Monday, 13 June 2011

Thanks for thinking of us in Christchurch

It’s been another interesting day here in Christchurch with 2 shakes, one of magnitude 5.5 and the other a 6.  We’d like to take this chance to say thanks to all those who have sent their best wishes to us and to say that we are still standing tall!

The smaller quake came first followed by the larger one just an hour or so later.  Both were centred just at the edge of Banks Peninsular.  Thankfully no-one was killed and this can be attributed to the decision to block off the inner city until the area can be made safe.  On the not so good side, the Cathedral and other buildings have suffered further.

The full extent of damage will become clearer tomorrow but there is widespread liquefaction damage in the eastern suburbs and there were more rock falls in Sumner.

We had minor superficial damage, which means things fell over scratching on walls etc. and we lost water for about 4 hours.  Talking about water, after a hard day we had just a little bit of fun, tipping out the dirtied well water we got as a back-up and videoed it cos that’s what we do!   

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Dalai Lama – a message of positivity at CBS Arena

Today the Dalai Lama dropped into Christchurch on his way to Australia for a planned visit.  He said it was meeting Hillary all those years ago that gave him the chance to become friends with many New Zealanders.  He said that when friends are in trouble, you try to help them and that is why he is here.

It could almost be said that it was a hard ask.  How do you comfort people who have lost so much?  But he spoke of using intelligence to find positivity.  He spoke of how the feeling of loss for those left behind is real and strong but that there was a need to hold onto something precious and somehow find a positive way forward. 

He said that often in these circumstances some people did not like the word death being used but that death this was not a taboo word.  He said that life has a start and an end and we all experience both.  It’s just that some experience the end earlier than others.  He said that we need to be aware of that and be prepared for it, and that if we did that we could enjoy our lives. 

He also spoke about how the earthquake was not caused but just happened and this was also part of life.  In terms of how to move forward positively, he urged everyone to think of others around them – around the world – and invoked the disasters in Japan and Haiti.

When asked what was the best way to rebuild Christchurch, he said “I don’t know, that is up to you, I’m leaving tomorrow!”  The crowd happily laughed.

The crowd was put at 5000 and it would have been all that.  It started with the Dalai Lama personally meeting and offering condolences to those who had lost someone.  And he then received a Maori welcome including a hongi. 

Before he spoke he was introduced by a Tibetan member of the local community.  

I expected the Dalai Lama to sit at his chair and talk but he came up to the lectern and stood and spoke for about 30 minutes.  Admittedly sometimes it was hard to follow some words but he did warm into it.  His language assistant did an amazing job, following every word and instantly offering the correct English word when needed.  We were then treated to a Buddhist Mantra which ended with “that’s the end just a short one!” The crowd was buoyed by these sporadic humorous interludes which underscored his message of positivity.

There was then a presentation of gifts from 2 schools, one local and one from Wanaka.  Aspiring School in Wanaka has been studying Tibet and presented a book of poems and some edible Lotus flowers.  In one of many spontaneous acts, the Dalai Lama opened the box and handfed the 2 pupils a petal each.  He then had one himself before hand feeding Bishop Victoria and the Iwi representative.  He then spoke at length to the pupils about how they had the role of taking the world into this century, that the time of us older people was over and of the responsibility they, as new guardians, held.
That was just so amazing to witness and once again summed up the reason he was here, to give us hope by looking positively to the future.  After presenting the pupils with a white scarf each it was time for the Hongi and the second girl was praised for being well endowed for this – she had a very large nose! A most interesting comment but given by the Dalai Lama in his spirit of positivity it should be a wonderful memory for the rest of this pupils life.

And for that the Dalai Lama’s gets a positive “like” from me.  It was an honour to be able to participate and directly receive his message of positivity for Christchurch.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Did we need to do this???

Its 11.50pm but I need to get this out,
Cordon reduction is a big thing. I can say that cos we were cordoned and curfewed for 18 days after 222.  The difference between cordon and not cordoned is almost like being alive or dead.  You either can or you can’t and so it is a biggie.
After 222 we were released from cordon the day of the Japanese quake/tidal wave and on that day the barriers moved to Salisbury St.  After that they went to Peterborough St. Today they moved 1 more block to Kilmore St.
What can be said, this is as bad as it can get. This block was one of the most lively blocks in Christchurch with 25 retailers ranging from food to antiques, culture to hair and coffee to sushi.  Now there are 6? left.
The cordon opened at 5pm tonite so I took a walk to see what there was.  After 222 I was able to walk down, under cordon, to Peterborough St. to see the carnage but I dared not go further.  That became impossible as the police tightened their cordon grip.  The next time I got that close was when the cordon moved to Peterborough st. Admittedly before then I saw a pic on twitter of a bare space of land where Metro café was but it didn’t really prepare me for what I saw today.
The street as been opened, but apart from a beaurocratic victory lap I cannot, for the life of me, see why they did it. They wanted to open the road to show progress?  No wonder people who are still cordoned are really pissed.  This is because there is absolutely no reason to open this road today. THERE IS NOTHING THERE.  The only thing I could see was the Scenic Hotel on Kilmore St. but that apparently still needs work before it can open.  There are a couple of other places but they also need work before they can open.  It would be better just to open it to those building owners  and keep others away.  That would at least give them a chance to get things sorted out.

