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.




September 8, 2011

Rugby World Cup in Christchurch #eqnz #chch #rwc2011 #earthquake

It is Thursday, September 8, 2011. It is the eve of the Rugby World Cup 2011.

When a few years ago it was announced that we had the rights to RWC I started preparing my garden. (I’m a planner – this is what we do.) It’s full now of black pansies and violas and little black ferns. I had a plan of plots of black and white.

Our home is exactly a mile’s walk from AMI Stadium at Lancaster Park. The intention this time last year had been to invite overseas guests in and enjoy our little spare room. I wasn’t planning to go to any of the games – I was instead really excited about being a RWC volunteer. That’s because when the Lions toured here a few years ago, the heart of the city went off like I have never seen before. This year was going to be all that and then some.

At the moment, our TV screens are full of RWC coverage. I hope I’m going to get to a point where I’m going to be able to watch it and fully commit to enjoying it. I’m not quite there yet and I do hope there are some readers of this blog who help make it so for me and for my friends.

It’s not that I’m jealous or envious of any of the other centres which are hosting games we’ve lost- that wouldn’t make sense. We in Christchurch are not in any position to host games because of damage to our stadium and our hotels. It feels a bit like being a kid who’s been punished for something they didn’t do – like we’ve been sent to our room for a crime we didn’t commit.

Yesterday, I spent time with some of the England team. They were lovely although I did fear for the capture of my pink hi-vis vest at one point. The England team had come up to Christchurch to show their support and visit kids and sick folk and generally share the love. Their media trailed after them, the camp followers in that symbiotic relationship.

Some of our publications criticized CERA letting the international media into the Red Zone. I’m more than happy for us to host those media. They will take our somewhat schizoid message back home – that on the one hand we are going through the biggest natural disaster (in insurance terms at least) that the world has ever known – but that (on the other hand) you can come and stay here and from the city west it looks like nothing has happened – and it is good to come here and stay, live and invest.

The international media also is helpful in spreading the equally schizy message that yes, we might have a jiggle while you’re here – but chances are you’re safe.

Make no mistake, Christchurch is open for business. Akaroa is open for business. Hanmer is open for business. Queenstown, Nelson, Blenheim, Hokitika – they are open for business. Although the Christchurch earthquakes have changed the specifics of that, they haven’t changed that overall.

We want visitors here. If you’ve come to Godzone (NZ) to see your team play in the Rugby World Cup, we would love it if you came and looked at our city, got a sense of what we’ve been through, brought your camera, your compassion, and your wallet.

If you’ve travelled a day to get here, we’re worth a half-day trip at least in your visit – don’t you think? We’re the beautiful place that is your natural stopping off point between Nelson and Dunedin.

While our spare room may now be occupied by teenage boys, there are still spare couches, roast lamb and kumara, lots of laughter and rugby on TV. Can’t want for much more than that. If you read this and you’re a Rugby World Cup visitor wanting to drop by for a wine and a chat and a bed for the night – get in touch. The games may not be here any more, but the hospitality hasn’t changed.

Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai.

Welcome to Christchurch. Still open, still smiling, still here.

August 9, 2011

A vote of thanks to the UK rioters. #not #ukriot #eqnz #chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 7:59 pm
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Dear UK rioters.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, I thank you, I thank you.

If ever I question my faith in rebuilding our beautiful southern city, I will think of you and this last day and remember why Christchurch matters and why we bother doing what we’re doing.

I spent the day today at our city’s earthquake damaged stadium. Here we are agonising over how to fix the damage nature has done. You’ve spent the same day incinerating shops and homes, looting, trying hard to find new ways to burn down the place real English citizens call home.

We have fallen victim simply to gravity and we will rebuild stronger and better here. You who are striking down your cities are nasty little neanderthalic two bit muppets with too much time on your hands and pathetic hate in your hearts, the waste products of drugs, laziness and chronic dependency. You don’t have it in you to build. You only have it in you to destroy.

I have to say, dear UK rioters, our earthquakes came as a shock to me but your self-destruction surprises me not at all.

When I visited your country a couple of years ago I came home horrified at what I’d seen. I was appalled at your hands-out culture, the level of your public subsidies for housing and transport and education for people eligible for it simply by spawning little urchins and refusing to create themselves a constructive future. I was disgusted by the hatred I saw for the immigrants who have populated your country as part of your EU membership. I was baffled at how you were going to afford to pay for those immigrants and your own welfare dependent lifestyles. Clearly, so are you.

Here we are trying to rebuild our city, doing it hard, doing it together. You are trying to tear your country down, a country for which you clearly feel nothing but contempt. You don’t even know why you’re doing it. It’s just another excuse to steal. That’s all you know how to do. To lie and cheat and steal from your neighbours. You are an embarrassment to your nation. I have the right to say this because you are part of my heritage and you disgrace me.

