Anger in a city dispossessed

Posted 29 Jan 2012 by MediaStuff Popular
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Christchurch City Council CEO Tony Marryatt, left, and Mayor Bob Parker.

Christchurch City Council CEO Tony Marryatt, left, and Mayor Bob Parker.


But there's still a formidable array of issues for them and the rest of the country to tackle. Here are some:In many ways the people of Christchurch are doing remarkably well as they approach the first anniversary of their most devastating earthquake. They are showing admirable resolve, progressing the best they can given the daunting challenges.


On Wednesday, people will rally outside the council offices to protest against the 14.4 per cent pay rise awarded to the city's chief executive, Tony Marryatt.

While that's a legitimate issue, public anger is rising fast, driven by many deeper worries.

These include the shortage and high cost of housing and land; the slowness of repairs; difficulties negotiating settlements and new cover with insurers; poor communication by the council, government and Cera, its earthquake recovery agency; and an inability of the city so far to shape ambitious strategies for its future.


The city has achieved a lot over the past year. Despite the devastation of the city centre and the eastern suburbs, many people have managed some semblance of a new normality in their life and work. But continuing earthquakes, big family and career stresses and uncertainties over the future are taking their toll.

Much of the recovery work so far has been preparatory: making places safe, clearing debris, restoring services, making temporary repairs, assessing 190,000 properties, working out where rebuilding can take place, planning and putting processes in place to accelerate construction activity.

 ut so far, only 7000 houses have been repaired, the Earthquake Commission says. It, insurers and construction companies are promising to fast-forward activity this year.

 he commission says 100,000 houses need repairs and is promising 80 per cent of them will be done by 2014. That, though, is far too slow if the people of Christchurch are to have faith in the recovery and the energy - freed from worries about their homes - to contribute to it.


The destruction is enormous. Properties destroyed include some 20,000 homes, 1250 commercial properties within the four avenues and 300 outside, some 65 per cent of hotel accommodation, crucial facilities such as the convention centre and AMI Stadium, and several billion dollars' worth of underground utilities. Above all, people have lost two cathedrals, dozens of churches, scores of historic buildings and numerous other places deeply important to their lives and identity.

With a number of big buildings still to be demolished such as the PWC tower, Crowne Plaza Hotel, the convention centre and part or all of the Anglican cathedral, large parts of the city centre will remain off limits until late this year.

This, coupled with the agonisingly slow progress on getting any new construction going, means people are having to wait a long time to reclaim the heart of the city, to begin to experience a new Christchurch rising from the ruins.


Two major issues are dogging the recovery. First, insurers say they want to accelerate the rate of settlements with property owners. But negotiations are getting harder now both sides better understand the scale of the losses.

Second, this used to be a market where full earthquake cover was readily available and cheap. Astonishingly, insurers will meet 80 per cent of Christchurch losses to date, according to Swiss Re. In contrast, they will meet only 17 per cent of Japan's and 27 per cent of Chile's earthquake losses last year.Moreover, many homeowners lack the knowledge, time or confidence to do justice to their claims. They need much more advice and advocacy, and the government should play a leading role in providing it.

So it's no surprise insurers are dramatically changing their approach to the market. Earthquake cover is suddenly more costly and restrictive. The little new cover written in Christchurch so far is expensive with big deductibles.

The government says the market will adjust. But it won't. It will leave a significant gap between new policies and property owners' exposure, thereby deterring redevelopment.

To ensure the city is rebuilt fast and well, the government needs to step into the market to bridge the gap, as the government does in Japan and other earthquake-prone countries.


Local businesses have achieved a far higher rate of survival compared with those in other earthquake-devastated economies. The Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce says that 90 per cent of its 350 members within the four avenues are still operating somewhere in the city.

Similarly, the population exodus was minor, retail sales are only slightly below trend and manufacturing has barely missed a beat. Some sectors, particularly tourism and tertiary and international education, have lost big chunks of business. But overall, the economy has coped well with the disruption and adapted successfully to life without its physical centre.