But its open, even though there’s nothing there. Here’s what I saw.
LYME Cocktail Bar is still standing – by itself – thai pho to the right has gone, café Valentino to the left….has gone.

Eirily the pavement outside café valentine that had the outside seats is still there but everything else has gone – memorabilia and all.

A hurricane fence straddles the centre line of Colombo St.  The street is covered in mud and grime – looking more like a warzone.

The city centre is grim in the overcast conditions and the traffic lights flashing orange spell danger.

The biggest building on the block is still blocked.

Anyone can walk almost right up to the condemned Copthorne Durham.

Ending on a positive note, Himalayas progress is good!

At night – a new light has been added to the city, yellow light in the middle is traffic light at cnr of Kilmore/Colombo.

Opening up the city is good and welcome it.  But it is disappointing that so little is left.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Welcome to the 2nd edition of “What’s Happening in Christchurch”

This series started 1 May to give those that live outside of Christchurch an idea about just what is happening here as we have found that some people just don’t know. Understandable, it is afterall, our disaster – but we’d like to share it with you! 

A Month of Contradictions - positives and negatives.  One would think that everything would get better over time but we are still in a state of flux.  While progress is being made in some areas towards recovery, and this is good, we are being constantly peppered with little bits of information about just how bad the overall damage is.  It could be argued that this is better than getting it all at once but it does make for consistent disturbing headlines in the morning paper.

A Negative Example - the Cathedral is seriously damaged and the Rose Window on the east wall, the tower, the north wall and the south wall and the tower will all have to be dismantled and rebuilt – leaving only the west wall not requiring work on it – a mammoth task that insurance cover will not even come close to paying for!  The Arts Centre, insured for $120 million, is predicted to take 15 years to restore and re-open – news that was greeted with disbelief by those that luv the Dux De Lux and are campaigning for it to be fixed and reopened separately from the rest of the Arts Centre!  The Arts Centre Trust Board began with what can only be described as a selfish attitude that the whole complex must be repaired together.  It has been great to see that in the last few days the Trust appears to be making moves to consider letting the Dux be fixed ahead of other buildings.  Having the Dux – a true institution in the Christchurch social scene - reopened will breathe much needed life back into the devastated inner city area.  It will give many people a reason to come into town again. 

A Positive Example - Richie McCaw and Dan Carter have both resigned with the NZ Rugby Union and will play their rugby here for the next 4 years – now that was a boost!  Ok so not so much to do with the earthquake but they are also signing up to stay in our city and that gets a “like” from me.  Not sure about Dan but word has it that Richie was at his local supermarket when the 222 quake struck and he had to hobble home.  Not a quake injury though – he was recovering from a rugby injury to his leg!

Cordon Reductions - the area around the casino opened mid month, resulting in a new ghost town.  What a mess and a stench!  But this also gave us access to a few more eateries, by a few I can name them all here – Blax Coffee, Procope Coffee, Spagalimis Pizza and Chinwag Eathai.  There are a few retails stores open as well during the day.  Next was the area close to the PGC building where some 26 persons lost their lives.  On 3 June, Colombo St. will open down to Kilmore St. allowing a flow of traffic south along Colombo St. onto Kilmore St.  If you want to see what the Red Zone will look like if its opened up – come and see this. There is nothing there.  Virtually the whole block has been cleared and there is in reality, hardly anything to open to!  2 other small areas have opened but these will probably be the last of the cordon reductions. 
The Red Zone is now the Red Zone.

(The future of these three buildings remains in the balance - look at the angles)

1200 Buildings Require Demolition - one of the more shocking pieces of news released.  So far some 150 have been demolished leaving 1050 to go – quite a job!  This gives you an idea of just how much the cityscape is going to change.  The estimate is that over 444,000 9 tonne truck loads of rubble will be removed from the city centre.  A lot will be recycled and more will be used for land reclamation in Lyttelton Port.  

The Hotel Grand Chancellor - 26 stories “on a lean” is slated for demolition to start in early to mid June.  Stage 1 - removing the carpark building that caused the fatal damage by slamming against the Grand Chancellor - will take 6 weeks.  The piecemeal, from the top demolition will then begin.  Once the top 11 floors have been removed, the rest will be pulled down by crane – all in 10 months – easy! But then they have to dig out the basement which has been filled with concrete to prevent the whole building from collapsing and then dig out the original piles.  What a job! And, while they say 10 months, the MCL building was slated to take 2 and took close to 5 months so this is very much a watch this space area.

