Sue Wells – The New Canterbury Tales

January 21, 2012

Return to Rapaki #eqnz

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 3:50 pm
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For the first time in exactly eleven months, today I saw the city from the top of Rapaki track.

I became a regular walker there in 2010, and it was on Boxing Day that year as I stood in my driveway listening to my car alarm go off during one of our early rounds of aftershocks that I decided the time was right to push it up a notch. By the time the next jolt rolled around I was in a shop on Moorhouse Ave buying a mountain bike. As the salesman was adjusting my seat I was watching the Harvey Norman centre across the road empty as the ground shook.

My resolution for 2011 was simple. My goal was to be able to ride up Rapaki without stopping.
Early attempts were dismal. Nineteen or twenty dismounts later and I’d arrive, red faced and gasping. It’s amazing though how quickly your fitness lifts and to my surprise my goal had been achieved by the middle of January 2011. It then became a question of speed and how fast I could make it from home to the top.

I would scoot up there on my bike a couple of times a week, and usually run up there at least once more. There was a brief hiatus after the “Bike to Work Day” debacle on the 16th of February when I not only biked to work, I crash landed on my face directly in front of it. (Walking into a board meeting with a full on Norman Gunston do was not my best moment ever.)

It wasn’t until February 21st that I could more or less bend my knee, and once you’ve got the Rapaki itch it doesn’t leave you alone.

Strange grinding sounds and slipping accompanied gear changes on the way up the hill. A large clunking stopped me in my tracks in short order at the start of the descent. The rear dérailleur fell off. It had been an unnoticed casualty of the fall on the 16th. As the brakes still worked, I used my poor bike as a scooter to get down the hill in time to deposit the wounded object back into the shop it came from and make it back to work.

And then at lunchtime the next day, exactly 24 hours after I’d been up Rapaki, the earth moved again and I didn’t see my bike for weeks – it ended up inside the initial cordon.

That’s the last time I’d been up Rapaki, until this morning. I didn’t bike today, just went for a gentle walk with Pepper to see how it felt and get the legs back in hill mode again.

It felt strange.

The bottom section has big signs warning of rockfall danger. The odd substantial chunk of fresh rock (same height as the seated Pepper but maybe four times her girth) sits at the hillside edge of the track. There are frames where seats were but the boards in them have gone. The tracks into Mt Vernon remain closed due to rockfall hazard. Weeds are long and the dust is everywhere. A cocky with a trailer load of barking farm dogs attending to a full pen of sheep completed the picture.

Halfway up the signs advise that rockfall danger is now behind you and it’s a quick push to the Summit Road. What Harry Ell would think of the large orange sign from CERA warning of potential imprisonment should you proceed past the barricade I can only imagine. Still, the rockfall up there is clearly evident and not a little intimidating. You can walk across the Summit Road and gaze out over beautiful Quail Island and then you turn around and head on down, watching the cranes towering over the city’s poor damaged skyline come into view.

Next week I shall leave Pepper at home and try the bike up there again. I suspect it will be back to the twenty dismounts for a while before I manage to summit without a pause. I just hope the track stays open this year long enough for me to reprise last year’s resolution.




December 12, 2011

The Babble Between – au revoir, Terry Moody #eqnz #chch #ccc

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 4:17 pm

I’ve been chided of late for my blogging silence. I know it’s been a while, but frankly, I’m over this rotten horrible year. I’m tired and grumpy and as Mother always said, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

There are nice things to talk about, don’t get me wrong, and some of them I love very much – but at this pointy end of 2011, I’m trying very hard just to keep the energy going to experience them, let alone write about them.

That having been said, I’ve written a little something about the funerals I’ve attended this year and it would therefore be rude of me not to touch on today’s. Today’s was number twelve.

If you average it out, I suppose that’s not so bad. One loss a month is perhaps to be expected when you have a diverse circle of friends, family, colleagues, and being a woman in the prime of my life (be quiet my children – I know where Santa lives) death seems so much less the remote possibility it appears when you are a bullet proof teenager. It is beginning to look like something that needs to be contemplated as an almost conceivable risk.

