Saturday, 2 October 2010

Onward - and upward?

The meeting organised by Brendon Burns was good, with speakers from EQC, the insurance industry, and the CCC, and lots of time for questions. It is obvious that somehow the Avonside area has been neglected, with many people not receiving a single visit from assessors. Also people have been getting conflicting advice from some assessors, which doesn't help. The meeting allowed people to make contact with the assessors and other agencies, and hopefully they'll now get seen.

It is tough for EQC, insurers, and the Council - they are all close to swamped with work, but people can accept delays as long as they are not kept in the dark. (A lesson that many call centres and IT helpdesks have learned, with messages like "You are number 12 in the queue" assuring callers that they're not consigned to eternal limbo.)

Nobody will give a firm date, but all agencies seem pretty sure that home owners will get results from their assessments in the next week or ten days. That won't instantly mean "Here's your cheque, go and hire a builder", but it should say if houses are to be repaired or demolished. We'll need intensive soil tests in our block, and especially in the "triangle" starting from our section (black in the map below) and including the nine or so properties between Dudley Creek and the Avon, east to the Banks Ave corner. It seems that these properties are among the worst hit in all of Christchurch in terms of serious property damage, which is a dubious claim to fame.
The soil tests will indicate what needs to be done in terms of foundations; probably deep concrete piles, and lots of them, supporting the house on a solid layer below. As the EQC geotech guy said at the meeting, "Remember that this isn't the first earthquake this block has been through. After previous earthquakes the ground was OK for building on, and the same will be true after this one." It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this is the first ever tremor for this area, because it's the first we've lived through, but the earth is a bit older than us.

The other problem is that a lot of properties are now lower than they were. As the liquefied silt was forced up through the soil, large voids were left under ground. Some properties settled and stayed level, but most slumped one way or the other. Houses in our block now have stormwater connections that run back into the property from the street, sewers are definitely all cracked and smashed, and ground water is not draining because the shaking of the quake consolidated some soils into a hard pan.
The Medway St footbridge, forced to twist because the river banks moved closer together by a metre.

Add to this the Avon River and Dudley Creek, which have had their beds forced up, and their banks brought closer together, so their carrying capacity is considerably reduced. High tides are bringing the Avon to the level normally only seen with spring tides and heavy rain combined; unless a lot of dredging is done, the higher river and lower property heights could mean that high tides and/or heavy rain will cause flooding over the road and sections in River Road. Our section is better than those to the east; it seems that a small sandy rise starts at our front yard and we're about a metre higher than our neighbours towards the corner.

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