If the city carries on like this, more businesses will see their temporary moves to the suburbs as permanent. For example, the IRD and Work and Income have signed nine-year leases on office space for 500 staff. The Christchurch economy would survive but it wouldn't thrive. The city would be a shadow of its former self.

The regeneration challenge is far bigger than currently expressed in the draft centre city plan. In essence, that is largely focused on encouraging existing economic activity back into the centre through the likes of some slightly nicer urban design arranged around precincts and more of a mix of residential and commercial activity.

Similarly, Cera's work so far on the economic recovery strategy for the whole city is very modest and conventional. If that was all the city hopes to achieve, it will lose a lot of its capital. Property owners will reinvest a large proportion of their insurance payouts elsewhere.

Instead, Christchurch has to conceive of a much bigger future for itself and then work on attracting the capital and talent to achieve it. So far that's not happening.

Worse, the conditions for doing so are deteriorating. The city council is deeply dysfunctional; and the government is increasingly bureaucratic and reluctant to make the big interventions urgently needed on land, insurance and redevelopment strategy.

No wonder people are starting to protest.


SK   #40   09:48 am Jan 31 2012


In one breath Mr. Oram says the goal of repairing 80% of homes by 2014 is not good enough, and then with another he says, 'the destruction is enormous' and outlines the statistics.

Yes, it is enormous. Unprecedented in New Zealand's history.

In the circumstances 80% of homes repaired by 2014 is pretty good!

What on earth do people who want it done faster expect? Hordes of tradespeople to be flown in from overseas? A "compulsory tradespeoples' service" for everyone under 21?

Let's be realistic and patient. Cracked plaster and ripped wallpaper is unsightly but compared to those who have lost their homes entirely it's something I can live with for the next two years.

We people in the modern world expect everything to be done instantly and are too quick to complain when such an unrealistic expectation isn't met.


dazza   #39   01:30 am Jan 31 2012


Firstly Apologies for my previous post, I got may quakes and Days all out of whack.

Secondly, and to reiterate my statement regarding the 'Democratically Elected Council' here's a brief timeline for those who may have forgotten.

28 August 2010 - The Press pre election poll, shows Parker at 31%, Anderton at 50%, 22% undecided - with margin of error +- 5.2% 3 September 2010 - The quake Hits 29 September 2010 - Polls show that most of Christchurch have no idea as to how they will vote with 36% Parker, 20% Anderton and 44% undecided 9 October 2010 - The Election with Parker winning 54%, Anderton 40% (source,_2010)

So to call the election little more than a month after a major disaster democratic, still leaves a lot to the imagination. With Bob on TV 24/7, and doing nothing more than his 'Job' in this situation - the mayoralty race ended up being a farce. Other candidates had no choice but to stop politicking, or be seen as trying to gain favor from peoples misery. I am sure the people of Christchurch would vote differently now that emotions have settled, and the true character of the current council has begun to show.

This is all the more reason to call a snap council election - I am sure with Bob gone, the other major issue with the council wouldn't last long as well.


Gav   #38   08:36 pm Jan 30 2012


I find it odd chch people voted to pay market prices for new sections (which will skyrocket given demand) when other political parties would have brought the sections and on-sold them at cost. Dumb to me but hey south islanders ya know....


Dazza   #37   07:44 pm Jan 30 2012


Yes, a well written article, and time for my first and last post on the 'dysfunctional' mess that is the Council.

Firstly the mayor keeps using the term 'Democratically Elected' council. I find it hard to fathom his reasoning - up until the Feb Earthquake the polls showed he was loosing the election by a landslide. Unfortunately the Earthquake put paid to any reasonable election, as Bob did his job, the other mayoral candidates had no real choice but to step aside, so as to not appear to be politicking on the misery the city was suffering.

Its about time we had a snap election now that a small amount of normality has resumed, allow people to make a more judgemental choice based on how they see the current council's performance.

