Canterbury Quake Anniversary -The Guilty Remnant

September 10, 2012

“What if-woosh, right now, with no explanation-a number of us simply vanished? Would we think it was the Rapture? Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down.” Tom Perrotta “The Leftovers”.

This was the challenge faced by the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, a stereotypical fictitious US small town, in the aftermath of an event known as the Sudden Departure, in which hundreds of ordinary citizens suddenly departed in the middle of living their ordinary lives.

Some of the dearly departed were more sinners than saints, to the chagrin of some professional clergy whose response was less than rapturous when they themselves didn’t make the celestial cut and had to stay behind to minister to the undeparted.

Kevin Garvey, Mapleton’s new mayor, a former businessman with a new community vocation born of the crisis, tries to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to the shattered community. But nothing is the same as before the Sudden Departure -not marriages, not relationships, not friendships.

It’s two years last week since the first big seismic event, the 7.1 Greendale quake on 4 September 2010, changed our Cantabrian landscape and our world.

In the phony seismic war before the deadly 22 February 2011 quake, we were rather nonchalant about the risk from on-going quakes. The City of Christchurch hosted the Paralympics a month earlier in late January 2011.  The sporting festival opened with a parade of athletes, many in wheel chairs, through a central city which had been shaken by the Boxing Day CBD quake just as the post-Christmas sales bonanza was about to kick off. A month later the cathedral spire toppled on the site of the VIP’s marquee which had seated the Prime Minister and other national and international notables at the opening ceremony.

Since September 2010 we’ve had 11,965 quakes*, 100 over 4.72 .magnitude* and 14 over 5.5.  The frequency is reducing: there have only been 18 quakes over the last 7 days, and the Richter scale severity is also decaying , though with the occasional spike to keep us on our toes.

One cult spawned by the Sudden Departure in Mapleton was called the Guilty Remnant, whose members took a vow of silence as they struggled to come to terms with the selective cataclysm and make atonement.

Though the central city building  which housed our offices has been demolished, on the home front my family is in the guilty minority of those in Christchurch whose houses are now spick and span in the wake of the quakes, touch wood (rough hewn rimu-strong and flexible).  Just before the September earthquake anniversary thunderstorm hit Christchurch last Wednesday, accompanied by dazzling meterological pyrotechnics, the multinational team of repairers and decorators that had been working for six weeks on our house  finished their work.

Until then most of our possessions had been stored in a container swung in precisely by the Peter Fletchers Transport driver over the fence onto the side lawn. We’ve been camping at home with my wife acting as clerk of works and tea lady. The workers left a card thanking her for the latter if not the former.

Now the grandfather clock, which came crashing down in the first quake, is restored to pride of place at the front entrance and the cuckoo clock is back on the wall upstairs, no longer mute.

In the scale of things our damage was pretty minor, with no land problems because of the lava spur our house sits on at Kennedys Bush 12 kilometres south west of the city centre. We certainly didn’t have high priority needs like many people in east Christchurch and those at the other end of the Port Hills to us.

Apart from the more than 20,000  red zoned  and vacant houses in the process of being demolished, 27,000 people live in the TC3 category zone requiring detailed land inspection by drilling and, in many cases, new foundations. 400 people still live in badly damaged houses, some families squatting in a single room.

With no obvious land damage or structural house damage the make good and makeover at our place  was very straightforward and because the damage being well under the EQC $100,000 cap our insurance company wasn’t involved.

One or two small things still to sort out but the repairs and renovations, including some extras on our own account, have gone very well and we are very lucky. Given the problems faced by some people it would be unseemly to offer rapturous applause but here’s a quiet nod of approval to EQC, Fletchers Rebuild, Renovation Specialists and the subbies.

The stubbies are in the fridge awaiting the final sign off. We’ll invite the workers over to clean them up.  There won’t be any Mapleton leftovers.

*Blinks The two year seismic scorecard.

