Civil defence stumped by Prime Minister's projections on Christchurch housing stock damaged and destroyed

Civil defence stumped by Prime Minister's projections on Christchurch housing stock damaged and destroyed

Official figures released on Tuesday by Civil Defence tag the number of homes condemned to date in Christchurch at 2,190, around 7,800 shy of a 10,000 estimate of likely demolitions from the Government.

Civil Defence and Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker have questioned where the Prime Minister John Key and Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee obtained their estimate of 10,000 houses to be demolished.

Brownlee later said the 10,000 estimate came from the Earthquake Commission's geotechnical engineers in the first few days after the earthquake on February 22.

Although hundreds, if not thousands more houses could be red-stickered (signaling their destruction) as inspectors assess properties, civil defence staff were scratching their heads yesterday following an update from Prime Minister John Key on the earthquake situation.

Brownlee said on Tuesday evening the preliminary 10,000 figure was not based on Civil Defence's process of red-stickering houses.

"A red sticker on a house simply means it is presently uninhabitable," Brownlee said in a media release.

“Our experience to date, and the advice we’re getting, is there will be a number of other people living in houses that are still habitable who after full assessment will find their house is not economic to repair and will need to be rebuilt. There are also a number of red stickered houses which are likely to be able to be repaired," Brownlee said.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker has questioned the government's figures and the risks of speculating. (See TVNZ story here).

Prime Minister John Key told reporters Monday that in addition to the 10,000 homes doomed for destruction a further 100,000 were damaged.

He also suggested that the Government might buy out those homeowners who did not want to return to liquefied neigbhorhoods beyond repair.

Civil Defence media relations said those figures were inconsistent with their own records as only 70,000 of the 190,000 or so houses in Christchurch have so far been inspected.

The authority expects to complete its city-wide assessment by the end of the week.

The extent and cost of damage on those homes not condemned remains unclear.

Because of demand placed on emergency services officials and civil defence, authorities have dispensed with the tri-colour coding process that was followed with the Sept.4, 2010 earthquake. The colouring system would normally give some indication of costs with yellow stickers denoting serious structural damage and green stickers minor.

Civil Defence spokesman David Miller said inspectors were only identifying those houses that were not habitable by placing red stickers on them to ensure the safety of residents by covering as many houses as possible.

Treasury has estimated residential damage from the Feb.22 earthquake at NZ$6 billion. (For more see article by Alex Tarrant).

The Earthquake Commission said last week that it was anticipating around 100,000 new claims. It was had received 170,000 from the Sept.4, 2010 earthquake and was due to complete all its work there by end of March when the more devastating 6.3 magnitude quake struck.

EQC chief executive David Simpson has already stated that the EQC was sufficiently funded to cover the subsequent costs. (For more see article by Amanda Morrall)

For further updates from Christchurch Civil Defence (including the names of the killed and missing) visit their website.

Here is the full release by Brownlee on Tuesday evening:

The preliminary figure of around 10,000 houses in Canterbury needing to be rebuilt was provided by the Earthquake Commission’s geotechnical engineers in the first few days after the earthquake on 22 February, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said today.

"This was an early indication of the number of rebuilds likely due to damage caused by the earthquake," Mr Brownlee said.

It was based on projected information obtained from the 4 September earthquake and the significant increase in land damage observed in aerial flyovers after the 22 February earthquake. 

Around 3,500 properties already required demolition and rebuilding after the first earthquake on 4 September 2010.

In addition to the properties which need to be rebuilt because of damage caused by liquefaction and lateral spreading, there are also a number of houses which will need to be rebuilt because they have been damaged by very strong shaking from the 22 February earthquake.

The preliminary figure of around 10,000 was not based on the Civil Defence's process of red stickering houses, Mr Brownlee said.

"A red sticker on a house simply means it is presently uninhabitable.

“Our experience to date, and the advice we’re getting, is there will be a number of other people living in houses that are still habitable who after full assessment will find their house is not economic to repair and will need to be rebuilt.

"There are also a number of red stickered houses which are likely to be able to be repaired."

(Updates with government response)

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We do need urgent measures building homes/ businesses - PM !

Ministers Joyce/ Brownlee – use the free trade agreement - ask for 10’000 experienced productive workers from an  Asian country – they do a quality job in no time.


..and ministers - make sure it is not a sloppy deal.

