Sue Wells – The New Canterbury Tales

April 4, 2011

Up close and personal – the power of Social Media – and soup #eqnz

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 6:45 pm

It might sound appalling, given that I chair the Planning Committee for the Christchurch City Council, but I struggle to extrapolate 3D images from 2D maps.

I don’t think my failing is that uncommon. I’ve made it a feature of my planning hearings rather than something I hide. Having people explain and walk you through their proposal often ends up with additional clarification about issues that had never occurred to you.

I’ve been reflecting on that in light of a list that was released over the weekend – that of nearly 200 buildings in the city which are due for either full or partial demolition. I suspect that list will be growing, not shrinking.You can read an address and not have a clue what that means. We don’t know buildings by address – we know them because of our association with the service they have housed.

For example – World, where I bought my lime green yet-to-be-worn silk jacket in the Boxing Day sale – gone. Reuben Blades – gone. Smiths Bookshop – gone. Johnson’s Grocers – gone. There is no list yet that shows our memories. The only way there will be is when we each have the chance to walk through our city and see what we cannot any longer see. Then we will see that whole streetscapes are gone or are going. Blocks have disappeared. It takes a little more to understand the effect of that. It takes a tear or two and a blink or two to get from that pain to the ability to visualise a whole new future. That will be our community’s challenge over the next little while.

We are more than ready to do that – more than capable of achieving it.

In the meantime, a new protocol has been put in place. Now a building or a business owner can contract a qualified engineer to evaluate their building/business premises. The engineer goes into the red zone without an escort. They come back with news that either a building can be entered to retrieve stock/plant/possessions or that it is not safe to do so.

If the answer is ‘proceed’ then building/business owner is allowed to do so – but only with accompanying USAR escort. I understand and support this process. An engineer is a clinical detached beast, paid to do a particular task. The owner of a business or a building will engage with what is around them. Emotions do funny things. They make you wander off a little, look at other things, and you have the potential generally to put yourself in an unsafe place.

According to one of the Civil Defence team this morning, the odd idiot has also been found in town, cheerfully drinking at night amongst the rubble. I’m not surprised. We had that same information when we were assessing the merits of demolishing the Angus Donaldson building in Sydenham. Alcohol consumption and the CBD at the moment – not a happy combo.


We have comparatively narrow streets, with many brick facade buildings still standing along their length. We watched the news footage from Liverpool Street. Brick buildings appeared to explode in the February aftershock. Until the damaged buildings are down, we need to assume the pundits who said at the beginning of this that we could experience aftershocks for 18 months or two years are right. There are many buildings very badly damaged after Feb 22 which remain erect – at the moment. They won’t forever. Nobody is going to thank Civil Defence for putting their son or daughter or wife or father in harm’s way. The aftershocks don’t hurt you. The stuff they make fall down can kill you. No more of that . Not ever again.

So in the absence of physical evaluation of the CBD being a possibility, I’ve had a number of requests today for a 3d map which shows the losses we are to experience so we can figure out where we are. A great idea which came my way thanks to the power of Twitter.

There was a simply excellent piece on national radio this morning about the use of social media post Hurricane Katrina. The short version is that if you are an elected member – you need to get amongst it. There is no option any more. From what I am seeing, I completely agree. Facebook for is connecting with your own support network and your wider community – Twitter for connecting with those further away, and who by substantial majority offer rather than need support.

In the old-fashioned face to face world, from this morning, a conversation with a very interesting person about an anonymous Unlimited High School pupil who led rescuers up into Discovery One and then to the evacuation of the school. It took me three hours to track that brave teenager down – my membership of a Facebook group giving me the first lead – my son Nick confirming the identity the person in question. A little moment to cherish. I am now tormenting the (unknowing) hero until his very just reward manifests itself in the not too distant future. I love nice surprises.

I had another while I was at the supermarket today. I can’t write about it here. I wish I could. If I can simply say today I have had shock, awe, horror and joy – you will understand why it is culminating in soup being cooked over the fire while the rain falls quietly and an apple and cinnamon scented candle emphasises that this is home. Richard and Kimmy will share it with us in due course. Every night with a fire is a good night for friends.

And FYI – there’s always a pot of soup on. If you’re passing and there’s smoke up – there’s no place like home.



  1. No, no, not Johnson’s? I read the list the other day and was pleased to see that the block which has Metro at one end, then Cake Time and Johnson’s was not on the list for demolition. Or any I like you and cannot equate addresses to memories? When I was having a bad day at work I used to pop round the corner and get some English Walkers Cheese and Onion crisps for lunch. I saw some in the window when in Kilmore Street last week, and felt sad again about what we are all losing. It was not about the crisps, but about our lifestyles and routines that we have all lost. No wonder we all feel a bit displaced at the moment.

    Comment by Ali — April 4, 2011 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

  2. The power of Facebook or coincidence that EQC suddenly discovered some streets they had ‘overlooked’ and turned up in Avoca Valley and Heathcote today.

    Comment by Kevin prince — April 4, 2011 @ 9:29 pm | Reply

    • Suspect that’s to do with geotech but am only surmising. Hope you got on ok. 🙂

      Comment by Sue Wells — April 4, 2011 @ 11:14 pm | Reply

      • Bit of a damp squib but what can they do in 5 minutes other than gather data for a rough sort. I’m still with Facebook having got them moving though as they were up the valley before Geotech had told the residents it was open 🙂 Surely we couldn’t have a system that allowed that now could we?

        Love the 3d map idea though – the technology is there so let’s use it. Go on – you know you want to take the idea further and get someone to use rapid prototyping to build a model of the town as it is and will be post demo then you could not only see it on screen but feel it too.

        Kev (only partly joking).

        Comment by K Prince — April 5, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

      • As long as it’s not scratch and sniff I’m happy. 🙂

        Comment by Sue Wells — April 7, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

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