#Lyall Lukey
10 September 2012 My other less serious blog

2012 Overture

January 4, 2012

“Restless night. These are some serious earthquakes.”
“I can’t stop shaking now so I can’t tell if the earth’s moving or it’s just me.”
“Got teens out of bed and under a table – so it must have been big!”
Twitter comments 2/1/12

Is there no reprieve or even time off for good behaviour?  In a reprise of 23 December’s 2012 Overture Christchurch continues to be hammered by earthquakes with a further 50 in the 24 hours to 6pm Monday- two over 5.0 and six 4.0s.* Not too many ringing chimes-most churches with bells are munted- and it’s a bit thin on the brass fanfare,  but  there’s plenty of cannon fire.  130 years after he penned his famous piece Tchaikovsky would be impressed with the special effects.

Hopefully we’re seeing off the seismic enemy like the Russians and winter saw off Napoleon’s army in 1812 but we swamp dwellers are all a bit sick of being apprehensive and defensive during the Christmas and New Year festival season.

On Monday the city had been initially shaken awake at 1.27am with a 5.1 magnitude centred 20km north of Lyttelton.* The largest shake- 5.58 magnitude on the “local magnitude” scale -was another wake  up call at 5.45am and was centred 20km north east of Lyttelton at a depth of 15km. In Christchurch it was mainly felt as a strong rolling motion, rather than a short, sharp jolt that seems to do more damage. It was a Mercalli  VI – “Felt by everyone. Difficult to stand. Some heavy furniture moved, some plaster falls. Chimneys may be slightly damaged.” Not that there are many left still standing in large parts of the city. It was followed nine minutes later by a 4.1 in the same region. 10,000 Christchurch homes lost electricity temporarily.

Dodgy media coverage
The Press reports that footage of past earthquake damage has been used in overseas coverage of the latest quakes .Australian TV news featured scenes of flooded streets and collapsed buildings despite no further reported significant damage from the latest shakes. I suppose this should be expected-everything else on TV is a re-run-but it’s misleading and bad for tourism.

Perhaps we can promote the adventure tourism angle, though the streets of Christchurch are a lot safer than the country’s mountains and rivers and really worth a visit as the inner city Red Zone continues to shrink. Ironically, the suburban red zones will no doubt expand after the cumulative damage and new liquefaction in the past fortnight.

West of the Wall
The West Wall of Christ Church Cathedral has completely collapsed following fresh damage from the 23 December quake and returning holiday makers will no doubt find exacerbated damage from the latest instalment. In its on-line editions, The Press still features a photo of the spire-less cathedral with the lovely stained-glass Rose Window, once a feature of this wall, still intact. It was shattered six months ago in the June 13 quakes.

The question mark over the cathedral is getting even bigger with every new serious shake as a decision is imminent on plans to build the “Cardboard Cathedral”* on the vacant land of an unnamed Christchurch parish,   if parishioners agree, as a centre for the diocese and use by other organisations.

Aftershocks or foreshocks?
Are the latest shocks the “last gasp”of the deadly February 22 fault?*  Or are the “aftershocks” really foreshocks-part of a fault network triggering mechanism that will eventually bring the Main Alpine Fault into play, as portrayed in the prescient 1996 TV documentary Quake! ?* Whatever the anxieties we have no option but to remain positive, even if the teeth are a bit gritted.

Looking back-looking forward
January is named after the Roman god Janus who had two faces so he could look ahead into future and back into the past simultaneously. In the moving now- and in the very best sense- we too have to be two faced at this new crossroads in our civic history.

Here are some lovely New Year words penned by a friend in Sydney:
“A new year is unfolding, like a blossom with petals curled tightly concealing the beauty within. Let this year be filled with things that are truly good, with comfort of warmth in our relationships, the strength to help those who need our help and humility and openness to accept help from others.

It is an unspoilt page in our book of time. Our next chance at the art of living, opportunity to practice what we have learnt about life from past. All that we seek and didn’t find is hidden in the coming year, waiting for us to search it but with more determination. All that we dreamed but didn’t dare do, all that we hoped for but did not will, all the faith that we claimed but did not have, waiting to be awakened by the touch of a strong purpose…” Tejinder Hansra

The New Year is our opportunity to renew our commitment to our fast changing city. We just hope that as the year unfolds the tunes that follow the 2012 Overture are a little less percussive (for some avoidable human percussion see the YouTube video below: Nuclear 1812 Symphony Finale*).

