Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Three months after

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  • Lilith __, in reply to Clarke,

    3 months later and there seems to be so little happening. My Christchurch family affected by the earthquake say that that there’s just no momentum in the recovery

    Depends what you mean by progress. On the day of the earthquake we had a hole the whole width of our road, and deep enough to swallow 3 cars. We had no functioning power, water, phone or sewers. Liquefaction silt was up to 18” deep in the street.

    In the first few weeks, the silt was removed, and the hole crudely filled in, then we had raw sewerage flowing out of several sumps in the road, which continued for many weeks; the whole neighbourhood stank.

    Now, 3 months on, I can flush my toilet, the sewer line’s been cleared of silt and repaired, and the road’s been re-leveled and resealed. We have power, drinkable reticulated water, and phone services. Bridges that were damaged are now usable. Railway lines have been repaired. The wastewater treatment plant’s been restored to reasonable function. Houses and other buildings have been checked for safety, and barriers erected around those in danger of collapse. Shipping containers have been stacked to protect roads and buildings where there is danger of rockfalls, and controlled blasting has been carried out to remove loose rock.

    Yes, there’s still a huge amount of work to be done, particularly in the CBD, but the work done in restoring infrastructure has been massive . A huge bouquet to all those who’ve worked so hard on it. And also to those who’ve meanwhile provided deliveries of water, portaloos, chemical toilets, and waste tanks, and those who’ve cleaned, emptied and maintained them. We’re so grateful.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to Islander,

    Dear David H – among the ‘munted’ (jeez I hate that word with it’ s S.African nasty origins) family houses, are ones that include heavily mortgaged family groups.

    I'm very sorry to hear that, Islander. I fear that there's going to be a lot of financial stress in CHCH in the coming months: a perfect storm of earthquake-related job losses and the inability to sell damaged houses. Gerry Brownlee will have a lot on his plate.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 992 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to Clarke,

    Yet reading Russell’s post is just so depressing – 3 months later and there seems to be so little happening.

    I see that Lilith has beaten me to a response -- to back her up: the work done so far has been massive; almost unbelievably so. We just have lots more of the same still to go.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 992 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to David Haywood,

    Gerry Brownlee will have a lot on his plate

    very good

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Lilith __,

    We’re so grateful.

    Indeed. It goes to show that there is something to be said about living in a society that gives a damn. I fear that is getting eroded day by day all over the World.
    Yes IMF, I am looking at you....

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings, in reply to David Haywood,

    the work done so far has been massive; almost unbelievably so. We just have lots more of the same still to go.

    While the response has not always been perfect and I am an impatient soul who wants it all better now, a phenomenal amount of work has been done the task ahead is still unimaginably huge and there are so very many competing needs.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 706 posts Report Reply

  • Gregor Ronald, in reply to David Haywood,

    I suspect that the reason I'm a bit more optimistic is that we shifted out on Sep 20 last year, so we're not living in the destruction day after day. We go back to the house once or twice a week to collect mail (EQC and State Insurance must maintain multiple address lists, mail goes to both addresses now) and see how many more bricks have fallen off, but then we retreat back to nice stable Bottle Lake. It's definitely better for morale to be renting an undamaged house in a quake proof area.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 72 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    It goes to show that there is something to be said about living in a society that gives a damn.

    Quite. And the thing about suddenly losing infrastructure is it makes you realise how helpless we are without it. And without our reticulated services, how we can spend so much time attending to life’s basic necessities. Honestly, fetching and carrying water, boiling it if it’s going to be drunk or used in cooking, waiting ages for the stuff to boil even on a reasonably speedy camping stove. Sitting outside in the cold wind burning the very basic meal. Hoping no one comes to visit while you’re squatting over the hole in the backyard. Finding that a car is largely useless without decent roads. Wondering if you’ll find anywhere to buy fresh supplies from.

    A glimpse of how much of the world lives; fortunately for us it was temporary.

    There are still huge problems to be dealt with, as others have said. And some poor buggers are still without services. But for most of us, everyday living gets more bearable.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Lilith __,

    But for most of us, everyday living gets more bearable.

