Moving and Shaking: Roger Sutton’s Opening Ceranade

June 13, 2011

“Thank God we had evacuated the red zone…We are being enveloped with dust. It is very very scary,” Bob Parker, Mayor of Christchurch

The Mayor had good reason to dust off his famous orange and black flack jacket today,  after another 16 quakes in 5 hours from 12.30pm today, including a 5.5 shake at 1pm on the dot while we were having lunch, followed by a very scary 6.0 at 2.20 pm which injured 46 people.

Today was  Roger Sutton’s first day  as Chief Mover and Shaker of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.*  The new CEO passed up an opportunity  to go for an early afternoon drive around the  Red Zone of the Seismic City with a new Cera colleague, who saw buildings collapse on all sides of him.

Instead he was at Earthquake HQ at the Christchurch Art Gallery, evacuating with Cera and Council staff after the first big shake and watching the gallery glass ripple to almost breaking point during the second.  That was a real team bonding exercise.

The magnitude 6.0 quake registered eight on the Mercalli scale, which measures the intensity of earth quakes. By comparison the February 22 earthquake was a Mercalli nine.

About 50 more commercial buildings in the Central Business Red Zone and Lyttelton  collapsed or were crippled today. They were mainly unoccupied since February 22’s  6.3 killer quake. More than 150 demolition workers and Orion staff were working in the Red Zone, which is more dangerous than ever.

More damage was done to Christ Church Cathedral, including the collapse of the beautiful Rose Window. The clock face at the Arts Centre crashed to the ground and time was finally up for the Lyttelton Timeball Station which was finished off abruptly after being paintakingly deconstructed stone by stone in past weeks.

Some of our dwindling stock of heritage buildings which were previously thought salvageable have literally reached tipping point, as have several more modern commercial buildings hitherto relatively unscathed.

Today was also the first day of an inquest into the deaths of 106 people who died in Christchurch’s CTV building on February 22. Families want to know about the design and construction of the building, as well as remedial work and its effectiveness carried out after September 4’s 7.1-magnitude quake and subsequent aftershocks. Families, media and businesses in the Riccarton Racecourse building fled to the lawn after big shake hit at 2.20 pm, just as the inquest resumed after lunch. It was hurrily adjourned.

Eastern and Southern suburbs are again badly hit. Sutton’s old company Orion was again very busy, with  20,000 homes being still without power and water on a chilly Canterbury winter night. The  psychological toll is rising, with nerves stretched to breaking like many of the city’s water pipes once again.

I was in the CBD last Saturday, getting some stuff from our former offices  just across the road from the recently shrunk quake cordon and just 40 metres from the cleared site of the collapsed PGG building.  Just the sound of silence-without any neon lights. Not today. Yesterday I to biked to Sumner and twice chose the footpath, near rockfalls from February 22,  because of the dangers of the constricted road. Today that footpath was not a safe haven, with more boulders bouncing down the Port Hills like a giant pinball  game. They had definitely stopped gathering any moss.

As the Rolling Stones would say, we can’t let no liquefaction beat us, but it’s pretty depressing for many people experiencing a third wave of silt. The Student Volunteer Army, silt shovellors par excellence, must feel that they’re refighting an interminable Battle of Ypres. Can they mobilise for a third time?

A friend, due to fly tomorrow on his annual migration to Oz, is stuck in Christchurch because the Peruvian volcanic ash clouds over the country have caused Jetstar and parent Qantas to cancel flights. He feels as if he’s between a shifting rock and a not so hard place as he watches the land outside his house ripple like a seismic sea.

 (Another shake rattles the house as I write).

A little earlier there was an eerie red sunset, courtesy of the Chilean ash. The 23% prediction*two weeks ago of a 6-7 quake in the next twelve months would have been a better TAB bet than backing the Moon Man Ken Ring* (though it is an almost full moon tonight) or even betting that the Kiwi dollar will recover from the quake hit today and bounce back by the end of the week.