As recovery gets into gear we also hope that we can all sing off the same song-sheet. That is a big ask in contentious Christchurch.

*BLINKS Quake by quake tracking   Vid  Earthquake!  Christchurch 1996  My blogpost on the CC.   Nuclear 1812 Symphony Finale Vid Avoidable percussion.

#Lyall Lukey 4 January 2012  My other less serious blog

Seismic Night, Holey Night….

December 25, 2011

“You could see the panic on people’s faces. That’s the end of Christmas – it’s so unfair,” Sue Joy, florist  23 Dec 2011 

On the eve of Christmas Eve, just when things seemed to be all calm and all bright, the serious jolting started again.  Not only shepherds  were once again quaking at the sight of the quakes. No seismic Christmas truce here in Christchurch in the demolition  trenches  but lots of new sink holes- and a sinking feeling. 

As I write this, at 8am on Christmas Eve, GeoNet has reported 63 earthquakes around the wider Canterbury region over the last 24 hours.* This ended six months of relative calm for the city and will further set back  recovery as insurance companies re-start their risk raters. 

Christchurch residents hoping Christmas celebrations would be a brighter end to a bleak year are instead dealing with more seismic damage to homes, infrastructure and businesses through shaking damage and liquefaction.

Two large magnitude earthquakes on Friday heralded the new activity – a Richter 5.8 and a 6.0, the latter being the 4th largest magnitude since the seismic season started here in September 2010. 

I was upstairs at home for the first 15-20 seconds roller and was out in the garden for the second shorter, but more feisty shock, talking to our Student Job Search gardener who was just describing how he’s seen our whole house jiggle at the earlier quake when we had an even jigglier encore.

Our post World War II rough hewn rimu house is obviously very elastic and goes with the flow. It probably also helps that it is sitting on a foundation of crusher dust from the old Halswell Quarry across the road which acts like base isolation. The grandfather clock downstairs and the cuckoo clock upstairs kept going through the first but were stopped dead, but ever to go again, by the second. 

Once again we were fortunate but a lot of people, especially on the east side of town, were not with power cuts and liquefaction silting up  parts of the eastern suburbs for the fifth time in 15 months.* Not the Xmas present they were expecting. There appears to have been a Mercalli migration further east. Most of the recent quakes were centred in faults below Pegasus Bay, off the coast of Christchurch, within 8-21 kilometres of the city centre, and many were less than 10km deep. 

Whatever the new physical damage from these earthquakes-and there were scores of minor injuries-  they have further set back the recovery of the city. Retailers who have struggled to survive were dealt a major blow as stores packed with Christmas shoppers were evacuated. Some face being shut on the busiest trading days of Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. 

 Essential tremor 

“Essential tremor” is an involuntary trembling that affects millions of people. In October 2008 Eddie Adcock, 70, a bluegrass maestro whose career was being hampered by a hand tremor was asked to pluck his banjo during brain surgery, so surgeons could pinpoint the right part of the brain to work on. During the procedure surgeons prodded and inserted electrodes into his brain to suppress the nerve cells causing his tremors. When the surgeons found the right part of the brain, the plucky Adcock instantly regained his ability and was able to play at full speed once again*. 

The Canterbury land mass above and below the waterline seems to have developed a chronic case of the sesmic ETs. In this case the geotechnical explorations and explanations can’t by their nature be as precise as Adcock’s half hour. Nor can they give the same instant feedback in any predictive sense, let alone bring about a cure.

For that reason the latest tremors have literally sent shock waves through the psyches of people here who were just starting to relax into the Christmas spirit and contemplate a happier and more stable New Year. For some it was the last straw:
“Had enough now   #52   17 min ago   Thats it. We cant do this any longer, the kids are upset, wife and I cant sleep, the best of the city is gone, we are going too. Sorry to those we are leaving behind to rebuild and tough it out. Family and prospects in Melbourne.*” 

But most, not so badly affected, will stay and hopefully display the spirit and dogged determination needed by new pioneers. Before this latest blitz about half the commercial buildings in the central city have either already been demolished or are about to be, including our former offices. There could well be some new candidates.

