• THE LOST YEARS 2010-2020 •

EC Perfect Storm mainIn view of the current pandemic situation, we have decided to mark the 10th anniversary of the first earthquake in the Canterbury Earthquake Sequence with a virtual review of the decade. Empowered Christchurch has compiled a wealth of documentation and correspondence over the period. High points included the protest rally in February 2016. After the event, we received a large number of emails, some offering congratulations, and many others appealing for help. Unfortunately, even today, 10 years later, many people are still living with the impact of the “recovery”.

For each of the 10 days leading up to the anniversary (starting next Wednesday, 26 August), we will therefore be posting the main events for each successive year between September 2010 and September 2020. We would encourage readers to contribute their own thoughts and memories of the period, and will be glad to post any photos or short videos you may wish to send us (empoweredchch@gmail.com).

• THE LOST YEARS: Year 1 •Stolen 1

  • 4 Sept• At 4.35 a.m., a shallow 7.1 magnitude earthquake strikes Christchurch, with the epicentre 37 km west of the city. There is no direct loss of life.
  • 10 Sep• Christchurch City Council passes a new code with stricter standards for earthquake-prone buildings
  • 27 Sept• Total number of Orders in Council (which bypass select committee processes and parliamentary discussion) used by Government to deal with Canterbury earthquake issues rises to 10. These include amendments to the Building Act, Resource Management Act, and Local Government Act
  • 29 Sept• Council takes delivery of 200 portaloos for worst-hit suburbs
  • Sept-Dec• MBIE works to prepare the guidance “Repairing and rebuilding houses affected by the Canterbury earthquakes”. The document is published “as a technical response to the disaster” under Section 175 of the Building Act – purely as a guide
  • 1 Jan 2011• Council introduces a minimum floor level of 11.8 m above the city datum (reference point for elevation) for the Christchurch Flood Management Area (FMA) under what is known as “Variation 48”
  • 22 Feb• A 6.3 magnitude earthquake claims the lives of 185 people and causes widespread destruction, with severe liquefaction and lateral spreading in eastern suburbs
  • 25 Feb• Singapore Army units deliver emergency packs of food and water in the eastern suburbs; Generous donation of $1.5m for earthquake relief from Auckland City Council
  • 2 March• RNZ reports that both the PGC and CTV buildings, where most of the earthquake fatalities occurred, were “green-stickered” (meaning safe to use) by Christchurch City Council after the Sept 2010 earthquake
  • 2 March• Opposition MPs warn government against rushing through recovery legislation; Christchurch East Labour MP, Lianne Dalziel, says the city council has made a terrible decision about how it organises help for earthquake victims
  • 13 March• Water supply is finally restored to lower Avon estuary area of South Brighton (after 20 days)
  • 15 March• Electricity supply restored to same area (after 22 days)
  • 13 June• A 6.3 magnitude ‘quake strikes, bringing renewed severe liquefaction to the eastern suburbs
  • 30 June• Christchurch City Council’s insurance cover expires
  • 5 Aug• EQC increases the size of its team investigating earthquake claimant fraud in Christchurch
  • 11 Aug• $2bn rebuild plan unveiled by Mayor Bob Parker

• THE LOST YEARS: Year 2 •EC Lost 2

  • 13 Sept 2011• Earthquake Recovery and Earthquake Commission (EQC) Minister Brownlee visits the annual Monte Carlo Rendez-vous to speak to reinsurers. In a reply to a later Official Information Act (OIA) request, the Minister states that his presentation to the conference “cannot be found, despite reasonable efforts to locate it”.
  • 20 Sept• AMI (the largest insurer in Canterbury) states it is “confident it won’t need to call on any government back-stop support package”.
  • 6 Oct• Engineering review of lower Avon stop banks provided to council by the consortium Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team (SCIRT): 5,180 m where there is no stop bank; 25 sections of 3,380 m in length are categorised as High Failure Risk
  • 10 Oct• Environment groups point out that the earthquakes are being taken as an excuse to weaken the Resource Management Act
  • 11 Oct• Government announces an $18.4bn deficit
  • 12 Oct• The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) calls for changes to building standards as a matter of urgency; the government welcomes this call the following day
  • 25 Oct• Earthquake scientists call for more soil testing before building; next day, a US expert tells the Royal Commission that there should be mandatory submission of soil tests before building on land prone to liquefaction
  • 17 Nov• The status of certain zones in the eastern suburbs is changed from orange to green, giving the green light for rebuilding
  • 23 Dec• A 5.8 magnitude earthquake strikes (with subsidence of more than 0.5 m in some areas according to a Tonkin & Taylor ILV/IFV report (increased liquefaction vulnerability and increased flooding vulnerability)
  • Early 2012• AMI Insurance applies to the City Council for bulk application of existing use rights (which allow rebuilding of housing at pre-earthquake heights)
  • 9 March• CERA/EQC Minister Brownlee says he is “nearing the end of his tether” with Christchurch City Council (CCC) and refers to Mayor Parker as “a clown”
  • 4 April• Council mulls a 7% rates increase
  • 5 April• Sell-off of AMI to the Australian IAG insurance group completed, with the new government-owned company, Southern Response, retaining liability for earthquake claims
  • 12 April• New MBIE “guides” are used to turn rebuilds into repairs in the Christchurch suburb of Brooklands
  • 14 April• Earthquake Recovery and Earthquake Commission (EQC) Minister Brownlee denies the guide changes were the result of insurance lobbying
  • 17 April• Tonkin & Taylor warns the government that if resource consents apply, the EQC faces an additional bill of at least $100m whether work is carried out or not (since costs for consents need to be included in any cash settlements)
  • 17 May• “Canterbury Regulatory and Consenting Working Party” meets at YMCA, Hereford St rather than at the council; it is attended by the 3 local councils, CERA, insurer representatives and Tonkin & Taylor; discussion points include existing use rights (EURs), consenting issues and flood risk
  • 3 July• A group of locals come together at the Bakehouse Cafe to establish South Brighton Residents’ Association
  • 7 July• SBRA Facebook social media page established
  • 12 July• Tonkin & Taylor Stage 3 Land Report released (dated 29 February 2012 – no data included for the 5.4 magnitude 23December 2011 earthquake)
  • 26 July• Minister Brownlee says he is sick of insurers giving baseless excuses to deny earthquake claims
  • 27 July• ICNZ assures claimants it will go as fast as it can with earthquake claims
  • 27 July• First issue of South Brighton Residents’ Association’s (SBRA) newsletter “The South Brightside” is published
  • 13 Aug• Christchurch experiences extensive flooding after a combination of a rain event and a high tide
  • 19 Aug• Deadline for residents to accept the government red zone buyout offers
  • 23 Aug• Royal Commission recommends tougher concrete and steel standards, one of 70 recommendations it makes in its report


