Empowered Christchurch Newsletter

Here find our first Newsletter. This is a very useful resource for all insurance claimants. The forces we are up against are incredible. It is a challenge to sort out an insurance claim that involves your life savings. When you also have to face new legislation, outdated standards, MBIE Guides, inappropriate code of conduct the task becomes monstrous. We hope that this Newsletter helps people understand how this recovery is constructed and the pitfalls to be aware of.


Seismic risk standard for Canterbury not updated. Ministers deny awareness.

To whom it may concern:

This is to notify aspects of fundamental mismanagement on the part of the recovery authorities in Christchurch.

The seriousness of this matter is such that it could lead to another disaster in the future in Christchurch.

It appears that the NZS1170.5 standard has been left unchanged after the earthquakes. This is one of the most important documents for the rebuild, as it should include the increased seismic risk. This document defines the minimum strength for foundations and ground bearing. While it may be lawful to leave this standard as is, it is unethical to allow building on unsuitable land with foundations that are much too weak. This is potentially a pre-designed man-made future disaster for Christchurch.


70 Recommendations from the Royal Commission have been accepted by the government as at Sept 2012. But they have not been implemented.





The standard remains unchanged.



This standard is referred to in the Geotechnical Engineering Practice – Module 1 – Guideline for the identification, assessment and mitigation of liquefaction hazards. Geotechnical engineers are encouraged to follow this outdated load-bearing standard.



While the MBIE guides include SLS and ULS references, they are only guidelines that are not enforceable. NZS1170.5 is the applicable standard and it remains incorrect but enforceable.

According to LAW, the calculation references for ground shaking are SLS 0.06 g and ULS 0.25 g.

According to GNS Science and the Royal Commission, these should be significantly higher.

MBIE gives one reference for SLS of 0.13 while other SLS references are still to be announced.


MBIE published the following document in February this year. http://www.dbh.govt.nz/codewords-059


  • Structural performance standards and practices: incorporating learning from the Canterbury earthquakes into the Building Code (specifically clause B1 Structure, and its supporting documents, particularly NZS1170.5 and NZS3101) and engineering design practices, to enhance and provide confidence in the structural performance of future buildings in New Zealand

These are fundamental documents that have been left as they were before the earthquakes. Leaving the update of these documents so late could be construed as wilful negligence on the part of the government.

At the Press debate on 4 September, John Key made the statement that 90% of claims had been settled. If the calculations for the settlement of these claims were based on NZS1170.5, ground bearing and foundations are likely to be well below requirements. This is a very serious issue that could potentially have dire consequences for Christchurch.

At a public meeting on Saturday, I specifically asked the Minister for the Earthquake Recovery, Gerry Brownlee, about the NZS1170.5 standard and why it had not been updated.

He replied that “all standards have been updated”. (Recording is available).

I asked Standards New Zealand about NZS1170 last week, and they confirmed that this standard has not been updated since the earthquakes.

This explains some of the highly dubious practices that are currently being witnessed in Christchurch.


Considering the amount of structural work that is allowed to take place in Christchurch as exempted from a building consent and therefore inspections. I regard this situation as a high probability of misuse of the current incorrect standards.

MBIE has identified this ambiguity as follows.

“Voluntary guidance could remedy these problems to some extent; however, leaving the supporting documents unchanged would see a conflict between them and the guidance. This would reduce the clarity of what is required for Building Code compliance.

Furthermore, the purpose behind setting appropriate seismic risk hazard requirements is to protect lives and property. Guidance is not normally used to achieve these critical objectives.

The option of publishing guidance would therefore not resolve the identified problems.”


Insurance claims are likely to be settled by legal definition if that is more affordable than using guides.


I would ask that this matter be given urgent priority and that standards be corrected to reflect the current situation here in Christchurch.


Hon Nick Smith, Minister for Building and Construction has denied any awareness or communications with GNS on this issue.
Attached see a letter in response to an OIA request in this regard.

CCC adds elevation changes and current elevation to the floor level maps

CCC Elevation changes

CCC Elevation changes

Christchurch City Council and CERA have by request added two new layers to the floor levels map.

First one includes elevation changes pre and post earthquakes.

The second one shows current elevation of the land.

Clicking on the right side on the tick button expands to show definition of the colors.
this map

Kia Kaha Christchurch

Instructions below.
Enter site. this map
If required install Silverlight software. Accept terms to get access to maps.

Type in your address at top right corner. Hit enter.


On the left side of the screen you will see a few listings including floor levels for the specific site you are looking for.



Click on the listing, a box will display with relevant height information.

Click on zoom to feature.

Now you have current elevation and food predicted height and planning requirements in regard to floor levels.

Now select map layers at the bottom left corner.

Elevation changes


Make a selection as per the images to see current elevation and elevation changes.


