The Press

Articles that have appeared in The Christchurch Press



Dunedin can’t pretend to do a better job…

Editorial • 10/01/2012

Refer comments to The Press below the article.

Christchurch people who have travelled to other New Zealand cities since February 22 last year have reported a curious sensation.

It can be described as a feeling of uneasiness while walking along streets between towering buildings, coupled with perhaps the calculation of possible risks while entering a lift, or a frisson of concern when finding oneself near a heritage beauty of brick and masonry.

It is maybe a sensation that only someone who has experienced the Canterbury earthquakes can fully understand.

The rest of the country, we sometimes feel, just doesn’t “get it”.

This is not an accusation. If the good folk of other cities and large towns sometimes appear complacent, we should remind ourselves that we were exactly the same until September 4, 2010, and to a lesser extent until February 22, 2011.

Then came the real tragedy and we are complacent no longer. As Dunedin City councillor Lee Vandervis pointed out to us in an opinion-piece article published last week, many Christchurch residents are now leaving. And who, he asked, would want to move to or invest in Christchurch?

Vandervis went further. He questioned why Christchurch should be rebuilt to any great extent on what he called the “bedevilled dirt”. In his words: “Why not rebuild in New Zealand’s lowest earthquake- risk city – Dunedin? Dunedin used to be the main centre for the South Island and I believe it should be again for many stability reasons, cultural as well as geotechnical.”

Vandervis, it must be acknowledged, wrote first for a Dunedin audience. His article was first published in the Otago Daily Times and he then sent it to The Press. We were happy to republish it as a contribution to the wide-ranging and vigorous debate that is taking place, and has to take place, on the future of our city. But that doesn’t mean that we need to endorse his views.

There is a reason why Christchurch is where it is, and why it has grown and thrived through the generations. It remains the main centre in the South Island because it is, well, central. Dunedin, to be blunt, is not.

Christchurch is also at the heart of a large and vastly productive region that will always need a city of about this size to service it, along with its port and airport. Dunedin can’t pretend to do a better job for Canterbury in that regard.

So, Vandervis’s view should be seen for what it is – an exercise in parochial kite-flying. Good on him. He has a responsibility as a Dunedin civic leader to stick up for his city and promote its economic development, but we don’t have to listen to him.

One of the most compelling reasons to get on with the rebuilding of Christchurch is that we now “get it”. Take the long view: our children and their children will live in the most earthquake-resilient city in New Zealand, if not the world.

The land will have been tested by nature, repeatedly and all the way up to magnitude 7.1, and we will know for certain where it is safe to build and under what conditions, and which areas are to be avoided. That makes Christchurch a safer bet in the long term, and not a more dangerous one. Problems of the physical and psychological renewal of the city and its people, and investment and insurance issues, will be worked out in time.

Unlike Dunedin, Christchurch may have lost much of its heritage but it has not forgotten its past as a successful and productive city which has every reason to be here. Despite Cr Vandervis’s opinion, Christchurch still has a future.



Parker dismisses abandoning city

By Ben Heather • 07/01/2012

Refer comments to The Press below the article.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has hit out at suggestions that rebuilding earthquake-hit Christchurch should be abandoned in favour of a super-sized Dunedin.

In an opinion piece in the Otago Daily Times yesterday, Dunedin City councillor Lee Vandervis said it was insane to rebuild Christchurch on the same “bedevilled dirt”, and resources should be used to transform Dunedin into a new South Island hub.

“Rebuilding in swampy, sandy Christchurch and hoping for no more earthquakes will doom Christchurch and the South Island to long-term loss of investment and to indefinite insecurity,” he said.

There were no signs the quakes were subsiding in Christchurch, and it would be foolish to pour money into a city that could be hit by yet another big quake.

Compared with Christchurch, Dunedin had a low quake risk, and its airport and port could be improved to take on the burden from Christchurch, he said. “If we can do it better here than in Christchurch we should, and government – local and national – should be right behind us.”

Parker dismissed Vandervis’ comments and said Christchurch would emerge even stronger.

“Unlike Dunedin’s doomsayer, we know this is not the end, but rather, a new beginning,” he said.