• THE LOST YEARS: Year 3 •EC Stolen 3

~ “A nation that forgets its past has no future” ~

  • 11 Sept 2012• $3.5m communications budget at the Canterbury Earthquakes Recovery Authority (CERA) revealed; the amount is defended by CEO Roger Sutton
  • 12 Sept• Labour’s Earthquake Recovery spokesperson Lianne Dalziel criticises Gerry Bownlee’s description of “TC3” people as “moaners and carpers”
  • 16 Sept• Issue 2 of The South Brightside newsletter
  • 21 Sept• Magnitude 4.3 earthquake rattles the city
  • 18 Oct• Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) says earthquakes are triggering increased binge drinking, non-adherence to medication and domestic violence
  • 14 Nov• The Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) sues Christchurch City Council for raising the seismic strength requirements for all buildings from 34% to 67% of the building standard. It claims the move is unlawful and seeks to apply the lower seismic standard for resolution of its members’ claims
  • 1 Dec• Further MBIE guidance “Repairing and rebuilding houses affected by the Canterbury earthquakes” is published
  • 6 Dec• Issue 3 of The South Brightside newsletter
  • 14 Jan 2013• Reports that uninsurable “as-is” properties are being snapped up by speculators. The Real Estate Institute and local councillor Glenn Livingstone see this as a positive development, providing a good return on investment for speculators and much-needed accommodation
  • 12 Feb• Cost-share agreement between council and government hammered out. A 3-year plan is adopted instead of a 10-year plan. A 60%-40% government-council split is promised for infrastructure, but the government contribution is progressively reduced over the next few years
  • 20 Feb• 70% of residential claims have still not been dealt with after 2 years
  • 11 March• High Court verdict arrived at in Tower v O’Loughlin case; Tower Insurance admits its goal is to limit the amount paid out. Just 1% of repairs have been completed by Tower’s PMO after more than two years
  • 22 March• 10,000 EQC claim details are improperly made public. The next day, the number of claims disclosed increases to 83,000
  • 11 June• Cross Party Forum held. Later OIA requests are met with the response that no documents exist in relation to the meeting
  • 19 June• Labour MP Lianne Dalziel announces she will run for the position of Christchurch Mayor
  • 19 June• Responding to an OIA request from claimant group WeCAN, the Earthquake Commission states that a charge of $24,000 would apply to provide the information
  • 30 June• More than 40,000 homes have been repaired as part of the EQC home-repair programme
  • 25 July• Concerns expressed about misleading EQC level estimates amid claims that EQC damage estimates are inaccurate
  • July 2013• International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) removes CCC’s building accreditation; Mr Doug Martin is appointed as Crown Officer to sort out the situation; Mr Peter Sparrow (formerly at MBIE) is appointed Council’s Director of Building Control and City Rebuild
  • 3 Aug• In an interview with the local newspaper, Pegasus Post, SBRA chair, Hugo Kristinsson, presents a detailed proposal for hot pools in Brighton
  • 27 Aug• South Brightside notifies residents that the shops at the Bridge Street roundabout are to be demolished, after having been closed since November 2012


• THE LOST YEARS: Year 4 •EC Lost 4

~ “A nation that forgets its past has no future” ~

  • 4 Sept 2013• South Brighton Residents’ Association (SBRA) deputation to council regarding the increased risks in the suburb following the earthquakes
  • 27 Sept• The major artery over the Bridge Street bridge in South Brighton finally re-opens for traffic in both directions
  • 5 Oct• Public Forum on council plans for South Brighton reserves
  • 24 Oct• Local elections. Lianne Dalziel elected Mayor of Christchurch with a 50,000 majority over businessman, Paul Lonsdale
  • 25 Nov• Issue 5 of The South Brightside newsletter
  • 17 Dec• Press reports that CCC has regained its building accreditation; Doug Martin describes the root of the problem he dealt with as “a failure of leadership and management within the organisation”. The cost to ratepayers for the council’s re-application process as a Building Consent Authority is: $11.5m, including (30) extra salaries $2.4m; $700,000 for Doug Martin; $1m for consultants; $2m on insurance; 2 visits from IANZ $64,000
  • Jan 2014• Paper is submitted to cabinet to “explore opportunities to apply some EQC land settlements to support offsite works to mitigate the future flooding risk in parts of Christchurch. These works have the potential to not only resolve the EQC liability but to further accelerate the residential housing rebuild and protect the future insurability of some areas”
  • 17 Jan• Extensive surface flooding in South Brighton
  • 5 March• Widespread flooding after autumn storm; New Mayor Dalziel describes it as a “one in 100-year event”
  • 11 March• Offsite works with CCC to settle EQC’s land liability mentioned in briefing to Earthquake Recovery and Earthquake Commission Minister Brownlee
  • 7 July• Christchurch City Council update on flood mitigation. EQC comment: “Christchurch City Council is investigating interim and long-term area-wide remediation solutions. Where these schemes can be identified, costed and completed in a timely manner then EQC is open to contributing as a way of resolving some IFV claims.”
  • 7 July• Canterbury Earthquake (Christchurch Replacement District Plan) Order 2014: requires the Christchurch City Council to review the existing district plans and develop a replacement district plan. The order modifies the provisions and application of the Resource Management Act 1991, and remains in force until 19 April 2016
  • August• Tonkin & Taylor issues report on increased flooding vulnerability and increased liquefaction vulnerability (IFV and ILV)