(Copthorne Durham is on the right, as seen from Room 7)
(One the skyline from room 7, hard to see but from the left, PriceWaterHouse Coopers, Forsyth Barr, Private apartment, Crown Plaza, Copthorne Durham - one demolition decided, four others to be decided)

More Large Scale Demolitions - the Copthorne Durham (close to the Casino) has also been confirmed as has the Gallery Apartments – an award winning 14 level luxury apartment building next to the Art Gallery when it was built in 2006-7.  There are still a multitude of other high rises that are considered marginal and they appear to be under the hammer of the insurance companies – their fate being sealed is a question of time.  Whether buildings will be fixed or demolished is very much based on overall economics.  One thing we are learning fast in Christchurch is that being insured doesn’t mean its gonna be alright.  In many cases the insurance funds available are nowhere near the amount required for the rebuild.

Cashel St. Mall – familiar to many visitors to Christchurch, is to loose 16 of the 27 properties between Colombo St. and the river!

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority – CERA, has a new boss.  Roger Sutton will head it from 14 June.  He’s a local boy who, as the head of Orion, the company in charge of electricity supply lines in the Canterbury region, has garnered great respect in his coolheaded handling of the power crisis since the September quake.  It would not be wrong to say that almost everyone in Christchurch welcomes him to the role although once in charge, he’ll be where the buck stops and his everything will be tried.  He’s taken a pay cut, from $700K to $500K for a possible big kick in the pants, so he gets a big “like” from me.  With the raw power he will yield, it will be interesting to see how public opinion changes between when he takes over and 2 weeks later when I write the next update.  There are many decisions he and CERA will have to make to move the recovery along and some will not be popular with some people.

An Events Village - to be established in North Hagley Park in the area where the outdoor concerts are held – only 5 mins walk from the motel.  Funding has been approved and construction is about to begin. Yes!  Hearing that news was uplifting, finally something to look forward to that was positive.  It will feature both indoor and outdoor venues and food stalls etc.  It will run through till Feb 2012 and will have large screens for the Rugby World Cup games.  While we support the idea of the event area, it does come with the brutal confirmation that the central city area is far from being reopened.

 (The Bohdi Tree new restaurant site in Ilam)
Local Restaurants - Himalayas, our favourite Indian restaurant which was quaked out on 4/9, then ½ rebuilt before being shattered again on 222, should be reopening towards the end of June! We are looking forward to that!  We have also just heard that The Bohdi Tree is reopening later this month.  After 9 years on Colombo St. they are moving to 399 Ilam Rd. about 8 minutes drive from the motel.
 (Christchurch Casino)
Christchurch Casino - re-opened on 26 May although it is only operating on restricted hours, 11am to 3am Monday to Thursday and 24 hours Friday to Sunday.  We are hoping that this will show people that there is something happening close to the city centre!

Alcohol Ban Zone - has hastily established by the City Council in the Riccarton/Ilam area.  Losing the inner city has halved the number of bars and restaurants in the city and this has meant the suburban bars and restaurants are doing a roaring trade.  Great for letting off steam but the residential neighbourhoods were getting just a little bit too lively, and hence the banning of drinking alcohol on the streets!  It may also be extended to other areas of town.

Good News Quick Round Up - on Fridays & Saturdays, the market that was previously in Cathedral Square is in the YMCA carpark on Rolleston Ave.  Some ex-Arts Centre stall holders are selling their wares along Worcester Boulevard near the Arts Centre on Saturdays & Sundays.  In the central city area between the Red Zone and Hagley Park, open places are limited to; Botanical Gardens, Punting on the Avon, Boatshed Café, the YMCA coffee shop, Cook’n with Gas restaurant, Canterbury Cheesemongers and 2 restaurants in The George Hotel.  In the Victoria St. area is the Casino, Procope Café, Blax Café, Spagalimi’s and some retails outlets. Outside the city centre, most activities (jet boating, ballooning, wildlife parks etc.) are operating normally.

 (Strawberry Fare)
Not So Good News Round Up - we have heard that Strawberry Fare may not be opening for some time due to serious damage to the building.  The Town Hall and Convention Centre reports will not be finalised for a month or so but they will not reopen until at least 2013, much later than was first expected.  This and the delay in reopening so many hotels will have a direct effect on the recovery of the city.  In the eastern parts of Christchurch there have been advances in clearing the silt and fixing the damaged sewer pipe system but this map shows how many people still need to use their chemical toilet. 

That’s what’s happening in Christchurch.