This Yuletide in this part of the world it’s just got that much harder to sleep in heavenly peace. But many of us still have a lot to celebrate so best wishes for the festive season, no matter how restive. 


#Lyall Lukey 24 December 2011  My other less serious blog





Heartfelt Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge

December 7, 2011


“Swaying pine trees, brutal wind gusts… put 9000 cyclists to the test in the annual Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge event…. Strong wind gusts made riding treacherous for road and mountainbike riders in the 35th annual 160-kilometre lake circuit on Saturday. Large pine trees swayed precariously in 85kmh wind gusts. Cyclists, pedalling into energy-sapping headwinds, negotiated scattered branches and debris…”  Dom.Post 28/11/11* 

This time last week I was a tortoise on two wheels- definitely not a hare- in the 35th Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. At least I didn’t turn turtle in the blustery conditions. Quite a few entrants didn’t even start.

After a 6am start in the slow pack, my time of 9 hrs 46:57 in the 60-69 years solo 160 k division (I just qualified-it was the day before my 70th birthday) put me 328th in the division but, apart from the timing equipment, who’s counting? It was great just to finish again in the conditions, described as “one of the more difficult rides on record”, in reasonable condition. Three months after my last Taupo outing in 2008, I had two stents inserted after a coronary.  

 New Gear

My previous three Taupo rides since 2006, once in the 40K relay and twice in the 160k solo ride, were on my old second hand road touring bike which I bought off a departing Swedish cycle tourist who wasn’t murdered in 1991. It came complete with four panier bags for camping gear.

For three years I was the only Taupo entrant with paniers and a rear vision mirror. Bikes are built either for speed or for comfort and mine was in the latter category, unlike the emasculatory razor seated road bikes that are de rigueur.

This year was different. My Canadian mate Gord Miller, doing the Solo Challenge at Taupo for the second time, has tried for years  to convince me to get a more suitable steed for the event. It was my daughter Sandra who applied the killer psychology. She has an Events and PR company and does the public relations for the Pure Black Cycling Team*

First she got me some sporty PB riding gear. Then she persuaded me to get a sleek carbon fibre Cadent* bike from Avanti, Pure Black sponsor, to match the outfit. It’s  a speedy machine with a slightly ‘softer’ attitude for riders who want something a little more relaxed. It made all the difference, especially with the wind, and the Geltech cover over the original seat was almost comfortable.

I did also add a snappy Vaude clip on under the seat detachable carry bag. I like to be self sufficient and carry more food and water, extra clothes and tools than most, despite the support stations en route, though stories about an on board kitchen sink are calumnies.

Pure Black riders were 1st and 2nd over the line. I was 4236th  overall so they were probably pleased I wore a high viz. vest over my sporty PB  racing shirt. 

I was also helped this year on the nutrition front by Shane Miller, Gord’s son, a gym instructor and high performance coach from Ottawa. Last time I cramped up 10 times on Hatepe Hill at the 132 k mark. This time nary a twinge after a good balance of protein and pasta and several magic potions during the ride. None would have got Lance Armstrong into trouble.

My father Gordon Lukey was a well known long distance cyclist and endurance record holder and all round iron man in the days of gravel roads and no gears. He would have been amused at the hi tech nature of cycle riding today and the fancy fashion and food but he would have applauded the numbers participating.

Life cycle

The biblical age is a bit hard to come to grips with, though these days maybe it’s only mature middle age, at least for the fortunate survivors thus far. The big 70 is inevitably accompanied by a bit of philosophical introspection.

The old black joke is ”A fatal coronary is nature’s way of saying ‘slow down’. Sadly, just a few weeks ago the old friend I usually stay with when doing Taupo died suddenly while still in top gear in a top corporate job with lots of demanding overseas travel. Earlier in the year he put off accompanying his sister on a cycle tour of France because of the demands of the business.

