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

Christchurch Quake II-Faulty Towers?

March 15, 2011

“So many lives have been lost as a result of the February 22 earthquake that we must find answers, particularly about why such a significant loss of life occurred in two buildings…” PM John Key*

A tourist snapshot from the Port Hills, now half a metre higher since Canterbury Quake II on 22 February, caught the city in stunning strong seismic motion. From the opposite perspective a worker near the top of the Forsyth Barr building in the central city saw the shockwaves approach and the dominoes falling.

This building, originally the Robt. Jones Building, was an inappropriately tall building for its context-a Ronson lighter stuck up alongside some sawn off stubs. It was built soon after the failed controversial attempt to build an even higher and even more inappropriate tower diagonally opposite in Victoria Square. There will be questions about the way much of its concrete interior staircasing collapsed, with one enterprising staff team abseiling 5 floors to the car park with mountaineering gear stached after the 2001 attacks on New York.

Other tall and quite modern buildings-not Brownlee old dungers-did not perform well. The majority of casualties was in the PGG and CTV Buildings, neither heritage nor stone buildings. The Grand Chancellor hotel, originally designed as an office block, has adopted a Pisa-like lean and there are structural question marks over a lot of other CBD buildings, historic and not.

The recently announced inquiry will examine issues around the built environment in the Christchurch CBD including, but not limited to, the CTV and PGC buildings.

It will also look at the “adequacy of the relevant building codes and standards into the future”. As former Christchurch City Council engineer the late Bryan Bluck said in a graphic 1996 TV documentary*, this is the key to a safer future. Ever since the 1931 Napier earthquake attempts to update the codes and take account of new building technology were too little and too late.

In  a typical Kiwi  belts and braces approach,  which keeps down the rate of judicial unemployment, The Royal Commission will also take into account, but not be limited by, a technical investigation already underway by the Department of Building and Housing into the performance of the Canterbury Television, PGC, Forsyth Barr and Hotel Grand Chancellor buildings.

By way of contrast the earthquake strengthened Canterbury museum, a classic heritage building, came through both big quakes in fine style.

Christchurch is located in a medium risk of earthquakes area while Wellington is shoehorned into a high risk area. Wellington city mothers are suddenly upping the planning for a worst case quake. If Christchurch didn’t get things moving, Friday’s Japanese earthquake certainly has.  The apocalyptic photos and video clips coming out of Japan’s  triple header disaster have caught everyone’s full attention.

There is nothing like witnessing the toss of the cosmic seismic dice elsewhere to concentrate the civic mind.

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*Blinks   Vid  Earthquake!  Christchurch 1996 leastearthquake/4725585/Earthquake-fault-known-of-since-September 

#Lyall Lukey 15 Mar 2011  My other less serious blog

Christchurch Quake II-Crisis and Opportunity

March 2, 2011

“The level of the damage to the economy in Kobe was such that it became a national project. With Christchurch the second largest city in New Zealand it may have to be a national project to protect the future of that urban area”. David W. Edgington  Reconstructing Kobe: The Geography of Crisis and Opportunity. 

Eight days on the centre of Christchurch still looks like a war zone after last week’s 6.3 quake-not an aftershock on the previous faultline, definitely a gnarly new event, albeit with a subterranean connection.*

The death toll rose to 159 this morning, with another 80 people still missing. Despite the fierce hope the only signs of life found in the rubble in the  last week have been a bedraggled cat and a stsrving pigeon. 

Today, to add to the misery, the Canterbury Nor’Wester that’s been blowing strong for the last 12 hours or so has whipped up a Middle Eastern duststorm from the estimated 150,000 tons of now dried silt that has been spread everywhere. Some of the silt was also mixed with raw sewage forced to the surface by liquefaction. The shit is really hitting the fan and masks are needed.

Yesterday at 12.51 pm the city and the nation stopped for two minutes silence*. For the first time in a week it was quiet in the ruined buildings where an apparently now fruitless search and rescue, but grisly recovery operation still continues, with Kiwi  crews helped by those from China, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and the United States.  Like the victims, the rescuers are a united nations.

The sun shone, birds sang obliviously but not a word was spoken.

