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.

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


Land grab continues, people tricked into selling $350,000 home to Govt for $81,500

I reckon these people are IDIOTS. Can you believe they sold their house, on a full sized section of land, to the GOVT for just $81,000 ! Surely they could have sold it for WAY more than that on the private market ! Even Earthquake damaged “insurance write-off” houses and land sell for double, and more, of that amount.

They had inadvertantly allowed their insurance policy to lapse. After the less damaging, September 2010 Earthquake, insurance companies put a freeze on new policies in Christchurch. Then came the devastating February 2011 EQ. As “uninsured” the Government’s ‘voluntery’ offer to buy their “Red Zone” house was half the land value. Before the EQs the place was probably worth a total of $350,000 (house and land together).

They have accepted the government offer and sold the land to the government (note “Red Zone” is a purely abitrary government invention. With a stroke of the government’s pen, the land could be un-red zoned tomorrow, and the government can then sell it for 4 times the price they bought it for !

They say they had to move out because the place was draughty and leaking. I say that $10,000 of repairs can fix up an awful lot of draughts and leaks ! Anyway they chose to buy a complete, another house, (curiously also an EQ write-off, but they chose one in Bexley, in an area subject to flooding, even before the earthquakes, and doubly subject to flooding now).

Sorry but I have little sympathy for these people, for considerably less than the cost of buying another entire EQ write-off house and land, they could simply have done essential repairs to their existing house (and continued to live in an area with less danger of flooding, every time we get a decent dump of rain).

Note the auction below is NOT for the land, which they have already sold to the governemnt, it’s just for a brick and tile house (so very little value in salvagable materials there, but you could get the door and windows and internal fittings from the bathroom and kitchen etc). Going by the only picture that accompanies the article, it looks like quite a new house. (UPDATED, see bottom of this article)

It’s worth noting that many of the “Red Zone” houses that were sold to the government, were entirely undamaged or had only minor cosmetic damage.

Something around 12,000 houses across several Christchurch suburbs (mostly in the North-East), have been sold to the GOVT and demolished, leaving the land as open parkland, with scattered trees and shrubs. Less than 140 homes have been retained by their owners. Arguably, those few houses left, in private ownership, in the “residential Red Zone”, could well be worth (to some people) a lot MORE than they were previously. With all the city services of sealed road, water, electricity and telecommunications (which agencies are not allowed to just withdraw) and yet 97% of houses having been removed, means that people with only a residential sized lot to garden and care for around their house, have access to what has become a huge surrounding parkland. The Govt are required to maintain this land at their expense.

I believe that people accepting Red Zone offers by the Govt of half of land value, have been cheated out of their land. They have been absolute suckers. Golly even in the old days, people would get some beads and blankets and Bibles for their land ! I am very sure that history will look back on this sort of thing as just utter land-grab-thefts by the government. (Note there have since been various court case wins by “Red Zone holdouts” to get a better price for their properties).

Here is a link to the Christchurch Press newspaper’s website.

UPDATED 26 June 2014… The house (well the right to strip it for salvage) ultimately sold at auction for $10,500. Plus extra money was donated to the elderly couple. Here’s a link to the NZHerald’s article.

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 ?

Southern Isles Reporter starts flying off the presses

Well, “flying off the presses” metaphorically speaking at least.  I am Catherine Jemma and I have started this ‘blog to make use of, and develop further, some of the skills I have learned over the last few years.

I started a Diploma course at Canterbury Uni, part-time in 2010, while recovering from a car crash. In early 2011, I gave up full time work to undertake various media related studies, firstly a film and tv course, then went on to complete a course in journalism. Our class regularly volunteered at a local radio station and in late 2012 I had some work experience as an intern on a rural newspaper.

I roam the streets of Christchurch with my notebook and a digital camera always at the ready. Keep an eye on this ‘blog for newsworthy videos of things I come across. Although my focus will initially be on Christchurch City, other items relevant  to the South Island,  New Zealand, and the whole Australasian/Pacific area will also be covered if they get caught in my web. As this ‘blog develops, I may have contributions from other correspondents located elsewhere throughout the South Island and farther afield.

Items related to the Christchurch rebuild (since the devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011) and the ongoing problems with insurance payouts (or lack there-of) and government land-zoning decisions and ‘compulsory acquisition’ of freehold land, are also likely to feature.

If something gets-my-goat, grinds-my-gears, or just plain gives-me-the-irrits, expect to see something about it here: written, photographed or videoed. Use this ‘blogs
‘s handy-dandy “leave a comment” function if you have extra information to add to any of the stories you see here (or if you see a possible error, so that I may effect a correction if necessary), but please be nice, I am fairly new at this and I haven’t eaten anywhere near enough chocolate lately.

I will do my utmost to ensure the accuracy of all facts presented. However my reports will sometimes be somewhat “editorial” in nature, so expect to see my personal comments and opinions expressed also. It will always be clear when it is an opinion that is being expressed as opposed to a statement of facts.

Everything on this ‘blog (unless specified otherwise) is  copyright to this ‘blog and to the individual contributing author(s). Exception applies for Fair Use such as Criticism and Review, and Personal Study purposes.

At all times, this ‘blog will strive to conform to the highest standards of journalistic ethics, such as detailed in the Fairfax New Zealand Ltd, Code of Ethics. This weblog may be held accountable to any complaints procedure brought by The Press Council of New Zealand.