In the beginning of your outrage was one emblematic man who died at the hands of the police. His family and friends have made it clear he was not a martyr to your cause. You have stolen the reason for his death, you bunch of parasitic hooligans. You’re having a party on a dead man’s grave. You are beneath contempt.

How drab and sad your little lives must be that this is your big excitement. How proud are your parents – what hope they must hold for their grandchildren.

You have a nasty little lesson coming your way which I believe is going to take a lifetime to learn. It’s that money doesn’t grow on trees, that you get what you work for, and that the community which sustains you in times of trouble isn’t built by burning it down.

Dear UK rioters – I thank you for renewing my faith in rebuilding this beautiful city so far away from you and your horrible Jeremy Kyle culture of greed and expectation.

Dear UK Citizens – for you I mourn, I grieve, I send my love and compassion. Your rioters are a vile minority, but you have bred them and fostered them and unless you change the way you nurture them they will be with you for generations to come.

Here we have the experience of a community being brought together by being brought to its knees. You have the experience of having a bunch of muppets rip your community apart. Give me an earthquake any day. I’d much rather submit to the vagaries of the earth than regret having raised a generation of vipers.

Ka Kite.

July 18, 2011

What’s happening with the waste from the CBD – and what the dog has to do with it. #eqnz #chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 9:48 pm
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It’s staggering the amount of stuff coming out of what used to be the CBD.

Back on the 31st of March, the Council signed off on what the Civil Defence Controller had already done – letting the old Burwood Landfill and a bit of Bottle Lake Forest Park be used to take the debris from the demolition in the CBD. (If you want to read the full CCC agenda, google it – it’s quicker than struggling with the search engine on the council site.)

The waste is being stored and sorted there before it gets carted off to its final home someplace else. Some of it will end up at Kate Valley. Some will be able to be reused or recycled. Some will likely go to cleanfills. Creative uses are being sought for a whole lot of things  – liquefaction for one. There is a special discrete part of the park kept for “sensitive waste” – buildings where people are thought to have or known to have died.

We heard today at our council meeting that current earthquake demolition waste received at Burwood Resource Recovery Park is in the order of 180,000 per month, compared to Kate Valley’s last 12 month period which received 212,000 tonnes. Nearly a year’s volume of waste every month.

200-300 truckloads a day are coming in. About 25 tonnes of waste are on each truck. That’s 5000-7500 tonnes of C&D (construction and demolition) waste every single day. It’s mind boggling stuff.

According to the Council home page, estimated total demolition waste created by the 22 February earthquake:

  • Central Business District – two million tonnes.
  • Residential and suburban commercial zones – two million tonnes.
  • Repair of roads and water and sewer pipes – four million tonnes.
  • Sand and silt collected from streets and properties – 500,000 tonnes.

Those numbers are too big to being to imagine, aren’t they. Do the maths on the truck movements. It’s a big like one of those horrible puzzles you used to get in fourth form. “If there are two million tonnes of construction waste in the CBD, and each truck can take 25 tonnes of waste …..”

Today we were being asked to receive information about the process government may follow for an order in council to streamline the resource consents needed for the continued lawful operation of the Burwood Resource Recovery Park – the BRRP (I wonder if anybody read that acronym aloud when they came up with the name?)

Back in March, the Council decided to create today’s little extra process loop to endeavour to give elected members some input into the Orders in Council.  It didn’t achieve that. When we resolved that, the CERA legislation hadn’t been passed. Our little extra process added no value to the community today. It just created an opportunity to invite criticism.

There’s plenty of opportunity for that at the moment. Unsurprisingly, in the aftermath of the biggest natural disaster this nation has ever seen, pre-ordained processes have not always been adhered to. That is because they are not designed for dealing with the needs of a community in time of crisis. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that I would struggle to find anybody in the community who would support an elected member wanting to call a special council meeting before we let staff fix the sewers, or make urgent roading changes. We need to be practical, pragmatic, and perhaps even a little compassionate.

In the last few months I have thought at length about what constitutes good process in a time of crisis. I have come to the conclusion that you simply have to allow more fluidity, and with that accept more mistakes. With mistakes comes the need for understanding, not fingerpointing.

We can all look back in anger at the moment if we so choose, wail and wring our hands and gnash our teeth if we are minded to. I am certain there will be some things that I look back on and go “We screwed that up. We could have done that better.”

But at the time and under the circumstances, maybe we couldn’t have.

To set the record straight – if you read the paper this morning only very quickly you could have formed the impression that a monstrous profit awaits the operator at the BRRP. In Council’s experience (does anyone remember META?) that’s unlikely to happen. This is a difficult, dangerous, financially onerous operation.  It might well take a fair bit of dosh, initially. It will have to pay out at least a fair bit of dosh (and possibly more than it took in) for a lot longer before the need for the BRRP goes away. And in the state of national emergency, which is when this thing was set up, it was set up because there was a need for it immediately – the stuff from the CBD had to go somewhere.

