Christchurch… not enough houses, but a glut of office-space (albeit without any parking)

An article on the Christchurch Press newspaper/Stuff website, by Marta Steeman on 24 January 2015 said this…

“…Anyone who’s driven along Durham Street North, which flows into Cambridge Terrace, recently can’t help but be struck by the boom in commercial construction along the strip on the western edge of the Avon River.

The buildings jostling for space and attention sit just outside the CBD, a much smaller area than it used to be after being redefined by the Government’s blueprint for the rebuild of the city. And that’s important because the area is free of the Government prescriptions imposed on the blueprint development, developers say…” (Quote ends)

(A link to the full article appears at the bottom of this article, but here is just one of the comments that was posted below it)

ChrisW1970 7 days ago (as of 31/01/15)

I for one am glad that the private sector have been able to get some traction on rebuild projects. If you look at government and CCDU precincts, progress is minimal, compared to across the river west of Durham St. By exerting such a high level of control, CCDU and government/local authority have only served to add unnecessary delays and costs to anchor projects – frankly I think the best thing to do now would be to disband the bureaucratic stinking colostomy bag that is the government run CCDU, and open up ALL the anchor projects to private tender – that way you might actually see some anchor projects completed this decade, and for less money than will be if CCDU and government are allowed to continue to operate in the bumbling and useless manner they have been… of course the CCDU website claims things are going swimmingly on their projects…nonsense! The lack of visible construction works tells a different and more truthful story… (Quote ends)

When I first heard about the much vaunted CCDU Blueprint, in mid 2012, I immediately had major misgivings.

As I saw it, it was a government land-grab, for upto 60% of the CBD area, and as the land was to be seized under special CERA laws, property owners had even less rights than if it was taken under longstanding PUBLIC WORKS act rules.

I thought “Yeah mate, Wellington’s just gonna steal the land, then sell parcels of it off, probably back to its mates, at whatever price it chooses.”

And it seems as if I was 100% correct, going by the following article by Georgina Stylianou from the Stuff website on 31/01/15.

“… The Press understands Fletcher Building, which will wind up its work with the Earthquake Commission this year, is the front-runner among the shortlisted firms being considered by the Government to develop the east frame…

…Last year, CCDU planning general manager Don Miskell said residential land was cheaper than commercial land so the Crown may not recoup the money it had spent buying land in the east frame… (quote ends)

Commenting on the other article, about the Government’s mate, Fletchers, being the front-runner for getting handed over a bunch of, previously other people’s properties, for less than, even the bargain basement price that CCDU gave as “compensation” for stealing people’s freehold land off them.

The prices the government pays for land are secret, however some landowners have said that “negotiations” started with them being offered 10% of the land’s original RV (Ratings Valuation) and eventually the government would creep upto a figure of about 90% of RV. (If you don’t accept the 90% offer, then under the CERA/CCDU blueprint law, the government simply takes your land and gives you nothing).

The problem comes when the old owner seeks to buy new land, similarly zoned, close in to the city, and finds they have only a half to a third of the price of replacement land (it’s not rocket science… remove 60% of the supply of any product and the price will go through the roof, doubling or tripling, what would you expect !).

Some owners or organisations have been right royally screwed over by the government land seizures. The Deaf Society should have been laughing all the way to the bank, as insurance paid for a full rebuild, no expense spared, of the CBD headquarters, but with the government seizing their land, they are only entitled to a far lesser “indemnity value” payout. So these people have effectively been dis-enfranchised from, and lost the benefit of, having a “full replacement, regardless of cost” insurance property.

And don’t even get me started on the debacle over the historic MAJESTIC HOUSE building. This multi-storey building on Manchester Street was repairable for about $15 million (a full re-build would have cost an estimated $60 million), however the owners “Majestic Church” had to take whatever CCDU was prepared to offer in “compensation” for the land, and a lesser indemnity value insurance payout on the building. Since shortly after the February 2011 earthquake, they have been meeting in a refurbished car-sales showroom on Moorhouse Avenue, but the site has almost no parking and they are forced by council rules to pay for parking some distance away. Insurance has been covering some costs, but the church, wanting to settle into a permanent and more appropriate environment, purchased land elsewhere in the Western CBD (part of the 40% remaining that the government didn’t steal) and was intending to re-build its church there, however Christchurch City Council have denied it the necessary planning permission on the basis that “it’s a residential area” (and obviously churches cannot be in residential areas, can they ?).

