Sue Wells – The New Canterbury Tales

June 29, 2011

News on White Zone repairs, CCC insurance, Annual Plan, Building Design #eqnz #chch

There’s something funny going on with the seasons. I still have roses in bloom in my garden. The lemons have turned bright yellow with the first frosts. There are sol d’ors and earlicheer in the planter boxes, and most oddly, the daphne is out a full two months early.

Its fragrance always spoke to me of spring and the end of winter. I have it in our lounge now as winter starts. The last time I smelt it was the week of September 4th. One of the casualties of the Darfield earthquake was an enormous vase of daphne in the hallway which ended up on the floor. Like so many other things at the moment, the fragrance of daphne triggers little pictures in my head, little memories which I suspect may never fully leave me.

Running helps. I’ve been slack lately and it shows in my lack of blogging. The more I run, the easier it is to write. Running, like writing, is sensitive to the pressures of light and time. All last week I went to work in the dark, came home in the dark, and the chance for exercise was almost nil. Over the weekend I gritted my teeth and Pepper and I launched an infantry assault on the Victoria Park dog park. Uphill hurts at the time. Downhill hurts the next day. We ran again. And the following day. And the day after that. Snuck in runs before work and between meetings. We both needed it.

Work-wise, it’s one of the weeks from hell. They’re relatively common – every couple of months you get phases where meetings are so frequent and so long that reading and preparation for them can eat into sleep time if you let them.

There is so much happening all over the city too that I could be at meetings every second of every day, and it would be very easy to drown under the weight of everybody’s individual circumstances. There is so much hurt and heartbreak at the moment, so many stresses and unanswered questions that some days the sun just never seems to shine.

This is a time of change, and challenge, and choices. For the residents in the suburbs designated “red zone”, the choices that the government has provided will start to open up a new reality to them in the next little while. Some will stay, some will go. Some have left already. The offer is too generous, not generous enough – there is much to debate and no right or wrong answers. Often there seem to be no answers at all.

When will the tremors stop? When can we rebuild? On Monday, Fletcher Building’s CEO Johnathan Ling is reported by the Herald as saying

“We prefer to fix things once and do it properly and be done with it but while the aftershocks continue, and continue to do more damage, it’s very difficult to really get going.” … “Every time you start to rebuild something and we have an aftershock, it has got to be inspected again and evaluated to see if there are cracks in foundations and all those sorts of things. The last thing anyone wants to do is rebuild twice or three, or four or five times. I think the reality is that the rebuild in proper won’t really start until the aftershocks really cease.”

(Source NZ Herald )

Last week, before the coloured zone announcements I had dealings with a family who live on the hills. They had all their EQC assessments in hand, had been visited by their insurer’s loss adjuster, and were all systems go waiting for repairs – only to be told they weren’t going to happen. I rang their insurer. Wasn’t satisfied with the response. Went higher up the food chain and got similar messages about “on hold until aftershocks stop/cease/diminish”. Those varied throughout the phone call. I’m completely unclear about what insurance companies are waiting for in order to start repairs – although perhaps a little more reassured today with this latest piece from EQC.

EQC Update – White Zone Information, Port Hills
June 29EQC response in the Port Hills
*            EQC is continuing to repair dwellings in the Port Hills where work has already begun
*            It has a team of 20 dealing with landslip issues
*            Another team is doing full assessment on severely damaged properties
*            EQC is not starting new repair work on houses and is waiting for information from Tonkin and Taylor about land stability, which is expected in the next 10 days
*            Once the Tonkin and Taylor work is completed than EQC can determine what new repair work can occur
*            The land issues in the Port Hills are different from other parts of Christchurch.   The major issue is the danger of rock fall on to houses
*            The 5.7 magnitude and 6.3 magnitude earthquakes on 13 June 2011 caused further land damage in the  Port Hills area (including Lyttelton). This requires rapid mapping so EQC can triage appropriate areas and deal  with urgent claims appropriately
*            Rapid mapping involves geotechnical engineers physically observing land damage and recording it on maps of the area. It gives an overall picture of area-wide land damage and identifies properties that require urgent attention. It will be followed by individual property assessments for properties with EQC claims.
*         Christchurch City Council teams are also continuing to work in these areas assessing lifelines and life safety issues from rock falls and loose rocks. The information gathered by these teams will also inform the assessments made by Tonkin & Taylor for EQC, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) and the Government.
*           Tonkin and Taylor has advised EQC its land assessments in the Port Hills are about 70 per cent completeMeanwhile, the Royal Society of New Zealand and IPENZ (I’m a major fan of that organisation – I think I’m their token arts grad fanbase) have released a brilliant, easy read publication on building design in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes. You can download it here:’s not the report of the Royal Commission into the collapse of CTV and PGC – that’s yet to happen. There is more information too on the Department of Building and Housing’s website if you’re really keen – codes changed as of May 19 this year. they will change again after June 13 is anybody’s guess. That nasty little earthquake changed the city for a lot of people. Whether it’s changed perspectives permanently or temporarily remains to be seen. Another of the things that is hanging over us at the moment is the lack of reinsurance we are able to access as a community. This, today, from our Mayor Bob Parker.

