The Eye of the Fish

November 18, 2016

NO Red Zone

Following on from the previous post singing the praises of the structural engineers inspecting our buildings in the heart of the capital, this post is almost the opposite: don’t let anyone “Red Zone” our city. I’m not sure who is even promoting the idea, but it is not one to be taken lightly. Yes, we had an earthquake recently, and around a thousand aftershocks. Yes, we were over 100km away from the epicentre and so therefore we were not a direct hit, but merely peripheral damage. Yes, there are some buildings in the city that have been closed due to suspicious cracks. But NO, thank you, we do not need, nor want, a Red Zone.
The concept of a red zone was brought in to Christchurch after the Feb 22nd quake in 2011, when it was evident there was significant damage. Gerry Brownlee, as Minister in charge of the earthquake, would have approved it on behalf of his officials who advised this should be done. It triggered off the greatest demolition of a city ever seen outside of an ISIS video, and has lead to the virtual death of Christchurch’s CBD. At first it was just a series of orange road cones around a few key streets, but it soon became a chainlink fence stretching several kilometres in length, so much so that they had to ship in extra fencing form Australia just to contain the perimeter. No, I’m not making this up.

Inside the red zone in Christchurch, neither office work nor residential living was allowed. Inside the red zone, only men in orange hi-viz jerkins and white hard hats were allowed, because a orange hi-viz and a white hat somehow make you impervious to earthquake damage. People wanting to enter the red zone, to pick up books, medicine, personal belongings, work related info, hard drives, etc, were forbidden to do so, even if the person offered to put on a white hat and an orange hi-viz just for the occasion. They didn’t have the right badge, madge. If you couldn’t get their vital info, the old reply of “not my problem mate” would echo out, and pleas for an exception would be followed up by “its more than my job’s worth mate”, as northern England accents denied common-sense and logic and condemned these people to a financial death, while supposedly protecting them from a seismic one.
Inside the red zone, virtually every single building was razed to the ground. The city is a wasteland. There is no life, nothing moves, and no one has come back. Six years later, parts of the city are slowly being reopened, but it is too late. The people of Christchurch have moved on, either to Auckland or Australia. The army of orange coated officials and their road cones, are looking for new territory, to close down, “make safe”, and destroy.

In Wellington, I’m glad to see that we have a more sensible, more flexible way of doing things. Buildings are being assessed, one by one, rapidly, by a team of engineers, and when problems are discovered, the building concerned is closed off till further assessment is undertaken. Wellington knows that the worst thing Christchurch did was to cease to function. They drove the people away, out to the suburban shopping malls, where people already used to shop, and they let them build offices out there on the strip. The city died: the city was already dead. There is no need for a city there any more. The suburb has won.
Wellington is not like that. Wellington has no suburban malls (well, it has Johnsonville Mall, but that itself is dying), and instead the city is the centre. The people of Wellington are the lifeblood of the city, and indeed the city is vital to the functioning of the country. Wellington matters. No, seriously: Wellington City matters. If Wellington was to be closed down for six years, it would lose all its public servant roles, its home as the seat of government, and its people. It is vital that Wellington city does not declare a Red Zone and lock out the people who gather here to live, work and play. Wellington IS resilient, and needs to be even more resilient. But what Wellington needs even more than ever, is for its people to stay in town and stay working and stay eating and drinking and stay involved in the city. It needs its transport links back to full force quickly – and they are so, already, and it needs the mainstream media to Calm the Fuck Down.

Wellington does not need a Red Zone. It needs Green for Go.

Not Sir Bob
18 - 11 - 16

You guys should listen to Bob Parker. He says Don’t return to the CBD !

18 - 11 - 16

Bob Parker is a prat, and is responsible for the death of Christchurch. Don’t follow any of his advice.