The night before, en route to the Salvation Army food depot to pick up supplies to do a Rotary food and water run to the stricken eastern suburbs, we saw a young woman standing alone in a small park in the middle of a devastated area playing a keyboard and singing to an invisible audience as her expression of the human spirit in the face of a crisis. She obviously had portable electricity; thousands of others still haven’t.

In 7 days more than $14 million had been poured into relief funds for Christchurch by yesterday. See below if you’d like to help.**

Danger and Opportunity-Kobe Lessons
I recall that the Chinese word for crisis was depicted in two ideograms : wei–man confronting tiger or danger and ji (or chi)- the energy of the universe or opportunity.

David W. Edgington is Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia and author of Reconstructing Kobe: The Geography of Crisis and Opportunity says there were lessons from the 1995 Kobe earthquake that can inform disaster recovery and reconstruction efforts  in Christchurch.*“The puzzle with reconstruction after such a terrible disaster, whether its Kobe, Haiti or Queensland after the floods and cyclone, is that decisions are squeezed into such a short period of time. People want to know where they can build. With the best will in the world, not all of the decisions made will be palatable, but the planning should start immediately. They have to inject certainty into the situation as soon as possible.

Unfortunately in Christchurch lightning does strike twice… [in] my own city Vancouver…[we] have a building stock very like Christchurch because we are an old colonial English city – brick and masonry buildings from around the turn of the century. They’ll never make code no matter how you try to strengthen them”.

The neo-Gothic slow burning horror story is that Christchurch was built on a “useless” complex of wetlands. The two main rivers, the Avon and the Heathcote, acted like seismic arteries during Earthquakes I &II. Perhaps our revered founders did not lay such a good foundation after all for the stone buildings floating on a swampish miasma.

In the words of Tipene O’Regan in 2000  “I find it difficult to restrain a small chuckle at the thought of some proxy for the Christchurch City Council being confronted with a contemporary resource consent application to develop a modern city on the nation’s most extensive and complex wetland system.”*

Now the endangered species is us.

Getting through the cordon
I’ve worked in the city centre for 33 years. After the September quake I was back in the office next day, although in the cordoned off area. This time it’s going to be months and I don’t see us returning to work there. Luckily, with mobile technology and cloud computing it’s easier to work from anywhere, but the learning and development hub and a club I was building up won’t have a physical inner city venue any more. I’ll have to make a virtue of the virtual.

Even though we took out my laptop and backups and other devices I do want to retrieve other gear and IP. This won’t be straightforward. As Brian Palliser said on February 28: “There must be plans to allow access to some buildings where the ‘risk’ is acceptable… to retrieve essential computers and files and it is reasonable safe to do so…. If that cannot be done, even in a limited way, then you can forget any comprehensive economic re-growth of the city. It would take maybe 1 to 2 hours at the outside to retrieve essential files and computers… If we cannot (and I accept that many may never be able to) then you cannot even begin to calculate the economic cost – and I am NOT talking about bricks and mortar). …To destroy a building before a reasonable effort can be made to recover such items is absolutely unacceptable UNLESS the building is utterly unsafe and or unstable…the longer we procrastinate the more impossible the business recovery becomes.”

Business Recovery
 According to David W. Edgington, in terms of business recovery it took Kobe ten years to recover, though the economy has never fully recovered.
“The level of the damage to the economy in Kobe was such that it became a national project. With Christchurch the second largest city in New Zealand it may have to be a national project to protect the future of that urban area… “Kobe had the fourth biggest port in the world. Within two years, the shipping had gone elsewhere. The delay was inevitable in fixing the port, getting the gantries back together. Kobe’s traditional industries, ship building and steel making were declining. They never really recovered after the earthquake. It was up to the national government to work with the local leaders to build up new industries and revive tourism for the region. They focused on biotechnology.”

 The government in Japan plays a big role in choosing new industries. They thought Kobe might never recover without some outside help so money was given to try and generate new start-up biotech firms. There have been some successes, but some failures. It has been a mixed bag. There are a lot of new, gleaming buildings in Kobe, but it has been a very slow economy since 1995.

Decisive Leadership
Edgington stresses the need for decisive leadership: “The local city did all the heavy lifting but the financial aid came from the Government. Kobe assembled a shopping list. They asked for a new regional airport, the biotech cluster on reclaimed land, a new convention centre, an earthquake museum. The World Health Organisation put a large medical research centre there. There was an opportunity. The planners build on the crisis. They had a clean slate.”