• THE LOST YEARS: Year 5 •EC Stolen 5

  • 4 Sept 2014• Campbell Live television special with insurance claimants from Shirley Boys’ High
  • 4 Sept• SBRA contribution to Deutsche Welle article on Christchurch, titled the “21st century Atlantis”
  • 6 Nov• Issue 6 of The South Brightside newsletter
  • 16 Nov• Empowered Christchurch asks Labour MPs to raise Christchurch earthquake concerns in Parliament
  • 18 Nov• Earthquake Recovery and Earthquake Commission Minister, Gerry Brownlee, is fined $2,000 for a Christchurch Airport security breach
  • 19 Nov• SBRA information evening with guest speaker Matthew Hughes from the University of Canterbury
  • 22 Nov• SBRA planting and landscaping day at Community Centre
  • 10 Dec• High Court declaratory judgement on land; EQC must repair to an “as new” standard; Diminution of Value (DoV) approach to liquefaction and flooding payments may be challenged in court
  • 10 Feb 2015• SBRA information evening with guest speaker Adrian Cowie, professional surveyor
  • Feb 2015• Regional Coastal Plan: references to building restrictions are removed
  • Feb• First details of EQC’s Increased Liquefaction Vulnerability (ILV) methodology emerge. Horizontal Soil Mixing technique proposed to remediate land susceptible to liquefaction. “EQC has pre-emptively tabled a $213m saving on “enabling costs” on the back of this HSM fix”; DoV (diminution of value) for flooding – savings of $102m”
  • 6 March• Council issues flood alert!
  • March-April• EQC releases $525m to Treasury
  • 12 April• SBRA proposal for a welcome sign on Bridge Street
  • 24 April• 6.3 magnitude earthquake strikes New Zealand’s South Island near Kaikoura
  • 11 May• Staff report that 36 notifications have been filed with the council using the Empowered Christchurch template (to prevent insurers using exemptions without the homeowner’s permission)
  • 12 May• Empowered Christchurch notification letter officially publicised to protect homeowners from insurers exploiting exemptions from the council
  • 20 May• SBRA submission to council on the condition of abandoned council units in the suburb and other issues
  • 28 May• Canterbury Earthquakes Recovery Authority (CERA) Recovery Forum
  • 15 June• New Zealand Symposium on Disaster Risk Reduction at Te Papa, Wellington, with John Vargo (ResOrgs), Sandeeka Mannakkara (University of Auckland), and Dave Brundson Kestrel, (later an Engineering New Zealand consultant and engineering representative on the Greater Christchurch Claims Resolution Service (GCCRS) evaluation team)
  • July• Council assessment reveals up to 6,000 properties are susceptible to erosion and almost 18,000 to coastal flooding over the next 50-100 years
  • 10 July• Issue 7 of The South Brightside newsletter
  • 16 July• Public council meeting on coastal hazards held in North New Brighton Community Centre
  • 29 July• South Brighton Residents’ Association (SBRA) submission on the CERA Draft Transition Recovery Plan
  • 15 Aug• TC3 (Technical Category 3) Facebook Group and SBRA meeting with Council, EQC and Tonkin & Taylor representatives in Princess St, Addington
  • 20 Aug• Canterbury Earthquakes Recovery Authority (CERA) Community Forum
  • 28 Aug• Coastal hazard zones introduced; application of 12.3 m RL floor level; hazard warnings on LIMs for development
  • 1 Sept• It is revealed that EQC has spent $68m on travel costs
  • Sept• Withdrawal of coastal hazards from District Plan review process; no public submissions are now possible; A new finished floor level (FFL) of 12.3 m above datum is introduced through the Replacement District Plan process
  • 4 Sept• Final date for submissions on Christchurch District Plan Review