Current elevation








Keep in mind that the information does not substitute a proper site survey by a professional surveyor.

For example the gray area is displayed as +/- 25cm.
That equals 50cm error probability.

50 cm equals predicted sea level change for the next 50 years.
Durability requirements for a new building is 50 years.

Notification of Incorrect, misleading and potentially dangerous document used for the recovery.

Incorrect, misleading and potentially dangerous.

Incorrect, misleading and potentially dangerous.

This is our letter to Pete Sparrow, CCC General Manager Building Control and Rebuild and Mike Stannard, Chief Engineer, MBIE. We request that this document is revoked and the PMO’s and the public notified.

Christchurch 10. June 2014

I am writing to you to point out that a document which is being used as a reference for the current land status in Christchurch is incorrect, misleading and potentially dangerous.
Using this document as a main reference for current land conditions can lead to the negligent practices that have been witnessed in Christchurch.
On the EQC website where this document resides the following incorrect statement is made “Please note: The information in this report is up to date as of 29 February 2012: it does not take into account any aftershocks or earthquakes that occurred after that date.” This document is not up to date as it does not include up to date information as of 29 February 2012.
As evidence for this contention, I would point out the following:
  • All the maps published in this document are outdated and do not reflect current land conditions. The maps are dated June 2011, after which we had over 100 earthquakes of magnitude 4 and greater.
  • Significant levels of subsidence in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch and further land damage have been ignored.
  • All the statistics given for elevation and groundwater levels are misleading as they exclude most of the worst land damage. As an example I refer to the statistics published for the suburb of South Brighton.
  • Average subsidence is stated to be 50 mm. In fact, the worst affected properties have subsided by up to 1000 mm, which is 20 times the amount stated.
  • Groundwater is stated to be at 130 cm on average from the surface, whereas measurements show that groundwater is as little as 10 cm from the surface in places, and is both saline and tidal.
  • Many properties have subsided below the height of the Mean High Water Spring (MWHS) and, pursuant to the provisions of the Marine and Coastal Area Act 2011, the land has therefore been divested.
Using this document  as a reference in preparation for any repair or rebuild leads to unsustainable and even dangerous practices.
This document has an extensive disclaimer and no liability is assumed.
This has been pointed out to both Tonkin and Taylor and the EQC.
Even though Tonkin and Taylor has confirmed in writing that 140 properties in South Brighton have subsided in excess of 250 mm before this document was published and have been excluded from the statistics in this document, the document is still used as a reference for recovery.
What I have seen in practice is that high groundwater, liquefaction vulnerability and severe lateral spreading have been ignored in geotechnical reports on land that has suffered in excess of a metre (correction) of lateral spreading and significant subsidence, land that has been identified as being highly vulnerable to liquefaction . This has led to unsuitable repair methods being proposed.  There is ample evidence of such methods having been implemented.
Based on this document, it has been assumed that the land can be defined as “good ground”.
I request that this document be immediately revoked and that all Project Management Offices  and the public are notified as a matter of urgency that it no longer applies.
The consequences of using incorrect data has become obvious with current flooding in Christchurch.
While the Stage 3 report is not specifically mentioned in the MBIE guides, there are references to also outdated stage 1 and stage 2 land reports.
None of these references are reliable as a reference material for current land conditions and should be specifically be identified as unsuitable reference documents for current land conditions.
I await your confirmation, or any evidence to the contrary, showing that these reference documents used for the recovery reflect the current land conditions.
Please confirm receipt of this email.
Best regards,
Hugo Kristinsson

Founding member of the South Brighton Residents’ Association

Founder of Empowered Christchurch




Post quake flooding in Christchurch

The situation in Christchurch has now become very clear.
Constant flooding with the suffering of affected people. Insurance companies running for shelter by not providing insurance for flooding.

The insurance sector has a plan for these areas to increase the cost of insurance or not to provide insurance cover on the long run.  http://www.nzila.org/documents/130905-lucas.pdf
People that have suffered the hardship of the earthquakes, still living in damaged houses through the fourth winter suffering constant flooding and further loss of property due to high insurance excesses or no insurance cover. Most of these people do not have any certainty about their future, not able to make any decisions and it is fair to say that they are in captivity by the recovery authorities.

We are having one serious rain event today, we may have relief on Wednesday but there is another large rain event on the horizon in the following days.

The advisors to the government and to EQC come from the insurance sector. I believe how the recovery is handled reflects that quite clearly.
One of the most significant tools of the insurance industry is risk transfer. The insurance sector trades with risk and they are fully aware of the cost of risk.

They way the Risk Transfer works is that the risk that we insured for is not mitigated. Residents are left with the risk.
The risk is varying, land damage, rock fall, risk of flooding, risk of subsidence, risk of foundation failure, risk of illegal or substandard repairs and house failure.