We went into public excluded for part of the meeting today – not for any reasons of finance, and not just to annoy the media. It was because we were bound by a confidentiality agreement with the powers that be in the round house in Wellington about the specifics of the Order in Council which Cabinet will be viewing in due course. Generally speaking – gazumping Cabinet is not a good idea.

The only other piece of business we dealt with today was giving permission for the I-Site that was in the Square to set up temporarily on the piece of lawn in the Botanic Gardens to the left of the Museum. I have no difficulty with that as a proposition – anything to help not just tourists but dazed and lost locals will be very helpful.

I do wish the buildings didn’t look quite so much like the prefab you stick granny in at the bottom of the garden. Perhaps we should paint them hi-vis pink?

But perhaps I worry too much. I’m watching Pepper snore in front of the fire. Perhaps I need to learn more from her.

I took her for a long walk around the park today. She doesn’t care if there are great ululations in the tarmac and in the park, broken bits of pavement, half the houses empty. She’s not so hell bent on going in the river now – she knows I’ll say no. What she does is run off at a mad dash with her tail making huge circles, stop and turn around and then come running back towards me, wagging her whole backside, doing an impeccable nose down Hamilton turn at my feet before she runs off again. She still plays tag with other dogs, sniffs happily against every bush, sings the “wo-wo-walky” song when I pick her lead off the door knob.

To her, earthquakes haven’t ruined Christchurch. She’s not spending every waking minute thinking about its past or its future. She doesn’t give a stuff about construction and demolition waste except as it affects her ability to run around Bottle Lake like a lunatic. (Darling girl, unlike the Port Hills it’s largely unchanged. It’s time we took the bike out there again. You’ll really sing the “wo-wo-walky song” when you see the rack going on the back of the car!)

She’s spending every waking minute (some sleeping minutes too) revelling in the present. There’s enough unchanged in my Pepper’s life that her home is still unquestionably her home.

The food bowl is in the same place. There’s water near at hand. The cats torment her mercilessly. She worries about nothing more or less than that. (Except when there’s a stupid bloody earthquake like the ones we had last night, both of which were close, both of which woke me. Then the pair of us worry together.)

Her worrying stops much more quickly than mine. But then she’s learned the arts of the fireside nap and dream, the forgetting of needless regrets, and the setting aside of concern about things which may never come to pass.


July 7, 2011

If you’re going through hell, keep going. #eqnz #chch

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sue Wells @ 9:40 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

“You’ve been very quiet lately,” one of my tweeps said today. “Is everything all right?”

EQ blues like everybody else, I replied, and work has been chaos. And it’s tax time. And I’ve got a rotten stupid headcold. I need some cheese with this whine, except I think I’ve eaten everything in the fridge. Three kilos of quake weight in as many months and I feel like calling Greenpeace for help every time I roll over in bed.

Life at  the moment feels like it normally does in the week before Christmas when everyone is totally knackered and past the point of being nice to each other. At Christmas though the weather is warm and there’s at least a hope of Santa sticking something pretty under the tree (even if Santa’s handwriting looks remarkably like your own).

It’s not that I’m without hope here – it’s just been such a long haul since September 4th 2010. That’s over 10 months ago. I think I speak for more than just myself when I say I’m currently a tiny bit over it.

I’m not despondent, don’t get me wrong. I know that things will improve. We have things to look forward to. We have the Crusaders game on the weekend, and a welcome home for the boys at the airport on Sunday afternoon. We have the entertainment zone gearing up in Hagley Park. That’s lovely too. There is a ton of good stuff being done for the city’s future by any number of strong, enthusiastic, energetic people and organisations. But sometimes you just run a bit low on puff.

I was asked to write a piece for a book that’s being published about “things I love about Christchurch”. I wrote it. The author edited it because they didn’t think it was upbeat enough. I pulled out of the book, because I’m not going to sugar coat how hard things are for a whole lot of people right now. We’re all missing things. It’s part of a grief process and I’m not embarrassed to admit that.

But it feels really shallow and selfish in the light of so many greater hardships to admit the particular things I’m missing. Still, if we don’t acknowledge them, how do we get past it?

I miss roaming on the hills, I miss letting my dog swim in the river, I miss the easy access we had to town. I miss the traffic jam free roads, I miss my local supermarket. I miss my friends who’ve moved away. I’m not even going to begin to talk about buildings and people, we all carry that burden every day. I miss the security of knowing when I wake up in the morning the contents of the pantry will be in the same place they were when I went to bed (teenagers aside, of course). I am sick of waiting for the next shoe to fall.

This is one of the hard points along the way. When you think about it, and you reflect on the series of physically exhausting events we have been through, and then some people get the extra trauma of losing their home or their family member, and you put the time frame into the mix, it’s no wonder there are many brave faced Cantabrians who are part of a weary grouchy mob at the moment.