• THE LOST YEARS: Year 6 •EC Stolen 6

  • 10 Sept 2015• Public meeting on earthquake issues in the Transitional (Cardboard) Cathedral. Council representative explains how residents can use the Empowered Christchurch notification to prohibit work under exemption
  • 10 Sept• Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) declines to meet with TC3 Group and SBRA representatives to discuss issues because the proposed agenda items are the responsibility of the council or insurers
  • Mid-Sept 2015• Coastal Hazards Chapter removed from Replacement District Plan using an Order in Council
  • 12 Sept• Minister Brownlee rejects calls for an inquiry into the Earthquake Commission
  • 17 Sept• Tsunami warning for Canterbury following an 8.3-magnitude earthquake in Chile
  • Oct• Government announces budget surplus (following the $525m payment from EQC at end of the financial year)
  • Oct• Christchurch Mayor Leanne Dalziel signs a letter of “cooperation and friendship” with Guoxin International, the international arm of China’s largest project tendering and procurement company
  • 16 Oct• Mouth of River Avon moved from Bridge St bridge to Evans Avenue. This shifts the Coastal Marine Area approximately one kilometre upstream. South Brighton is now recognised as a tidally influenced area
  • 21 Oct• After the resignation of Gail Kettle, EQC’s General Manager Customer and Claims, the Labour Party calls for an independent inquiry into allegations of nepotism at the Commission
  • 8 Nov• Welcome sign for South New Brighton unveiled
  • 14 Nov• New Brighton pier illuminated in French colours in sympathy with the victims of the Bataclan Theatre attack in Paris
  • 20 Nov• Finance Minister Bill English says Environment Commissioner’s report on rising sea levels is “speculative”
  • 9 Dec• Revelation that EQC paid $3m in staff bonuses while dealing with the Canterbury earthquakes
  • 10 Dec• Peer review of Tonkin & Taylor coastal hazards report announced
  • 11 Dec• Empowered Christchurch submission on the Greater Christchurch Regeneration Bill
  • 13 Jan 2016• EQC has 5,500 repairs that need to be repeated due to poor workmanship
  • 30 Jan• Stonewood Homes goes into liquidation
  • 31 Jan• Statement from EQC CEO, Ian Simpson: more than $8.9bn has been paid out in claims; The Canterbury Home Repair Programme (CHRP) cost more than $3.0bn and EQC is dealing with the last 1,200 or 1,300 homes, with 700 already under repair and 500 where the EQC is trying to settle agreements with customers to allow it to begin work. Mr Simpson states that, this year, the Commission needs to push hard to make sure anyone waiting for the EQC to do something gets it done
  • 14 Feb• 5.7 magnitude earthquake strikes Christchurch
  • 22 Feb• Protest rally held in Cathedral Square one day before the 5th anniversary of the February 2011 ‘quake. Radio New Zealand estimates an attendance of 1,000 people. One speaker, Labour MP Megan Woods, criticizes the government for “spending tens of millions of our money fighting Cantabrians in the courts – sometimes to deny them access to justice”
  • 9 March• Final Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) Community Forum held
  • 6 April• South Brighton Residents’ Association (SBRA) representatives meet with the Mayor on council premises to discuss existing use rights, stop banks, and the old and vulnerable in the community
  • April• Discovery that the council’s required floor levels for home rebuilds north of Bridge Street in South Brighton are 50 cm lower than the requirement south of Bridge Street
  • 18 April• Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) publishes a list of 64 amendments to legislation in the form of Orders in Council used by the government between 2010 and 2015 (thus avoiding select committee and parliamentary processes)
  • 26 April• Meeting between Empowered Christchurch and SBRA representatives and the Mayor and council staff. The floor level discrepancy in South Brighton is described as a flood modelling error
  • 26 April• In an internal council memo, the council’s General Manager, Consenting and Compliance explains that flood modelling had “assumed” the construction of a future stop bank in Bridge Street. He promises to work closely with Empowered Christchurch on the issue and to communicate with the affected residents
  • 3 May• Council begins to treat all requests for information from Empowered Christchurch and SBRA under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA)
  • 5 May• NewsTalk ZB interview with Empowered Christchurch on the flood modelling discrepancy
  • 6 May• Empowered Christchurch meeting with Andre Lovatt, head of the new recovery organisation, Regenerate Christchurch
  • 13 May• Empowered Christchurch submission to the Independent Hearings panel on the Replacement Christchurch District Plan
  • 20 May• EQC gives itself 6 weeks to classify the “final bucket” of 300 claims as either under or over cap
  • 20 May• EQC presents “Diminution of Value methodology for Increased Liquefaction Vulnerability – ILV (for properties with aresidential building in place)”
  • 7 June• South Brighton Residents’ Association (SBRA) public meeting on Existing Use Rights at the Community Hall South Brighton
  • 30 June• 215 over cap (i.e. with assessed damage of more than $100k) properties have been transferred to insurers by EQC in first six months of 2015 (five years after the 2011 earthquakes)
  • 21 July• Ivan Iafeta appointed as Regenerate Christchurch CEO; previously Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA)General Manager, Red Zone
  • 27 July• First ILV (increased liquefaction vulnerability) community information meeting held at Belujah Church, St Albans
  • 2 Aug• Press article “Flood risk looms for new homes in Silverstream”: up to 300 homes in a new development north of Christchurch are found to be potentially flood prone due to an error in the original survey
  • 22 Aug• Second ILV (increased liquefaction vulnerability) community information meeting held at Belujah Church, St Albans
  • 22 Aug• Ian Simpson, CEO of EQC, quits his $450,000 per annum position to take up a post as CEO of GNS Science


• THE LOST YEARS: Year 7 •EC Stolen 7

  • 28 Sept 2016• Third ILV community information meeting at Belujah Church, St Albans; one member of audience describes diminution of value (DoV) amounts as “shut up payments”. The scheduled October and November meetings are cancelled at short notice without explanation
  • 6 Oct• Regenerate Christchurch appoints 3 new managers, starting in November 2016: Rob Kerr, General Manager, Residential Red Zone; James Lunday, General Manager, Strategy and Regeneration Planning; Chris Mene, General Manager, Partnerships and Engagement
  • 18 Oct• South Brighton Residents’ Association (SBRA) hosts civil defence evening on tsunami risk
  • 14 Nov• 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Kaikoura
  • 4 Dec• John Key resigns as Prime Minister of New Zealand
  • 31 Dec• Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) reports that 83% of insurance claims have been settled (after 6 years)
  • 25 Jan• Press reports that IAG and Tower are each suing the EQC over ILV (increased liquefaction vulnerability) payments
  • 31 Jan 2017• Last date to object to new Christchurch City Council rate evaluations (now taking earthquake damage into account)
  • 13 Feb• Start of the Christchurch Port Hills fires, which are not brought under control until 20 April. One person (a firefighting helicopter pilot) dies and eleven homes are consumed or badly damaged by the blazes
  • 22 Feb• To mark the 6th anniversary of the most deadly earthquake, a silent chalk protest is held in Cathedral Square in Christchurch city centre
  • 3 Apr• SBRA meeting with council’s Alicia Palmer and Emma Hunt of Civil Defence; a workshop is proposed in June or July; the first-named resigns from council in June. No workshop is held
  • 20 May• SBRA submission on council’s Annual Plan
  • 19 June• First City Leaders Forum at The Piano, 156 Armagh Street
  • 20 June• Christchurch City Council resolution adopted to “Direct the Chief Executive to report back to Council by 30 August 2017 on a proposed approach for the Council to lead and expedite the regeneration planning for earthquake related damage to the area of South New Brighton”
  • 29 June• Joint Southshore and South Brighton Residents’ Association deputation to Waitai/Coastal Community Board
  • 10 July• SBRA meeting with Mayor Dalziel and council staff on earthquake legacy issues
  • 18 July• Winter storm and flooding in Southshore; South Brighton stop bank almost topped; controlled breaches are allowed in 2 places at junction of Falcon/Kibblewhite St and at Owls’ Terrace
  • 31 July• Second City Leaders Forum (the rest of the series, including a discussion on public health, is abandoned): the topic for the second session is the Cathedral Square development plan; Mayor Dalziel states that community engagement is crucial to the regeneration, and it should combine “the wisdom of the community with the knowledge of experts”. Regenerate Christchurch CEO, Ivan Iafeta, says that the minister and the mayor are “extremely clear” that Regenerate Christchurch should involve the public in its planning
  • 31 July• SBRA meeting with Regenerate Christchurch and Council representatives
  • 4 Aug• SBRA makes two submissions to Community Board: 1) on the absence of a risk-based planning approach and the threat from contaminated sewage; 2) on council’s conflicting suburb boundaries and rates increases
  • 25 Aug• SBRA meeting with council staff, Richard Osborne and Debbie Hogan on the regeneration plan for South New Brighton