Just my 2c


Susie Q   #36   05:50 pm Jan 30 2012


Good article and on the ball with Christchurch problems. First off, why is Marryat not repaying his increase from when he received it? Because he is off the opinion that he is worth it. His performance reveiws would disagree with this. The man along with his Poodle has to go. He has bled the Christchurch ratepayers dry for long enough. To have a mentor in place for the Council suggests that if Parker bullies them for long enough, they may bow down to what he wants and work together. Not a good way to do business. Get rid of him too. We need someone who is decent ( not another TV or Radio Presenter ) and who has the BEST interests of Christchurch in mind.


Jayne   #35   03:53 pm Jan 30 2012


Totally agree with this article. The "Mayor & CEO" seem to forget that at a time like this in Christchurch, closed meetings should not be happening and that they are, along with the Councillors accountable to the Ratepayers of Christchurch. This is something they all seem to have forgotten and it should STOP now. Parker seems to think that he is somebody, but he is just like everyone else. Just does not have a property that has been liquified and to be demolished. Remember the Mayor's that were decent people - Hamish Hay, Vicki Buck - just to name 2. They would not have carried on like Parker and his poodle group. Parker also needs to realise, that other councillors have a different point of view to him and he should not be bullying them into his way of thinking. This also has to stop. Actually Parker who do you think you are????? Not a good mayor thats for sure. Wednesday will show that.


Janie   #34   03:00 pm Jan 30 2012


I agree with this commentary. Christchurch citizens have been remarkably polite given a long term deeply dysfunctional Council, arrogant and poorly performing CEO. We need progress on land, insurance and redevelopment strategies.


Once Upon a Time   #33   02:32 pm Jan 30 2012


Once upon a time there was a great mayor who connected with the community. She was young, vibrant,intelligent and fun! She worked respectfully with senior managers and was very kind and respectful to junior staff often pulling a can of coke or cake of chocolate out of the Mayoral fridge to share with a passing staff member. At this time there was a very humble CEO - very intelligent but quiet and somewhat shy. Although very different they were a true team. The city was happy. Everyone in the organisation felt important. People at all levels worked hard, had fun, engaged well with the community and felt valued. Then along came the vintage car driving accountant and the restructurer from hell who between them killed the atmosphere, sense of community and made the place hell to work in. Next was L'Oreal man and Mayor Bob - we had hope but no the previous regime had changed too much and like had employed like. The place is ruined.


mack   #32   10:58 am Jan 30 2012


Please will Parker and Marryatt tell the rate payers of Ch-Ch where the money from all the DONATIONS has gone or where it is there is no obvios sign of it in Ch-CH. If these two cannot or will not give satisfactory answers perhaps the PRESS could investigate.


Christopher   #31   09:11 am Jan 30 2012


John @10 - hey john what a bloody shambles. Given the amount of time it takes to accumulate hard currancy in this country, I'd be inclined to shift my gear our and take the keys to the bank and tell them to stick them where the sun doesn't shine.

Point out that you have exhausted all reasonable avenues to resolve issues around the house, which you jointly own with them, and suggest that as part owners of the property they pick it up from here. If everyone in your situation did that I bet there would be some frantic phone calls to both EQC and the Insurers from the banks.

They can send you your equity when they fix it all up. We are not that bad but people in your situation are being revictimised every month. Sounds like the insurance equivilent of loan sharking.

Where is it written that you are solely responsible for a jointly owned asset.


nicky a   #30   08:47 am Jan 30 2012


Here we are nearly 11 months on, the issues are exactly the same as in February 2011. Nice Summary Mr Oram. We still have: access issues in the CBD, Insurance issues, now add trademan issues, red tape, and general frustration and weariness. And than we are supposed to restart our businesses? I dispute the 90% figure being touted by the CECC. In my section of the street, only 2 out of 16 businesses are trading. The statistics from the 1995 Kobe earthquakes would suggest that up to 70% of businesses will fail within the next 3 years. The CECC figures are premature, and is another case of "clapping themselves to death with their own applause". My experience with the CECC is laughable. I was told to wait till we were out of the Red Zone. Very useful.


