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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Update: Sunday 6 March

Christchurch earthquake: 31 schools ready to reopen

Last updated 19:20 06/03/2011
 
 
LATEST: Thirty-one schools in earthquake devastated Canterbury have indicated they will open for students over the next three days.

A further 55 schools were confirmed as structurally sound and could open for staff immediately. Opening dates for students at those schools were expected soon.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said: "I want to thank principals, teachers and parents for all the hard work they are putting into getting their schools open as soon as possible."

“I’m confident that most schools will be up and running by the end of the week, as we do all we can to get students back into learning.”

Parents should contact their school, visit their school website or go to the Ministry of Education website for updates on when schools are reopening.

The website also had information for parents on helping their child’s learning at home, Tolley said.

Interim plans were in place for 34 other schools with issues, including four with structural damage, to get students back on site soon.

At least six other schools had substantial damage and wouldn't be able to open on their own site in the near future. Arrangements were being made for those students.

“I’m pleased to announce that interim plans are in place for a further 2200 students at three of these schools,” Tolley said.

“Shirley Boys’ High will now share the site at Papanui High, St Paul’s Dallington and St Mary’s will go to Champion Street and Catholic Cathedral College will share with St Thomas’s.

“The flexibility being shown by all of the schools involved is extremely encouraging, as we try to give certainty for students and parents as soon as we possibly can.
 
There are around 70,000 students enrolled at primary and secondary schools in Christchurch City, Selwyn and Waimakariri districts.

Of those, 10,000 go to schools that are so badly damaged they can't reopen.

By Friday almost 4,900 students had re-enrolled at schools around the country.

HILLSBOROUGH HOMES EVACUATED

Some Christchurch residents have been evacuated from their homes due to aftershocks loosening rocks above their properties.

About 20 families from Avoca Valley Road in Hillsborough left their houses about 3pm today with police assistance.

They will stay overnight at the Pioneer Stadium welfare centre, Civil Defence said.

Residents who were not at home at the time when the evacuation was made might wish to retrieve important possessions.

Civil Defence said there was an acceptable risk for residents to gain short term access to recover possessions but they should be in no doubt they would be at risk if further aftershocks occur.

It was unclear at this stage when or whether the evacuation might be reviewed.

POLICE NAME 15 MORE DEAD

Police today have released 15 more names of victims of last month's Christchurch earthquake.

They are: Linda Isobel Arnold, 57 of Christchurch; Dr Dominic Joseph Gerard Bell, 45 of Christchurch; Ian Neville Caldwell, 47 of Christchurch; Donald Ashby Cowey, 82 of Christchurch; Maureen Valerie Fletcher, 75 of Christchurch; Wai Fong Lau, 87 of Christchurch; Catherine McNicol Lunney, 62 of Christchurch; Owen Thomas McKenna, 40 of Christchurch; Ofer Binyamin Mizrahi, 22 of Israel; Joseph Stuart Routledge (known as Stuart), 74 of Christchurch; Lucy Routledge, 74 of Christchurch; Christopher Patrick Smith, 48 of Selwyn; Gregory James Tobin, 25 of Christchurch; Shane Robert Tomlin, 42 of Christchurch; Lisa Patricia Willems, 43 of Christchurch.

The total number of people named has now reached 41.

Police this morning lifted the death toll from the 6.3 magnitude quake on February 22 by one, to 166 after another body was recovered from the central city overnight.

A further six people were confirmed dead last night.

Among them were Canterbury Television managing director and father of six Murray John Wood, 57, and Dr Allan Alexander Sinclair, 46, who worked at The Clinic inside the devastated CTV building.

The other four were: Melanie Jane Brown, 54, Christopher Grant Homan, 35, Wellington's Melissa Ann Neale, 42, and Gilhwan Yu, 24.

QUAKE BUILDING SILVER LINING

Estimates released today predict  the Christchurch quake will knock gross domestic product growth back by 1.5 percent, but Treasury predicts a silver lining in 2012 as rebuilding gets underway.

A preliminary assessment of the Christchurch earthquake's economic impact estimates the total financial cost of damage at between $10 billion to $15b - two to three times the estimated $5 billion cost of the first earthquake last September.

Vehicles stretched for three blocks along central Christchurch's Moorhouse Avenue this morning as residents waited to enter quake-affected properties after CBD cordons were relaxed.

Meanwhile search and rescue efforts at the Canterbury Television (CTV) building finished overnight where up to 100 people are believed to have died.

Superintendent Sam Hoyle said police were conscious families wanted to know for sure about loved ones as quickly as possible, but it would take months to finalise the identification of all the dead.

"We know the wait is difficult but we absolutely must get it right," Hoyle said.

"International experience tell us that this may be a very long process."

MILLIONS OF DOLLARS CLAIMED BY WORKERS

Tens of thousands of quake-hit Christchurch workers have taken tens of millions of dollars in financial support from the Government, with a projected $120 million pay-out to businesses set to be blown.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has released updated figures on welfare payments to workers, businesses and to ordinary householders struggling to cope.

Earthquake support subsidies had been approved for 37,467 individuals, which was about 87 per cent of all applications received so far, she said.

The applications covered about 5400 employers and nearly 6000 sole traders.

