RADIO: May 27, 2011

Parts of quake-ravaged Christchurch to be abandoned

By New Zealand correspondent Dominique Schwartz, ABC News
Friday, May 27, 2011

Christchurch residents are anxiously awaiting a land report which will help determine whether parts of their quake-ravaged city will be abandoned.

The report is due to be handed to the New Zealand government within weeks. Already technical experts are warning that tough decisions will be needed - in both the central city and suburbs -- to avoid the deadly mistakes of the past.

Presenter: New Zealand Correspondent Dominique Schwartz
Speaker: Di Lucas, landscape architect, Christchurch, Dave McKinnon, Christchurch resident

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: It may not be Venice, but there's no shortage of water in Christchurch.

DI LUCAS: There are about eight thousand springs under the city and it is all this wonderful meandering streams and wetlands. It's naturally a very wet place.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Di Lucas is a landscape architect who's been studying and working with Christchurch's terrain for decades.

DI LUCAS: The levee we're standing on, the bank has ripped apart. It has exploded.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: In the earthquake?

DI LUCAS: In both earthquakes. It has ripped a couple of metres deep in some places.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: She says the devastation wrought by February's quake on the city centre may, in part, be explained by the river banks or levees left by the city's old waterways.

DI LUCAS: The old 1850 map plotted the streams in central city. It shows well, they are right under a lot of blocks and a lot of buildings and there is a pattern of them right through. It is not an issue necessarily the water but with the earthquake, the levees seem to be an issue.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: The Pyne Gould Corporation building, or PGC was the second most deadly site in the CBD when the quake struck. Eighteen people died there. A royal commission will investigate why some buildings failed and others didn't. But Di Lucas says underlying levees may be a factor.

DI LUCAS: There's a meeting of several streams there at the PGC building. It was on
an old levee that may have exploded.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Do you think hard decisions are going to have to be made about not rebuilding in some areas, some suburbs?

DI LUCAS: Yes, they are. We've seen the liquefaction and that is where high water tables, estuarine sands. You don't want to be engineering it. I think you want to be avoiding it.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Suburbs like Bexley?

DI LUCAS: Yes definitely.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Before the quakes, the eastern suburb of Bexley was home to 4,000 people. But many have left. Some may never return.

DAVE McKINNON: There is many rumours that this estate will be bulldozed.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Dave McKinnon has lived here for 14 years, watching as the suburb expands into the wetlands.

DAVE McKINNON: If you went and saw the wetlands behind us which is very nice in some parts but this whole suburb was like this. This was actually swamp land so we never thought anything would ever be built in here.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: The quakes liquefied the ground underpinning much of Bexley. Cars and houses sank up to a metre in grey, stinking sludge. Engineers can fix almost anything - but at what cost? The land report which is being prepared for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority will outline land damage across the city, potential new hazards and options for remediation. The government will ultimately then have to decide where it's putting the money.

SHONA DAVIES: This is one of our cracks here.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: Shona Davies wants to move whatever any officials decide. Her Bexley home is being demolished. She wants to rebuild in Christchurch - but on firm ground.

SHONA DAVIES: I don't want to go through this again. I've got a couple of people I've spoken to that can't even enter the place without vomiting.

DOMINIQUE SCHWARTZ: But for all the problems facing Christchurch, Di Lucas says there are also exciting opportunities in its rebuilding.

DI LUCAS: It is a huge opportunity. I mean people love being associated with water and we could make it an asset and not treat it as a negative to be got rid of.

Posted on 31/05/2011 by Lucas Associates |

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