Lindsay Smith   #29   02:27 am Jan 30 2012


I left Christchurch in 1968. Since the earthquakes hit the city I have followed the sad saga & the incompetent response at all levels of government. Two old friends lost their homes & another had his place knocked off the stumps. His chimney came crashing down. Your article & the replies especially are very interesting. Some wise people have abandoned the place. Why would anyone want to live with a bundling local administration? Why would anyone want to live in a town predicted to have ongoing earthquakes for another 30 years? Why would anyone want to live on shifting sands when climate change is on the way? A decent tsunami & the rest of the place will be washed away. Good luck in the year of the water dragon.


EJ   #28   02:08 am Jan 30 2012


Some really useful analysis which is helpful for us overseas followers. Having watched from the other side of the world the seemingly insurmountable battles the people of Christchurch face on a daily basis just to survive let alone start to rebuild their lives, I'm not surprised at the level of anger and frustration they feel. My family are trapped in the red zone (the only people left in their street) and have done absolutely everything by the book with respect to claims etc. But am I right in thinking that deadlines are approaching by when people have to make some major financial decisions? How can they when it is impossible to progress anything with the EQC? If CERA advocates can't get through to EQC, then what chance does the man in the street stand? I was initially full of admiration for the way in which the authorities responded to the trauma and devestation but the situation now is just a disgrace. The people of Christchurch need to be able to move on and it is the responsibility of the Government and Council to make it happen.


Martin of Brisbane   #27   01:11 am Jan 30 2012


I visited my parents in Christchurch over Christmas & New Years recently from Brisbane and it's quite sad how miserable the environment is there at the moment, for obvious reasons. I hadn't been back since October 2010; about 6 weeks after the first quake and I noticed a marked difference in people this time compared to before. As an example; my father was abused several times while driving for doing nothing wrong (I was with him) and it seems a shame that (some) people have very short fuses now towards their fellow Cantabrians. My parents are lucky as they have only sustained minor damage but for pity's sake; everyone has been affected to some degree and I don't think unnecessary rudeness towards others is the answer. I love Christchurch and hope for a better future for it and everyone who lives there.


Local Gov Career   #26   10:15 pm Jan 29 2012


I have worked in local gov in NZ and Australia. I disagree that Mr Marryet is an exceptional CEO. Exceptional CEOs are respected by the politicians, senior managers, staff, community leaders and residents. exceptional CEOs or GMs connect with the community and provide excellent advice to the politicians so that the politicians can be in a good position to considers the facts and the context and make their own informed decisions. The Christchurch CEOs decision to stay in Australia following yet another large quake was inept and inappropriate. This man is all for himself not his community. AS for the Mayor- he has supported Marryot openly through an employment process so Inappropriately he can not go back on thy level of public support. Very foolish and naiive.


Paula   #25   08:34 pm Jan 29 2012


To Ms Cynical #17 - I have been thinking the same thing myself. I drive past these houses every day and no excuse from CERA can justify the fact that the owners of these properties should by now have been turned red. There can only be one reason - money, or lack thereof. For goodness sake - get these people sorted now.


karrie Don   #24   08:02 pm Jan 29 2012


Good article.. Did anyone see Parker, Keowan and Wagner on the news today, it was gross a Nats day out in Burwood mowing lawns. This is a clasic case of a , council that has lost their way because they fail to understand that the deapth of anger at their slippery, dodgy deviousness over the past 5yrs is no longer tolerated. This is not a game. Today I worked at the buskers and carried out a small survey asking customers if they were going to the protest Wed. 90% said yes, 10% said they would if they not working. It is a new broom the people want. Mid year elections to elect people we feel can take this city through the next yrs with TRUST.


Fritz   #23   07:35 pm Jan 29 2012


Did anyone else notice that the below posts all seems from the same person?

