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Thursday, March 31, 2011

English clubs decry Crusaders' London match

English clubs decry Crusaders' London match

Last updated 09:07 01/04/2011
England's rugby clubs are furious the Crusaders were allowed to use Twickenham at the weekend, saying it was a "commercial venture dressed up in charity clothing" to raise money in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.

England's leading clubs have expressed anger at the Rugby Football Unions's decision to host the Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Sharks in London.

British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported a meeting of the clubs two weeks ago resolved not to support the Twickenham fixture on Sunday (Monday morning NZT) but given the charitable aspect to the match - a percentage of the gate revenue was donated to the Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake fund - the clubs decided not to campaign openly against it.

However, Saracens chairman Nigel Wray subsequently criticised the match ahead of his club's game against Newcastle, which was played at the same time in London.

Attendance there was 1500 down on the same fixture last season while a crowd of 35,094 walked through the Twickenham gates.

Premiership Rugby, the clubs' representative body, is now considering taking next year's domestic showpiece club final away from Twickenham as a form of retribution.

"We felt this game was the thin end of the wedge," one leading club official told the newspaper.

"The RFU keeps saying it is our partner, particularly when it concerns the England team, and yet it then allows a game to be played at Twickenham, from a different tournament and hemisphere, on the very weekend when domestic rugby should have been given the opportunity to shine.

"Teams from Super 15 have been trying for the last three years to get a game played in London and there were other options, such as Durban and any of the other stadiums in New Zealand for this game to have been played.

"This was a commercial venture in every way, a commercial venture dressed up in charity clothing."

Another unnamed source said there was anger the clubs hadn't been properly consulted and "the fear among the clubs now is that it sets a precedent for future Super 15 games to be played in England".

The RFU hit back at the criticism, believing the clubs had lost sight of a bigger picture.

"English rugby moved heaven and earth to enable this game to go ahead because we thought it was a worthwhile cause," an RFU spokesman said.

"The idea that this was a purely a commercial venture is nonsense.

"Hosting this game at Twickenham was about English rugby showing its support for the rugby family in New Zealand and the people of Christchurch who had been affected by the earthquake.

"The match and related fund-raising will have raised over £1 million for the Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake fund and the RFU intends to donate all profit we made for hosting the game to charities in both New Zealand and Japan."

Sanzar is to conduct a review into the match and determine whether it is worth repeating. Chief executive Greg Peters wouldn't rule out the possibility of further visits to Twickenham.

"All the factors would need to be considered," he told The Guardian.

"Last week's game was a strict one-off, but in saying that we will review it to see how things went. I am not dismissing the idea of a repeat, but all the factors would need to be considered. Sunday gave us the chance to showcase our product. The north has been critical of our game in the past, but everything good about it was on show."

Sharks chief executive Brian van Zyl said his organisation would consider a return to London for "commercial and strategic reasons".

- Stuff

State of national emergency extended following quake

State of national emergency extended following quake

Last updated 16:21 31/03/2011
The state of national emergency following the Christchurch earthquake has been extended for seven more days.

Civil Defence declared the state of emergency on February 23, the day after the 6.3-magnitude hit the city.

Under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 it can be declared only for a maximum of seven days at a time. "There is still considerable work to be done in Christchurch that requires the powers the National Controller has to ensure the maximum possible coordination and cooperation between central and local resources to respond to this disaster," Civil Defence Minister John Carter said today.

"The response is of such a magnitude that the required civil defence emergency management is beyond the capacity of the regional civil defence emergency management group."

Mr Carter said there was strong support in Christchurch for the state of emergency to continue.

"The state of national emergency will not be lifted until I am satisfied that the situation has stabilised sufficiently that it is no longer required," he said.

"Work remains focused on residents being adequately housed in safe and warm accommodation, with reliable access to water, functional sewerage disposal, electricity and communications.

"There is extensive damage in the cordoned off central business district, some of which is hard for people to fathom having not been able to see it."

'Pragmatic' Christchurch clean air enforcement

'Pragmatic' Christchurch clean air enforcement

Last updated 19:18 31/03/2011
Keeping Christchurch people warm is more important then smoky chimneys, Environment Canterbury says.

Christchurch's extraordinary circumstances following the February 22 quake meant the organisation was prioritising warm homes over cleaner air, Ecan spokesman Kim Drummond said.

Ecan understood many people were facing difficult situations at home and the last thing they should worry about was whether their home heating complied with Christchurch's clean air rules, he said.

"We are enabling people to put their health and comfort at home first as we will be taking a very pragmatic approach to the clean air rules this year," he said.

Ecan realised people had to make the best of whatever heating was available.

"People may still make complaints to us about smoky chimneys and we will of course respond but we will use our judgment and tact when working with people in these situations," he said.

