John, and other neighbourhood support coordinators, have recorded what has been happening to an area which used to have street parties and a strong sense of community. The earthquakes destabilised this community. The process with EQC and insurance companies has destroyed it. The coordinators have recorded this and I doubt if there are any other parts of our city which can match their record. Here it is:
Our street is a cull-de-sac with four lanes running off it. The survey of the 63 families living together was carried out by four of the streets Neighbourhood support coordinators who are not statisticians. They are just ordinary people trying to humanise the statistics we all receive from “officialdom” which to the average person are meaningless.
In 2016 we carried out a survey in our street to record what had happened to the houses and the people living there during the five years after the February 2011 earthquakes.
The story of the survey says –15 houses had been sold “as is where is”. The insurance people say that cash settlements mean people can rebuild their own house. So often it meant take the money and go. Many of the houses are on broken foundations and unreinforced floor slabs, most have been rented out. No record of this is being kept.
What will happen to these houses as time goes by?
It is not the earthquakes that the people are suffering from. It is the unprofessional disorganised lengthy shambles that caused many people to sell up and move on. Often, they couldn’t stand all the frustrations and uncertainties any more.
The earthquakes broke the houses in a few seconds but it was the people who were charged to rebuild or repair the houses who have broken the communities’ spirits over a period of time.
How long does it take to repair a broken community?
That was the record for the first five years. Now five years later I am trying to make sense of all that happened.
During the 2nd five years we have had people go, new people arrive; and for many of them, then leave again. There have been a few more houses built and houses repaired. Some have had their repairs repaired, and repaired again. New surfaces have been laid on the road about 10mil thick and there have been more “as is where is” houses sold.
All houses when they come onto the market are “as is where is” unless they were uplifted and moved to a new site. I don’t know if there is an official definition of “as is where is” but I do know they are here in our street.
The day of the Feb quake I was checking our house for damage and it was the concrete floor that was suspicious. The carpet was the type that was stuck to the floor so I couldn’t see the concrete. There was dishing from one end of the house to the other and I could get my hand between the walls and the floor where it was dished. There were cracks running across the floor and the floor on one side of the cracks was lower than the other and the only conclusion I could come to was there was no reinforcing in the concrete. I pulled part of the carpet up and found I was right. I told EQC and the insurance company who sent people to have a look and then we found other houses nearby all built by the same builder were the same.
Apparently, it had been decided a few years before by “authorities” that a concrete slab standing on the ground doesn’t need reinforcement. In my opinion they’re correct as long as the ground doesn’t move. Most things in building can be repaired but often the cost of repair is more than the cost of rebuilding and that’s the reason why our insurance company decided to rebuild our house. Whatever the cost was it had nothing to do with me. I wasn’t paying, EQC and the insurance company were.
A neighbour told his insurance company he was moving to a new job in the North Island and would have to buy a new house so they made a deal with him, they offered to pay him the cost of rebuilding his house but he had to use the money to build a house where he was going to and his house in Christchurch had to be demolished by a certain date which I have forgotten. This is when we found you could make deals. Other people followed, taking the money and moving on.
The problem was the insurance companies never followed up to make sure the houses were demolished.
Then the property dealers arrived knocking on the doors offering to buy the houses “as is where is”. They then rented them out at high rents to people who needed a house, while their house was being rebuilt or repaired. The high rents didn’t bother them because EQC or the insurance companies were paying. We had a lot of people living in our street for short periods of time who had no interest in what the street looked like.
A broken community that wasn’t being repaired.
A family in the street worked for a long time with EQC and their insurance company on what to do with their house. Finally, it was decided that their house would be rebuilt and this is where the hard work started. It took a long, long time working with the builder on plans and specifications etc. Eventually they were all ready to get started. One Saturday the people came to our house to tell me they were moving on. They told me that they had been with the builder on Thursday and all the paper work was finished and agreed to. A meeting was arranged for the following Tuesday for everyone who needed to sign each page of the specifications, plans etc. It was all on. On the Friday someone from their insurance company arrived at their house, and in their words, made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. So why did this happen? I’ll leave it to you to work it out.
During the last couple of years’ builders have been buying some of these houses and doing them up and they look very good. Buyers would have no idea what these houses have been through but they are safe and they will probably stand for many more years. If we don’t have a big earthquake. I don’t know what repairs have been done to the floor slabs, and I don’t know if the council has inspected these houses as they are a repair and not a rebuild.
It’s when these houses are being “done up” when you see what they were like before the quakes, 100 x 35 studs, undersize roofing timbers, weak concrete mix etc.
Is this the insurance company’s responsibility?
One thing I don’t understand with EQC is why did they pay for bad workmanship on a repair and then pay again to put it right. The time all this has been going on has anyone given any thought on how it affects the people living in the street? I think not.
EQC and insurance companies working separately and making it up as they went along. People fighting over money instead of specifications. People who have never worked one day on a building site charging the earth for their expertise on how the houses should be repaired and bringing in lawyers who charge the earth and take people to court. Rule books being used to make all decisions when there is no rule book that can cover everything that can go wrong, ethics and empathy are words that not many people seem to know the meaning of – and so it goes on.
Unprofessional disorganised lengthy shambles by EQC and insurance companies.
“‘As is where is” houses are still being sold and now we have “on sold” houses as well.
What’s happened has happened and there is not much we can do about it. Thankfully some things are changing. We have all learned a great deal but it would be nice to know if the people who should be prepared for the next big quake are prepared. Is it too much to ask what their plans are for when the next one hits.
Let us hope that EQC and the insurance companies are working together to plan for the next big hit and that they have learnt from this area.
The people in the street now just want to get on with their lives, not many of them were here in 2011. There are very few of the older generation left. Some have moved on, others have died.
You work hard all your life and look forward to your retirement when you have time to do the things you didn’t have time to do when you were working. For us older people this won’t happen. We lost our retirement, and we can never get it back.