Even if the unthinkable was to happen, Christchurch residents would favour their own backyard of Timaru, Nelson and Blenheim over Dunedin. “It would certainly boost the Highlanders’ talent pool [Cantabrians moving south]. However, we, if forced to move, would inevitably prefer to stay in Crusader territory.”

The Canterbury economy was outperforming many other parts of the country, and Lyttelton Port of Christchurch and Christchurch International Airport were trading well, Parker said.



City’s broken heart needs a bypass…


OPINION: Dunedin City councillor LEE VANDERVIS says it is time to rebuild Christchurch … in Dunedin.

`When will it end?” contains the assumption that the earthquakes in Christchurch will end. We all hope the damaging earthquakes have ended, of course, but recent geotechnical and historical evidence suggests otherwise.

Earthquakes in other urban areas around the world have usually been one-off disasters. Christchurch is an unusually ongoing seismic disaster which has had unprecedented psychological effects on people living there.

Seismicity maps clearly show recent continuous events for more than a year, from Darfield through Christchurch to Lyttelton.

The commonly described reaction during one of the many big quakes has been “terror”, but this ongoing always-anticipated terror has now become a permanent epidemic of social shellshock. Terra infirma.

When children become skilled at accurately predicting the the Richter scale number of yet another quake, don’t we owe it to them to bring them up somewhere secure?

My main question is, why rebuild in Christchurch?

Given the choice, many residents continue to leave. Given the choice, who would want to move or invest there?

Why put the biggest rebuilding effort in New Zealand history on the same shuddering substratum that destroyed those buildings in the first place? Rebuilding must take place for sure, but why would you put so much of it into the same bedevilled dirt?

Why not rebuild instead in New Zealand’s lowest-earthquake-risk city – Dunedin? Dunedin used to be the main centre for the South Island and I believe it should be again for many stability reasons, cultural as well as geotechnical.

Parochialism accounts for much of the assumption to rebuild in Christchurch – a provincial “this is where we have always lived”, and “we are Cantabrians” etc. Certainly some rebuilding in Christchurch is justified to use the undamaged infrastructure that must service the area but to rebuild Christchurch as the South Island’s main city and port again seems insane to me. Insanity has been defined as – “doing the same thing and hoping for a different result”.

Rebuilding in swampy sandy Christchurch and hoping for no more earthquakes will doom Christchurch and the South Island to long-term loss of investment and to indefinite insecurity.

Biblical warnings against building on sand apply even more to swamp and liquefaction. For the South Island to flourish, we need solid industry and ports and communications.

Port Lyttelton will always present a potential failure as will Christchurch Airport. As a viable alternative, all Port Otago needs is an enlarged inland assembly port and improved road and rail links. All Dunedin International Airport needs is runway extensions for larger aircraft and improved terminal throughput.

Not much business output is produced north of Christchurch anyway, making Dunedin the ideal central portal for everything from dairy to fruit to forestry products. Government rebuild spending in Dunedin would give a much better result than sinking it back into Christchurch.

With Dunedin’s enormous potential and historical track record, it makes no sense to me to put all our rebuilding eggs into the Christchurch basket-case landscape.

Christchurch is no longer the South Island’s centre, it is the epicentre. Christchurch can no longer reliably serve as the Island’s main business hub – it needs to share this function with Dunedin to ensure southern investment and continuity into the future.

It is truly said that “change is opportunity”. The opportunity to rebuild should be looked at as an opportunity to rebuild where best advantage can be realised.

We have all witnessed a major change in the South Island landscape and this change should be recognised before we remake the founding forefathers’ mistake of building on Canterbury’s shifting sands, swamps and scree.

What is needed is long-term political thinking, more enlightened insurance company policy, and the courage to do what is best for the whole of the South Island. The heart of Christchurch is broken, and should be bypassed.

Dunedin sensitivity about being predatory on Christchurch seems to me like an excuse to sit on our hands and do nothing. Predation is the basis of business competition and is necessary for vitality in business and for viability in world markets.

If we can do it better here than in Christchurch we should, and government – local and National – should be right behind us.

At national government level, the decision to rebuild Christchurch in Christchurch looks like simple electioneering, or worse – lack of thinking.

The election is over now, and continuing more serious quakes have given all New Zealanders a challenging message. When will we learn?



By Wilma McCorkindale • The Press • September 3rd, 2011

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