Clean air rules apply from April 1 to September 30 in Christchurch and apply throughout the year in Kaiapoi.

Flues and chimneys and other heating sources should be checked before use, he said.

People can get more information on

Coke commits to Christchurch

Coke commits to Christchurch

Last updated 13:02 31/03/2011
A $15 million Coca-Cola bottling plant is to be built in Christchurch.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee announced the Coca-Cola Amatil project today, saying it made an important statement about the city's future.

"The clear message from Coca-Cola is it believes Christchurch will maintain its role as the South Island's economic powerhouse," Mr Brownlee said.

"Such a significant show of confidence in Christchurch so soon after the 22 February quake is great news for the local workforce and an important signal to other businesses in the region."

English lord gives $250,000 to quake appeal

English lord gives $250,000 to quake appeal

Last updated 10:47 31/03/2011
Lord Michael Ashcroft, the Englishman whose reward offer helped recover Victoria Cross medals stolen from the Waiouru army museum, has given $250,000 to the Canterbury earthquake appeal.

Ashcroft said the world was going through turbulent times, but few communities had suffered more markedly than Christchurch.

"New Zealand is a great nation, one which is close to my heart," he said.

"But New Zealand is small in terms of its population and its resources and it desperately needs help to tackle the monumental task of rebuilding which lies ahead. I am delighted to have been able to play a part, and I ask everyone to consider helping where they can."

Ashcroft previously offered $200,000 for the recovery of 96 medals, including nine Victoria Crosses, which were stolen from the Army Museum in Waiouru in 2007.

The theft of the medals, including New Zealand soldier Charles Upham's Victoria Cross and bar, outraged the country.

When the medals were recovered, Ashcroft offered another $200,000 reward, for information leading to a conviction.

In October 2009, a man with name suppression was sentenced to six years for the medals theft and for a further five years for unrelated burglaries.

He was described in court as a career criminal.

It was not known how much of either reward was paid.

Ashcroft was also behind the 2009 establishment in New Zealand of the Crimestoppers programme where people call anonymously with tips on criminals and crime.

Christchurch earthquake promises plenty of work for plumbers

Christchurch earthquake promises plenty of work for plumbers

Last updated 05:00 01/04/2011
Invercargill plumber Ray Galt has been named national president of the New Zealand Society of Master Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers at a time when southern plumbers have never been more in demand.

The Christchurch earthquake had put enormous pressure on Canterbury-based plumbers and those around the South Island would likely be needed once a rebuild of the city begins, he said.

"The emphasis has been on restoring services ... when they do start rebuilding there will have to be huge resources put in the area," Mr Galt said.

The biggest help the national body had been able to provide in the early days was having plumbers placed on the emergency services list.

But there are other industry concerns for the year that Mr Galt will also be preoccupied with.

Having owned Invercargill's Baxter and Neilson Plumbers with wife, Trish, for 19 years, he first became involved in the society about 30 years ago. Within the Southland branch he has served time as president and chairman of the finance committee.

Four years ago he was elected to the national board, serving last year as vice-president.

He is the 10th Southlander to be named national president of the society, which has existed since 1901 and today represents 770 members, encompassing about 70 per cent of the total industry. Between 1930 and 1932 the founder of Baxter and Neilson, George Baxter, held the presidency.

Mr Galt's list of goals during his term as president included implementation of a new nationwide quality assurance programme in the next 12 months.

It has been piloted in Southland during the past year.

"We need to ensure our members are up to speed – not just with current legislation but also with technology. Plumbing has changed over the years," he said. "Consumers deserve to know there's a programme behind it, rather than somebody just calling themselves a master plumber."

Christchurch housing market 'getting on with it'

Christchurch housing market 'getting on with it'

Last updated 11:18 01/04/2011
The real estate industry is seeing signs of resilience in the Christchurch property market following the devastating February 22 earthquake, although nationwide the inventory of houses for sale topped one year.

In March, the number of new listings in Canterbury was 36 percent lower than a year earlier, while for the rest of the country the decline was 11 percent, according to industry website

The 1297 new properties that came onto the Canterbury market in March was 10 percent up from the previous month. chief executive Alistair Helm said that while Canterbury's listings were down an annual 36 percent, the figures showed business and people were already picking themselves up and working to resume some state of normality.

"Property is still being listed, marketed, viewed online, researched, inquired about, negotiated and sold," Mr Helm said.

The truncated mean asking price for Canterbury homes was down 2 percent from the previous month to $357,986, while the inventory of unsold homes rose to 41.2 weeks, up 7 percent from a year earlier and up 16 percent from February.

Nearly 1400 people worked in real estate in the Canterbury region, operating from 120 offices, 87 of which were based in Christchurch, Mr Helm said.

"While there was some damage to a number of real estate offices in the city, many have found temporary offices or consolidated operations in an existing office that hasn't been affected."

