Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Year in Photos: February 2011

I didn't take many photos in the first part of February, but I did spot these child sized hard hats lined up on shelves outside a child care centre...

and this fellow posed on top of my recycling bin...

My daughter's peach tree bore a bumper crop. The bottling was done on February 21st...

and miraculously the jars didn't fall off the bench on February 22nd, though much of the rest of the city fell down:

The above photo shows where I was sitting (on the left) when the earthquake struck.

Below, our chimney in the driveway.

With power out for two days, candlelight quickly became unromantic:

Much of the city turned into a giant wet and sloppy sandpit:

and the banks of the river moved together, with the result that most bridges had rather odd V-shaped humps on either side:

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year in Photos: January 2011

I haven't participated in Carmi's Thematic Photographic for a while. This week he is asking us to post favourite photos from the past year. While looking through mine, I decided instead to post a collection from each month that somewhat represents the flavour of the month. A large number of the photos are of earthquake damage and were taken more for documentary purposes than for photographic excellence. Still, I think I can find a good selection of other photos as well and I hope you enjoy them.

So, here is January in pictures:

The Christmas lilies were blooming in our garden (no doubt these are called by a different name in the northern hemisphere where they would bloom in June or July).

I took a trip out to Sumner (a seaside suburb of Christchurch) to check on damage to the iconic Shag Rock from the September 2010 earthquake - you can see a freshly exposed rock face where a large slice of it fell away.

More photos from Sumner:

The bird is a shag, also known as a cormorant, and is the bird from which Shag Rock took its name.

One of the little boutique shops that are found in the area.

In the centre of the city, market stalls were operating in Cathedral Square.

I took a ride on the tram, as I have an annual pass for the tram and gondola (which I have been unable to use since February 22nd, as both are out of action - the lost months will be added on when they re-open, but I have no idea when that will be).

This lovely couple were posing in the Square for their wedding photos.

I took photos of earthquake damaged buildings - this is the Durham Street Methodist Church, which sadly collapsed in February, killing three people.

This building in Cashel Street has also now been demolished.

Engineers inspecting a damaged building in Cashel Street Mall - the damage was from the Boxing Day (26th December) aftershock which, though smaller than some, was centred right under the central city.

I captured these two after they had finished their gig at the World Buskers Festival, a regular January event here. (It is much harder to get a good photo of buskers in performance, due to the large crowds attending)

And these two showed up by the river near our house..

I think though, this is my favourite - below an apartment window, a Christmas bauble sat in a shrub. Presumably it had fallen out unnoticed. Taken towards the end of January 2011.

So, that was January - sunny, festive and hopeful that repairs would soon be in full swing in the city. Sadly, February was to be another story.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post - Christmas Update

We have had several days beautiful fine weather marred only by the fact that every so often the earth shudders like an animal twitiching in its sleep. Or sometimes, more energetically than that. In fact, since my last post, we had several major aftershocks within a few hours - a 6.0 as well as a couple more of 5 or more. And since then there have been constant smaller aftershocks for the next few days, well over a hundred by now, although they are gradually getting further apart again. There is no obvious worsening of the damage to our house, although today P was checking various cracks and commenting about the need to brace the roof in one spot. Still, I don't think it's about to fall down.

I was glad that none of it started until half an hour or so after I arrived home, having finished my Christmas shopping. The adult offspring though, had put theirs off to the afternoon. Of course on Friday afternoon, all the shops shut to clear up broken glass and spilled liquids, and get engineer's checks (yet again) to make sure the buildings were safe to enter. so they had to brave the crowds on Saturday afternoon among the shops that had managed to reopen.

Most of the shops, if they hadn't reopened Christmas Eve, managed to open for the Boxing Day sales. I don't usually "do" the Boxing Day Sales, as there's nothing I want badly enough to brave that sort of mayhem. Especially with ongoing aftershocks - I'm not scared of being in a shop in an aftershock, but it's gradually dawning on me that edgy crowds and aftershocks are not a good mix, given that some people will panic and stampede for the doors, even though that's not recommended behaviour.

