-demolition orders.

"We are currently beginning this process," Cera said.

Buildings already identified as suffering further damage on Monday include the Hotel Grand Chancellor, the Harcourts building and Christ Church Cathedral, but yesterday Cera would not say whether they were being earmarked for urgent demolition.

The previous process of giving building owners 10 days to produce a demolition plan had been suspended, with priority given to urgent demolitions, it said.

- The Press