Due to building regulation changes Geotechnical, Structural engineers, quantity surveyors and architects have no liability when it comes to building contracts. The public is not aware of this fact and the blind trust of the public is a known factor.

It is interesting that this statement was made by Hon Maurice Williamson before changes to the building act were proposed.
“Residential consumers are vulnerable -they rarely commission building work, and they have limited knowledge of the associated risks and the options for managing these.”
This was followed by the changes of the building act and the publication of the MBIE guidelines.

I ask who’s interest is at heart?

Another issue is that while stated that houses should be raised to pre earthquake levels or to the district plan requirements, the fact is that the building regulations have been bent so much that insurance companies are getting away with transferring this flood risk over to the residents. This is due to the actions of the government. Just from looking around the eastern suburbs hardly any houses have had their floor levels raised despite many properties having subsided below high tide. (MHWS)

The land claims settlement is another can of worms, the government has used legislation to instruct devaluation of properties in Christchurch.

Interestingly the worst affected areas of land damage have suffered the most significant devaluation.
It is specifically stated by Quotable Value that this updated rating value is not earthquake related damage and is only based on recent sales.

EQC desires to use this devaluation to determine their cap payment to the worst affected people. This is like devaluing a car after a loss and settle the insurance claim based on the value of the damaged car. While nothing has been released so far on how the land claims will be settled this is how this looks to me.

In my opinion EQC has failed their obligations to deal with the natural disaster. They have left people in un acceptable risk caused by the natural disaster. The organization seems to be driven as a hard core profit making business while it is is set up as a recovery organization. That has become obvious. EQC and the Government are responsible for this situation but sadly not even the opposition stands up and points this out to media. Colossal failure and mismanagement.
This is not a local Christchurch problem but reflects how the recovery authorities have taken the transfer of risk to far.

Enough is Enough!

The media and the public in New Zealand seems to be blind to the precedent that is being set for handling of natural disasters for the future of New Zealand. This is not our last disaster.

Guidance for risk-based building consenting

This document outlines the Risk Based Building Consents.
Shows how Building Consent Authority avoids liability by limiting inspections.
Shows the obligations of the owner.
Explains the different Building Consents.
An interesting statement from the Government is also included.
It is surprising as the Government decided to exclude specifically all the mandatory written contracts when implementing the legislation change of the Building Act. Therefore all our guarantees.

“The Government as a whole is concerned to ensure the Canterbury rebuild work is undertaken to a high quality and the people impacted are not exposed to safety risks or building work where normal quality considerations are compromised. Potential repetitional risk on the PMOs will also help create an incentive to ensure the work is code compliant.”

Yeah right!


A request to Council.

Thank you for the Hazard Forum on the weekend.
A very much needed discussion and vital for the future of our city.
The communities certainly appreciate the increased transparency.
My concerns as mentioned are the following.
Residents have no access to information about the actual damage of their own land that was fully insured.
The critical informations that are missing are the following.
  1. Subsidence, Elevation before and after the earthquakes. In centimeters.
  2. Lateral spreading quantified in direction and centimeters
  3. Changes in Groundwater. Due to changes in groundwater some land has lost the bearing capacity. Original foundations are designed for a particular land strength and wet sand versus dry sand can loose up to 50% of bearing capacity. This generates subsidence risk and increased Liquefaction vulnerability that has to be recognized and communicated.
  4. Liquefaction vulnerability. This is what caused most of the damage in canterbury. Information about vulnerability before and after the earthquake should be made available to the public.
  5. Flood risk before and after the earthquakes.
  6. 1/100 year Mike Flood map produced by DHI for EQC and Council should be made available to the public. (This is not private information for EQC)
I have extensively tried to get information about who determines the Land Categories. EQC points at Council and CERA.
CERA point at Council, Council points at MBIE. MBIE does not answer. I am referring to category 8 and 9. Liquefaction and Flooding.
I have also asked what impact do hazards identified of the LIM of a property have on land claim settlement, to no avail.
I do not find it excusable that the stakeholder that has the most at stake is denied access to these information.
The residents are slammed with up to 30% reduction in land value without any explanation.
For example TC3 in my street has dropped about 30% and that excludes devaluation from the 2007 value.
While TC1 in the same street maintains its 2007 value.
It is stated by Quotable Value that this  devaluation is not earthquake related.
That simply does not add up as the most affected land value is in the worst affected land damage area.
Worst affected sections are now rated  at less than 100k. No section is available at that price.
The worst affected get the worst treatment and their equity drastically removed while all had full insurance.
I have had correspondence with CERA on some of the land information issues and have had professional input from Adrian Cowie Professional Surveyor on this.
I attach the correspondence FYI.
I think this is a perfect opportunity to work together and display the “duty of care” that the public is entitled to.
Where there is a will there is a way.
Recommendations from the Royal Commission
“Section 4: Soils and foundations

The soils in the Christchurch CBD, being highly variable both horizontally and vertically across short distances, pose challenges for the design of structures and their foundations to withstand the potential impact of future large earthquakes. The Royal Commission considers that there must be greater focus on geotechnical investigations to reduce the risk of unsatisfactory foundation performance.