Heather1 #12 Ed2 #13 pw #14 WJ #15



Heaven help us   #22   07:32 pm Jan 29 2012


I'm afraid this city is in very big trouble. The disaster we've already suffered will pale in comparison with what's ahead of us unless there are big changes...and soon, very soon!


nccc   #21   07:31 pm Jan 29 2012


This is part of why we Occupy...


Paul   #20   07:14 pm Jan 29 2012


until the focus is on the people of christchurch any rebuilding of the CBD is pointless its very simple no people no rates no need for a CBD, council and Cera need to wake up very quickly.


Constance   #19   06:03 pm Jan 29 2012


It is truly devastating to now be told that no dates have been set for ground-truthing the 129 residential properties that have a section 124 notice for cliff collapse and that there is not even any agreement with GNS Science for the modelling and reports required for these hazards. On top of no payment from EQC (despite over $200k damage) we simply can’t put up with this lack of action any longer. As Ms Cynical says, it is blindingly obvious that houses hanging off the cliffs won’t be rebuilt – so let us know and let us get on. We are ready to quit this city.


Roy   #18   03:39 pm Jan 29 2012


Good article.Pity that some have chose to exploit the situation for their selfish,personal ends.In the jungle leeches converge where there is a victim whose blood can be sucked.That is what we have in Christchurch now.People making decisions calculated in their favour.


Ms Cynical   #17   03:31 pm Jan 29 2012


"The ship is getting filled with water but there is no emergency" - the first line of my 17 years old son's poem he started yesterday. It is not about the Costa Concordia, it's about CHCH.


Ms Cynical   #16   03:07 pm Jan 29 2012


Why are those people in the White Zone with houses hanging of the hillside and obviously never ever be built on are not zoned Red? The reply from the authorities that announcments are made "in bulk" is a load of BS. Let people get on with their lives! Give us the facts, we are grown up autonomous intelligent human beings, do NOT like being treated like idiots, being fobbed off every single day with some kind of pseudo excuse.


WJ   #15   02:41 pm Jan 29 2012


Well written article and like Ian #1, I hope the 'powers that be' are reading this. Unlike a lot of people, I don't have a problem with those in charge making large salaries, but the clincher is that they have to 'earn' those high salaries. To date, there is no true leadership in Christchurch - and that includes anyone at the CCC, EQC or CERA. I'm particularly disappointed in CERA as they were supposedly brought in to oversee the 'recovery'. They seem to believe that this means simply the 'rebuild', but I'm talking about people's lives. More and more people I meet up with these days are talking of heading out of the city the minute they have a settlement. They have been held hostage for simply too long and are doing what hostages do when given their freedom. It should never have been this way but they have lost all sense of hope.


pw   #14   02:37 pm Jan 29 2012


Like a lot of people, I'm getting 'over it'. After waiting almost a year for a land decision, we went from white to green. Great news? NO. We have been told by our insurers that they now have to wait for the new building codes in order to make the determiantion as to whether it's economical to rebuild on our land - no timeline given. What on earth are we meant to do in the meantime - keep paying our mortgage whilst also paying for rents (the Govt allowance doesn't come close to what we are forced to pay). I keep remembering Mr Key's words after the Feb quake - no-one will be worse off. Yeah right! If I can't build on my land, my insurer should be forced to pay me out so I can rebuild elsewhere (not the indemnity value that they are offeriing me now as it's half the value of my home).


Ed2   #13   02:33 pm Jan 29 2012


Great article. I don't know what it will take to make the 'powers that be' sit up and take notice. I do find it 'interesting' that on the two occasions that there was a protest organised for land decisions (or lack thereof), CERA quickly threw out a bone and made a small portion of land decisions in order to diffuse the situation. Again, a protest is organised over the disfunctionality of the CCC and again the 'powers that be' have tried to diffuse the situation by talking Mr Marrayatt out of taking his payrise. Interesting indeed - obviously those in charge were counting on the people of Christchurch to continue to be apathetic. Anger is rising, more people are leaving and it's time for those in charge to 'TAKE CHARGE'.