Some of the challenges people are facing are homes which are still cold, still occasionally surrounded by piles of liquefaction (and then dust if it isn’t removed). Getting insurance is a real problem, and for people currently living in the red zone who are being offered their Crown Offer of Purchase, that is a worry as they look to a new property for the future, if they can afford to buy one at all. Some people don’t want to be living here but their houses are keeping them tied here. Others don’t want to leave but their jobs have gone. Schools are still a big cross town journey for many, our thriving business community has largely shifted to the north western suburbs with all the consequent impost on their resources –  oh, and did I mention it’s winter so you can probably chuck a lump of seasonal affected disorder into the mix as well.

So many problems. One simple solution. Winston Churchill put it well, I think, when he said “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

So as we all will, I am.

I filed my tax return today, on time, if down to the wire. The staff at the IRD were just lovely over the past three days as I first failed to remember my user name, then subsequently my password, then I deleted the emails with the all the information in and had to start again (I emptied the trash too – no half measures.) The login information they gave me then didn’t work – it turned out to be a browser problem. And now it’s fixed.

I read a novel this week – the first I’ve read all year. Dave Marshall’s truly lovely book, “Shaggy Dogs and other stories.” I laughed so hard the family discussed calling the men in the white coats until I read them the section on the exploding budgie and we all wet ourselves together. I’m now embarking on reading another novel. It’s called “Paul Henry, what was I thinking”. I have no idea how it will end but so far it involves more explosives than the ether that blew up the bird.

The gardener has been and the vege garden is weed free.

I went for a 10km run yesterday over Ramahana Rd and Aotea Tce. When I told them this at the dinner table last night I  was asked if I had tailored my run to suit Maori language week.

Pepper has had a visit to Splash & Dash and no longer smells of pre-loved duck – as she has taken to sleeping on the floor of the bedroom that is certainly a plus. The cat has started stalking her now. We were woken in the dead of last night by an enormous growl and bark and what can only be described as a cat tittering behind her paw. (This makes up for the moment earlier in the week where Pepper was running for the door, barking violently at a knock, only to accidentally stand on the cat who was lying innocently in the sun. Yelp, hiss, scrabble, slash, yike yike yike.)The once timid Fang now waits malevolently until I put food in Pepper’s dish, and then saunters off and very slowly hoes into the biscuits. Pepper sits patiently and waits until she’s done, a little like a white zone resident waiting for the Tonkin and Taylor report.

And tonight, after a late afternoon nap, my gorgeous Chef fed me a delicious home made red Thai curry which is guaranteed to make my rotten cold run for the hills before dawn breaks. Just as well, because I’m filming a week’s worth of shows at CTV tomorrow and there’s nothing sexy about a drippy nosed on camera performance. I am well looked after, I am well loved, I am a very lucky woman.

Downs, yes. Ups, yes. As the IRD knows, you need to look at both sides of the ledger in order to reconcile where you’re at.

And where I’m at – is I’m keeping going.

June 5, 2011

It’s a long race #eqnz #chch

Her name was Margy. She was either Canadian or American. I was too wound up to ask. She lived near the university in Lincoln, and had googled information on how to tie a transponder chip into her shoelaces. She knew a lot more than I did about anything. I was running my first half marathon today – she was doing her first 10km. I followed her to the start line. I don’t know what I’d have done without her.

I’ve been running properly since January. It’s been a great outlet for me, kept me fit, decreased my stress. It’s one of the places where my energy comes from. I was training for the St Clair half marathon last month, but never managed to get there. I had planned on doing the SBS last year, right up until I had a big row a  couple of days before about access to it for wheelchair athletes. They were allowed in it this year, so I felt good about running it too.

I’m officially a “veteran woman”. There should be another category, as they have in childbirth where they call you an “elderly primagravida” if you dare to breed over the age of about 25. I’d like to suggest “ancient novice” for those of us (and we seemed to be legion) who were doing this for the first time, Margy being a great example. (I could name another in the 10km division but the red head might hurt me 🙂

John, on the other hand, knew what he was doing. I ran beside him for three kms or so before we exchanged names and stats. He was from Cambridge. Wasn’t feeling so good about this run. Had been feeling good when he ran the Huntly half a wee while back and came second in his age group. What was that, I enquired politely? “75,” he said. He was aiming for a 2.03 finish time. Mine was a little different. I was gunning for 2.30.

He set the pace for me for about 10km altogether, until the southerly headwind got the better of him and I found my legs. It was a lovely run after that – got a bit hard about 17km, but I had it back in place at 19 and I know now I can take another 10 minutes at least off my time without it hurting much more than it does tonight. My time was 2.07.10, it seems. Next year – look out. I’ll catch those green balloons!

It was lovely being a part of it today – 3700 people all traipsing around the back of Lincoln. The traffic was so big they delayed the start for 15 minutes.

Getting out at the end was a nightmare – I made it home at 12.45, just in time to get back in the shower so I could go to what I hope is our final CTV farewell.

We sent off Matty Beaumont today. The Silks Room at Addington Raceway was full to the gunwales. I thought I’d be used to them by now, that all tears would be gone. Famous last words. It was really hard today.