Nationally, the 12,247 new listings in March was 8 percent up on the previous month, but still 15 percent down on the number of listings at the same time last year.

With sales remaining low, the national inventory of unsold homes rose to 53 weeks - close to the highest level ever recorded. The average asking price also crept up 2 percent to $421,940, just 1.7 percent below the market peak of October 2007.

While there was traditionally a surge of new listings at this time of year, the latest figures were the lowest March numbers recorded by in three years, Mr Helm said.'s latest NZ Property Report, published today, showed the inventory in Auckland up 1 percent from a month earlier but 2 percent down on a year earlier at 38 weeks, and in Wellington the inventory was 27.9 weeks.

In provincial New Zealand - which excludes Auckland, Wellington, and Canterbury - the inventory level reached a peak of 76.7 weeks, compared with 36.6 weeks in metropolitan areas.

Given the high level of inventory, matched to slow levels of new listings it was becoming clear that the high asking price was more likely to be the result of keen interest focused purely on new listings, the report said.

Older listings were being left somewhat languishing on the shelf at what could be unrealistic prices, or with a presentation that needed refreshing to attract buyers.


Land nod for earthquake refugees

Land nod for earthquake refugees

Last updated 05:00 01/04/2011
Land that could house people displaced by the February earthquake has been approved for development by the Christchurch City Council.

However, the final decision may yet lie with the new Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera).

At a closed session yesterday, the council adopted changes to the city plan that will rezone land in southwest Christchurch so it can be used in the Wigram Skies commercial and residential development.

Regulatory and planning committee chairwoman Sue Wells said the development could provide new homes for quake refugees.

"It really brings life into the southwestern area and we couldn't have a more important time for it."

She said people who had lost their homes could "need it sooner rather than later".

The decision is subject to appeals to the Environment Court.

Wells said it was not known what decisions Cera could make on Christchurch housing projects.

The authority has wide powers to procure land and override normal resource consent processes.

"It's very dependent on the Government and their announcements.

"Whether the legislation will address the appeal right or not will wait to be seen. I guess we just have to wait," said Wells. A decision on whether to rezone about 205 hectares for the proposed Prestons Rd housing scheme in Marshland was deferred for three months.

Wells said the commissioners had made "fairly strong" recommendations on what the decision should be.

"It's a very firm decision that was made before the earthquake," she said.

The 2500-house development may allow those forced to leave homes in the eastern suburbs to at least remain living on the same side of the city, she said.

"The real issue is that we've got a lot of people affected out in the eastern suburbs and we just don't know what the situation is for them going forward.

"It would be foolish of us to get ourselves pulled into a decision on Prestons Rd without knowing that."

Council braces for less money

Council braces for less money

Last updated 05:00 01/04/2011
The February earthquake has cut millions of dollars from the Christchurch City Council's coffers, but ratepayers have been assured this year's rates rise will be kept to an "acceptable level".

Running a deficit and deferring major projects, such as a new bus exchange, are options being considered as the council faces a massive upheaval in its budget.

Councillors yesterday scrapped a proposed earthquake levy, but the $45 million bailout of AMI Stadium owner Vbase is still in the draft annual plan, which has to be reworked because of the February 22 quake.

Council chief executive Tony Marryatt said he was aiming to recommend a rates increase of between 3 and 5 per cent for 2011-12, compared with the pre-quake proposed increase of 5.32 per cent.

He said staff were still estimating the loss of rating income because of widespread damage to homes and businesses.

Staff would recommend a reduced rates requirement to account for "the reduced value of the city", ensuring that any rates increase would be at an "acceptable level".

After the September quake, the council estimated a $6m loss of rates income, but February's quake caused much more damage, particularly to commercial buildings.

The closure of the central city also caused a big drop in parking revenue, which provided $6m a year to the council.

Asked if the income losses could lead to the council running deficits, Marryatt said: "It might be that we run a deficit for a few years. That's not what I'm sitting here proposing, but that is an option."

Savings would be made by deferring some major capital projects, which normally were funded for about $90m a year.

"The best example would be the underground bus exchange. What's the point of starting that this year when the CBD has got to be rebuilt?" he said.

Councillors yesterday agreed to seek a Government order-in-council that would allow the council to circumvent usual requirements for its annual plan.

The proposed order-in-council would allow the council to update the plan throughout the year to include any "unforeseen changes" and would exempt it from the requirement to report on some of its performance levels.

The staff report on the order-in-council recommended removing the public consultation process entirely because of the need to prepare a plan by the end of June.

However, councillors approved an amendment to allow the public to make written submissions on the draft plan before it was approved in June, while community boards would be allowed to make oral submissions to councillors.