    So good to hear. It's hard to accept that a lot of Christchurch is a ground-up rebuild, and to that end getting it done in only a few years would be an astonishing testament to its people. Kia kaha.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8659 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    A friend of mine read the blog, and sent the following to a list we're both on. She doesn't want her name on it, because she worries it'll disturb her friends. But it's something that needs to be heard:

    ---


    It's three months on, and in that time nothing has changed. The Red Zone in the CBD is still fenced off. We, as residents of Christchurch, are not allowed within the Red Zone to see what it looks like - only the vacuous Rachel Hunter, meathead Russell Crowe and other "celebs" get to wing in from afar, flit around for photo ops in front of the now iconic ruins (though we've only seen them on TV and in photos), and then bugger off again into the sunset after making the appropriate mumblings of sympathy.

    Absolutely nothing seems to be happening in central Christchurch, nobody will make the calls to demolish buildings that just sit there on various angles of lean, with broken windows like poked out eyes, in an area that seems more akin to an abandoned movie set than the centre of our second biggest city. CERA seems as hamstrung as its predecessor, whatever that was. There seems to be a plethora of overseas architects making out-there suggestions at how we can rebuild our city, to be some awesome statement like a phoenix from the ashes - but edgier. Give me a break, you halfwits. We need a city rebuilt, not a bloody architectural showcase.

    What these celebs and "experts" don't get to do is sit in endless queues of traffic on the few main roads that still service the city, even having changed my work times so that I leave at 7.30am and start the drive home at 4.30pm does not help avoid the gridlock that is now the northwest.

    The last few times I have been to the supermarket - and I've been to three different ones within 5km of my house in the last month (and I'm lucky they are that close to me, as some people have to drive to the other side of town) - I can't get in there because the car park is full, due to all the people in this city now having to shop on this side of town. It irritates me that they are on my side of town, and at the same time I feel a deep shame for having that feeling. But I still have it.

    Because every day now is a bloody battle. Even in the weekends. You get up extra early just to battle the traffic. You get to work and start doing something, and then wonder what the bloody point is - assuming you had anything more than 5 hours sleep due to aftershocks or just the inability to relax and get to sleep these days. You can't even go down and get a coffee in Lincoln now without having to queue for 10 minutes because there are an extra 400 displaced people from the CBD now working in various makeshift offices and previously empty spaces in the once sleepy township. On a Saturday it now takes two hours to run an errand that previously would have taken you 15 minutes, because the streets are still gridlocked, there are no carparks even at the mega centres, and when you do get in there the queue at the tills is about 20 people long.

    Every day is the same. There is nothing to feel joyful about. Nothing to look forward to. Nowhere to go to do all the things you used to take for granted. I used to love running up on the Port Hills. I'm too scared to go there now after all the rock falls. You think about taking a break away somewhere, but know the whole time you're away you'll be worrying that there will be another "big one" and you are away from your family and friends. You see your parents and your friends' parents lose their confidence, they find it hard to make decisions, they are forgetful, they look perpetually worried and tired and seem to have aged an extra 10 years. My father won't go near town because he gets too upset at the devastation. Children don't run and shriek with delight anymore, they are constantly looking for their parents and keeping an eye on them so as not to be too far away in case it happens again. Relationships are strained, some friends are still waiting to get into their business premises because they are in the shadow of the Grand Chancellor, others are doing battle with Fletchers about the repairs to their homes.

    Every sudden loud noise still makes us jump. The sound of helicopters brings back the memories of the first week after Feb 22. Getting to Saturday sports is like preparing for an assault on Everest, although at least we don't have to cart drinking water in from out of the city now. But it still takes twice as long to travel across town to sports grounds, because the roads are closed, there are detours, and there is the traffic. And the dust. I forgot the dust. It's on everything. When you drive around town your car gets coated in a fine layer of it. The dashboard gets a fine layer of it. Even plants in my garden (in the outer northwest of the city) get a fine layer of masonry dust on them when the wind blows from the east.

    The roads are still "munted" around the river and on the eastern side of town. Raw sewage is still going into the Avon and Heathcote rivers, and the estuary. It stinks over there. They have been repairing one sewer on Ferry Rd for over a month now. There are no petrol stations or supermarkets open in the worst affected areas, and it may be another 12 months before they do. Which means another 12 months of everyone being on my side of town, and more endless congestion.

    Which may make Aucklanders laugh, but at the end of the day there are some things you do in your daily life that are deliciously subconscious - driving to work via a familiar route in a standard amount of traffic is one of those. When it changes, when you have to vary your travel time and route and navigate traffic that is five times heavier than you used to drive through, it's stressful. Because it's just one more thing on top of the million other things you are now having to deal with, and it's just unbelievably tiring.