Bennett said the first three week tranche of payments totalled $50 million, but with another three weeks still to be paid and with more applications coming in, the Government was expecting the cost to go over the projected $120 million for six weeks support.

Among those approved for payments, more than 3000 people had either been told their employer was folding or had been unable to reach their employer.

"There's no doubt about it that jobs have been lost and people certainly won't be going back in to those jobs any time soon," Bennett said.

On top of the payments to businesses and employees, there were more than 49,500 civil defence payments made, some to people more than once, costing about $8 million.

In the September earthquake there were payments to only around 3000 people totalling $420,000.

Bennett said it was a "reality" that more people would end up on the dole as a result of the quake.

"There's no point in getting worried about it and there is no point in making up the scenarios that are going to happen - it will happen and it's how we work with those people [that will matter]," Bennett said.

CABINET TO DISCUSS MEMORIAL SERVICE

Cabinet will tomorrow discuss a memorial service for all those killed and missing in Christchurch's devastating earthquake last month and how inquiries into building collapses would be done.

The quake death toll was lifted by one to 166 today, and police believe it could exceed 200.

"There's a number of things we have to think about. We're considering the form and structure of the memorial service," Prime Minister John Key said.

Previously Mr Key said a national memorial service would be held in Christchurch within weeks. One month on from the quake would be March 22.

He has not ruled out a public holiday to mark the day.

Cabinet would also consider an inquiry into the earthquake which will consider safety issues around the collapsed building.

The inquiry would look at the safety certificates issued after the first earthquake for buildings that collapsed in the second.

"We will have some discussions about what the inquiry might look like and the shape of the inquiry, although we may not have that completely buttoned down by Monday," Key said.

Also on the agenda for Cabinet would be issues such as housing, how many people were accessing the welfare package and challenges such as getting enough portaloos and facilities to suburbs without.

ALL BLACKS IN SUPPORT CAMPAIGN
Several All Blacks are among a list of high profile Cantabrians providing messages of support and advice about where to go for help to people affected by the quake.

A television, radio and newspaper campaign has been launched featuring Richie McCaw, Julie and Dallas Seymour, Craig McMillan, Brad Thorn, Corey Flynn, Kieran Read, Maree Bowden and Alex Wyllie. Sir Richard Taylor and Buck Shelford will also front the campaign with messages of support on behalf of the rest of New Zealand.

The six-week campaign is being funded by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development.

The ads aimed to reassure people their reactions were normal and gave advice about how to help family and neighbours.

People were reminded of the government help line, website and to seek help from their GP if they were not coping.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said it was heartening to see some of New Zealand's best known sporting heroes lend some words of comfort.

"Our messages are encouraging people to keep talking to family and friends, reminding them about the services that are available, and where they can go to get support."

QUAKE A FURTHER HIT TO GDP

Treasury said today in its monthly economic indicators for February that the outlook for the New Zealand economy was weaker even before the earthquake as domestic demand was soft despite income gains from high commodity prices.

"We estimate that GDP growth will be around 1.5 percent points lower in the 2011 calendar year solely as a result of the February earthquake.

"The earthquake will have a negative impact on economic activity in 2011, but a positive impact from 2012 as the rebuilding gets underway."

Finance Minister Bill English said this afternoon that Treasury's assessment confirmed the need for the Government to carefully consider its spending priorities.

English said paying for the earthquake would likely involve a combination of a borrowing and reconsidering spending.

Prime Minister John Key has not ruled out cuts to Working For Families and student interest-free loans to help pay the recovery bill.

CORDON LIFTED IN STAGES

The city has been divided into four green zones where restricted access will slowly be allowed - zones one and two have opened today - and a red zone closed to the public.

Zone one covers areas bordered by Rolleston Ave, Armagh St, Durham St and Moorehouse Ave. Zone two is bordered by Fitzgerald Ave, Moorehouse Ave, Barbadoes St and Oxford Tce.

Resident Stu McMaster who has been staying with friends was excited to get back to his home but nervous about what condition the house would be in. "I'm not spending the night, I just want to get some valuables," he said.

Amongst the frustrated was Graeme Reid, who arrived early and was stopped from entering the zone.

"I have a business in town and I'm beyond belief that seven minutes was too early to get in.

"It is the stress and frustration that everyone is feeling.

"It's quite safe to go into many places, bit it's this ...political correctness."

Adventure travel company owner Chris Mercer thought she would find a lot of glass and books on the floor at her business. "We are just keen to get cleaned up and get back to business."

Mechanic Rick Crosbie said he was "scared" but "relieved" he would be able to see his business.

"I don't know what's going to happen until I get in there and see what the building is like.

"I'm worried about getting customers' cars."

Resident and apartment block owner Anne Marshall had been back to her home since the quake, but was still nervous. "We already saw the place all smashed up, but it's still not a nice feeling going back.

"It's heartbreaking. It's our home; it's our business; it's everything."

There will still be no access to areas where the greatest risk remains from unstable buildings, or where rescue and recovery efforts are still underway - largely the red zone.

Mayor Bob Parker said "rubber-neckers" were not welcome. "Respect people, respect the events that have taken place in the centre of Christchurch," Parker said.

- JOHN HARTEVELT, VICTORIA ROBINSON and SARAH HARVEY with NZPA

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