Last-ditch protest brings reward

Posted 05 Jul 2011 by MediaStuff Popular
Posted in Media
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An impromptu sit-in might have given a desperate Christchurch business owner the chance to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock and fittings from a soon-to-be demolished building.

Andrew Everist went to the city's Art Gallery – the temporary home of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) – yesterday morning after being told by his landlord that the heritage building housing his Colombo St shop, New Zealand's Own Mi Woolies, would be demolished today.

Wearing a high-visibility vest and hard-hat, and clutching a file of correspondence and engineers' reports, he told The Press he would not leave the Art Gallery until the matter was sorted.

Yesterday afternoon he was told there was a "good possibility" he could have access to the red-zone building, in a strip of tourist shops between Gloucester St and Armagh St, today before it was knocked down.

Everist and five others hope to retrieve some of the $260,000 worth of stock and $200,000 fit-out.

Despite the reprieve, Everist was scathing of Cera's "arrogant" attitude.

He said Cera's communication system was "broken" and the demolition's urgency appeared to be more about bureaucratic timelines than reality.

"It just shouldn't be like this. You obey the rules, you do everything right and you get nowhere because the system has failed, totally," he said. "There's half-a-million dollars worth of property in there.

"In my view, and in my engineers' view – subject to going in, but no-one's been in – it's retrievable."

Everist's complaint adds to others from building owners and tenants upset at Cera's demolition management, mainly over poor communication.

Everist said gaining access did not change the fact that yesterday's stress and disruption was unnecessary.

He did not understand why the Colombo St building had to come down so quickly.

"It's cordoned off, there's no-one in there. Why is this immediate urgency [needed] after they've failed in all their communications, haven't told me anything despite me filling out the forms and doing all the things that they asked me to do."

On June 13, when two powerful aftershocks further damaged the building, Everist had just returned from China to find a new wool-waste supplier for his insulation business Terra Lana because his Christchurch supplier had been hit by February's earthquake.

"I've got businesses to run. I can't just be standing [here]," he said yesterday.

Previous attempts to gain access to his shop, after February's quake, were frustrated by "hurdles and non-response", he said.

Yesterday, Cera demolition manager Warwick Isaacs said the authority had been working with the building's owner who had agreed to the demolition.

Cera had advised the owner the building was badly damaged, very dangerous and required urgent demolition, to be managed by the authority.

In a letter, Cera requested the building owner contact tenants to inform them about the demolition.

It later asked that tenants be advised they could apply to retrieve belongings.

"Demolition was also delayed to allow him access.""As soon as we were aware Andrew [Everist] had returned from overseas and wanted access to claim belongings, Cera staff met with him and arranged access," Isaacs said.

However, Everist said before yesterday, Cera officials had never given him the opportunity to discuss retrieving his items.

"That [Cera's statement] is absolute rubbish," Everist said.

"If I hadn't gone in today, the building would have been flattened with half-a-million dollars worth of recoverable goods in it."

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