Here below is the link to the article about the East Frame and Fletchers likely involvement.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/65628376/Fletchers-front-runner-for-Christchurchs-east-frame

Here is a link to the full article on the STUFF website about the expected glut of high-priced office space …

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/business/the-rebuild/65372186/Christchurch-faces-glut-of-office-space

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Avon Loop, prime waterfront homes deliberately destroyed in government land grab

Early this evening I went to the area known as the Avon Loop.

 

This area is walking distance from central Christchurch and featured a mix of old and new single story houses (stand-alone) and a small number of (mostly newer) units/apartments/townhouses of one and 2 storeys.

The accompanying video includes an informative voiceover.

 

When is Rape legal ? When it is performed by government agents… apparently

Perhaps a qualified lawyer can give me advice on the following scenario.

Rapist in dark alleyway, holds knife to a woman’s throat, and the conversation goes something like:
Rapist… “I want to have sex with you, do you consent?”
Woman… “Err, umm, that knife does look very sharp and I can feel the point of it digging into my skin, umm, yes. Yes I do consent to having sex with you”
A sexual act then occurs before the two parties go their separate ways. Later, due to excellent detective work by hardworking police officers, the assailant is brought before the courts and charged with rape. Although consent WAS given, it was NOT freely given. It was only given under duress. Consequently the rapist finds himself in the Big House for a Stretch, doing Porridge at Her Majesty’s pleasure. (translation for non-English people… The rapist would be sent to jail).

That’s all fair and reasonable. Consent given at the point of a knife or gun, isn’t really consent at all, is it ?

OK so how does that differ from the landowners of the eastern and southern areas of Christchurch’s CBD (downtown) area? In mid-2012, the government announced that it was simply going to take possession of about 60% of the CBD land area.

Some of this was bare land as earthquake damaged buildings had been demolished, but nothing re-built yet. Some land had new, or nearly new buildings on it (built just before the shakes or replacements for damaged buildings, built to the highest earthquake resistant and energy efficiency standards), and some historic buildings, now fully restored and strengthened to meet modern building standards.

The government at the time claimed there was a huge oversupply of land and that it was almost worthless. The land would NOT be taken under the usual “Public Works” act, which allows governments to take freehold land from the owners for essential infrastructure like roads and hospitals. The Public Works act also gives certain rights to the owners, such as the right of first refusal to buy the land back off the government for the same price they sold it for, if ever the government decides it doesn’t need the land for that intended purpose.

Under the special earthquake ‘recovery’ laws, people have less legal right to fight against the seizure of their land, and also land the government seizes, which it claims is needed for more green parks or new buildings like a convention centre or sports arena, can later be on-sold to anyone at any price if they suddenly decide that it was all a big mistake and they didn’t need the land after all.

The government has publically said that the offers they make to landowners for compensation are ‘take it or leave it’ type offers. Yes the landowners can ‘negotiate”. But ultimately the government pays whatever it wants to in compensation for taking the land. The owner either agrees to accept that amount as full and final settlement on the land, and the government takes possession of it, or the government simply takes possession of the land anyway, and the landowner gets nothing.

Landowners who have already accepted settlements have said that negotiations start with the government agents offering about 10% of the previous land valuation. Some owners say they managed to get up to 90% of previous land valuation as a final settlement. However often the highest figure the government will go to is much less, in some cases less than what is still owing on a mortgage loan.

And with 60% of the CBD land area being effectively removed from the free market overnight, the value of other land in the CBD has sky-rocketed. This has been extremely good news for the lucky few who own land in the western and northern CBD area (mostly that’s a handful of rich property investors and some ‘old money’ wealthy Christchurch families).