But of course, we haven’t had any kind of average year. The burden of deaths at the start has meant each subsequent loss feels that much more of an insult. Enough already – no more good people should leave the planet. Can’t we have a break?

We sent a good man “Straight Away to Orion” today.

The remarkable Terence (I know him as Terry) Moody. A Council stalwart with 44 years of service tucked under his belt, Terry and I worked together on those miracles of modern policy, local government bylaws.

We did it for years. He knew them inside and out, knew the rules of engagement, what we had to do to make sure we weren’t setting council on a path to ruin. He did it with wit and charm and a good grace that could only have come from loving and living with his redoubtable wife, the amazing Elizabeth.

Terry, your passing was a long time coming and I’m pleased you’re at peace. I’m also pleased that your send off was just right today. Dignified, gentle, not too fluffy, not the least bit soppy, the odd twinkling bit of wit and humour and so many of your friends around you. You knew we loved you, you had the chance to hear that. If there’s an upside to illness, it’s that you have the time to clear the air and make amends (or tell the truth which may have entirely different consequences!)

I shall miss your marvellous mind, Terry, and your ethics, your commitment, your compassion and your cackle. You were a delightful colleague – you made me smile and I could argue with you without worrying I might ever win. I shall miss sidling up to you and challenging you to a running race just so you could shake your walking stick and growl at me. I shall miss catching your eye in the debating chamber and stifling the giggles I would inevitably get.

I am rotten sad that you’ve gone and left us though, even that it comes to us all. As you’ve gone, you’ve lifted the bar as far as planning a funeral goes. Yours is the only service sheet I’ve ever seen which contains a page of self-written reflections (and if mine in time were start as yours did with “I have had a long and happy life” I should be delighted).

Moreover yours is the only page of reflections I believe I am ever likely to see which includes footnotes and references. (I suppose this could be thought of as a submission to that final policy document)

Terry, “The purest treasure mortal times afford is spotless reputation” Yours remains, as always, impeccable (pranks perhaps excepted).

I miss you enormously. Shall watch for falling stars and think of you. And hope and hope that a dozen funerals in a year is more than enough for anyone.



WH Auden, 1947, The Age of Anxiety

William Shakespeare, Richard II, 1.1







October 16, 2011

Run, duck and weave – farewell Anne Cosson #eqnz #Chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 8:37 am
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There is such intimacy in death.
You can work with someone for years, as I did with Anne Cosson, and it’s not until their funeral that you learn their age or their middle name.
Anne’s was Veronica, and she was only 42.
Her son Joseph participated in her requiem mass. I don’t know where he found the courage but I know his Mum would have been immensely proud of the way he comported himself.
Anne was funny, warm hearted, immensely good at her job and she loved people and community. One of the good ones, young Anne.
Although her passing has me sad and shocked, she has left me with a grin.
Her team leader Rod told us of a day when Anne and her colleague Ann were in a local business discussing a council matter with the owner. He became increasingly irate, to the point where both decided it was time to beat a judiciously hasty retreat.
Neither Anne nor Ann had realised until they entered his shop that a significant part of his business was devoted to firearms. It was with that in mind that the lovely Anne Cosson mused as they left the store,
“If we hear a click, do you think we are best to stop drop and roll, or should we run duck and weave?”
Goodbye Anne. I will miss your smile, your charm, and your great love for the people and the places in our little part of the world. You were beautiful and kind and loved, and you really made a difference.

October 12, 2011

Central City Plan day 8 #eqnz #Chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 6:02 pm

I write from bed. It’s 700 on a lovely Spring evening and I’m so shattered it’s all I can muster the energy to do.
Another five hours of submissions this afternoon followed our CCHL meeting this morning.
Today was very much more of the same in terms of mix of support, criticism, suggestion and hostility.
There are 11 further volumes of submissions to be read before Monday. I’m not starting that tonight.
The enormity of the task we all are working on together slaps me in the face every now and again and today was one of those days. One of the submitters read from her handwritten submission, outlining the things she loved about the city, things we have lost.
As she read, I found myself buying chestnuts from Johnsons Grocers when I was in my teens. Choosing my watch
at Curtis Jewellers after I was burgled. Drinking beer in Poplar Lanes, browsing for clothes I couldn’t afford in High Street. If I looked disinterested in her submission I wasn’t. I was far too interested for my own good.
On top of that the Royal Commission has released its interim findings. I’m still digesting it not just with Christchurch in mind but as a New Zealander. We all have a lot of thinking to do.
Tomorrow it’s back to the familiarity of the council meeting, as always open to the public, 930 at Beckenham. There’s a new school holiday activity – shame the room isn’t overly large – I’m sure thousands will be turned away.