Matty’s Dad spoke about being the parent of an adopted child, about bonding with that child, the magic of falling in love with a baby. His Mum spoke about Matty’s love of the “born story” – how he loved hearing about where he came from. That was Greymouth – the place I was conceived. My adoption took place from a different hospital, a few years earlier.

Matty grew up in the neighbourhood I live in today, went to the kindy my kids went to, wanted to marry a teacher at the primary school they went to, and as well as my CTV colleagues there today I saw my neighbours from up and down the street. It’s been a long race for all of us.

If the world were fair, you’d have to assume that today’s was our last collective farewell. In the last hundred days, we’ve shed so many tears together. In one way that chronic grieving is incredibly hard. In another there is enormous understanding for the losses we’ve felt which extends across that broader community beyond our station and into our neighbourhoods. There is a huge depth of compassion, and also I think a great fatigue. We need a rest from it all, and at the conclusion of Matty’s beautiful memorial today, that rest (unofficially) began.

Tomorrow is a public holiday. I’m spending the afternoon with friends – the morning is for council papers. Annual plan documents are sitting in my bag, needing to be read ahead of Tuesday’s meeting. There are big decisions awaiting those of us who are elected to represent this city, the kind you know will never please everybody – but no decision ever does.

While it might be over for this year’s  SBS marathon, and funeral season may be over those of us at CTV – for the council, the hard yards of the budget and the city plan are just beginning. Still, as Bruce Hornsby said, it’s a long race – and if I try, I will surely finish.



June 1, 2011

Does the Government own shares in Fletchers? #eqnz #chch

There’s an email doing the rounds about the government, Fletchers, the Grand Chancellor demolition. It basically alleges corruption. Today CERA sent out a response – I’ve asked if they are happy with me reproducing it here and they are. I’ve printed their response in full, below. The very short version is (my words now) – the email doing the rounds is a load of rubbish.

If you have any queries about it, sing out and I will send you the contact at CERA who has the ability to comment on their behalf.





“You may in recent days have received a malicious email which makes a number of baseless assertions about the relationship between the government, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), and Fletcher Building.

One of the assertions is that the government is the largest shareholder in Fletcher Building, and therefore stands to benefit from any recovery work it undertakes.  This is incorrect.

This anonymous email’s author has discovered the Reserve Bank’s custodial service and drawn the conclusion that the Reserve Bank, and hence the government, owns the shares held in it.  In reality this is a nominee company through which local and international institutions hold shares in a range of companies, one of which is Fletcher Building.  It is an absolutely standard structure, common worldwide, and which has been in place for over 20 years.

This link to the Reserve Bank website sets the NZClear system out in very simple terms.


In brief, NZClear is a real-time settlement system which members access from their premises.  Each member has a security account on the system which records the securities “lodged with New Zealand Central Securities Depository Limited” (NZCSD), a custodian, fully owned by the RBNZ.  NZCSD becomes the legal owner of the securities on the relevant register and holds securities on behalf of the member, the beneficial owner.  The inventory of securities held in the depository currently stands at around NZD92 billion.


So it’s very clear, the government is not “the beneficial owner” of Fletcher Building shares or any other shares held under the NZClear system.

A number of other assertions have been made in the form of a Q&A about the aforementioned relationships.  The answers provided are also incorrect.

Fletcher Building has won just the one demolition contract, for the Hotel Grand Chancellor, and hasn’t been involved with any other demolition work in the central city.  There is a vast amount of demolition work being done in and around Christchurch, almost all without Fletcher’s involvement.

Some correct answers to questions in the email which has been circulating are below:
Q.  Who appointed RCP (Resource Coordination Partnership Ltd) as Project
Managers for the management of ‘critical buildings’ following the February
22nd earthquake?
Christchurch City Council appointed RCP to help project manage the demolition process.

Q .  Who appointed Fletcher Building to manage the demolition works and
then, reconstruction works?

Fletchers have not been appointed to any such role.

Q .  Who called for the tenders for the demolition of the Grand Chancellor?

Originally the owner, then Civil Defence was working through the tender process.  Since its establishment, CERA has been coordinating the tender process.

Q .   Who was/is to be the Principle to the demolition Contract (i.e. the

CERA is the principle.  However, all costs associated with the Grand Chancellor demolition will be recovered from the owner.

Q .    Who assessed the Tenders for the Demolition of the Grand Chancellor?

Initially Civil Defence appointed engineers in association with the owner’s engineers.

It then went to CERA appointed engineers in association with the owner’s engineers.

A recommendation was then made to CERA and the owner before a final decision was made.

Q .    Who has been awarded the Grand Chancellor job (at whatever price and/
or conditions)?

Fletcher Construction Company.  The contract is worth in excess of $10 million – this was stated openly by the owner of the Hotel Grand Chancellor when the contract was awarded.
Q .  Who has been blind-sided?