Plans for a $52 earthquake levy have been shelved, but the $45m lifeline to help service venue manager Vbase's debts would still be included.

The meeting was the first to be held since the quake and opened with a moment of silence for those who died.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) commissioners were told yesterday that the quake could wipe $5 billion off Christchurch's capital value, which could cost the regional council more than $3m a year in rates.

ECan's acting director of finance and corporate services, Mark Vermeeren, said the assessment was based on figures from the Government and the city council and should be treated as a worst-case scenario.

ECan staff have estimated that 10,000 houses, worth an average of $380,000, will be demolished, while 635 commercial buildings, with a total commercial value of $1.2b, will be demolished.

The $5b estimate is just over 7 per cent of Christchurch's "equalised" capital value before the quake of about $69.7b. Capital values are "equalised" because rating areas are valued at different times.

- The Press

Flurry of aftershocks overnight

Flurry of aftershocks overnight

Last updated 08:03 01/04/2011
Christchurch was hit by a string of aftershocks in the last 15 hours with the largest, a magnitude 3.8, striking at 6:28 this morning.

GNS Science recorded a magnitude 2.9 at 5:56pm yesterday evening at a depth of 8km and centred 10km north-east of Lyttelton.

A magnitude 3.2 quake struck at 9:49pm, 10km deep and 10km north-east of Lyttelton.

This was followed by a 3.1 at 10:52pm at a depth of 8km and within 5km of Lyttelton.

The magnitude 3.8 at 6:28am hit at a depth of 6km, also within 5km of Lyttelton.

Minutes later a 3.5 hit at a depth of 8km and also centred within 5km of Lyttelton.

And just to even up the draw, a magnitude 2.9 hit within 5km of Darfield at 7:27am.

Damaged facilities force council to consider redundancies

Damaged facilities force council to consider redundancies

Last updated 05:00 01/04/2011
The Christchurch City Council has cut more than 100 advertised jobs because of the earthquake in February, and some redundancies will follow.

Council chief executive Tony Marryatt said redundancies were a "last resort" but were being forced upon the council by damage at council facilities, some of which could be closed for several months.

The council had 143 vacancies advertised before the earthquake, but only 22 are now going ahead.

Marryatt said there would be redundancies, but it was too early to say how many jobs would be lost and where.

The council was inspecting facilities that had been damaged by the quake to determine how long repairs would take and whether staff could be kept on, he said.

"If a facility isn't going to be operating for a year, I don't think we can ask the ratepayer to keep paying staff wages," he said.

He said that where possible, the council would try to move staff to high-demand areas "where there's a lot more pressure on".

Marryatt said redundancies were a "last resort", and he understood the effect they would have on people who had been affected by the earthquake.

"You don't want to do that to anyone, but to do it when someone's personal circumstances could be that their house is stuffed ..."

The council would have a better idea on the redundancies by the middle of the month, he said.

Chch back on map

Chch back on map

Last updated 05:00 01/04/2011
The Rugby World Cup website has put  Christchurch back on the map.

Despite hosting the All Blacks and having a fully functional international airport, the earthquake-hit city did not feature on a map on the official cup website,, which showed the match venue cities and major airports.

Queenstown, which is not hosting a game, featured on the map because it has an international airport.

RWR had now moved to change the website to include Christchurch's airport status.

Christchurch lost its World Cup games after February's earthquake damaged AMI Stadium and several major hotels.

Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale said being off the map was disappointing.

"Whilst the CBD has taken a massive hit, we still have all our other attributes," he said.

"We're still the gateway to the South Island and there are plans afoot to do something during the World Cup, even though we're not hosting any rugby matches.

"We still see ourselves as being a very important piece of the puzzle. We want to be back on the map."

Rugby World Cup communications manager Mike Jaspers said the website was changed after new venues for games originally scheduled for Christchurch were announced.

The city was accidentally removed from the map, and would be reinstated as an international airport site as soon as possible, he said.

"This is simply an oversight that is in the process of being corrected," he said.

One comment on The Press website last night read: "An utter insult to Christchurch and all its residents. How appalling and insensitive."

Christchurch will host the All Blacks during the Cup, while the Australian team will stay in Hanmer Springs.

River repairs will cost millions

River repairs will cost millions

Last updated 16:17 31/03/2011
Damage to the Waimakariri and Kaiapoi Rivers after the February quake will amount to about $2m.

Environment Canterbury's principal river engineer Ian Heslop said that amount was on top of an estimated $3m in repairs following the September shake. 

Ecan team aimed to complete the work by June.

Repairs to the Halswell River after the February quake were estimated to cost $60,000 and would entail restoration of normal river flows and drainage.

Ecan had already agreed to a three-year restoration programme to dredge and widen the river, remove trees and stabilisation the river bank, which would cost about $3m.

Ecan was continuing to monitor catchment rainfalls and river flows, he said.