 Lifting public morale-the RWC
 As Edgington recounts, within the first year the leaders came up with something to keep everyone’s spirits up. The Kobe earthquake happened in January, the coldest part of the year. People were displaced, living in temporary housing and barracks. They started a “light up the city” programme with these astounding illuminations, a bit like Blackpool in England. It brought in people outside who spent money. It was a highlight for the locals in the second winter when things still weren’t really functioning a year after the big event.

It could be at least seven months before tourists, staff and shoppers can return to the inner city of Christchurch but if AMI Stadium is safe, our morale booster will be staging our leg of the Rugby World Cup. About a third of the city’s hotel accommodation has been knocked out. In September people will be just about ready to open their homes again, not to earthquake refugees but to visiting rugby fans to take up the accommodation shortfall.

New Planners-New Pioneers
Last Tuesday’s quake did reveal two time capsules in the base of the fallen statue of John Robert Godley. The messages are still being deciphered. As we re-build and create a new cityscape, what will we put in our architectural time capsule for future generations?  Certainly no more neo-colonial forelock tugging facades or out of context high rise buildings.

 If small is beautiful, low is safe.

PS Police received a large number of calls from spooked residents after an earthquake jolted Wellington last night. The 4.5-magnitude earthquake struck at 10.07pm, according to GeoNet. It was 40 kilometres deep, and centred off the Kapiti Coast, 20km northwest of Wellington. A 4.6-magnitude aftershock also struck Christchurch 35 minutes later, centred 10km south of Christchurch and 10km west of Lyttelton at a depth of 5km. In terms of my first EQ II post last week* a narrow win to Christchurch.

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*Blinks  Satellite images of the city before and after the 2nd quake  Lessons from Rebuilding Kobe…   Vid  Contact the Science Media Centre on (04) 499 5476.   ** Rotary Earthquake Appeal-please help   Right hand column shows exact location of aftershocks
Southern Capital Christchurch  ed. John Cookson and Graeme Dunstall  My first EQ II post

#Lyall Lukey 2 March  2011  My other less serious blog

Carry On Speaking-even if you have the shakes

September 19, 2010

“Keep calm and carry on”   London Blitz poster in the front window of an earthquake closed photo restoration store in Colombo St, Sydenham

We had organised a SmartNet breakfast session in Christchurch for Australian speaker Steve Simpson* five days after the Canterbury Earthquake and the day after he was a big hit as wrap up speaker at a national local body conference in Queenstown.

A state of emergency was in place, but the earthquake was a tale of two cities: part functioning almost normally, part like a time warp trip to bomb blitzed London 70 years ago.

Having checked out the venue, the NZIM building in Madras St, and the routes to it we decided to keep calm and carry on, even if Steve’s organisational change topic had taken on a new tectonic tone: Cracking the Corporate Code-Understanding the  Unwritten Ground Rules™.

Exactly half the 110 people who had booked for the session turned up after an email from us saying that we would understand if they couldn’t make it, but for those who could the session was still on. It was a chance to catch up with other people, swap quake stories and start to restore a little normalcy to the shaky and shaken city.    

5 minutes after Steve had started I realized that I’d forgotten to brief the audience on the evacuation procedure in the event of another jolt. I interrupted him, apologized and pointed out the emergency exits and the outside assembly point.

Within 3 minutes we were evacuating according to plan. The most severely felt aftershock, a violent 5.1 at 7.49am on Wed 8 September, with an epicenter near the Port of Lyttelton and  only 6kms deep, shook the building fiercely and knocked the power out.

After a quick check of the building and time for people to check in with home and work Steve resumed his presentation and shed more light on UGRs, initially in the semi-gloom, before the power came back on. UGRs were temporarily renamed Underground Giant Rumbles.

Queensland-based Steve Simpson is going to run a free webinar for those who couldn’t make the session or had to leave early. Either way it was a memorable session and we didn’t make any Julia Gillard jokes for at least an hour.

Footnote: I grabbed some Owen Marshall short stories from the library the other day  for some weekend reading. The irony of the title didn’t register until later: When Gravity Snaps.


 #Lyall Lukey 19 Sept 2010  My other blog