The tender process was, and is, an open tender process.  It was done with all due care and with impartiality.  The preferred contractor was awarded the contract based on the best deconstruction solution for the Grand Chancellor.  The ultimate decision was the owner’s.


May 31, 2011

Is only the good news the news that’s fit to print? #eqnz #chch

In the last three days, my blog has had over 6,000 hits.

The attention has been generated not by the heart of what it was about, which was the thought process going into land retreat decisions, and the reasons why that has slowed – it was attracted by a couple of statistics which have caused great debate in our community.

The debate has been about whether the statistics should have been released or not, and if so, by whom.

The blog was reported on the front page of the Press in print, on its website, on the front page of the Herald, led the news on TV1, made it to RNZ, TV3, and I also fielded calls from a number of other stations. I referred them all to Roger Sutton and to the Minister – the media were all interested in their figures, and I had no desire to be used a piece of local colour to pad out stories on a slow news day.

Comments from people who have actually read my blog have been largely but not universally supportive.

People who only heard about it, particularly with TV One’s coverage, have been much less complimentary.

Phone calls to my home (six in total) have ranged from completely in support (reader) to “you’re an effing maggot for terrifying my children” (tv one viewer) and touched all the bases in between.

Feedback on the “retreat” part of the blog has been almost universally positive, and shared with wide numbers of people and groups. The closest to a negative is “not specific enough” or “vague”.  As I’m just sharing the information I can’t do much about that.(My writing style also attracted some negatives but the bad news is – it is how it is and it’s not changing. Sorry.)

Feedback on whether or not I should have put those figures in my blog at all is much more mixed. Those in the yes camp were just glad to have them out there. Those against either didn’t want to know or thought I was overstepping my role. One or two thought like mother always said – if you can’t say something nice, you should say anything at all.

In my opinion one of the biggest issues facing the city going forward is how the Council, CERA, and the Crown handle information. In my opinion, it’s neither reasonable nor sensible to expect information to sit politely in a back room awaiting a nicely news release typed by diligent communications professionals.

Whether those in the know like it or not, this is the first major natural disaster in the world which is being reported as much by social media as it is by the old school systems, and the time frame on them is completely different.

We saw it all over Facebook after September, the chatter every time an aftershock rocked us. (One did just then  – a tiddler – about a 3.7 I’m guessing, which is what we all did.) We saw Rise Up Christchurch spring up. We saw the twitterverse fly into action. Bloggers have emerged all over the place. All of us have information and experiences, and if the information is public – it’s going to get out there.

People’s expectations about the level of available information are also completely different. Google has changed our world. Links and attribution are non-negotiable.

One of the clear messages I have picked up over the last few days is “even if there’s nothing new to tell us – please tell us there’s nothing new to tell us, or we think information is being withheld.”

Another opinion I am beginning to form is that we have all been barraged with so much information that we forget what we knew, or it misses us completely. People who aren’t from here may not grasp just how hard it is to assimilate complicated information when you are still living through a trauma of  this type.

It’s not just the aftershocks that do your head in. It’s the personal stresses of dealing with broken houses, broken homes, broken families, the EQC circuit. Today I had two separate conversations where people have told me their spouse is reducing their work hours just to attempt to progress their EQC claim.

In the middle of that we are consulting on the future planning for our city – which is great, and we need to be doing that, we need to be moving forward – and we are doing that as people are starting to hit the really hard part, where they have simply run out of puff.

I spoke at length to day with a woman who rang me very upset at what I’d written. She just didn’t want to hear that there might be more aftershocks because she has nobody who is supporting her. She is very traumatised by everything that has happened, and her friends, in her opinion, find her anxiety tiresome. She feels a burden. She has stopped talking to them. She’s had enough of Christchurch now, if it isn’t over. She wants to move on.

Now is the time when we who can need to look around us and reach out even more into our community and into our social circles. We need to be looking to support the people who really need us. We also need to be accepting of people whose circumstances make it the right choice for them to go away for a while.

Anxiety is not abnormal in situations like this. What feeds it is a question that I think is at the heart of today’s great debate. For some, anxiety is fed by the absence of knowledge. For others, it is knowing the reality of what is going on. In a democracy, generally speaking, information is provided and people are given the opportunity to filter it themselves.

I think it’s time we had a big community catch up on information, so that people who want it have it, and also have the chance to let the powers that be know what it is they want to know, and get an understanding of when they can have it, while acknowledging that in this dynamic environment timeframes are a bit of a moveable feast.

I heard someone remark yesterday that in the absence of information – you find emotion.

Bring on the information I say. Do you agree?


May 28, 2011

Article – Sue’s Week At A Glance. #eqnz #chch

This week has been hectic, regardless of what my diary looked like. It  has involved my house a lot. I’m not going to go into the domestic details, but it has been stressful and time consuming. That having been said, as I write today the issue that’s been on the boil has been sorted successfully with the much appreciated help of a wonderful friend, and life is looking very much brighter.