    The damage to my place (negligible that it is in comparison with so many others) won't be seen by EQC until probably December this year. So that means I have to put up with a garage door that threatens to take my head off because one arm is bent and broke the spring in the Boxing Day quake. It's great fun on dark, wet nights. Add to that the header tank in the roof space that has shifted slightly and occasionally starts leaking because the ballcock is positioned on the now lower side of the tank so it sometimes doesn't shut the water off until the level is much higher than the overflow pipe and it starts spilling out onto the ceiling and trickling out the man hole cover into the hallway. It's so much fun to be going up a ladder at midnight to try and bend the arm of the ball cock, all the time praying that there isn't going to be another big quake while you're up there with your torch.

    Ah, torches. I've slept with my torch and transistor radio under my pillow since Sept 4th. I'm not sure I will ever not sleep with them there. Even when I left town at Easter. I have no doubt I will bring them to Auckland with me in October.

    There are days I literally feel like I have lost the will to live because the enormity of what we've been through and still have to go through is just too much. You're constantly tired, you get angry that nothing appears to be happening three months down the line, then that makes you tired all over again because it takes a lot of energy to get angry these days. Despite the fact we've had warm, sunny weather the last few weeks people are getting really bad colds and coughs in much larger numbers and for far longer than we would have got even in the middle of a really wet, cold winter. I hate to think what it's going to be like in July.

    And the hardest thing is that you can't complain. Because everyone is in the same, or worse, boat. I didn't lose my home, I never had to use a port-a-loo, my water isn't heavily chlorinated now, my neighbourhood still looks the same as it ever did. But we simply can't deal with other people's stress anymore, so you have to suck it up and take it, and offer support to those that need it the most. And all the time we just wait for the next really big one. Because I defy anyone who is still in Christchurch to say that it's not in the back of their mind every day, all day.

    One thing did make me smile today though, and it was a comment from someone who said "but at least we won't have a Wellywood sign!". Ha.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Wow. Eloquently put. Give your friend a virtual hug from me, which is all I can do from here.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2198 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Which may make Aucklanders laugh

    Only in a wryly empathetic way - and only about the congestion.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Because I defy anyone who is still in Christchurch to say that it's not in the back of their mind every day, all day.

    It's not. It's really, really not. But then, like Lilith, while I'm still frustrated, I see stuff change every day.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    She doesn't want her name on it, because she worries it'll disturb her friends.

    I'm not surprised. I honestly think she needs real help. She probably thinks she doesn't have the right to ask for help because others are having a harder time, but this sounds like someone who's on the edge.

    PS. Ballcocks are usually on an aluminium arm. Could try getting in there and just bending it down a bit (that's a normal thing to do).

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Mahal,

    I've been in Christchurch a couple of times since the quake for work. The fenced off parts were smaller this time, and I saw more of Christchurch's devastation than I had previously. The cathedral in particular - I drove past it accidentally and cannot express how saddening it was. I'm not good with words.

    It's obvious to me that there have been changes in those three months, possibly because I work for a company somewhat involved in the repairs. Road with smaller or no holes, houses with sewerage instead of chemical toilets, houses in the middle of roof repairs. But it's equally clear to me, talking to the Chch-based staff, how depressing day-to-day life is for them right now, how stressed out and worn down they are, and how slow some of the changes feel; and I really, really, admire the way they have just ... kept on keeping on.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2007 • 31 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to 3410,

    I’m not surprised. I honestly think she needs real help. She probably thinks she doesn’t have the right to ask for help because others are having a harder time, but this sounds like someone who’s on the edge.

    But this is the thing: there are tens of thousands of people feeling this way in Christchurch. My friend is tough, intelligent and has a job and a house and friends. I dread to think how many people are just falling out of sight.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    But this is the thing: there are tens of thousands of people feeling this way in Christchurch. My friend is tough, intelligent and has a job and a house and friends. I dread to think how many people are just falling out of sight.

    I get that, but toughness, intelligence, etc. doesn't insulate one from clinical depression. I don't want to bang on, but the post screams "needs counselling" to me.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    The TEDxEqChCh event on Saturday 21st featured engaging presentations about the way ahead for Christchurch, from the practical to the visionary.