• THE LOST YEARS: Year 8 •EC Stolen 8

  • 5 Sept 2017• Press reports that none of the $4m of the Canterbury Resilience Fund launched in Feb 2017 has been distributed. From 2016, the government and council committed to contributing $1m each to the fund for three years
  • 15 Sept• South Brighton Residents’ Association (SBRA) receives letter from council, setting out the next steps for regeneration in the suburb
  • 17 Oct• SBRA meets with the regional authority, Environment Canterbury. The latter’s General Counsel denies the regional authority has any liability for a future failure of the stop bank in South Brighton. When reminded of the provisions of the Marine and Coastal Area (MACA) Act, she replies that it was “only intended for iwi [Maori tribe] claims”. At a subsequent council meeting, Mayor Dalziel asserts that the council has no liability either
  • 20 Oct• SBRA attend on-site discussion on Bridge Street with council arborist and staff on the resident association’s proposal to create a tree-lined avenue into the suburb on Bridge Street
  • 29 Nov• Letter from council CEO, Karleen Edwards, stating that only a court can decide if the council is liable for any failure of the stop bank
  • 6 Dec• Vote of no confidence in Regenerate Christchurch passed at SBRA monthly meeting. This decision was taken after a lengthy series of fruitless discussions with the entity dating back to May 2016
  • 18 Jan 2018• SBRA meeting with Poto Williams MP. The member for Chirstchurch East promises to follow up with council on an individual case of hardship. The personal details of the individual are provided with permission, along with other errors and omission by ECan and the council, but nothing more is heard
  • 2 Feb• SBRA meeting with Minister for the Earthquake Commission and for Greater Christchurch Regeneration Megan Woods. The minister is only able to spare 30 minutes, but promises to reply to the remaining points raised
  • 7 Feb• SBRA press release on the vote of no confidence in Regenerate Christchurch
  • 20 Feb• State of emergency declared in Christchurch in preparation for Cyclone Gita
  • 23 Feb• EQC chairman, Sir Maarten Wevers resigns, saying it is clear Minister Woods has “no confidence” in the commission’s board or staff
  • 31 May• Official opening of Taiora QEII Leisure Centre, the first sports facility built for the eastern suburbs since the earthquakes
  • 5 July• Christchurch City Council is branded the most secretive in the country after refusing to reveal the cost of an electronic touchscreen for its new library until New Zealand’s top law officer threatens to take legal action. The touchscreen is later found to have cost $1m
  • 8 July• Council/Regenerate Christchurch office opens in Bridge Street in South Brighton to communicate the “Southshore South New Brighton Regeneration Strategy”
  • 24 July• The responses to the remaining questions from the meeting with SBRA in February are received from Minister Woods

• THE LOST YEARS: Year 9 •EC Stolen 9

  • 11 Sept 2018• Public meeting in New Brighton Working Men’s Club on District Plan omissions
  • 19 Sept• New Zealand High Court orders reinvestigation of Chinese steel imports. NZ Steel (a 100% subsidiary of Australia’s BlueScope Steel) had lodged 3 complaints with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), arguing that steel manufactured in China is subsidised by the Chinese government. MBIE ruled in August 2018 that Malaysian steel had been dumped in New Zealand, but rejected a complaint that the same type of steel from China had also been dumped
  • 27 Sept• Council discussion on proposal to rewrite a District Plan clause and request approval of an amendment from the Minister under s71 Greater Christchurch Regeneration (GCR) Act
  • 24 Oct• Empowered Christchurch and South Brighton Residents’ Association attend the United Nations training session for New Zealand’s Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights (UPR)
  • 26 Oct• Empowered Christchurch and SBRA representative attends the United Nations UPR pre-session in Wellington
  • 6 Nov• Empowered Christchurch and SBRA meeting with the Office of the Ombudsman
  • 8 Nov• SBRA meeting with Regenerate Christchurch and council staff to view interactive flood maps. These show 1.0 m of flooding in many areas of the lower Avon estuary within the next 50 years
  • Nov• Public Inquiry into the Earthquake Commission established
  • 13 Nov• Dame Silvia Cartwright appointed to chair the Inquiry into the EQC
  • 14 Nov• Public meeting with Minister Megan Woods in North Brighton on the Earthquake Commission, insurance and coastal hazard
  • 29-30 Nov• Canterbury Earthquake Symposium held at Canterbury University in Christchurch; presentation abstract submitted by Empowered Christchurch is rejected
  • 14 Dec• Minister Woods approves a s71 Greater Christchurch Regeneration (GCR) Act amendment to the Christchurch District Plan, allowing people to rebuild on vacant sites where homes were demolished after the earthquakes without requiring a resource consent
  • 18 Dec• State Services Commission inquiry finds that private investigators Thompson & Clark spied on earthquake victims; Southern Response chair, Ross Butler, resigns. SR “proactively” releases a tranche of incriminating documents and correspondence with Thompson & Clark; New Zealand. High Court allows a class action against Southern Response to proceed.
  • 20 Dec• New Zealand High Court judgment in the Fitzgerald v IAG case; epoxy resin and jack and pack repairs are deemed permissible for rubble foundations; judge rules that foundations only need to perform as they did when the house was built – in this case in the 1920s
  • 21 Jan 2019• New Zealand’s UPR review in Geneva
  • March• Construction company Arrow International, the project management company of government-run Southern Response, goes into liquidation owing debts of $46m
  • 15 March• Consecutive mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques leave 51 dead. On his way to a third location, the perpetrator’s car is forced off the road and he is arrested by police
  • 4 April• Council CEO Karleen Edwards, a psychiatrist turned health administrator, admits that she will not be reapplying for her job and will be leaving the council in June. Edwards was blamed for spending $1 million of ratepayers’ money on an electronic touchscreen for the new city library
  • 28 May• SBRA and Empowered Christchurch meeting with the head of the Inquiry into the EQC, Dame Silvia Cartwright