Meanwhile, Ecan has deferred the introduction of navigation safety bylaws, which were to come into force tomorrow, to June due to delays caused by the February quake.

The new navigation safety bylaws aim to ensure public safety on the region's lakes, rivers, harbours and coastal waterways.

Crush victim walks from hospital

Crush victim walks from hospital

Last updated 15:10 01/04/2011
A man trapped for 10 hours in the collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation building walked out of Christchurch Hospital yesterday.

Nick Walls, a senior accountant with Leech & Partners, suffered crush syndrome when he was pinned under his desk by debris during the February 22 earthquake.

"I dived under the desk while I was still on the phone and everything just started tumbling, then it just went black and silent for the next 10 hours pretty much," he told The Press in a previous interview.

The 30 year-old was freed from the rubble about 11 that night, but later required surgery to amputate muscles and tissue around his buttocks.

He spent the next five weeks recovering in Christchurch Hospital's orthopaedic ward, but spent a few hours outside the ward on March 18 to attend the wedding of friends Hayden and Nicola Garbutt in Halswell.

Walls said he could not fault the care he received in hospital, but had been itching to get home.

''They're just an amazing bunch of dedicated doctors and nurses as well as everyone else who works [at Christchurch Hospital] who has been involved in my care. Without them I wouldn't be walking out today.''

Walls' mother Jenny said it had been an extremely hard time for their family but they were some of the lucky ones.
''There have been so many people affected by what has happened and much worse than us. We are so lucky to have Nick with us.''

More than 128 Christchurch buildings face demolition

More than 128 Christchurch buildings face demolition

Last updated 17:25 01/04/2011
Christchurch authorities have confirmed at least 128 buildings in the city will have to be demolished after the devastating February 22 quake.

At this afternoon's media briefing, Director of Planning and Transition for Civil Defence, Warwick Isaacs said 128 buildings would have to be brought down, 37 required partial demolition, while 12 would have to be made safe.

Isaacs revealed an additional seven ''critical buildings'' would also have to come down. These are: the Rolleston Court apartments, New Zealand College of Early Childhood Education, Community House, BDO Spicers Christchurch, the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Harcourts Grenadier, and Kenton Chambers.

Isaacs said the critical buildings were ''generally over five storeys tall'', on an important thoroughfare, and potentially posing a danger to other buildings.

Other buildings may end up joining the critical list, Isaacs said.

''It's about the risk they pose rather than the use of the building.''

Some work on the five-storey critical buildings was imminent, while further planning would be needed for the high rise buildings such as the Hotel Grand Chancellor.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Half-million dollar pay deal to fix Christchurch

Half-million dollar pay deal to fix Christchurch

Last updated 05:00 31/03/2011
A half million-dollar salary is being offered to candidates for the permanent head of the new Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Agency.

The $495,000 to $555,000 salary band has been revealed as more details emerge about the broad powers Cabinet has granted Cera.

Cabinet papers from Monday's meeting to confirm Cera show its chief executive will have the power to direct or deny any action by a local government body if it is not helping the recovery effort.

Cera will also have the right to suspend, amend, cancel or delay local plans and policies, and approve significant local authority contracts.

Cera and its minister, Gerry Brownlee, will also be able to take over any local body believed to be getting recovery work wrong. Control would return to the local body when the minister and Cera felt it was appropriate.

Under the structure announced on Tuesday, Earthquake Recovery Minister Brownlee said local bodies would be able to draw up recovery plans. But Cabinet papers show those plans will have to be approved by Cera. Plans finished before Cera's recovery strategy is published in October will be reviewed to fit with the strategy.

Prime Minister John Key said yesterday the Government had been criticised that the previous earthquake recovery effort had not been powerful enough.

"Maybe some constitutional lawyers are concerned about the great deal of power, but the situation in Christchurch is we have a very big task in front of us and we need to action tasks quickly. The people of Christchurch don't want to see us tied up in red tape," Key said.

Disaster response work around the world had been most successful where the community was "fully integrated", he said.

Deputy State Services Commissioner John Ombler is interim Cera chief executive. Cabinet has set aside a maximum $150,000 to cover his salary and costs, and that of the permanent chief executive until the end of June.

Work is under way to find the permanent chief executive, and the State Services Commission said yesterday the size of the job meant a salary band of between $495,000 and $555,000 had been recommended. So far, $500,000 has been set aside to run the authority itself, although this is expected to grow.

"We're not going to scrimp and save on that," Key said.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker welcomed the new authority on Tuesday.

Waimakariri Mayor David Ayers said he was pleased with the structure because it meant working with only one Government department, rather than a whole range.

"It's an extraordinary situation and it needs an extraordinary focus and one government department provides that focus," Ayers said.