    Matt Taylor posted a useful summary of all presentations, and with a few pics at the top of the page. The third one is of the Cathedral, made from thousands of tweets.

    The official site also has blogged notes about presentations in reverse order at the bottom of the home page (full presentations to be uploaded at some stage) and speaker profiles linked from the Programme page.

    A few personal highlights:

    Ngai Tahu's strategist Sacha McMeeking was really impressive, weaving the big picture of the city's past and future.

    Urban designer James Lunday sketched pictorially what the new Chch could very achievably look like.

    Playing an earlier TED presentation by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels showed what's possible if we stretch a little - highly recommended 18 minute watch.

    Final speaker Art Agnos, San Francisco's Mayor during their recovery from the 1989 quake, exemplified much-needed civic leadership.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • A Nonny Moose, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Yes, and I also resent the implication that someone must be mentally ill ("need help") to be feeling this way. Like Russell says, this is the way a good chunk of the population are feeling. This is a natural reaction to stress, and we don't like being told to "get help" in some paternalistic way, like we haven't thought of that before! There's not enough "help" to go round.

    Since May 2011 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers,

    We recently hired a Christchurch "refugee" here in Auckland. I can easily understand young, single people not tied down by mortgages just getting out of the place. maybe for a few years...maybe forever. You only live once...and marking time in a disaster zone isn't a very useful way to live a life if you're desperately unhappy doing it. Maybe those who find it too much should get out. Come back later. Better for them and better for those who choose to stay.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 280 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to 3410,

    I don't want to bang on, but the post screams "needs counselling" to me.

    Needs to talk with someone about it, anyway. Which, in some way, she's done by proxy through Russell. It's not enough by a long shot, though. She says it clearly that the worst part is being unable to complain. That's a crushing feeling.*

    Edit: I don't know who the "someone" should be is, that's half the problem. If Cantabrians can't talk to each other, who can they talk to?

    But this is different to "normal" depression. This is depression with a primarily external cause.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8659 posts Report Reply

  • drumml, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Cambridge Uni Press book "A Mental Healthcare Model for Mass Trauma Survivors" http://www.cambridge.org/gb/knowledge/isbn/item5741474/?site_locale=en_GB

    Developed following Turkish earthquake. One of key points of model is that care can be delivered via mass media. Heard about it on BBC science/health podcast a few weeks ago. Do you think Council/CERA might be up for this?

    Wellies • Since May 2011 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to drumml,

    Do you think Council/CERA might be up for this?

    Great idea. Contact them and suggest it. City won't be productive or liveable unless people's immediate emotional wellbeing is addressed.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16838 posts Report Reply

  • andrew gunn,

    There's a pledge - promising to stay here - that you can sign. I'm not. I've got no intention of leaving, I'm looking forward to (somehow) being part of the rebuild, but I also know there are people in vastly different circumstances from mine.

    And, speaking only for myself, I have no problem with out-of-towners doing the earthquake tourism thing (not in residential streets of course, and the celebrity-CBD tours is a separate issue). I've been struck by the concern that people from all over continue to show for Christchurch. So come and look. Then buy something.

    And on a final scatter-gun note: "5 Days In The Red Zone", TV1 last night. Made me feel good about people. And thanks New Zealand On Air.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2009 • 42 posts Report Reply

  • Robert Fox,

    <i>and I really, really, admire the way they have just ... kept on keeping on</i>

    We kind of have to really, no other option. I suppose like Lilith and Emma I see things changing quite effectively day to day out in the suburban streets . On a personal level I suppose you have to be proactive about things as much as you can though. Our house was filed in the 10,000 - $100,000 worth of repairs category after the first quake and wont be reassessed for this one until July at the earliest. My driveway pools ankle deep in places when it rains and that wont be fixed for ages but we managed to get our damaged header tank and garage door fixed and got the money paid back to us through EQC's $2000 emergency repairs fund. However EQC wouldn't pay for the repairs to the section of our deck we had to tear up to save the lives of 2 trapped squealing cats that were in serious danger of drowning as the liquefaction flood waters rose around our house on the 22nd. That is about as personally traumatic it got for me and my kids. Still I know of a lot of people doing it harder than us in the worse hit suburbs and it is always quite sobering to be reminded of that.

    Since Nov 2006 • 106 posts Report Reply

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