October 11, 2011

Central City Plan Day 7 and 1/2 #eqnz #chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 6:37 pm
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Imagine a city created for its beauty and its relevance to its location. A place which is fresh and new and of its day and of its time. We the council are being challenged to enable her creation, and clearly told we haven’t yet written the rulebook to make it so.

Today, we met again with a group of property owners so that we could tease our their concerns and find better ways of working together. Tomorrow, we hear from our final batch of submitters.

Next week we begin to move into our deliberations phase, the one which will deliver a plan to the Minister for Earthquake Recovery (and also I think to the Minister for the Environment) which will outline our vision for the future and the ways we will get there.

In those terms, this was a very good day.

There is one significant exception to that remark.

Just as we began our meetings today, I learnt of the passing at the weekend of Anne Cosson. I knew Anne as a treasured member of our staff, who loved the work she did in Parks, made great urban spaces and relished her engagement with the community we serve. Anne is young, she has a young family, her death due to ill health was unexpected and is terribly sad. I respected her as a member of staff and really enjoyed her company as a human being. I will miss her enormously but nowhere near as much as will her daily colleagues and her very close family.

Some things are just bloody rotten unfair. Anne’s death this year is yet another of them.

October 10, 2011

Central city plan day 7 #eqnz #Chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 6:04 pm

Central City Plan day 7 moves into its final session – another 11 hour day.
A diverse set of submitters again. Surveyors, the institute of forestry, circus professionals, the Arts Centre, the Anglican Diocese, Foodstuffs, the Canterbury Embroiderers’ Guild, monorails, monorails, trains and more monorails, property owners, the Property Council, the CDC, local residents – the list goes on and on.
I’m tired today. Last night’s 5.5 rattled me badly, only the 4th cluster to have caused my car alarm to go off. Another shake woke me at 430, having got to bed at 1am (lots of paperwork) and sleep remained elusive after that.
I was very grateful to today’s after lunch speakers who were truly inspirational.
They spoke to us about indigineity and the importance of the opportunity we have to express who we are as we shape where we are.
We were told by some submitters that we hadn’t consulted at all and thanked lavishly by others for doing it so well.
Tomorrow we have a council workshop in the morning, a meeting in the afternoon. Wednesday I have CCHL in the morning, our hearing concludes that afternoon, and Thursday is our regular council day – I’m tempted to bring my sleeping bag:)
Yes, still listening, and still getting lots of good ideas. We have 11 volumes of “unheard” submissions to read – 1am could become the new 7.30 🙂

October 8, 2011

Central city plan day 6 #eqnz #Chch #CCC

Today’s hearing, in marked contrast to the wintry weather conditions, was largely upbeat and positive. Our new venue is the damaged Beckenham Service Centre. The earthquake attacked its lovely green heating system so we freeze or fry while we’re there. It’s only 3km from my home, so the bike ride there in the pouring rain warmed me up nicely. (I have yet to see a report on the building which won the National Architects Award when it was constructed. I hope ease of repair formed part of its sustainability indicators – not that anyone could have predicted the ferocity of February’s underground bomb.)
Today’s high point was the self described Japanese immigrant who urged us to build a city reflecting our identity, to paint it as the people we are. She wore vibrant yellow and her enthusiasm for living here was made doubly meaningful by her residential address – a red zone resident, not that she mentioned it in her submission.
The most poignant submission today was by Heidi Berg’s mum, Julie. Julie suggested that as part of the memorial, families be invited to choose a tree. They could be grown in time for the Ellerslie Flower show next year. Families of Japanese students might be offered a cherry, she suggested. For Heidi, whose memorial sheet sat in front of her throughout the presentation, a New Zealand native would perhaps be a good choice. Julie asked us to think about including volunteer gardeners in the development of our new city. She presented to us, she said, because she knew had Heidi not been lost in the CTV building, she would certainly have been having her say on the city’s future shape. (Rest assured Julie – she is.)
As it’s Saturday, Kim popped in at lunchtime and we shared the break together. A quick snack was followed by half an hour trying to rescue a mother duck and her brood from the despair of the near empty moat.
We finished around 4, and I biked home just in time to be in the garage for the first of a series of gnarly little shocks rumbling across from the peninsula – the first a 4.8 had me hoping the garage window wasn’t going to fall in again as it did in February.
We have walked the pooch, Kim’s cooking salmon for tea, and there are superb Rugby World Cup games on today. Wales/Ireland, England/France. Not a bad backdrop for another big evening’s reading.