Tonkin and Taylor, for the Christchurch City Council (CCC), evaluated the nature and variability of subsurface conditions in the Christchurch CBD and adjacent commercial areas to the south and north-east. This will be held in a database available to the public. This information will be of assistance in assessing the potential need for land improvement, in the selection of appropriate foundation types, and in the planning of detailed investigation of foundation soils.

We make detailed recommendations in respect of site investigations, ground improvement and foundations design. Some recommendations are of particular relevance in the Christchurch CBD but many are of wider application.

– See more at: http://canterbury.royalcommission.govt.nz/Final-Report—Summary-and-Recommendations#sthash.43x9gQIi.dpuf

I trust this email explains some of the vital issues that are key components for the recovery progress.
Residents do not like to be kept in the dark for years, that contributes to social unrest.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
Best regards,
Hugo Kristinsson
Empowered Christchurch


Questions and answers from CERA

 Questions asked 17 February via email to CERA.

  1. Who is liable for the land damage underneath the property.
  2. Who is liable for the land remediation required for foundations up to the standard of the Building Code. AS/NZS 1170.5
  3. Why are residents denied access to the Orbit Database which contains all the details of their land damage? 
  4. Where can residents look up information about their land damage including land settlement?
  5. CERA published this statement. Undersigned by the Government “Home owners should note the fact that most insurance policies in place at the time of the earthquakes will cover the cost of building consent requirements to raise finished floor levels to meet standards set in the Building Act.
    Insurers will continue to work productively with the Council, EQC and other agencies to provide best outcomes for policy holders.

    Pg 17
    It is the groundwater that is the main problem in the Eastern Suburbs. If Houses are not raised they are at total loss.
    See attached photos.
    What is CERA and other agencies doing to ensure the best outcome for these policy holders as stated?
  6. Where no and remediation is possible such as for Category 8 and Category 9 land, why is the land and property not categorized as total loss.
    It is known that subsidence/settlement takes place down to 20 m despite what is on the surface (Eastern suburbs). Many properties have groundwater at less than a meter.
    No remediation can address this where there is lateral spreading.

Answers received 14 March.

  1. Who is liable for the land damage underneath the property.
    Information is available at: http://www.eqc.govt.nz/what-we-do/land. Please refer to EQC for more information.
  2. Who is liable for the land remediation required for foundations up to the standard of the Building Code. AS/NZS 1170.5
    Information is available at: http://www.eqc.govt.nz/what-we-do/land. Please refer to EQC for more information.
  3. Why are residents denied access to the Orbit Database which contains all the details of their land damage? 
    The Orbit Database does not contain details of land damage. It is a settlement database that has legal documents and insurance information related to red zoned properties. Residents are not denied access to this information. They can request a copy of what is on the database in relation to their own property.
  4. Where can residents look up information about their land damage including land settlement?
    Information is available at: http://www.eqc.govt.nz/canterbury-earthquakes/progress-updates/canterbury-faqs Please refer to EQC for more information.
  5. What is CERA and other agencies doing to ensure the best outcome for these policy holders as stated?
    EQC has agreed a joint approach to talk to flood prone communities which will include CERA and other agencies. Information is available at:http://www.eqc.govt.nz/canterbury-earthquakes/land-claims/flat-land/increased-risk-of-flooding. Please refer to EQC for more information
  6. Where no and remediation is possible such as for Category 8 and Category 9 land, why is the land and property not categorized as total loss.
    Information is available at: http://www.eqc.govt.nz/canterbury-earthquakes/progress-updates/canterbury-faqs Please refer to EQC for more information.These answers resulted in further questions regarding answer no 3.
    Who do residents call to get the detailed land damage, settlement information for their property from the Orbit database?
    Answer received.
    My apologies, I should have been clearer … Orbit contains “settlement” information in relation to settlement of an Agreement for Sale and Purchase of properties in the Residential Red Zone between the owner (or former owner once they have settled) and the Crown.

    It does not include settlement information in relation to land damage (i.e. how much the land has settled vertically). 

I have seen land displacement information on the Orbit Geotechnical database.
There is no intention to give residents information about their own land damage, nor land settlement information.
To settle a land claim without claimant having information about the subsidence is unjust in my opinion.

We are looking at options for the residents to get access to these vital information.
Watch this space.