Anyway, my daughter and I headed off to dig silt instead. There was less liquefaction this time than in previous shakes, but there was still a considerable amount in the hard-hit eastern suburbs. Some of it was in areas that have already been largely abandoned, as the ground is too damaged for houses to be rebuilt. But there were plenty of people whose Christmases were marred by land flooded with a sludgy mix of sand, soil and ground water forced up by the shaking - in some cases mixed with sewage from broken pipes. I'm not really up to digging all day, as some volunteers do - but I hope that the few hours we managed made a little bit of difference.

Since then I have been reading Christmas books, napping and pottering around. My intention was to do lots of walking in the three weeks I have off work. So within the next day or so I will probably stir myself to take to the hills and see if all the tracks have been closed again (I'm hoping not - there were fresh rockfalls, but mostly in areas that were already off limits).
There's also the beach - slightly less appealing given that Friday's quakes brought more sewage spills into the waterways - hopefully minor enough to have been washed out to sea within a few days.

Finally, a festive photo from the shipping container dairy in Sydenham - which is surrounded by a growing number of vacant lots where damaged buildings have been pulled down.

Friday, December 23, 2011

And Another One...

Just when I thought things were settling down, we had another significant aftershock a few minutes ago. My daughter has just reported from Twitter a 6.2 magnitude preliminary estimate. Must be a bit further from us this time as we still have power and internet, I am waiting for the details to show up on geonet.

At least I have all my Christmas shopping done. Sigh...

Now being reported as 5.8 and centred about 10km off the coast, so a bit further away than the February and June quakes. Shops have been evacuated, phone lines are down in some areas. It's not quite the Christmas present we were looking for.

And here's the seismograph drum for the last half hour or so:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday Poem: The Idea of Trees

The Idea of Trees

The cherry tree has had its last revenge,
its thirsty roots seeking out a crack
in the drainpipe, prising it wider.
We call the plumber to dig up the driveway.
We think we love trees, but we don't.
We are in love with the idea of trees,
try to make them fit the confines
of our tidy suburban plots of land.
They are not tame. We are surrounded
by their amputated limbs
where we try to keep them clear
of the gutters and power lines.
Remember the peach tree,
the one that the neighbours cut down
two summers ago? First they picked all the fruit,
arrived on our doorstep with overflowing bags.
Two weeks later we were still eating,
juice dripping down our wrists and elbows,
as we savoured the fruit
of a tree that didn’t exist.

copyright Catherine Fitchett


My final Tuesday Poem for the year. It should probably be something festive, given the season. At least this one mentions fruit - the cherries we associate with Christmas here in the southern hemisphere, and the peaches that will be ripening by late January and early February.

The poem appears in the latest issue of Takahe magazine, which should be hitting subscribers' mail boxes this week. It's a great magazine - one of the few in New Zealand (possibly the only one) - that still manages three issues a year, and well worth supporting.

The cherry tree referred to in the poem used to stand outside our back door. When we first came here, I didn't realise the fruit was edible. The birds always got to it as soon as a hint of red was showing, so we never had much chance. Eventually the tree towered over our two storey house, and one summer I found two very ripe cherries hiding under a leaf where the birds had missed them. They were delicious. After that we tried various ruses to protect some of the fruit from the birds, including netting, but they were very devious. Eventually we had to cut the tree down, because it was just too close to the house for such a large tree.

This is the last week of Tuesday Poem for 2011. It will return on January 17th. In the meantime, I hope to get in some writing time, along with the general relaxing in the sun that comes at this time of year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Broccoli


I miss the shops
in low rent buildings
whose owners ran into the street
as the ceilings fell inside
or sheltered under counters
as parapets tumbled into the street
or sometimes made the wrong choices
I miss the corner dairies
with their buckets of flowers on the pavement
where you could buy what you needed –
a bottle of milk, a newspaper,
a lottery ticket, a box of matches
the little local bike shops selling tyres
and puncture repair kits
the second hand clothes shops
the bakeries, the stationers
with their birthday cards, magazines,
envelopes, the immigrant greengrocers
with white lettered windows advertising


In November I attempted a challenge to write a poem a day - many of them were written to prompts at the Writer's Digest Poetic Asides blog. As the aim is to produce a chapbook (by editing the poems and submitting them before the end of the year) I wanted a theme to my poems, and thought it would be a good chance to write earthquake poems and get the whole thing out of my system (as if!).

