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.

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