• THE LOST YEARS: Year 10 •EC Stolen 10b

  • 22 Sept 2019• Official unveiling of the sculpture Te Kuaka/The Godwits on Bridge Street, South New Brighton
  • 17 Feb 2020• South Brighton Residents’ Association (SBRA) and Empowered Christchurch representatives attend a meeting with Leilani Farha, UN Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing
  • 8 March• Farewell to the godwits event; SBRA fundraising collection for a boulder and plaque on the site of the sculpture
  • 1 March• Report into the Earthquake Commission (EQC) presented to the New Zealand Governor-General by Dame Silvia Cartwright
  • 6 March• Large blaze at South Brighton School
  • 21 March• Four alert levels are introduced for the coronavirus pandemic. The immediate level is set at Level 2
  • 23 March• Alert level is raised to Level 3
  • 25 March• Alert level is raised to Level 4 with a nationwide lockdown
  • 27 April• Covid-19 alert level scaled back to Level 3
  • 13 May• Alert Level 2 is announced
  • 30 May• Opening of He Puna Taimoana hot pools in New Brighton, the second leisure facility built in the eastern suburbs of Christchurch since the earthquakes
  • 1 June• New Zealand moves to Alert Level 1
  • 11 Aug• First 4 cases reported of the new Auckland cluster
  • 12 Aug• Auckland region moved to Level 3, and the rest of New Zealand to Level 2
  • 13 Aug• New council working group announced to look at coastal hazards adaptation programme and aligning the District Plan with the NZCPS
  • 27 Aug• Christchurch mosque shooter sentenced to life in prison without parole.
  • 1 Sept• Earthquake Commission (EQC) CEO, Sid Miller, claims that all 1,159 open cases on the Commission’s books are botched repairs
  • 4 Sept• The 10th anniversary of the first major earthquake in 2010


Existing Use Rights – Sustainability or a hazardous future


Guests: Helen Beaumont, Head of Strategic Planning, Christchurch City Council

Councillor David East, Chair of the Regulation and Consents Committee, Christchurch City Council

Audience: 23 residents


Part A: Council has been applying Existing Use Right inappropriately, without following the process set out in the Resource Management Act, ignoring its own recommended procedure, ignoring MBIE guidelines on floor levels with EURs, and ignoring legal advice about development in high hazard areas.

Summary Part B

Council has been working against ratepayers in the interests of insurance companies and very few houses have been rebuilt to the correct height or repaired to the correct standard. However, Council’s role is irrelevant in terms of the relationship between claimants and insurer and claimants and EQC. Homeowners should get expert advice and insist on their entitlement under their insurance policy and/or the EQC Act.

Summary Part C (includes presentation)

CERA promised that houses would be rebuilt to the correct, safe heights.

900 properties in Christchurch are at high risk of flooding. The tidally influenced area extends much further than Council has admitted and rising groundwater and constant erosion poses a huge problem that has not been addressed.

Part A

Séamus welcomed everyone, introduced the speakers, and began with the background to the meeting. A meeting had been held with the Mayor on Council premises on 6 April 2016 to discuss various issues, including existing use rights, stop banks, and the old and vulnerable in the community. On that occasion, the Mayor had argued that Council had no legal basis for blocking the use of existing use rights. Another meeting with a Council team followed on 26 April, following the discovery of the discrepancy in flood modelling for the area north of Bridge Street in South Brighton. The explanation given at that time was that the 50 cm difference in floor levels between the two areas was a “revised assumption”, rather than a colossal mistake. Council originally estimated that only seven or eight houses were affected, and has subsequently revised the number downwards to five. As an outcome from the meeting, Council undertook to contact the people involved, to revise the incorrect PIMs, and to notify the insurance companies.

Empowered Christchurch established that it did not contact one of the people involved for almost a week, and none of three insurance companies that were contacted a week later had heard anything on the subject, either from Council or from ICNZ (the Insurance Council New Zealand). Following the meeting, Council then reneged on its commitment to a follow-up meeting, and instead told Empowered Christchurch to direct any future enquiries to an e-mail address that was not active (and is still not active). They also said that any further enquiries would be treated as local government official information act (LGOIMA) enquiries, exhibiting signs of a cover-up in progress. (The council web page on floor levels was hurriedly edited in the same week, and now advises homeowners to build at higher levels. A video with a similar message was posted featuring Mr Peter Sparrow, Council’s GM Consenting and Compliance.)


The two pieces of legislation that are important in the context of EURs were explained:

The Resource Management Act and the Building Act. The minimum floor level under the latter is 11.8 m, and 12.3 m under the former. [1]

Existing use rights is only defined under the Resource Management Act (RMA). An application procedure is set out that leads to the issue of an existing use rights certificate. Certain criteria must also be met for a property to qualify for existing use rights. Over the last five years, council has unilaterally declared EUR to apply to properties, with no reference to the RMA, and with no evidence requested or provided. In all of the cases that Empowered Christchurch is aware of, no existing use rights certificate has been issued.


Séamus then quoted from five examples that specified the process and requirements for EUR and advised against development in high hazard areas, some of which dated from as far back as 2010:


1) A Council senior planner (Kent Wilson) had detailed the 2 options for re-establishing a building in February 2012 (“either by demonstrating that existing use rights apply, or obtaining a resource consent”)


2) Legal advice[2] advising that development in hazardous areas should be prevented or restricted


3) A Council newsletter advising that the higher floor level (12.3 m) be applied for filling in flood management areas (FMAs)[3]


4) A Council newsletter acknowledging that the higher floor level was needed in more flood prone areas and that the one-in-50 year floor height under the Building Act was “not adequate”[4]


5) MBIE Guidance stating that, if existing use rights were applied, levels had to be at or above the Building Act 2004 level (11.8 m).[5]


In the vast majority of EUR cases, Council has wilfully ignored these guidelines and advice, and allowed building at substantially lower levels that benefit insurance companies and leave homeowners with a high risk of flooding.


Séamus concluded with a quote from Lianne Dalziel MP, writing to Tony Marriot in 2011, and detailing the risk of leaving residents with homes that were uninsurable against flooding. This underlines the fact that all these risks were already known and were being discussed in 2011, yet the decision was then made to transfer both risks and liability to residents.