The prompt on one particular day was to take the name of a fruit or vegetable and use it as the title of the poem. When pondering how to write an earthquake poem about fruit or vegetables, this sprung to mind. A lament for all the demolished local shops.

I was a guest reader the other week at the Canterbury Poet's Collective. My writing buddy had said of this poem, that of course it wouldn't work read out loud as the last few lines are rather visual - but I had already figured out what to do about that. All it required was the words written on a large sheet of paper, and an assistant to hold it up at the appropriate moment.

For more Tuesday poems visit the main hub site here.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Don't Knock the Rawleigh's Man, by Vincent O'Sullivan

Don't Knock the Rawleigh's Man

Don't knock the Rawleigh's Man
when he opens his case and offers you
mixed spices, curry powder, chilblain
ointment, Ready Relief, brilliantine,
don't say Not now, don't think
Piss off, but remember:
think of a hill called Tibi Dabo
behind Barcelona and the legend
that up there Satan
showed J.C. just what he was missing.
What he offered was not simply
the vulgar things - the girls
with buttocks like mounded cream
or enough money in brewery shares
to take a Rotarian's mind off mowing lawns
for octogenarian widows,
or the sort of drink we all know
Vice-Chancellors drink when they drink
with other Vice-Chancellors -
not that but more deftly
the luciferic fingers fondled
buttons nostalgic with little anchors
as in the Mansfield story
and bits of coloured glass from old houses
and variously, these; good punctuation,
unattainable notes, throaty grunts
at bedtime, the nape of the neck
of lovely ladies caught in lamplight
like the perfect compliance of the pitch
in the last over when the last ball
takes the intransigent wicket -
yes, he did. Satan offered those things,
those were the things turned down,
that's how serious it was.
And what was round the corner as we know
was a tree already chopped
waiting to be a cross and a woman
at home rinsing a cloth white as she could
and Joseph of Arimathea still thinking the rock
he had hollowed at phenomenal expense
was going to be his, forever,
not Some Body Else's, for a spell...
So when the bag snaps on your doorstep,
flies open like leather wings
and you see instead of feathers
the tucked-in jars, the notched tubes,
the salves the spices
the lovely stuff of the flesh,
ask him in, go on, in for a moment.
There's no telling what else he might show you -
what mountain he has in mind
you may cast yourself from,
what price that your hair shimmer
like a diving hawk.

- Vincent O'Sullivan

Used with permission

I came across this poem in one of Vincent O'Sullivan's early collections, and loved it immediately. Unfortunately I can't locate which collection it appears in, as our Central Library collections are still largely inaccessible and the branches seem to have mostly more recent volumes. It does also appear in "100 New Zealand Poems" edited by Bill Manhire and published by Godwit Press.

I heard Vincent read it some years back, and he commented that as a small boy, he had wanted to be a Rawleigh's Man when he grew up. The reasons are clear in the poem - the sense of magic when the travelling salesman opens the case and shows his wares. I remember the Rawleighs Man visiting my grandmother. At the time I viewed the products as rather old-fashioned. My grandmother's purchases were the salves and ointments. Even then I must have been a budding scientist, and thought that they were largely snake oil, and of course anyone with any sense would only trust medicines that came on a doctor's recommendation or at least a pharmacist! Later though, I discovered Rawleigh's essences and became quite a fan of their strawberry essence, their orange essence and in particular, butter rum essence which is quite deliciously decadent. The Rawleigh's Man no longer goes door to door as presumably he would find few people home. But the products are still available as the above photo (taken at a Saturday market) shows - and they don't seem to have changed much.