..and ministers for the future - make sure the wider NZworkforce has decent jobs.


so i get a crew of Thai boys over and start pricing stuff in chch? pay 'em $10hr and charge out at $60? trouble is the quality is not there, always have to look over their shoulder. and residential stuff u need contractors who are self-sufficient, speak english and know the ropes here. i think ur ryt, we will need to bring in some lads from asia, but for the residential stuff, which is where the bulk of the money will be, we need competent nz, oz and brits. chch is gonna be a bit like bringin east germany up in the mid '90s, the place is gonna be a building site for 10yrs, and im lookin forward to it. god-bless the dead, but its gonna be a shot in the arm for the whole south island economy.

brownlee? the guy couldnt make a go of showin kids how to make pencil-cases, and they put him in charge of rebuilding chch? thats comedy

Yes - the English/ Americans are building new homes/ businesses in Chch – bravo guys ! They need at least one 600g steak/ 500g gram of potatoes- chips, a few beers a day, some good breaks, their own room, some entertainment – need to be organised, good equipment, their union bosses etc, etc.

While Asians just have an ideal working ethic in such emergency situation - adapting to the situation.

Minister Brownlee, this is an emergency for our country - why not ring a few of the Asian leaders and do some clever, practical negotiations ?

Thankyou Kunst at least someone is making sense. But already the  fighting is starting on to how to rebuild, what areas, what buildings and everyone wants to have there say. Meetings, red tape and Fletchers is already working  on a TEN YEAR rebuilding plan. Ummm please keep paying your rates, higher insurance premiums, mortgage and rent but please wait about 8 years before your property is fixed.

Where are you seeing talk from Fletchers about a 10 year rebuilding plan?



The Press business section yesterday- under heading New Quake damage unknown..quote by Mark Binns : the quake more than likely be a "Ten year build".

Our insurance company was really on the ball - we called them on Saturday and by Friday they'd had the assessor round, organised the project guy and sorted out the builder to patch us up enough so that we could live in the place. There's plywood instead of brick, half the doors don't shut and there's no lighting in lounge, kitchen or loo. But at least we've got somewhere to live for now.

Of interest here, when I asked the assessor what sort of time frame to think about, he suggested it might be 3-5 years before everything about our house was 'made right' again. We may be living with plywood 'n candles for some time yet.

The PM's 10,000 houses lost comment may not be all wrong. At first glance a house might look OK, until you look closer and see all the damage.

A friend with a house in very similar shape to ours has had the builders and foundation guys around. They're figuring that to fix the foundations, they need to pull the roof off (it's too heavy), remove all the bricks and lift the house up so that they can re-pile.

After that they redo the foundations, then they need an entire set of new bricks as some of the old ones will break and new ones won't match, then the entire inside needs to be re-gibbed and repainted as the lifting will have stuffed it. All up, probably no change from $150k. For that figure you could almost rebuild, so you might as well do so.

A side issue from all this insurance stuff is that it effectively locks us in place - we can't very well sell our property or buy another until it's fixed, one way or another. Which is probably years away. I wonder what effect that will have on the already confused real estate market...

Well you can always look on the bright side.

If you are in the South Island it is a good time to build a cheap house using demo materials.

More than that, I'm suspecting a number of people might get buy-out offers from their insurance company.  The insurance company is (in general terms) obliged to fix my property back to its original condition, despite the fact that the property in its current condition may still be structurally sound (just with lots of cracks).  They may instead offer a cash settlement.  I then sell my property 'as-is' to somebody else.

As long as the price I sell for plus the cash settlement adds up to the property value (whatever that is!) then I come out OK, and the insurance company does well as they don't have to pay the full cost of the repair/rebuild.  This leaves a discount house, either a target for a fixer-upper that can do the repairs more cheaply (or shoddily!), or someone who can't afford more, who can organise only the essential repairs and is happy to live with the rest.

I'm not sure I'd go for the buy-out option, but I'd say a number of people will.  So all of these damaged properties will come onto the market.  Christchurch will be handyman heaven.  Or cowboy-town, however you like to look at it!

Insurance companies will not buy the clearly comes under EQC. If insurance pays you out they take control of your house or waht is left of it, and if you owe the bank anything, they get the money first you get what is left - minus the land value of course you need to get that from EQC.

In this scenario, presumably the insurance company would have to then work with EQC to do something with the property.

They sure will, and here lies the problem, the two don't see eye to eye. But it will  be the government who buys the land, what they do with it who knows? I actually think the council should be made to buy it as a lot of it should of never never bene built on, it was swamp land and an old dump in one part.

When does ANYTHING that Key says ever add up?

I swear his 100 mil personal worth must be in  monopoly money or maybe even brain cells which might sound like a compliment but the average nut has 1000 trillion cells (nerve and connecting cells) so...............


