How to know that you’re living next to witches – a house appears overnight in a vacant section. Well, almost a house, as the other half is likely to arrive over the coming days. Yes, we went to bed last night with only a concrete foundation as a clue that there was going to be some kind of rebuild action going on and by 0430hrs this morning, there was half a large house being unloaded onto said foundations. How I slept through all the prep and about 6 large floodlights beats me, but clearly I needed the sleep more than watching it all happen.
As I contemplated this event about an hour after Mr U pointed it out to me (yes, I truly was oblivious even as I sat in the dining room which is the room nearest the property!), I thought about a personal bugbear of mine regarding the earthquake damage and the incredibly drawn out process that’s going on here in Christchurch to not only rebuild the city proper, but to get people back into homes/repair homes that are damaged etc.
Three years post-quakes and there’s people still living in caravans, motels, with friends and family, anywhere they can find; and many of them are also still paying mortgages on properties they’re not able to live in/on. As well as paying for their current living situation. It truly boggles my mind. As a result, there’s a definite rental property problem in that rents are astronomically high and rental places are scarcer than chickens dentition. Added to that, there’s lots of workers in the area trying to help rebuild who also need roofs over heads. Don’t get me started on the hassles that are to be had with insurance providers and government agencies that are now representing at least one gone-bust insurer. And now, the local City Council have discovered that they’re around $500million short for the necessary things.
I’m not fully au fait with the situation that arose with the then City Council immediately after the ‘quakes, other than to have heard that they under-insured a number of key infrastructure items (eg: sewerage treatment plant oxidation ponds). That council was rapidly and rabidly removed at the following local body elections, and the new council are doing their best to fix the mess. I don’t envy them. I also don’t envy the people who are dealing with the incredibly frustrating and anger-inducing bureaucracy that is in place that is keeping them from having their own roof, floors, walls etc around them. And every few days there’s advertising in the newspapers convincing the readers that despite everything that’s happened over these 3 years, everyone’s doing alright, yes?
No, they’re not.
Just last night on the national news, we heard of an initiative that has only just been created to move safe to inhabit homes from the red zone (totally no-go area for future building etc) to areas to create low-cost first-home style housing. Great idea, why has it taken 3 years to get off the blasted ground?!
Which brings me back to the half house next door… the original home there was totally munted (a word that pretty much translates best from Kiwi slang to ‘completely screwed’). It took 3 years to get the demolition approval, foundation approval and then house moving approval. But, the owner of the property will have a home that he can return to and call his own in a matter of a few weeks now. But it took 3 years for someone to rubberstamp a couple of bits of paper. That’s criminal. It reminds me of the stories you hear about areas of New Orleans that are still derelict post-Katrina. That’s criminal too, for the record.
Across the road, another neighbour’s home is being rebuilt from the ground up. He’s been lucky enough to secure the house directly in front of ours as a rental, so he gets to photograph and watch each stage as it happens. And yes, getting the permits to rebuild from scratch took 3 years too. It’s fun to see the new homes coming in (there’s also one awaiting final placement a few houses down the road – it too came in on a truck early in the morning), and to see the progress made on building across the street, but for people who’ve been paying rent for 3 years and waiting endlessly whilst bureaucracy spins its wheels and stores nuts it might well be like winning the lottery. A step into a future where they can say “I’m off home” and actually know it’s theirs.
Whilst I’m having a bit of a rant about things, I wanted to add my few cents regarding the continual and circular debate that continues to rage about whether to demolish or reconstruct as it was the formerly iconic Christ Church Cathedral that also fell in the ‘quakes. It’s now a ruin that has pigeons roosting in it. It’s surrounded by barriers and warning signs. It’s a jagged testament to a past that whilst shouldn’t be forgotten, must be moved on from.
The Anglican Church seems to be firmly on the side of demolition and rebuilding something that is forward-looking, anticipating the future. Heritage buffs and associated authorities are determined to fight to have this shattered, pigeon-shit filled ruin re-animated like some grotesque architectural Frankenstein’s monster.
As a pagan, I never imagined I would side with a Church organisation in a decision… Yes, demolish the original building, build a new Cathedral and utilise some of the stone from the past to build the future. Incorporate some of the stones, some of the interior stuff perhaps, definitely the bells, but for love of the Christian God, create an edifice that indeed says despite the events of the last few years, Canterbury is indeed, doing all right.
Those who cannot look beyond history and the past are doomed to repeat the failings and fears therein. Look forward and prove that strength is not simply a ‘heritage’ facade saved and tacked onto a modern building, but that it is rather creating a new heritage and future city that it’s residents and businesses are again proud to call ‘home’.