Selwyn District Council Mayor Kelvin Coe said the checks and balances announced alongside the new authority were appropriate. "We will probably have to have a look at them in a few months or years time, but there has been no abuse of the [powers] up until now."

Canterbury Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the city needed to move forward quickly.

"The public have an expectation of certainty and hope, and I think the announcement has given them both," Townsend said.

- The Press

Sign The Pledge - it's a wizard idea

Sign The Pledge - it's a wizard idea

Last updated 05:00 31/03/2011
An unusual alliance of devout nuns and the Wizard have made a commitment to the rebuilding of Christchurch.

Ian Brackenbury Channell yesterday joined forces with Carmelite Monastery nuns to sign The Pledge, having initially left Christchurch for Oamaru last month with his 91-year-old mother.

Fixing the town was "beyond my wildest powers", he said, at the time.

However, The Wizard is now among the more than 5000 people who have signed the community project supporting the rebuilding of Christchurch.

He said he left only for a few days and returned because he was needed.

Although an alliance with nuns appeared unusual, The Wizard said there was "not much" difference in their spiritual beliefs. "I'm not into materialism and neither are they. I get on well with both bishops."

It was important to build a city "so beautiful that it draws in the tourists", he said.

"We have the chance to do something special, which means we have to go back to the past for inspiration."

The Wizard said he planned to campaign for the rebuilding of the city's historic buildings.

Sister Dorothea Mary of Jesus, of the Carmelite Monastery, said there was a "spontaneous chorus of agreement" from the nine nuns to sign up.

"We've all felt what people have been through, and if that helps the city, we're only too happy to do that," she said.

Pledge organiser Garth Gallaway said securing the The Wizard's and the nuns' signatures was a "momentous and inspiring" occasion. "It simply serves to indicate what a special place Christchurch is." More than 130 businesses have requested signing pages, which would equate to about 18,000 signatures.

'Not possible' to ID some earthquake victims

'Not possible' to ID some earthquake victims

Last updated 05:00 31/03/2011
Some Christchurch earthquake victims are too badly injured to be identified, the chief coroner says.

Police estimate 180 people died in last month's quake, with 169 having been named.

Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean said the remainder were the most difficult to positively identify.

All were believed to have died in the collapsed Canterbury Television building.

Body parts were either so small, or so badly damaged, that DNA and dental records may not identify the victim, he said.

In some cases DNA testing could be used, but not to the necessary level of certainty.

It was likely only a "small number" could be named using these methods.

The coroner will meet family and staff from foreign embassies representing international victims in Christchurch tomorrow.

"We need to tell them what we can do on the assumption we can't find anything we can carry out DVI [disaster victim identification] on," he said.

If forensic evidence did not positively identify victims, an inquest would need to be held, possibly in Christchurch in May.

"We will hear what we call circumstantial evidence, like witnesses or CCTV coverage; all those things where we can get to a stage where we can say although we have not recovered anything identifiable, 'they died on this date and the likely cause of death is this'."

This was to give the families some closure at least, the coroner said.

Many unsure about use of toilets

Many unsure about use of toilets

Last updated 05:00 31/03/2011
To flush or not to flush? That is the question.

More than 27,000 chemical toilets have been distributed in Christchurch's quake-stricken eastern suburbs but some residents say they do not know whether they are allowed to flush after confusing official advice.

Civil Defence's immediate post-quake message was that people could use their regular toilets once water was restored but last weekend it backtracked, asking anyone who was offered a chemical toilet to use it.

Other eastern residents have reported that despite not being able to flush their toilets, they were struggling to acquire a chemical toilet through Civil Defence.

David Close, of New Brighton, and a former Christchurch City councillor, said many people were confused about their obligation to use chemical toilets, leading to potential health risk as thousands of litres of waste were flushed into sewerage system that could not support it.

"It is a very vague sort of message," he said. "I would say 90 per cent of people around here are still flushing."

Close was away when chemical toilets were distributed to his neighbours. He had been using his functioning toilet until last weekend, when he received a notice saying he should be using a chemical toilet.

"It is all very confusing," he said.

Christchurch City Council water and waste unit manager Mark Christison said the message to residents had been "refined", because waste had started overflowing into people's properties.

"The sewerage system was gagging ...," Christison said.

The rule now was if you had been given a chemical toilet, or people in surrounding properties had received one, you should be using it, regardless of whether your regular toilet was flushing.

Some parts of the eastern suburbs could be restored to normal service within a few weeks but many people would be using chemical toilets for up to four months, perhaps longer if flooding during winter created additional complications, he said.

"There are no guarantees ... our system is just not robust."

He would not give any definite timetables for restoring sewerage to specific areas because the state of the system was still "evolving". As of yesterday, 27,500 chemical toilets had been distributed into 31 suburbs, with another 13,500 on thier way.