I’ve scampered down to Dunedin for the weekend to visit friends and family and I’m writing from a lovely little café in the Octagon. A pretty city, Dunedin, and I do like Dunedin City Council’s free wi-fi – an idea worth adopting for our own CBD methinks.

So the week went a bit like this.

Monday – our Central City Plan catchup which I wrote about last time.

Tuesday – our weekly Councillor briefing, at which we are updated on a variety of issues. We discussed some particular building issues, gave some thought to the nexus between Council and CERA where heritage buildings are concerned, clarified who’s who in the current climate – the usual things you’d be expecting your governing body to do. I had a meeting about the house after that, a hot date with my hairdresser in the afternoon, and then a Community Board workshop that evening. (My lovely hairdresser, Stewart Corkin of Corkin and Friends is keeping me presentable for Susan Sells. “Thank God you didn’t give me credit for your hair last week – those roots!” I hung my head in shame. In case you’re wondering, he’s working out of Loaf Salon in Rutland Street until his salon opens up in the CBD, hopefully only a few months away.)

Wednesday, we filmed some Susan Sells spots first thing. They’re catch up slots for clients who can’t make our Friday afternoon sessions, timed around my day to day Council duties. Filming starts at 7.45, which means me getting to hair and makeup at 7. Which means leaving at 6.30. Which should mean me getting up at 5.30. Which is no doubt why I woke at 4am. By the time I got to makeup, I was ready to go back to sleep. There is only so much polyfilla you can wear to make you look awake. It wasn’t enough.

Pepper had decided she was coming with me to work, and I had my running gear in the car. At the end of the filming session (about 8am) I texted my running buddy Chris and we ran a half marathon at McLeans Island. It was the most beautiful warm, calm nor’west morning. The rain started at about 18km, and we walked the last couple of ks. Having foolishly made rather a good bet with him on who’s going to have the fastest time at the SBS half marathon tomorrow week I was rather concerned to discover that the bugger has actually been training in my absence and I now run the risk of losing rather a good bottle of Black Estate Pinot Noir (which I’ve yet to acquire, Ms Blair, we need to talk!). I shall have to either pull finger or hope he catches the man flu.

I had a chore I needed to complete at one of the local malls. It was lunchtime. It was raining. Full tv makeup, hair sprayed and back-combed and showing the effects of having worn a sweat-scarf for 21kms in the rain, wearing sweaty merino running clothes and splashed with mud, I must have looked the picture of corporate delectability. There were so many people there I eschewed the delights of the food court and decided to celebrate my first half marathon in a month with something healthy and wholesome at MacDonalds in Papanui instead. Dropped Pepper off at home, went into Council for a meeting with the head of planning. Voiced commercials. Bought treats at Mercato for good boys who deserved them. Went home. Picked clothes for Friday’s filming. Packed for my weekend away. Emails. Mail. Showered, changed. Off to a meeting that night with CERA and Gerry Brownlee. (I’ll detail that separately – there’s a lot to take in.) Was meant to get to Press Newspaper 150 year celebration – ran out of time.

Thursday – raining. Biked to monthly full Council meeting, at Beckenham Service Centre. A good agenda (up on the council website if you’re keen to look.) We agreed to investigate some further alcohol ban areas for Merivale, Papanui, Banks Peninsula. A Private Plan Change for a piece of land in Halswell West was accepted for notification. We agreed a submission to the Government Policy Statement of Land Transport Funding (stay awake – we’re advocating for increased funding opportunities for active transport which could be incredibly important as we redesign the city going forward). And the really exciting part – we agreed to the creation of an Events Venue Hub in North Hagley Park – so the partying is coming back to town. (Mind you, it’s already started doing that. I went to the opening of the Christchurch Casino on Thursday night. It was a lovely occasion. How nice to see a real mix of people from 20 to 100, out in their finery, enjoying a wine or a coffee and a chat with friends. Not everyone who goes to the Casino gambles, by the way. They have bands there, dancing, and the drag show on Victoria Street outside before it opened bodes well for some fun in the city even before all the buildings are sorted).

That work too is starting to push forward now. CERA announced this week that the contract for demolition of the Grand Chancellor has been awarded. Work is forecast to take about 9 months, but my hunch is they’ll try to pull the drop zone back before the thing is totally down – I’m feeling much more confident that life will start coming back to the CBD within the next year, and the sooner the better.

Before I made it to the Casino, I went to an awards ceremony for IPENZ. That’s the professional organisation for engineers in New Zealand. It was a repeat performance of the awards ceremony they held earlier this year in Wellington. As the recipient of the President’s Award was unable to attend that occasion, it was replicated at Peppers at Clearwater (brilliant venue, by the way – lovely, classy, close to the airport – a great choice for a meeting).

