Christchurch: It’s time for a rethink

I know this is not going to go down well with a lot of people in Christchurch, but I really think this needs to be said. We need to rethink the plan for Christchurch, because what they’re planning right now could get more people killed.

I has become clear that Christchurch isn’t going to stop shaking any time soon. I saw yesterday that someone who was around last time Christchurch started shaking (about 100 years ago, I believe) said it kept going for ten years. And after it was said on 3 News last night that we could be looking at an earthquake of 7+ in the very near future, plus with number of earthquakes 5+ in the past couple weeks, you have to rethink the situation.

Personally, I do not see how it’s viable to rebuild the Christchurch CBD in the same place. I know that it’s seen as a psychological thing, where people will finally be able to accept it’s over when that’s rebuilt, but I don’t think it’s appropriate, firstly because even if this series of earthquakes stop, it will almost assuredly happen again in a century as it did a century before. Let’s not put the future generations of New Zealanders at risk.

I also don’t see how it makes sense to rebuild there, given there are still bodies in that area. By now, they will have decomposed. You won’t find the bodies. It doesn’t seem right that you just continue live on top of the final resting space of someone.

To me, the solution is get rid of all the buildings in the CBD Red Zone and turn it into a green space. A massive public park or something like that. A memorial to each of the people who died in February. You could put plaques right throughout the area. It could be used as a public space. If it’s a bunch of grass and trees, it doesn’t really matter that much if there’s a massive crack in the ground – you just put fences around the crack and carry on. Not only would this be a brilliant way to remember the people who died, it would also be a brilliant way to save lives in the future.

This has been suggested by other people in other forums and the response from people in Christchurch is almost always “you don’t know what it’s like here, so you can’t talk”. Once again, it’s back to the psychological thing of the rebuilding of the CBD signaling it’s over. I’m not saying don’t build a CBD. But build it in the west where the area is largely unscathed. Sure, I don’t know what it’s like to be living through this, and I can honestly say I don’t know how the people of Christchurch are staying even mildly sane. I have a lot of respect for these people. But let’s not sacrifice the lives of people in the future in order to make you feel better now.

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Posted on January 3, 2012, in New Zealand Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Interesting you bring up Christchurch’s earthquake history…check these out bro, one of my lecturers put these up a few months ago…

    http://joelcayford.blogspot.com/2011/06/faulty-thinking-about-christchurch.html

    http://joelcayford.blogspot.com/2011/07/councils-fudge-christchurch-seismicity.html

    They basically make the argument that contrary to popular belief Christchurch has ALWAYS been an earthquake-prone area and that the Council and ECan have alot to answer for in terms of failing to write necessary planning/building regulations for what was a known earthquake/liquefaction risk (check the 1995 potential liquefaction map vs the current redzone map)…

    What I’m arguing then is that a new CBD need not be a hazard to people as long as buildings are designed and regulated properly for earthquakes. This is my urbanist bias coming through here, but in my mind it makes no sense to build a CBD in an area that by definition is not central…sort of defeats the purpose of a CBD in my mind – would you put the Auckland CBD in Howick? Of course not…

    But you never know, it could come to this if it keeps going this way…

    • That’s actually frightening…

      Okay, a CBD by definition needs to be centralised, but I don’t see why a financial district needs to be. Yes, if built right, the CBD should be okay. But I don’t know that it will be. Plus, there’s still the fact that you’re continuing your day-to-day lives on top of the final resting space of people, which really doesn’t seem right to me.

      People who make generalisations about earthquakes seriously don’t understand the situation. Saying “Christchurch isn’t prone to earthquakes” was a bloody stupid thing to say, just as “Auckland cannot have an earthquake bigger than magnitude 6” is a stupid thing to say, but it doesn’t stop seismologists and geologists making these statements. If they didn’t know about half the faults in Christchurch they now know about, why is that definitely not the case in Auckland? Just another slightly off topic thing that annoys me a bit.

  2. Well you can decentralise a financial district, but you lose alot of the urban advantage as you do so…the whole point is to be at a point of convergence, take advantage of networking and agglomeration, the more you get away from centralisation the less efficient basically, and then transport of course…but enough planning mumbo jumbo…agree it’s weird to rebuild on people’s resting places, some sort of memorial certainly in order and I think there is provision for one in the plan.

    The point I’m trying to make is that pre-earthquake, the Councils enforced NO earthquake/liquefaction-related building standards and regulations despite knowing the risk because the lure of $$$ from developments outweighed any concern…it’s a travesty that the media have let this one slip – sure people are always going to say an earthquake is nobody’s fault, but when Councils are under the RMA obliged to regulate to mitigate risks of natural hazards, and ECan/Chch CC didnt; surely somebody’s ass needs kicking…point is that with appropriate rules/regulation, rebuilding shouldn’t be a problem – more expensive to the developer to be sure, but it’s the price for locating there.

    Absolutely…It’s the problem with conventional wisdom really…stuff gets repeated enough that eventually people just take it as fact…very few people realised just how prone Chch was to earthquakes, yet Joel was able to figure that it is in fact extremely earthquake-prone from easy to come by research… Seismologists/geologists seem to spout off random quotes to the media boil them down, and thus it becomes conventional wisdom…facts would be lovely peeps…thank god for Joel – somebody actually interested in facts, not just conventional wisdom…

    • To me, transport isn’t a problem. If you have three very definite areas, one for a financial district, one for retail and one for a residential district, it would be easy. You just have transport systems in each of the districts then arterial transport between each district, particularly with public transport. If you have a public space as the central area, that becomes your point of convergence. Everyone will have to go through it, so people will ultimately converge on the area.

      I agree that CCC/ECan need shooting. I watched When A City Falls today, the film/documentary about the earthquake. It was quite amazing to see that after the earthquake, no one let building owners know that their building was being demolished, they just did it. If there was specific things on the demolition order, they were ignored. One example gave an owner, who had no idea, being called just as they start. They owner comes in and is shown the documentation. It wasn’t until it was said “So you’re only demolishing the top level?” that the person doing the demolition realised that the documentation specifically said that.. Surely CCC, along with MCDEM need to be asked why things like that happened?

      • Not a fan of land use segregation myself…we’ve been segregating land uses for decades and all it does is necessitate more transport…the point of mixing land uses is to minimise the transport required to get places… Making a green space a point of convergence is a bit harder than it sounds, it needs to be exceptionally well placed otherwise it just becomes a dead space, given that there’s no other activities within it…hence again, mixing uses = good. But anyway, digress…

        Yeah, CCC/ECan/CERA have a huge amount to answer for…unfortunately it’s left to bloggers to ask these questions because the mainstream media don’t understand their job…

      • But surely you can create other activities in it. Public events, things like that. Get people used to using the space and surely they’ll use it by force of habit.

        Yeah, NZ’s mainstream media is useless. Always has been, and probably always will be.

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