I do love in this poem how it is the small things that Satan offers and that are the most important in life. O'Sullivan's particular small things might not be my choices - the last ball that takes the intransigent wicket, etc, but the principle still applies - and the last two lines, the hair shimmering like a diving hawk (no doubt by the appropriate use of the Rawleigh's Man's products) seems to round it all off perfectly.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site.

A Walk to the Square

(More photos later in the post)

For a few weekends, a walkway has been opened from the newly reopened Cashel Mall into Cathedral Square. So, despite a very busy weekend, I squeezed in a bit of time last weekend to get down there and have a look. I wasn't sure if I'd get to see it as there were only 300 people permitted each hour (now increased to 400). However, I thought that if I went down after my poetry workshop which ended at 4 pm, with a quick stop to vote on the way (yes! general election day), I could at least look at the Ballantynes Christmas windows, size up the crowds and see if I could make the walk or not.

As it turned out there was plenty of room. Probably because for the last few weeks there have been bus tours of the red zone in the weekends and evenings. I hadn't been on any of the bus tours as it required phoning to book - but only between the hours of eight and five "and please don't phone between 8 and 9.30 a.m. or at lunchtime when the phone lines are most overloaded." Well hello! some of us are at work during those times. And I'm not in a job where I can tie up the phone for ages will I sit in a "hold" queue.

Actually, I thought the walk option was a better option - it didn't take us as far, but viewing on foot sounded better to me than peering through the windows of a bus. And the city is not that big, you can see much of it from outside the fence just by looking down the empty streets. Cathedral Square was the bit I most wanted to see.

So, I duly read the warnings, went prepared (take a fully charged cell phone, wear sturdy shoes, tell someone where you are going, carry ID on your body not in a bag, and yes you might die - obviously someone was covering their butt when they drew up that list, and I had no expectation of dying, no more than anyone had on February 22nd). I thought that we would be checked as we entered but apart from someone standing there with a clicker to keep count, there was no actual check of cell phones, ID etc.

I took quite a few photos:
That's the Anglican Cathedral at the beginning of this post. It's hard to see how it can be rescued given the state that it is now in.

The Bank of New Zealand building is being prepared for demolition. Upper levels are being emptied out by crane using shipping containers.

The Heritage Hotel appears to be OK still. This is the old part, on the right hand side is a glimpse of the much taller new wing.

Also surviving so far is the old Chief Post Office, now housing and information centre and Starbucks (both of course currently closed).
Not surviving are the historic Press newspaper building, and the Regent Theatre with its beautiful dome, both now completely demolished.

Down a blocked-off and deserted street is the Westpac tower, also I believe due for demolition. The problem with many of these modern buildings is that the soil underneath proved unstable due to the many old creeks and streams in the area, so the foundations are damaged. This makes repairs very difficult.

And back at the mall, the Christmas displays were delighting small children. As part of these, a story-teller reads traditional stories from a large book (papier mache I presume)

(Not a very good picture, I found it hard to eliminate reflections).
As I arrived, the tape had just got to the part of the "Three Little Pigs" where the third little pig is safe and snug in his brick house. And all I could think was "what the...? what were they thinking? Is there any small child in Christchurch who actually thinks you can be safe in a house of bricks?"

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Poem

It's a catch-22 - either I am not doing very much, and therefore have spare time for blogging but not much to write about, or I am very busy doing things that I'd quite like to blog about but have no time to post.

I didn't want to miss Tuesday Poem, thus the above photo - my daughter's T-shirt which she won as a result of a competition at a work conference for the best magnetic poem. Having the poem printed on the T-shirt was the prize.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Fence

The fence has been updated.

Here it is not long after the earthquake of September 4,2010:

and here it is as I found it when I passed on my way to work on Monday:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tuesday Poem: The Person You Love

The Person You Love

The one you love is 72.8% water

The one you love is a rising torrent,
wet shoes in a flooded basement.
The one you love is a dark pine forest
where you wander without a map.
Rain drips from the branches
and runs down the back of your neck.
The one you love is 72.8% water
and 4.9% grudges.