October 7, 2011

Central city plan day 5 #eqnz #Chch #CCC

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 9:39 pm

It’s 1040pm. Today’s hearing began at 9am, wrapped around 9pm. We are all a bit tired and our discipline around question time is slipping. As a result we had very short lunch and tea breaks. Apologies therefore for not blogging.
Another interesting and exciting day of diverse submissions. Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti made an outstanding submission reminding us of students who want to keep using the city. Residents and developers, a great representation from the Disabled Persons assembly who exhorted us to build a city accessible for everyone (no argument from me), from Humphrey Rolleston who presented a provocative Plan B, encouraged us to pursue a bid for the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and exhorted us not to be “gutless”, “naive”, or “stupid”. (This was to be a behavioral change on our part, I inferred.)
Tomorrow (Saturday October 8 2011) we transfer venues to Beckenham Service Centre, 66 Colombo St. Yay – I can bike from here!
Start time is 930 – we roll til around 4 – open to the public – all welcome. Granted we face some opposition from the Rugby World Cup quarter finals later in the day but the library has great coffee and we have a city to plan.
I’m really enjoying the hearings. What a rare opportunity. How privileged we are.


October 5, 2011

Central city plan day 3 #eqnz #CCC

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 4:26 pm

In the afternoon tea break.
Another fascinating day. The green party, retailers, property owners, a man with a monorail just looking for somewhere to go, cyclists, pedestrians, a farmer who asked us to make sure our architects get outside and experience the easterly, people who have concerns about problem gambling, people who don’t want the cloak of urban planning to descend upon the city, a woman who sang operetta and startled the man from the press, and Gyda Heidtke.
Gyda is in year 6 (that’s standard four). She wants us to ditch our plans for light rail and further emphasize cycling.
Calm, collected, she spoke of enjoying rides at McLeans Island with her dad and would like more rides around the city like that.
I asked Gyda if we built her more tracks like that would she ride to school? What about when it is cold and wet and dark?
She smiled. “It doesn’t frighten me. I don’t mind it being cold and rainy and dark. You just have to keep yourself warm.”
Resilient Canterbury.

October 4, 2011

Central city plan day 2 #eqnz #Chch

It’s afternoon tea break on day two. We sit today from 9am til 8pm. Two hour long breaks at 1 and at 430 give us a chance to recharge.
Submitters today have had an arts theme with the museum art gallery and court theatre coming in. This morning architects planners and urban designers were offered the opportunity to give us their thoughts on an idea I am mulling – a “what if the RMA were not the planning vehicle for the rebuild” concept. More on that in another post – suffice it to say I am wondering if there might be a better, smarter more intuitive solution that delivers what we want in a swifter timeframe than the outdated RMA under which our nation’s planning lumbers.
A diverse bunch of submitters are between us and the close of the day. The airport is followed by the national council of women, individuals speaking as well.
Highlights so far today include a magical submission from Deaf Aotearoa, a wow-factor presentation from Wiki Design, and a very cool app based car pooling solution which had me reaching for the install button.
The breadth of views and ideas is quite wonderful. My note book is a technicolour pastiche of ideas on colored sticky notes, sketches and jottings beside where I have been piqued into thought.
These submissions are offering great opportunity for creativity and imagination. Day 2 of 8 and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

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