Sixteen  shakes and what do you get….? Another day older and deeper in debt, the way the Government is borrowing. Plus more aftershocks in coming days, months and years according to a GNS Science warning on TV a couple of hours ago.

In the last few days,  both ends of the 40 kilometre Greendale Fault ruptured in the Sepember 4  7.1 shake have come into play accompanied by the Port Hills Fault, implicated in the September 9, February 22 and today’s  big quakes. Hopefully all this subterranean activity is releasing some of the pressure on the trigger of the main Alpine Fault*, not adding to it; but it is sure as hell adding to our stress and to the distress of many.

 We hope that the goodwill which greeted Roger Sutton’s appointment* doesn’t dissipate too quickly and that  his baptism of fire today doesn’t turn into a symphony of ire as he handles some very tough decisions about the future of Christchurch and its people.

*Blinks  3rd biggest quake  Roger Sutton’s appointment to Cera   Big Quake odds a fortnight ago Moon Man Ken Ring   Vid  Earthquake!  Christchurch 1996 Why buildings collapse

#Lyall Lukey 13 June 2011  My other less serious blog

The Christchurch Arts Centre- Closure and Opensure

June 4, 2011

 It is the nature of the work when you are working with heritage fabric. Each stone has to come down and be put back in place. It’s very time consuming.”  Deane Simmonds    Christchurch Arts Centre Trust Board 

We were told recently that the restoration of the quake–damaged Christchurch Arts Centre could take 10- 15 years. Each historic building was red stickered after the lethal 22/2 quake and  all the tenancies except one have been ended.

Among the terminated are the Dux de Lux, the former Student Union building before the University of Canterbury’s move to Ilam and Annie’s Wine Bar, part of the former library. The building occupied by the Dux was designed in 1883 for a merchant by Francis William Petre, the architect of the now badly damaged Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, and bought by the university in 1926. After it became the Student Union in 1929 many of us UC alumni spent much time in the building honing our skills in Billiards I and Snooker II.  

Former tenant and Dux de Lux owner Richard Sinke says that the Dux- wood and brick, not stone, but still historic-could be fixed and ready in weeks. He has offered to help fund the repair work.  

We understand the Trust Board’s position that limited repair funds have to be prioritised.  But it’s not good enough to say “If we spend money to fix the Dux de Lux, what happens if we run out of money for the Great Hall and the Clock Tower”. At least the Great Hall has now got its correct name back, but this is an obtuse argument. 

Let’s make opening the Dux second priority after sorting safety issues. Apparently work to make the outside of the Arts Centre buildings safe is almost finished. Once it is, reduce the cordon inside the Arts Centre precinct a little, confining it to the old stone buildings. This would get the Dux in a row of functioning businesses, including the one lease still operating, the cheese shop in the back of the old Registry and others on the Montreal Street fringe which are able to open in the short to medium term, including some of the food and craft stalls in part of the stall area near the Dux. 

As well as closure some people want “opensure”. I look forward to at least part of the Dux reopening, like Ballantynes,  for New Zealand Cup week,  and maybe even before the Rugby World Cup starts. It will be another positive step to drawing people back to parts of the inner city, but it will only happen if the Trust Board takes a more flexible approach.  

Until the February 22 quake, the Dux contributed 20% of the Trust Board’s income. If the social needs of the shaken citizens of Christchurch don’t stir the Board into action you’d think self-interest and self-preservation would. A torrent of letters to the Press, including one of mine, is now finally evincing a response*.

A Sinke fund is better than a sinking fund.  We need to shed some more light on the way the tenancies of the Dux de Lux and other Arts Centre businesses have been handled and sheet home the Board’s responsibility to be more responsive to the needs of its own stakeholders, of the citizens of Christchurch and of visitors from outside the city and the country. 

Unless there is some early  engagement of the public inside a social bridgehead on the south east corner of the precinct, as Yeats may have repeated, the Centre will not hold.

#Feel free to add a comment below and share this post. 

*Blinks  [Added 10/6/11]

 #Lyall Lukey 4 June  2011