The one you love is a house on a crumbling headland
under a sky stippled with blackbirds.
The house has many hidden rooms
A woman with a leashed panther
guards the cliff top path.
The one you love is 72.8% water
and 6.1% mystery

The one you love is a crumpled newspaper
and stacked kindling. The one you love
is crackling flames at the touch of a match,
the news ablaze, a burning bride.
The one you love is 72.8% water
and 9.3% fire.

The one you love is an exam for which you haven’t studied.
Your poems in a book published
before you were born.
The one you love
is a girl who carries lions
alongside waves crashing on the shore.

The one you love is 72.8% water,
6.1% mystery, 4.9% grudges,
9.3% fire, and 3.2% salt.

- Catherine Fitchett

"The Person You Love" appears in "Voiceprints 3", a collection of poems recently released by the Canterbury Poets' Collective. Submissions were invited from guest poets and open mic readers from the 2010 season.

The origin of the poem was a phrase I mysteriously found when leafing through old poetry notes - presumably jotted down from a science text or article - "the one you love is 72.8% water". All other percentages in the poem, I have to admit, are entirely my invention. Many of the images are dream fragments.

More Tuesday poems can be found at the main hub site, and at the links in the sidebar of that site.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday Poem: A Shout, by Michael Harlow

A Shout

      That wakes the fine calligraphy
of trees; the dark-beaked birds
      that have wintered over,
stitching up the air, waiting
      for that shout of green; and here
this mariner's star, rose of the
      winds, bright flower of sun,
like a stunned bee, in the small
      hours of your hand - waking
from its hive the gold the dark
      has been keeping, the mind's
tenderness to the heart, waiting
      for that shout of green, we
are because love says as much.

- Michael Harlow

Michael Harlow's book, The Tram Conductor's Blue Cap, was a finalist in the 2010 New Zealand Post National Book Awards. At the time, I was very drawn to the poem, All About the World and considered asking Michael if I could use it as a Tuesday Poem. However, it was included in the set of poetry postcards that were widely distributed for National Poetry Day last year, and so I picked up my copy of the book to re-read, and see what other poems I might consider.

We've had a hard year here in Christchurch, and I found that Michael's luminous poems really lifted my spirits. In "Canticle", he speaks of two children who "do no less than risk delight". And in "A Shout" we read of "waking...the gold the dark has been keeping" and of "a shout of green". "All About the World" (which I find is already on the internet at the link above) we read "Poetry is when words sing". Michael's poems certainly make words sing, and deserve to be better known.

Michael Harlow was born in the United States but arrived in New Zealand in 1968. In the 1980s, Harlow was an editor of the Caxton Press poetry series and poetry editor of Landfall. He is a practising Jungian psychotherapist and lives and works in Alexandra, Central Otago. He has published numerous poetry collections including "Today is the Piano's Birthday" (1981), Giotto's Elephant" (1991) and "Cassandra's Daughter" (2005). He has written libretti in collaboration with composer Kit Powell, and prose including "Take a Risk, Trust Your Language, Make a Poem" (1986).

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I took heaps of photos while I was in Wellington last weekend. Some of familiar places, and some to show how things had changed. Many of them are not of great quality, but that wasn't really the point.

I loved these quirky murals:

The buildings around Plimmers Steps seem to be getting more modern and shiny, but Plimmer and his wee dog are still there:

Reflections show the mix of old and new buildings:

This arcade was once a bank. I remember going there with my mother, in the days when the tellers were tucked away in their cubicles of polished wood, with fancy wrought iron grille work.

The tile pattern seems familiar - I think it may be the one also found in the Christchurch Cathedral.

I couldn't help thinking of earthquake risk every time I looked at an old building, and wondering when.

