Friday, 9 May 2014

Christchurch: Non-recovery after 3 years

Guest post by Peter Osborne

If the people of Christchurch had been informed at the time that 3 years on from their devastating earthquake their city would have advanced to today’s level of recovery, I am sure they would have rejected outright the plan that was dumped upon them.

We should remember that no one was allowed to begin repair work on their own properties until it had been assessed by a bureaucrat. We should also remember that many business owners had their properties confiscated so that the council could plan the layout, look and feel of the new inner city. Whole blocks were cordoned off on safety grounds and many people were denied the right to retrieve important items and documents.

Soon after the earthquake, the inevitable was gathering wheels. Both governments, national and local, were not about to pass up the chance for a complete takeover. At the time it was sold as a “rescue package.” Only a few recognised the illusion; and worse, many could not envisage anything that differed to the standing plan.

So here we are 3 years on.

We see a Council that is hopelessly in debt. Yet the taxpayer has bankrolled a conveyor belt of money into the so-called recovery.

We see a government trying to entice unemployed people to move to Christchurch using taxpayers’ money, even though there is an accommodation shortage in Christchurch (as no one is allowed to build anything without first going through the permission process).

I wrote an article soon after the earthquake in anticipation of the extreme burden we were all about to inherit, outlining an alternative plan in the hope that people would recognise a power grab when it is happening.

I can only hamg my head at what might have been in Christchurch, in contemplation of what they now have instead.

I suggested that Christchurch be granted a tax free status for 3 years. That the only burden placed on the rest of New Zealand be a burden we took voluntarily as individuals. That all planners and building inspectors were to be bussed out, allowing property owners to do whatever they deemed worth doing to their properties. That removing the minimum wage was also required.

I understand that this plan would never have flown, as it goes against every instinct that encompasses a politician, and most voters. The very real possibility of exposing the drag that government, in its current state, has on our lives is too much to risk. Thus an alternative freedom-based reality will be cut off at every pass.

But it is worth imagining how things might have been otherwise.

After all, there is no incentive like a tax-free incentive to throw in your money and set up shop.

There is nothing so inspiring than to see people building the things they wish to see and live in, when those next door and down the road are free to bring to reality their own inspirations.

The sheer eclectic nature of such spontaneity that can only come from the freedom to live so organically would have taken Christchurch in its own direction. In its truest and most honest direction.

I bring myself back to the reality of today however, and thus I must ponder the future as it is currently directed for Christchurch.

I can only hang my head.


  1. The communists (National, Labour,Greens etc) and even the social democrats (ACT, Libz) assume NZ is a first world country. It is not. We cannot pay our way, we are still borrowing vastly more than is sustainably, still spending billions every week on welfare, and there simply is never going to be enough money from insurance, taxes, levies or whatever to rebuild Christchurch. There just isn't.

    If Wellington had been wiped out, we know the government's solution would have been rational: move absolutely essential central government to Auckland (near the airport) and abandon the rest.

    There should have been no state aid to Christchurch - I'd have gone further, and accept the reality that - thanks to ACC and regulation - most of the domestic insurance in Christchurch were completely, ridiculously unrealistic - as we've seen with massive increases in insurance in the rest of NZ to pay for Christchurch. The government should have cancelled all the liability for earthquake damage. In California, Japan, Fiji, Tonga you can't get insurance for earthquakes - why on earth should NZ be different?

    It's still not too late to do the right thing: declare the whole city a total loss. End of story.

  2. Angry Tory - You're correct that we don't need the gov't to rescue Christchurch with welfare. But nor do we need them to abandon it and declare it a "total loss" as you suggest. We just need gov't to get out the way, and let those of us who believe in the city to get on and fix things with our own money.

    You seem to be unaware that the majority of insurance claims rest with private insurers, not with EQC, who only cover the first $100,000 of damage. However the EQC involvement means no one party is responsible for settling a claim, and this grossly complicates things. This is the main reason there's a log jam in settling residential claims and letting people (mainly in the east) get on with their lives.

    You may also be interested to know that for the vast majority of people west, south and north of the former CBD, life is carrying on as normal - and few are missing anything significant in their lives compared to pre-quake days. Outside of the CCDU controlled CBD area, bars, restaurants, and offices are springing up with increasing regularity to replace what has been lost, leaving a donut whole in the centre. Hardly supports your emotive call to "declare the whole city a total loss".

  3. I was in Christchurch on business on the day of the first earthquake in September 2010, and found it terrifying; hard to believe the rebuild is taking so long and, apparently, so little has actually been done.

    Peter Osborne is correct about how terrible it was that people were not allowed access to retrieve documents - I was a victim of that myself.

    By a truly quite amazing coincidence... the day before the first earthquake I had given a friend a large number of boxes of papers to store in his office in the Christchurch CBD.

    These were all my tax related papers going back to 1995 - receipts, invoices, bank statements and other documents - which I needed to substantiate the figures in various tax returns.

    The first quake hit the next morning and no access was allowed into the CBD to retrieve them for a very long time; when I was finally able to get to them was shocked to discover - by an equally amazing coincidence - that every single piece of paper had been destroyed in the quake, alas.

    I only wish I had thought to make copies...

  4. Mark - You seem to be unaware that the majority of insurance claims rest with private insurers

    I'm very aware of that. NZ is basically the only earthquake prone country in the world where household insurance covers earthquake damage. In most other earthquake prone places you just can't get insurance: if your house is destroyed by an earthquake, you take personal responsibility for the risk and rebuild it yourself. This is why insurance is now very hard to get in NZ, why premiums are so high, and why the government should simply have overruled the contracts that it forced to include insurance in the first place.

    Serendipitously, the front page of the DomPost today announces the govt will move to Auckland when Wellington is destroyed - move to Auckland and not move back. And as the paper says, that'll be the end of Wellington!

    (admittedly this does raise the question of why not move it now,)

  5. thanks PC, I go to Thailand with my dear wife every winter,and we avoid this pain
    your government has not helped here, we were circumscribed,
    we were surrounded by lack of New Zealand, you did not socialise us and we suffered,
    and when I say suffered Peter
    I do not want to be an activist, but I will if i have to


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