He is just saying that about 10,000 houses will not get private insurance after the quake. So the government is not in position to insure these properties by itself. Its better to move these houses to where they can get private insurance. 

Been watching the CHCH housing damage story slowly unfold. 10,000 homes to be demolished. 90,000 to be repaired. The damage decribed by some of the commentators so far sounds terrible. I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to building matters. It reminds me of an experience 20 years ago. Some of the specifics may not be of any help, but the principles should be. Built two town houses using a reputable builder at a time when sub-contractors were scarce as hens-teeth. During the build there were many instances of shoddy workmanship. On completion I had 6 pages of defects. Negotiated with the builder for nearly 5 years during which time the 6 pages were whittled down to 2 pages, comprising only the major items. By attrition they wore me down stating the deleted items were reasonable. Finally, after 5 years of dispute and getting nowhere went the legal route. My solicitor had a list of court/arbitration recognised "building inspectors" who were used by the legal fraternity for expert opinions and evidence. (retired builders) Building expert examined the dwellings and in an outrage came up with 6 pages of defects. What was unique about the "building specialist" was his list of defects was substantially different to my list of defects. Builder, under court order finally commenced remediation. Under the supervision of the "building expert" a lot of the work had to be done 2 and 3 times until it met his satisfaction and was prepared to sign off on it. Took them 6 months and cost them $250,000 (1990 dollars) which was the same as the cost of the original build. My advice is, if you can find one, get a "building expert" who is on your team. Do not rely on an insurance assessors estimates. Get a full independent assessment. Contact your solicitor. See if there is a list of court recognised experts and get one. If you can. Worth it in the long run. Believe me.

The insurance companies that settle for redevelopment in another location, would they get title to the land vacated ? If so, the vacated land may all belong to the Insurance companies which may after some time sell it for re-development to recoup their cost/loss. I am sure there is money to be made there, if not immediately, then in the future.

Any schemers behind this drastic move ?

Bernard, Amanda, 10,000 needing rebuilt is probably a vast underestimate.

As an example we have 25 Christchurch properties (counting each building not each flat as several are multi flat).  Of those one has been red stickered, 4 yellow stickered, 1 green stickered and the rest suburban and unassessed.

However 7 of the 25 unquestionably need totally rebuilt.  A further 6 are on sites that have had moderate liquifaction so we need to wait and see what happens.  Another 4 maybe uneconomic to repair.  So that's possibly 11 out of 25 that need total replacement and maybe a total of 17 out of 25 with serious issues.

Admittedly ours are older properties in the city centre and surrounds, however I believe that it could easily be 20,000 or even 30,000 properties that are uneconomic to repair.  (Note: that doesn't necessarily mean they need demolished as they may be habitable but to put them back as they were it would be cheaper to rebuild than repair; for instance a concrete floor house on liquified soil now sloping down 10cm at one end is impossible to fix without demolition however it may remain perfectly habitable until the next big earthquake in a couple of hundred years time, if you don't mind sloping floors!)

As an example of the scale of damage, in one street adjoining the Heathcote where I have a property, there was little damage post Sept 4, my property was assessed by eqc at $7,700 to repair.  After Feb 22 there is a fissure under the middle of every house on the river side of the street.  In the one block there are about 12 houses and every one will need rebuilt.  In another street where I have a property there was little liquifaction however there was still major damage post Feb 22.  The street has 12 villas and about 5 infill townhouses.  The modern houses look ok, but of the villas, the 3 double brick ones totally collapsed, 2 timber and part brick ones (including one of mine) are beyond repair and at least 4 of the others need major work.  So that's over half the street possibly needing rebuilt.

At this stage no one really knows exact numbers, but what is certain is that the numbers will be large and the costs huge.



Many thanks Chris_J

Again. Thanks for the details. Will be putting up your pics later today.



FYI in the Herald today.

The 10,000 estimate came from the EQC aftera a flyover. Not official advice, Key admitted in parliament yesterday.

The figure was questioned yesterday, prompting the Government to clarify that the figure was an estimate from Earthquake Commission engineers after a flyover of the city in the days following the February 22 earthquake.

In the House, Opposition leader Phil Goff asked what advice Mr Key had received from Civil Defence national co-ordinator John Hamilton, or any other officials, before saying some neighbourhoods would not be rebuilt.

"None," Mr Key replied.

Asked to clarify by the Herald, Mr Key said: "The informal advice we've had is that there are certain areas that can't be rebuilt, or streets or houses that can't be rebuilt, or land that can't be rebuilt.

"In the fullness of time when we get the geotechnical advice, we'll be able to absolutely confirm which areas.

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