After the quake – The Wellingtonista
18 - 11 - 16

[…] some informed, measured discussion about the Stats and ICI buildings, and a rather more passionate rejoinder to calls for a red zone. [Update: this Herald article by a professor of civil engineering is the best explanation […]

18 - 11 - 16

And at least now Gerry Brownlee seems to agree that we (Wellington) are doing the right thing:

18 - 11 - 16

I’d agree that we don’t need a Red Zone total close-down of the CBD, but still, the following list as published today is a little sobering:

* BNZ Building, Customhouse Quay

* Queensgate Mall

* Katherine Mansfield House

* Environment House on Kate Sheppard Pl

* 25 Tennyson St

* A block at Malvina Major retirement village

* Defence House

* High Court

* Wainuiomata Mall

* Greater Wellington Regional Council

* Deloitte House

* Courtenay Central

* Archives NZ building

* Car park behind Amora Hotel

* Wellington Girls’ College

* Revera House

* Housing New Zealand


* Reading Cinema: 950

* James Smith: 740

* Molesworth St: 80

* Harris St: 54

* Wilson Marion St: 205

* Wilson Centre City Plaza (Lower Hutt): 312

* Stout St: 319

* Waring Taylor St: 230

18 - 11 - 16

Thanks Alan – yes, its a growing list, but also others are dropping off it as well.
There’s a really good explanation here from Peter Smith:

19 - 11 - 16

Personally I am happy that more than a couple of inner city eyesores could be knocked down. One confirmed to be a goner is Reading Cinema carpark, which lower Tory Street will be well rid of. Hopefully planning rules will force any replacement building to have an active edge of retail along Tory.

20 - 11 - 16

The Civilian has the best ever reposte to the question of Red Zoning – have a read of this bit:

Engineers inspecting the country say both North and South islands have become “highly unstable” and are at imminent risk of collapse.
“To be very clear, we are calling for the immediate evacuation of areas in this zone,” said Civil Defence director Sarah Stuart-Black, pointing to a map of the zone, which encompassed the whole country. “If you are in this zone, we ask you to leave as soon as possible, and remain out of this area until further inspections can take place.”

Airports are currently overflowing with residents of the affected area, who are attempting to fly overseas, but are being met with fully booked flights.

“I really don’t know what the fuck is going on,” said Air New Zealand check-in operator Janice Gray. “We can’t put all these people on planes.”

Asked if she could just kind of stack them, Gray replied “No.”

Comedy gold!! for the full post, go to :

Levi on behalf of Ann
23 - 11 - 16

Putting the other side of the argument is Ann Brower on the Spinoff:
A rush back to ‘business as usual’ cost lives in 2011. Please, Wellington, don’t repeat Christchurch’s mistake

“A rush back to ‘business as usual’ cost lives in 2011. Please, Wellington, don’t repeat Christchurch’s mistake”

On a bus in Colombo Street five years ago, I experienced first-hand the hazards of sacrificing safety in the cause of an urgent return to normal service in the city, writes Ann Brower

On February 22 2011, everyone around me died when a red-stickered building collapsed on to a bus I was riding. I was crushed to within millimetres of my life, was dug out by strangers, spent months in hospital, and took the best part of the year off work. It cost over half a million dollars to save my left leg. For three years, I lived, worked and slept in a fog. Even now, I feel the earthquake in every step.

Many of the buildings on the street my bus was on, Colombo Street, Christchurch’s Courtenay Place, were unsafe to occupy. Yet the street and footpath were deemed safe to occupy. The building had been deemed dangerous since 1982. Inspections on Boxing Day 2010, when an aftershock to the original September quake struck, noted extreme falling hazards, because the façade was leaning out over Colombo Street. The inspector had gone so far as to write, “Urgent, barricade required, main thoroughfare.” Yet there was no barricade on the main thoroughfare.

If Colombo Street had been a red zone of exclusion, our bus would have taken a different path. On that one block that should have been a Red Exclusion Zone, 16 people died, one was paralysed, and I was seriously injured. It cost over half a million dollars to save my left leg. We, the taxpayers, subsidised the city’s decision to get back to Business As Usual. I subsidised that decision with my pain. My bus-mates subsidised that decision with their lives.

Let us not forget.

Please Wellington, do not make the same mistake Christchurch made. Be conservative. Please. Earthquakes are rare events. But they are not rare on the top of the South Island just at the moment.

Please, Wellington, remember that you are 150 kilometers away from these earthquakes. The one thing of which we are fairly certain is that there will be more earthquakes. The next ones might be closer.

Please, Wellington, do not be too quick to get back to Business As Usual. In Christchurch, that lack of conservatism proved murderously cavalier.

Please, Wellington, listen to the NZ Society of Earthquake Engineering. They’re well respected in the world, and the best we’ve got.