585 engineers who worked in Christchurch as volunteers after the seismic events were the awardees. If you are one of them and you haven’t yet included your name on the Hall of Fame, do it. I was so proud to see Mark Christison, the stellar Council engineer who has supervised the waste water recovery be chosen to be one of the two who physically accepted the award. Mark’s compassion and commitment to the community is to me the essence of everything that’s great about our local government organisation. I have a newfound respect and admiration for the engineers who have supported us so. For that reason, I’ve agreed to be on a little voluntary group providing some governance liaison to the IPENZ board – I think I’m there as the token Arts graduate who needs to understand things in “Englished”!

Perhaps foolishly, when approached by Steve Clarke that night and asked if it were true that I’m the kind of woman who likes a challenge, I said yes. That’s why I have challenged Lianne Dalziel to a duel. It does seem that I’m about to learn how to fence as part of an act of charity. Oh dear. How hard can it possibly be????

Friday started with a Resource Consent hearing, and moved on to filming Susan Sells before hitting the airport and heading to Dunedin. I’m having a lovely relaxing time, the coffee is good, the fire is warm, the people are just lovely, and to have the chance to just sit quietly and write is absolute bliss.

(Oh – and Susan Sells is taking on the big boys. It’s official. I think Resource Consent has been obtained – or maybe that’s just a rumour …)

Enjoy 🙂

May 23, 2011

Update on Council’s Central City Planning #eqnz #chch

Christchurch City’s reinvention is progressing. It’s becoming very clear that our entire community has grasped not just the nature of task at hand, but also the nettle.

Throughout the city, groups are gathering, forming collective views and debating what they want their future Christchurch to look like. There are multiple meetings, every night of the week. It’s not possible to be at even a fraction of what is going on.

They range from cultural gatherings to meetings with MPs to a three day youth summit to various flower growing associations, neighbourhoods, families – you name it, we’re talking about what we want and don’t want our city to be going forward.

This past weekend saw TedxEQCHCH (which ill-health caused me to miss, grrr) and it too will be online later this week, having been live streamed throughout the event. The national telethon was similarly live streamed, and was therefore NZ’s first truly global telethon, its total not yet fully confirmed but in the low millions. There is no mistaking the importance the internet will play in crafting our next plan – and I am all too conscious that it favours the white, the wealthy, the well educated, the young. Digital access is an economic question that must be addressed by a future government; it is the new literacy, and one which is going to hit baby boomers hard in the next few years. Our goal of a city for life long learning will mean ensuring that people keep up with information platforms as they age or like those of us who weren’t good enough to be celestial hitch-hikers during Saturday’s “Rapture”, they will be left behind.

The council’s share-an-idea programme continues to roll out and there are still many ways to be involved – should take you there. There are online opportunities, community meetings, a game to play.

In our weekly briefing we heard today that the first share-an-idea community workshop, held over the weekend of May 14/15 2011 has generated over 10,000 in person attendees. 18,394 post-it notes went up on the four themed discussion areas. There were 2,747 entries at the computer terminals. 1,078 forms were filled in. Over 9,000 ideas came in from the shareanidea website. 157 you-tube posts went up. As well as the councillors in attendance, over 70 council staff worked that weekend. Brilliant, as were the 21 speakers whose presentations are now online.

All this coming together of discussions and ideas will play out with the Christchurch City Council creating a draft Central City Plan by roughly the end of July, holding formal consultation with hearings towards the end of September, formulating a final revised plan and forwarding it to the Minister of Canterbury Earthquake Recovery on (in a perfect world) December 18th 2011.

It’s a magnificently challenging time frame but it has our absolute attention and all eyes are on the plan.

There is no time to waste, not just for the plan, but for the future of our city. We cannot leave her in limbo as the ordinary planning processes would.

The taxi driver who took me to the airport in Wellington last week described it as a “transient city – nobody feels like they have ownership of it.” Christchurch is starting to feel both exactly the same to me and exactly the opposite. She is feeling much more like a city that everybody feels they have ownership of, and yet no individual has ownership of anymore. I suppose until we have common agreement about what we want to see happen (or perhaps more realistically a general if not universal accord) then that slightly disconcerting sense of “I don’t know where my home is anymore” will linger.

Whatever else happens, thoughts of Art Agnos, former mayor of San Francisco, remain in the front of my mind right now. (The final oath reflects the values I’ve tried to live by throughout my time in office.) I’ve lifted this from the TEDxEQCH website, which is where you’ll find speaker’s links later this week. I commend them to you.

“Agnos used his post-earthquake popularity to build a momentum for some long-term changes. This does not however align with medium term electoral cycles and the hard decisions cost Agnos the mayoralty but have been proven, with time, to be the right ones. Public office always comes to an end eventually, but what sticks to you is the knowledge that you used that precious time to do something that is truly lasting and even historic. This is that moment in the history of the city of Christchurch. This is our moment as citizens of Christchurch. Seize it, take the risk, do the best things to fix these broken places and you will fulfill the oath of the citizen in the ancient city of Athens “I promise, upon my honour, to leave this city better than I found it”.

You couldn’t want to do anything else, now could you?

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