Heather1   #12   02:29 pm Jan 29 2012


Great article. I've felt that the tide is turning here in Christchurch over coming months. Initially people were quite firm in their resolve, but after almost a year, they realise that they have been let down by the CCC, EQC, CERA and their insurers. They have been thrown to the wolves and forced to deal with it. Problem now is that insurance accommodation allowances have run out, business insurance has ceased ... people are now forced to eat up their savings (if they are lucky enough to have any). To the 'powers that be' at both the CCC, EQC and CERA - LESS TALK AND MORE ACTION.


Um   #11   02:15 pm Jan 29 2012


Where's Roger?


john   #10   01:28 pm Jan 29 2012


The slow progress of EQC is shocking and holding up opportunity to more ahead. After 6 months since EQC did their final report on my munted house I still have not recieved $100,000, now almost a year since house munted and unlivable. Now insurance company says they can not start rebuild until I recieve the $100k as this is used for the first installment payments. Have been told that some builders are now booked 18 months out. Mortgage is costing me $20k a year on empty property. Thats 20k I have already paid, and looking like it will cost me another $40k (total $60) by the time proprty is rebuilt. EQC has created more stress and sleepless nights by their delays and futher delays. my property is the first green next to red proprties and it sounds when i finally get a geotec on site they can still decide that it is not economical to repair land. So three years wasted, 60k futher in debt, and still no where to live... sounds live the pavlova paradise doesn't it.


robert rozee   #9   01:11 pm Jan 29 2012


"Property owners will reinvest a large proportion of their insurance payouts elsewhere": Who cares? Do we really NEED this very rich very few? The inner city had been a dead horse that the City Council has flogged for decades, let's allow it to rest in a semi-dignified peace. Decentralization is emerging as a most viable way forward.


Nic   #8   01:09 pm Jan 29 2012


Nice to see this neutral well informed analysis. Rod is about right. I don't think the extent to which the CCC is dysfunctional though is appreciated by policy makers. The 'observer' role is ill-conceived, isn't needed and won't work (though the person himself may have fine qualities). Dr Smith has got to call a new election as the LGAct provides for. We are in exactly the sort of situation the idea of half-term elections is for. Good article Rod, thanks.


Gerry   #7   12:58 pm Jan 29 2012


Lift up the carpet and see the cracks. Excellent article.


BLUE   #6   12:58 pm Jan 29 2012


we should sit back and give our ineffective ceo a massive payrise and see what he can do to inspire the regrowth of our sadly demolished city.. we seem to be seeing lots of featureless concrete buildings growing out of the rubble with no real plan as to whats happening


mark   #5   12:40 pm Jan 29 2012


For the reasons cited above, the long-suffering citizens of Christchurch are seeking strong, effective leadership from CCC. Despite promises to change their management style from the Mayor, this had not happened.

It is time to us to change the Council now. Step-up people, save our beautiful little city from the greedy and corrupt before it is too late. PROTEST, Feb 1, Noon, CCC offices, Hereford St.


chris   #4   12:28 pm Jan 29 2012


Well done at last a balance and accurate take on what is fast becoming a city of the past urgent action is required by the Insurance Industry and the Council to restore some confidence before the city goes into the abyis


Shaun   #3   12:25 pm Jan 29 2012


Iagree with this article, unless things start happening now most of us will move on.CERA,GOVT and COUNCIL need to stop delays double dipping and use the money given to US to rebuild our homes and citynot to fill there pockets as is happening.IF they were in our position what would they want-delays, double dipping, overseas people taking our work while we struggle.How will we pay for insurance? we will not be able to afford it, thankyou Keys,pity we dont all have money behind us,from our forefathers.


Yes Tony...   #2   12:22 pm Jan 29 2012


Yes Tony, I understand Tony - I will say what you want me to tell them" the devil drives the puppet ..


Ian   #1   12:09 pm Jan 29 2012


This is a very good summary of the major issues affecting our region. I hope those in positions of power read this. Thanks Rod for your concern and this well written column.


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