Part B

Adrian Cowie then discussed the relationship between policyholders and their insurer, and between policyholders and the EQC. He pointed out the difference between a homeowner voluntarily requesting the application of existing use rights, where there is personal, individual control, and the way it has been used under insurance policy relationships. He emphasised that Christchurch City Council had no role to play in these relationships, which were governed by the specific insurance policy on the one hand, and by the EQC Act on the other. Under the Building Act, no action is required for a building damaged by an earthquake. However, this is not the case pursuant to the Earthquake Commission Act. When introduced, MBIE guidelines proposed repair standards that were well below what was required under the EQC Act and most insurance contracts.

He argued that Council has nothing to do with whether a building needs to be lifted because of settlement from the earthquakes. Adrian had requested Peter Sparrow to withdraw the video mentioned above, where the Council’s General Manager, Consenting and Compliance, had claimed that only five houses were affected. This is because floor levels and building height are crucial factors in every insurance policy claim (as new/as when new). Despite multiple requests for Council to issue a statement that they have no role in setting the standard for insurance policies, it has consistently refused to do so. This, he felt, was quite a shocking approach from an elected City Council. MBIE agreed to publish a statement of this kind on its website, explaining that its guidance does not apply for insurance policies.

As regards existing use rights, insurers have been saying “we don’t need to lift your house because we have existing use rights”. They have also used MBIE guidelines as an excuse not to lift, but only to repair foundations. This is incorrect. If a building was not flood-prone when new, and has settled in height and been damaged, it must be restored to a non-flood prone status after the damage has occurred. So Adrian’s advice was to ignore anything from Council and focus on the claimant’s individual entitlement under the insurance policy or pursuant to the EQC Act. The respective standards in each are what is definitive, not what the Council says.


At a recent surveyors’ conference here in Christchurch, UN Margareta Wahlström, the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk reduction (UNISDR) singled out urban flooding as the greatest global risk to communities over coming years. This is very relevant to the Christchurch situation, where there has been significant land settlement and areas are now exposed to extreme flood risk. Despite this, CCC, EQC and Council are claiming that everything is fine and that buildings do not need to be lifted. Adrian reminded listeners that many New Zealand insurance policies (before the earthquakes) had no limit to the cost of reinstating buildings (no limit to the sum insured). Yet in the South Brighton area, almost no buildings have been raised to the 11.8 m, never mind the 12.3 m floor level. Of the properties in the South Brighton area that have been recently surveyed, and presumably rebuilt, almost every single one now has a hazard notice. This transfers the risk of flooding and erosion from insurers and Council to the homeowner. This is happening in Christchurch, which is ironically a member of the so-called “100 resilient cities” group.


Council has also been holding what appear to be secret meetings with insurers and PMOs since the earthquakes. There has been absolutely no evidence of Council actively trying to help ratepayers.


Land claims and diminution of value:

From the declaratory judgement, it appears the High Court allowed EQC to use the Diminution of Value in the absence of any evidence to the contrary provided by the owner.

So if your land has sunk and you can prove the fact, Adrian argued that EQC was obliged to lift it to at least its pre-earthquake height. In almost every case, the cost of this would be significantly more than the DoV payment. A further complication is that, in the future, if we have another earthquake, EQC cover could be refused because you did not spend an earlier DoV settlement to remediate your land.


In conclusion, Adrian recommended obtaining expert advice on land settlement to oblige EQC to restore it to the original height.

Similarly with house claims, he advised getting expert advice, expensive though it may be EQC is reimbursing owners their expert fees where these have shown EQC’s assessments to be in error. Under the EQC Act, the standard of repair is extremely high, and in most cases, it has not been met or assessed to the correct standard.

Likewise, many private insurance assessments have assessed to the wrong standard, so it generally pays to obtain your own, expert advice.

In summary, existing use rights in relation to floor levels and minimum flood heights are irrelevant in terms of an insurance policy. You cannot have existing use rights to rebuild a house lower and in a flood-prone or more flood-prone condition than it was when new, since this contradicts the “as new/as when new” definition in the insurance policy. Council’s rules or exemptions have no role to play in this.


Part C

June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_01

In the third presentation, Hugo displayed a series of documents and maps, contrasting the original intentions with the “recovery” and what was actually implemented in practice.

June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_02

In the first brochure, CERA stated that 11.8 m as a minimum floor height was insufficient in the flood-prone areas in Christchurch and that 12.3 was more appropriate. CERA also stated that it was working with the insurance companies to ensure houses would be raised to the correct level. June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_03
A CCC newsletter stated that existing use rights might apply for a rebuild on exactly the same footprint “so long as this was at or above the Building Act height” (1-in 50-year flood event = 11.8 m).

In a tidally influenced area, the higher RMA floor height should apply (12.3 m).

June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_04
A CCC document from October 2012 showed houses before and after the earthquakes, with the new houses having been raised to a safe level. This comforting scenario did not eventuate. He reminded the audience that the current minimum floor heights are 11.8 m under the Building Act, and 12.3 m under the Resource Management Act.


On the subject of land:

June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_05
Maps were presented showing the area of land with groundwater at less than a metre below the surface. This covered a substantial area (including both red and green zones to the east and west of the lower Avon. Under these conditions, land has started to erode from underneath.

June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_06
An EQC map highlighted the houses that were below the high tide mark. Hugo had questioned Gerry Brownlee on this subject at the Earthquake Forum back in 2013, but the Minister had then denied that any houses were below the high tide mark and repeated this assertion later on RNZ. The map shown was published with the IFV documentation from EQC and can be found on the EQC website. 11.2 m is the elevation given for the high tide (10.8 m plus 40 cm freeboard).

June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_07
A further LiDAR map showed much the same area for houses situated below the high tide mark. The original map colours had been adjusted to show differences in elevation more clearly.


A member of the audience asked for an explanation of the high tide mark. Hugo explained that the term generally used was “mean high water spring”, which is the average level for successive spring tides[6]. A follow-up question asked if the property would flood if it was below that mark. Hugo explained that several different factors came into play, such as groundwater and tidal influence. While some risks were gradual and could be lived with, others were more problematical.