Eastern (and southern) CBD landowners therefore find themselves completely priced out of returning to anywhere near the CBD/inner city, and, oftentimes unable to afford anything comparable that is suitable anywhere within the Christchurch city area at all.

This is exactly the situation that the Deaf Society find themselves in, regarding the demolition of their earthquake damaged headquarters and club-rooms building that was at 232a Armagh Street. Any chance of insurance simply re-building on the same site, has been scuppered by the government’s wholesale land seizure program in the eastern and southern CBD.

After the flooding damage caused to New Orleans (when Hurricane Katrina missed the city, but the effects caused levee banks to rupture), I heard that the local government there was going to use their powers (in the USA called “eminent domain”) to simply seize the land out from under the rightful owners, especially in the poorer area known as the Lower Ninth Ward. OK so that’s in America, where the government is well in the pockets of big business and the banks, and you expect that sorta thing.

But it never occurred to me when the earthquakes affected Christchurch, that our biggest enemy would be the government in Wellington. Creating whole new bureaucracies, and passing laws, to enable wide-scale land seizures here. Here in a, usually, civilised country like New Zealand.

So if a bunch of mean looking dudes turn up at your house and announce that they are taking your big new $4,000 flat screen tv, whether you like it or not, “but they will negotiate”. They start off offering you $20, but after spirited negotiations on your part, you manage to get the price offered up to $50. So then they grabs your telly off the wall and walk out. Would that be legal, because you consented to the ‘sale’, or illegal because your were initially presented with a fait accompli that they were taking the telly, and you simply agreed to what compensation they offered in the end ?

Deaf club building demolition

The Deaf club building has served the community in Christchurch for almost 50 years. It was purpose built in 1964, and deaf people were involved in its construction.

The building at 232 Armargh Street just a few hundred metres NorthEast of Christchurch’s cathedral was damaged in the earthquake of 22nd February 2011…

But the final death knell was when the government announced in mid 2012 that it was simply going to take possession of 60% of the CBD (aka downtown) area from the rightful owners. Over 800 properties are to be taken, whether the owners like it or not. The government claimed it was essential to do this because there is such a massive “over-supply of land” that it is “almost worthless”. Note land in New Zealand’s major cities is some of the most expensive in the world, and our wages are amongst the lowest in the western world.

With the small amount of “take it or leave it” compensation offered to landowners, the Deaf Club in Christchurch (along with most of the other owners of Eastern CBD land taken by the govt) will be unable to secure comparable alternative premises.

With respect to the CBD land seizures and the much vaunted “blueprint”, I think that if the national government (based in Wellington but comprising mostly Aucklanders and northern North Islanders) had just stayed butt out of it, Christchurch could well be much further along the route to reconstuction and rebuild. Groups like the Deaf Society could be enjoying moving into brand new premises, re-built on their own existing land, with the bill almost, if not entirely, paid for by their insurance.

This is the case for a relative handful of “lucky” (or, dare I say it, ‘well-connected’)land-owners on the western side of the CBD. Antony Gough is a property investor who owns substantial land west of Cathedral Square, which IS NOT being seized by the government. He has been reported in the media, railing against eastern CBD landowners who have complained about the injustice of the ‘take it or leave it’ compensation they have been offered. Note that Antony Gough’s string of fancy bars, restaurants and cafes along Oxford Terrace (which is being re-named to make it more ‘upper class’) are being re-built at a cost of some NZ $ 140 million (with the vast majority of that bill most likely paid for by insurance). I wonder if western CBD landowners, including not just Mr Gough, but also several other ‘big names’ in Christchurch real estate ownership, whether their opinions of the CBD Blueprint might change if the govt took all their land off them and paid them as little as the eastern CBD landowners are getting ?

I recorded many segments of Standard Definition 3×4 video footage, using a cheap tripod. Some other people there had more advanced cameras although I was the only person present with a tripod. My filming that day (Thursday 8 August 2013) totaled 32 minutes. If someone wants the raw footage from me to properly edit up into a longer program, then please contact me.

The video attached here is a selection of several segments I filmed. One video shows some of the people present. However people came and went throughout the day. Some people were standing well to the north of where I was and therefore are not on video.