It's not really a matter of "if". Wellington sits right on a fault line. In fact the land that the airport is built on didn't exist before 1855, when an earthquake joined Miramar - then an island - to the mainland and raised much of the shoreline. Hopefully, any future earthquake will be far enough in the future that there will have been time to successfully earthquake strengthen the buildings.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Evidence


We should have been kinder to spiders.
We should have checked for nests in the chimneys,
bees in the attic, wasps in the garden.
We should have planted dandelions.
They grow anyway. Better to believe
we wanted it that way.

We should never have built roosts for the chickens.

We should have listened to the canary
when it sang the song of the microwave
and the vacuum cleaner.
We should have sorted the dark days
from the light before washing,
to avoid the accumulation of lint.

We should never have alphabetised our grudges.

We built our quarrels on faultlines
We should have been better prepared
for truthquakes

Look, here comes a man
with a stick of chalk
Lie down so that he can outline our bodies
to be photographed
and used as evidence.

- Catherine Fitchett 2010

I made a quick trip to Wellington at the weekend for the launch of the New Zealand Poetry Society anthology Ice Diver. This is the result of their 2011 poetry competition and takes its title from Sue Wootton's wonderful winning poem. The poem above, Evidence, is my own contribution to the anthology, which I read at the launch.

New Zealand is a shaky country. Earthquakes are part of our vocabulary. So although this was written prior to the big Canterbury earthquakes of the last year or so, a phrase or two crept in. It's not an earthquake poem, it is a relationship poem. The trigger for the poem was actually the phrase "chalk outline". I heard it on a TV programme and suddenly felt all tingly, so I knew I had to try to use it in a poem somehow.

The launch was just an excuse to go to Wellington really as I had been meaning to go for some time. I have spent almost exactly half my life in Wellington - the first half - and the other half in Christchurch, and have relatives in Wellington still, so I feel as if I have two homes although I don't get up there nearly as much as I'd like. An added attraction now is the opportunity to meet up with other Tuesday Poets, which we did on Friday night. If you go to the main Tuesday Poem site and check the sidebar, you will be able to see what the rest of the Tuesday Poets are posting this week.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

November Poetry Challenge

I decided rather at the last minute to participate in the November Poem-a-Day Challenge at Writers' Digest.

It seemed like a good way to get going again, since I haven't written much this year. Also, since the aim is a 10 to 20 poem chapbook, presumably somewhat linked in theme, a good way to write a lot of earthquake poems and get that out of the way, then maybe I can move on to other things.

I won't post them all here - if any are really bad, I may not post them, and if any might be tweaked for later publication, I probably won't post those either. So - this one falls somewhere in the middle. The prompt for today (Day 5, since we are a day ahead of the US so I didn't start till November 2nd) was to write a "broken" poem. Which was a bit problematic, given that so much around here is broken, I wasn't quite sure where to start.

Everyone here has a story and this is ours.
How the insurance assessor pronounced our chimney sound
Then the city shook for a third time and the chimney
sheared off at the roofline, took a leap
over the side of the house
and crashed through the eaves to land in the driveway.
The assessor, from halfway down the ladder,
leapt to the ground to find his car blocked in.
When the builder took the remains of the chimney
to be dumped, he found
it was a tonne of bricks.
It fell like a tonne of bricks.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Lost Buildings

I haven't joined in on Carmi's "Thematic Photographic" game for the last few weeks. When I saw that this week's theme was bricks and mortar I was in two minds as to whether to join in. I have plenty of photos of brick buildings - most of them badly damaged. After a while, it can get a bit much at times.

This is the old Christchurch library buildings. I didn't grow up in Christchurch, but I had relatives here, and spent many holidays here. So I was quite familiar with the Christchurch children's library. The buildings had long since been converted to professional rooms, but were still lovely, and had many fond memories for me. However, they were badly damaged by earthquake - I'm not sure quite which one sealed the fate of the building - and it was pronounced they had to be demolished. The final photo is not actually the library buildings, although that was my intention when I took it. It is actually a corner one block away. But then, one pile of rubble looks very much like the next pile of rubble. Which is why we all wonder, when we can move freely through the central city again, how we will be able to get out bearings.