June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_08
The next map was published by Dr Jan Wright, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. This identified properties at high risk of flooding, the most immediate risk that New Zealand will have to face from climate change. Once again, the same contours in the lower Avon were visible as on the previous maps. The Commissioner estimated that there were 900 properties in Christchurch at the 11.2 m level or lower, and which were therefore at risk of flooding. Such houses, especially those close to the river, will have a very short lifetime in the face of rising sea levels.


June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_09
A recent Council map identified the red zone area, and also the low-lying green zones, some of which have also extremely high groundwater. This map also defined the tidally influenced area, yet the City Council has asserted that only an area as far as Admiral’s Way in New Brighton, but not beyond, is tidally influenced. This is patently incorrect, since a lake appears much further into the City on Avonside Drive at high tide and disappears at low tide. This demonstrates that the tidally influenced area extends much further upriver. Even six years after the earthquakes, Council has made no plans for this fact. The latest information suggests that this situation may drag on until 2021. Most of Christchurch is tidally influenced, and not only the coastal area. Given that a large part of the city has sunk, the incoming and outgoing tide is also removing a large quantity of land each day.


June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_10
The next maps, a set of three, showed groundwater boreholes at 20 m, 70 m and 100+ m from the river. The closer to the river, the greater the fluctuation in groundwater between low and high tide. In the light of rising sea levels, groundwater will eventually come to the surface, and sooner rather than later in the areas closer to the river. One way to address this problem, as recommended in the coastal policy statement, is to build relocatable houses, plan to remain for a short period, and then move elsewhere.


June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_11
The next slide was a statement from Martin Manning, an expert on groundwater and climate change. Studies show that coastal groundwater is directly connected with sea level rise. In Florida, groundwater has now reached the surface in some low-lying areas. A rise in the water table, which we have had here because of the loss of land height, automatically increases the flood risk. According to Civil Defence, the risk of flooding is currently much higher than the risk of earthquakes. With such high groundwater, there is no additional storage available in an extreme weather event.
June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_12
A further point was that, bizarrely, EQC’s flood modelling for increased flooding vulnerability (IFV) uses a bathtub model, which makes no allowance for storm surge (freeboard) and has no margin for error. Hugo reminded listeners of the massive erosion that followed last week’s storm in Australia as an illustration of how foolish such an approach is.


June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_13
A conference of New Zealand planners earlier this year asked the following questions:

  • Can we plan for a change?
  • Protect, accommodate or retreat?
  • Will the poor inherit the shore?


Closed groups of authorities have been planning for our future, without any involvement of the communities and without any dialogue process.


Further manoeuvring on the part of the authorities:

The natural hazards chapter in the Replacement District Plan was removed in September 2015. According to the latest information, Hugo believed that some of the authority of the Independent Hearings Panel for the Replacement District Plan would be transferred to Christchurch City Council to pass using the Resource Management Act. There has been no information about what changes are planned or when they will take place. Six years after the natural disaster, there is absolutely no excuse for further delay.


The next slide was from a senior council planner, who stated the following:

“There will be a level of trust between us, as a public body, and the community that we serve that says they are trying to do the right thing. We’ve got a point where there is a problem. We haven’t nailed the social impact of what it means to take away what, at the moment, is 17,000 households’ biggest asset. And the societal impacts are pretty huge.”

So the new hazard notices on properties basically constitute a removal of assets. Hugo called on the audience to make a careful and educated decision when deciding on their future.


The planner concluded by saying: “So it’s easier to put a rule in the plan that says you can’t live here any more. That might help someone, if they’ve got somewhere else to live. But I don’t believe that any rule is going to take away someone’s home unless we can provide them with viable alternative options to live somewhere.”


June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_14
The final slide was sent to CCC by Hugo in 2012. It pointed out that inaccurate flood modelling and EUR have created this situation where housing is being made uninsurable.


A Q&A session then followed. A question was asked about the Empowered Christchurch template letter to Council, stating that the homeowner would not accept existing use rights requested by a third party. Hugo said that while this had been effective, promotion of the declaration on the part of Council would have been more welcome. The representatives from Council were asked if this could be done. Councillor David East stated that he was Chair of the Regulation and Consents Committee at Council, but that “we don’t get involved in the day-to-day work of building consents”. He also said that he was not aware of any houses that had been built below the 11.8 Building Act level. He added shortly afterwards that, according to the information he had been given, not more than 5 houses had been built below the correct level.


Helen Beaumont “freely admitted” that Council had “got it wrong” in its flood modelling for the South Brighton area. [Despite this, the 79-year-old lady in Bridge Street interviewed last month by RNZ’s Checkpoint programme has recently been told by Council that it considers her floor level of 11.27 m above the Christchurch City Datum is adequate to protect her against flooding. This follows the Mayor stating at a press conference that no compensation would be paid to the affected homeowners, followed by the Deputy Mayor claiming in an interview on Newstalk ZB that this report of what the Mayor had said was not, in fact, correct.]


The discussion continued for some time, but with little new information coming from the Council representatives.

Two additional slides were added to the presentation following the event, before the presentation was forwarded to elected members of Council.

June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_15
June Presentation EUR_Land_Page_16

REF: https://blog.johnrchildress.com/2014/05/04/king-canute-and-culture-change/

[1] (Séamus incorrectly stated that the 11.8 m under the Building Act applied for all of New Zealand, but of course, different areas will have different elevation and different tidal influences, so there are variations. 11.8 m is the minimum floor level in Christchurch pursuant to the Building Act. This inaccuracy was later corrected by Helen Beaumont.)

[2] Simpson Grierson legal advice to Local Government New Zealand in June 2010 (“The RMA provides councils with a comprehensive mandate to prevent or restrict both new developments and the extension of existing development in hazardous areas.”)

[4] “In most, but not all cases, it will be obvious which of these two levels [EC: 11.8 or 12.3] is the higher level, and therefore the dominant criteria (sic). These are not rules but effectively default positions.”


[5] “If a house is to be rebuilt on exactly the same footprint as before, existing use rights under the Resource Management Act to rebuild at the original floor level are likely to apply, so long as this is at or above the Building Act 2004 – one in 50 year flood level plus freeboard.”


[6] Popularly known as “king” tides, which occur every 14 days or so