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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Contractors call for speed as work stalls

Contractors call for speed as work stalls

Last updated 05:00 21/04/2011
Bureaucratic delays have left diggers sitting idle within the central Christchurch cordon, slowing the earthquake recovery, demolition contractors say.

But Christchurch Central Labour MP Brendon Burns has called the comments "self-serving".

"The demolition companies are paid by the number of hours they run their machines and the amount of rubble they bring down," he said. "Contractors imploring the work to start sooner seems a bit self-serving to me."

Smith Crane and Construction managing director Tim Smith said owners of badly damaged buildings were pushing for demolition but often struggled to get approval.

"Where a building is completely stuffed, how hard is it?"

He said the central city was scattered with idle diggers surrounded by buildings that needed to come down.

"There are excavators sitting everywhere doing nothing because nothing can get approved."

Smith said there was a financial motivation, but there was also genuine concern that the inner-city recovery was being held up.

"If they don't get on with it, the city is going to be closed for years," he said.

One contractor said none of his 35 diggers in the central city was being used.

After some "cowboy" contractors had irresponsibly started knocking down buildings, Civil Defence had tightened the rules but had gone too far, he said.

The process was also being held up by insurers, who had struggled for several weeks to get their engineers into the central city to assess buildings.

"For the last six weeks very little has happened in town," he said.

Another contractor said the public had no idea how slow progress was behind the cordon. "It is not being handled well."

Some demolition companies working in the red zone were reluctant to speak to The Press, with two saying Civil Defence had threatened to cancel their accreditation if they spoke to the media.

Civil Defence said there was a policy of demolition contractors not talking to the media, including those working for private firms.

The policy was to allow contractors to "focus on their job" and protect the privacy of businesses and building owners.

Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton said about 350 buildings had been approved for demolition, partial demolition or make-safe work.

"There is an extensive demolition process under way," he said.

Seventy-two companies have been accredited to work within the cordon.

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