These toilets can be emptied into about 400 disposal tanks, which were stationed at street corners, with a further 50 on the way.

More than 2000 portable toilets remained on footpaths, mostly through the southern suburbs, but these would be phased out as service is restored.

People in other parts of the city can flush but are asked to do so "sparingly".

- The Press

Close watch kept on integrity of stopbanks

Close watch kept on integrity of stopbanks

Last updated 05:00 31/03/2011
Earthquake-weakened floodbanks on the Waimakariri and Kaiapoi rivers might fail during a major flood, engineers fear.

Environment Canterbury (ECan) has commissioned a geotechnical investigation on stopbanks in Kaiapoi and near the northeastern Christchurch suburbs of Brooklands and Spencerville, to determine the risk of failure.

In a report be considered today by Government-appointed ECan commissioners, regional engineer Ross Vessey said "intensive" monitoring of floodbanks would be required "over a number of years".

"There may be unidentified and untreated earthquake cracks in the stopbanks or their foundations [after February's quake], or earthquake liquefaction may have increased the risk of `piping' of sandy stopbank foundations, which may cause stopbank failure during [a] major flood."

There should be ongoing monitoring during floods, to identify and repair problem areas, including checking stopbank foundations, the report said.

Vessey told The Press residents should not be unduly alarmed but when it came to floods "it's all a game of chance".

Big floods usually happened in summer, so the risk heading into winter was decreasing, he said.

ECan had brought in Riley Consultants to determine the risk of stopbank failure after the two quakes.

Its geotechnical report will take months to complete and the resulting retrofit programme could take two years to implement.

Retrofitting costs had not been factored into the latest quake repair estimates.

Vessey's report said damage to stopbanks from February's quake was less severe than the 7.1 magnitude September shake, and was generally restricted to previously affected areas. Repairs after the February quake are estimated to cost ECan a further $2 million, on top of the $3m already spent.

The report said Kaiapoi's walkway had "disguised" significant cracking. The weakened banks could withstand a 15-year flood, at a flow of 2500 cubic metres of water per second (cumecs).

When repair work was finished in June, the flood capacity would return to the original 4700 cumecs design standard.

Waimakariri District Mayor David Ayers said ECan was prudent to check the structural integrity of the stopbanks and residents should be reassured the organisation was taking the matter seriously.

"Their comment that the same areas were affected as last time fits in with our observations on our streets and people's properties."

Vessey's report said stopbank repairs would be delayed in some areas so work can be co-ordinated with dams being built to prevent liquefaction and lateral spreading.

Requirement to boil water likely to be lifted soon

Requirement to boil water likely to be lifted soon

Last updated 10:14 30/03/2011
Christchurch's boil-water restrictions are about to be lifted.

Canterbury medical officer of health Alistair Humphrey said the city's water supply had been free of faecal contamination for five days and the boil-water notice would probably go "within a few days".

Residents were warned to take precautions with water used for drinking, food preparation and teeth brushing .

The Christchurch City Council has installed 26 pumps to inject chlorine into the water supply. The chemical kills water-borne bacteria and viruses that could cause diseases.

About 60 per cent of the city's households, mainly in the eastern suburbs and the central business district, have chlorinated water.

Chlorination has not been necessary for the rest of the city.

Humphrey said the last hurdle before lifting the notice was to test water in Sydenham and Phillipstown to ensure chlorine had reached the Health Ministry minimum of 0.2 milligrams of chlorine per litre of water.

"I'm looking at a map now, from a couple of days ago, that shows [E. coli levels are] clear across the city," Humphrey said.

"I think [the boil-water notice will be lifted] within a few days."

Christchurch City Council water and waste unit manager Mark Christison was more cautious.

He hoped the boil-water requirement would be lifted within a week.

Christison expected chlorination to last about six months.

Some Christchurch residents had complained of an intense chlorine smell and a soil taste in their water, prompting more people to buy bottled water.

Christison said chlorine "dosing rates" had to stabilise in some areas.

Water pipes in some suburbs were leaking heavily and the council was most concerned about the hill suburbs.

In the middle of the night, water flow in some areas was 2 1/2 times higher than usual, he said. Every Christchurch street should now be reconnected to the water network, Christison said.

In Burwood, Bexley and parts of Avonside and Dallington, water pipes had been laid above ground because the underground pipes were so damaged.

Those pipes would eventually have to be buried to normal infrastructure standards.

Humphrey said "transgressions" in the city's water supply were much worse after the devastating February 22 earthquake, compared with last September's quake.

"There weren't a lot of them, but they were in many different places," Humphrey said. "It was clear the integrity of the reticulation system had been breached. There's more work to do, but the chlorine will keep it safe for now."