Sad news this morning, that the Christchurch Cathedral has been issued with a demolition order. The church now has to come up with a plan within ten days or have it compulsory demolished by CERA (the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority). I'm not sure that demolishing everything in sight, even if supposedly unsafe, is the best way to "recover". We had all hoped that the cathedral would be at least partially saved.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In Which We Get More Colours

First we had the red zone, which was the cordoned off area in the central city. We still have that red zone, though it has shrunk over time, and is no longer guarded by the army.

Then we had another red zone, along with orange, green and white zones. This red zone, which is not the same as the first red zone, consists of residential areas where the land is too damaged to rebuild on without extensive repair work, and so the government is taking over all the land, and the residents have to move. The green zone is "OK to repair and rebuild", orange is "more information needed" and white is "not yet assessed" (mainly hill areas where there is a high risk of rockfall).

The orange areas were gradually being decided on and turning either red or green. And then on Friday we had a whole bunch more reassessments, so now we have red, a small area still orange, and a larger green area which is also either blue, yellow or grey.

Our near neighbours who were zoned orange are now zoned green (as we were, all along). But we are also blue which means supposedly that the land is at high risk of liquefaction in a future quake. (Despite the fact that we have had no liquefaction whatsoever in any of the 12 or so significant quakes, and around another 8000 aftershocks, so far.) It seems that this means that our repairs can go ahead as long as they don't involve foundations. If repairs to foundations are required, or significant rebuilding, then there will have to be a site-specific geotechnical report, and/or deep pile foundations, designed to new building standards that haven't actually been written yet.

For our own house, we should be OK, except that since we have new damage since our assessment was completed, we will probably have to be assessed again. EQC are claiming they will finish assessments by Christmas, but I think that means assessments from the February 22nd quake. So I have no idea when anything will happen about assessments from the June quake or October 5.5 aftershock.

The other likely consequence of being zoned blue, as far as I can see, is that our insurance premiums will go up significantly.

A small area on the west of the city is grey which means that no change is needed to foundation requirements. Most of the city is yellow which means slightly stricter standards which will supposedly add $5000 to the cost of building a house. As far as I can see, they are the standards that prevailed until twenty years or so ago anyway, when everything was relaxed and builders started putting a concrete slab on the ground instead of building proper foundations.

I'm not sure what it is with all the colours - the zones are TC1, TC2 and TC3 which would seem to be adequate without getting crayons out of the box, except that it does I suppose make it easier to display all the information on maps.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Restarting the Heart

Today I headed down to Cashel Street for the opening of a new retail precinct. Most of the buildings in this street (the City Mall) have been demolished, making it safe to enter! - and dozens of shipping containers have been moved in and converted to modern-looking shops.

We arrived just as someone - either the Prime Minister or the Mayor, I couldn't see - was about to declare it open. The shops on the left of this photo are among the few buildings still standing in the street, but they are not occupied, presumably being in need of repair still.

Once the crowd started moving, we headed towards Scorpio Books, who had chosen the opening day for the start of their annual sale.

It was rather crowded inside but I did manage to come away with some purchases, mostly poetry.

I explored a bit further. This is Johnson's, a specialty grocery store. It lacks its former old world atmosphere, but they have kept their old fashioned delivery bicycle.

Ballantynes department store is operating partly from its former premises, the undemolished part, and partly from containers. Inside, a trio was providing entertainment

while outside, this busker drew a large crowd.

More brightly coloured container shops.

The Bridge of Remembrance stands at the start of the Mall. However, due to earthquake damage the bridge itself is still closed. The carpark on the left of the photo stands on the site of the Bog, among other shops, an Irish bar where I have enjoyed a few pub quiz nights in the past.

Apparently around 10,000 people enjoyed the opening. It will be interesting to see how successful these shops are longer term. Will people come into town just to shop, given that all the lawyers, accountants, and hotel guests who would normally shop here have closed down or moved away from the central city?