” Tomorrow is D-day for the Council as we continue to try to secure insurance for the city’s $4.7 billion assets, which includes our underground pipes as well as facilities.

If the Council fails to get insurance cover by Thursday then our assets are uninsured – and that’s a very serious situation, particularly given the times we are in when there is always the possibility of further aftershocks.

Our predicament is because the Local Government-owned Civic Assurance will not take on the risk of insuring the assets of the Council and the Waimakariri District Council past Thursday. It in turn can not get the reinsurance it needs to protect itself. The International Monetary Fund has estimated that the Canterbury earthquake could cost about $15 billion which would make it one of the most expensive quakes for global insurers. Recent earthquakes in Japan and Haiti and floods in Australia, Pakistan and China have also hit insurers hard.

Council staff are looking at all possible avenues to get reinsurance, including talking to the Government. Even if we can secure reinsurance, it is very unlikely it will be at the same price and coverage as before the earthquake. And there is possibility we could have to self insure and rely on the strength of our balance sheet and the support of central government

We received a glimmer of hope for a solution on Monday when the Finance Minister Bill English announced that if our roads and sewers were damaged in another aftershock, then they would still get fixed. In Mr English’s view the question was where the balance of costs fell between ratepayers and taxpayers.

While that is some comfort, the ideal would be for us to secure insurance.

The Council is intent on absorbing as much of the extra cost of the earthquakes as possible, but it is inevitable that ballooning insurance costs would be passed onto our ratepayers.  Our situation also raises yet another question about insurance cover in our region.

I’ve been out and about at community meetings organised by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority this week and insurance cover has been one of  the most frequently raised issues. Homeowners are concerned that even though their homes are in the red zones, if insurance companies deem that their house can be repaired then the reimbursement they are being offered is the cost of those repairs. Individual property owners will be taking this up with their insurers, just as we as a Council are also try to get the best possible insurance outcome for our ratepayers.”

That nasty little insurance issue is one of the things yet to vex us as we go through our Annual Plan process. As I write we are at the end of day 1 of 2 of the most unusual process I’ve ever seen. If you can wade through a few pages of the agenda, I’d commend it to you. Our staff have put a huge amount of work into it and so have the submitters who wrote in, and the community boards who came and spoke to it in person.

What I would say to you is do not take it as gospel. We all know the thing we are most certain of is we don’t know what we don’t know. Rather than our nice polite three yearly major budget process followed by polite annual tidy ups, we are likely to see major revisions every year (perhaps more frequently) for the foreseeable future.

Add to that our continued work on the Central City Plan, all the regular business of council, the CEO review process, the occasional interview and a bit of filming and the reason for my dismal lack of blogging perhaps becomes apparent.

Let’s be clear. This may sound like a litany of woes – it’s not meant to be. I’ve taken to heart the Stockdale paradox. Accept the world in which you live. Acknowledge the challenges that lie ahead. Identify what success looks like. Find ways to overcome the obstacles. And understand that this is not a sprint.

I’ve said all the way along this event is more like a marathon. Community Board Chair and all around great guy Chris Mene said something even better today. “It’s an Iron Man,” he said, and gave me one of his great big hugs. I needed one at work today – no complaints about the ones at home, I hasten to add!

We’ll all be getting hugs tomorrow – the last day of June 2011 is a massive day. Not only is it The Alasdair Thompson Women’s Monthly Day Off (\) – it is Hug a Cantab Day.

If you’re a Cantab by residence, by birth, by association, by your passion or compassion or your generous donation – then feel free to put your little red and black paw up baby and tell your world it would be a much better place with a pair of arms wrapped around it.

Ka kite my friends – stay warm.



  1. Before the news broke about the Council’s insurance problem, the following words had been included in the Beckenham Neighbourhood Association’s Annual Plan submission:

    “Given the extraordinary current and future circumstances, we … recognize that unforeseen events may well have an impact on the assumptions on which the plan has been based…”

    We’d been thinking in terms of more quakes like 13 June or worse, rather than this insurance bombshell…

    Comment by Peter Tuffley — June 29, 2011 @ 9:55 pm | Reply

  2. Hi. I live in Rangiora 36KM north of CHCH which was pretty much unaffected by all the earthquakes. I’m finding it impossible to get house insurance for our new build at present and the bank wont pay out any money for the build until we can prove we can get house insurance for when the house is finished. So we are getting no where fast. There are many more people in the same situation. The rebuild of CHCH has ground to a halt.

    Rangiora is apparently in the white zone even though it is nowhere near any cliffs or port hills. Is there an ETA on when Rangiora will be assessed? I’m positive it will all be in the green zone as everyone we know at the worst has only had a few popped gib nails etc. I’m not sure why Rangiora has been bundled in with the rest of CHCH, we don’t even has the same council.

    Its all very frustrating :->


    Comment by Mark Morrell — July 1, 2011 @ 1:35 pm | Reply

    • Hi Mark. They are handling white zone evaluations. I don’t have any more info on timing than you I’m afraid. Good luck with the insurance and the bank.

      Comment by Sue Wells — July 3, 2011 @ 1:28 pm | Reply

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