Palms to reopen

Palms to reopen

Last updated 13:13 30/03/2011
The Palms Shopping Centre is set to reopen in stages over the next five months after the facility suffered severe damage in the February 22 earthquake.

The Shirley mall sustained structural and liquefaction damage in the quake, but manager Keryn Ward said the Countdown supermarket and most of the mall's specialty stores are expected to reopen on June 30.

Phase two of the reopening plan, involving the remainder of the speciality stores and Kmart, is expected to be completed mid-July.

Reading Cinema, Arena restaurants and Contours gym should reopen in late July, while the Farmers department store will open in late August.

"Like so many members of our own community, we have been working hard to get back on our feet and plan to re-open The Palms with significant fanfare and celebration," Ward said.

A Market Day will be held on April 9 at nearby Shirley Intermediate School, featuring a number of the mall's retailers.

Ward said the day will provide an opportunity for the community to hear updates from local authorities, while enjoying live music and entertainment, including a Haka performance by Shirley Boys' High School students.

Scientists drill alpine fault for first time

Scientists drill alpine fault for first time

Last updated 12:20 16/03/2011
A New Zealand-led team of international scientists has successfully drilled through the alpine fault in the western South Island, the first phase of a project to learn about earthquake mechanisms on the fault.

The scientists drilled adjacent boreholes to depths of 101m and 152m on river terraces next to Gaunt Creek, near Whataroa 140km south of Greymouth on the West Coast, early last month.

They collected rock cores and made geophysical scans of the borehole walls, project co-leader Rupert Sutherland of GNS Science said today.

"They installed permanent monitoring instruments to record temperatures, pressures, and seismic activity inside the boreholes before back-filling both holes," he said.

"We were astonished that we managed to collect such high-quality rock cores across a zone that has been smashed by literally thousands of magnitude 8 earthquake movements over millions of years."

The alpine fault defined the Australian-Pacific plate boundary. Visible from space, it extended for about 650km from south of Fiordland along the western spine of the Southern Alps and into Marlborough.

Geological evidence suggested it ruptured every 200 to 400 years, producing earthquakes of about magnitude 8 that caused strong ground shaking throughout much of the South Island.

It had never been drilled through before.

The rock cores have been taken to Otago University, where images of the core surfaces and scans of their physical properties, such as density, magnetic properties, and electrical resistivity would be studied, he said.

Samples would also be sent to Germany, the United Kingdom, United States and Australia for additional laboratory analysis.

Scientists would take some years to analyse the cores fully in combination with data from geophysical scanners that were lowered down both boreholes, Dr Sutherland said.

Sensitive seismometers near the base of both boreholes were now recording very small earthquakes associated with the fault, and an array of temperature and fluid pressure sensors was monitoring any changes.

Scientists found the alpine fault acted as a barrier to fluid flowing through the rocks on either side, Dr Sutherland said.

"Repeated earthquakes have shattered the mountains and created myriad fractures that water can filter through, but rock along the fault plane itself is so finely crushed that it behaves like clay and creates an underground dam."

The scientific analysis and results would eventually turn into engineering standards and other preparations that meant New Zealand would be better prepared for the big quake when it happened, Dr Sutherland said.

The scientists hoped to learn how large continental faults evolved and generated earthquakes.


Earthquake dust possible role in death

Earthquake dust possible role in death

Last updated 11:50 30/03/2011
A mourning Christchurch mother believes liquefaction dust could have played a role in her 21-year-old daughter's death.

University student Mickel Allfrey died at Christchurch Hospital on March 21 after suffering an asthma attack at her Avonside home.

Her mother, Deborah Allfrey, said many things could trigger asthma but the thick dust around Avonside could have contributed to her daughter's attack.

''We will never know what caused it, but everytime you come to this side of town your throat tightens up,'' she said.

Mickel Allfrey had been a St John Youth member since she was 11 and ran the Fendalton division during the earthquake.

Her mother said she was often in dusty areas when she helped with administration work and cooking for the St John staff.

''She worked a lot with St John around the earthquake and was often in areas that were very dusty like the St Asaph headquarters,'' Deborah Allfrey said.

Mickel Allfrey had been in Wellington the week before her death and her mother said ''it all came on as soon as she came back to Christchurch''.

Deborah Allfrey said the last time her daughter had an asthma attack was January 2010 but doctors at Christchurch Hospital could not say if liquefaction dust was to blame for her daughter's fatal attack.

St John Ambulance spokesman Ian Henderson knew Mickel Allfrey personally and said it was hard to determine whether the dust had caused her death.

''It is possible. There is a lot of dust around Christchurch at the moment and it may have caused an increase in respiratory issues but I am not sure,'' he said.

Deborah Allfrey warned Christchurch residents suffering from asthma to get checked out straight away.

Since her death, Mickel Allfrey's organs have helped to save the lives of seven other people.