Only three weeks ago, on a Rotary cricket tour of NSW- (geriatrics in pursuit of hattricks-or even a single wicket) – the player in our opponents’ team in the third game, who had just received Man of the Match award, collapsed and died. Sad, but what a way to go.

It’s important to keep doing things you like to do or that provide new challenges while you can. Always at my back I hear times winged chariot…

Supporting Heart Kids

Heart Kids 2011

Thanks to those who supported my Heart Kids web page as part of the Taupo Challenge. Overall $57,000 has been raised to date this year-donations open until 31 December-see my HK webpage below*. Alternatively you can txt HEART to 2427 to make a $3 donation.

#Lyall Lukey 3 December 2011  My other less serious blog


The Kahui Hooha-a King Hit?

July 9, 2011

“I think they’ve gone weak at the knees … We sell Mein Kampf by Hitler and the Communist Manifesto. You can buy any range of books. People have chosen this one and it’s really because of cyber-bullying.” Ian Wishart, author of Breaking Silence: The Kahui Case

Breaking silence? For some people it was more like breaking wind. Just the news of Ian Wishart’s impending book Breaking Silence on the Kahui case and its timing caused blogospherical hysteria which led to the Warehouse and Paper Plus to put a ban on stocking the book, sight unseen.

However, the Whitcoulls bookstore chain, or what’s left of it, took a more measured approach: “a decision on whether to stock the book will be made once the book has been completed and Whitcoulls has been able to evaluate its contents. Until then it is premature to make any further comment.” *

It was full term for the omniscient Mike Hoskins who declared on TV 1’s Close Up* that he didn’t need to read it to know what’s in it.  His instant intuition and uncanny mindreading ability renders Speed Reading obsolete and will save many trees. 

Journalist Wishart is writing the book, with some help from Macsyna King, the mother of twins Chris and Cru Kahui who died in 2006 in unexplained circumstances.  There are no royalties coming King’s way: three pieces of pizza and the opportunity to tell her story are her only reward for collaborating.

From the Inquisition to the Third Reich and beyond,  book burning and book banning-and sometimes author barbequeing-were the inflammatory tactics used by the powers that were to keep their ideologies intact.

In this case the book banning bandwaggon was driven by social media-little brothers and sisters, not Big Brother. Publicity about the impending book at the time of the delayed coronial enquiry into the death of the twins ignited a new Facebook group urging people not to buy it. The Macsyna was definitely not going to become the new ballroom craze in 2011.

But according to Wishart  “She wants the same thing that 50,000 people on Facebook want. She wants answers and she wants people to learn from the mistakes that she’s made and she wants people to see how quickly a life can slip into hell and what you need to do to bring it back.”

 Wishart says that his book is a biographical narrative, beginning with King’s early life and how she started going off the rails.

Families Commissioner Christine Rankin told the Close Up  programme New Zealanders need to read the book because the problem of child abuse was so serious that a better understanding was needed. “Most people go home to their ordered house and their ordered lives and they think most people live like that. There are thousands and thousands of New Zealanders that do not.”

There wasn’t even a conviction for drunk and disorderly in the Kahui case after family ranks closed in misguided loyalty.   After Chris Kahui’s acquittal King is the only real alternative if police decide to charge someone after the inquest into the deaths. Kahui’s acquittal on murder charges in 2008 protects him from further prosecution.

Child abuse in New Zealand is a national shame.  A 2004 UNICEF report 2004 on Child Maltreatment put this country third from bottom of OECD countries.  In each year of the 1990s there was an average of more than 3,000 known cases of neglect, sexual abuse or violence against children. The figures for this century won’t be any better.

For that reason Wishart’s new book  shouldn’t be banned; it should be required reading, with a compulsory short answer test.

Anything that puts the spotlight on child abuse through neglect and violence and reminds us of the sad roll call of dead children like Lillybing*, Nia Glassie* and the Kahui twins should be welcomed not proscribed.

#Feel free to add a comment below and share this post.
*Blinks   Vid Lillybing counts – excuses don’t

#Lyall Lukey 9 July 2011  My other less serious blog

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