On Thursday, there was a very passionate, vocal protest to save the Majestic Theatre. Probably thanks to the presence of the Wizard, and two of his acolytes, it got good media attention – CTV news covers it here, and the Press has a video at the top of it’s piece as well. I gave a short speech in front of the Majestic, in which I covered off the main tenets of Those Left Standing: Repair, Reuse and Rethink.
Repair. These buildings, still standing, clearly aren’t an immediate risk of falling down and causing harm to people. They can be repaired, if there is the will and the money to do so. Reuse. The rebuild thus far has been a huge waste – both of materials, and buildings. We need to ask ourselves where that mass of concrete, glass and steel will end up if we pull it down. We can reuse – by repairing buildings and putting them back into circulation, we can reclaim the built environment whilst protecting the natural one.
Rethink. The CCDU want to pull down the Majestic Theatre to widen a road by 9m. It’s 2014, and we’re knocking down buildings to accommodate more cars. This is madness, and shows that parts of the Blueprint plan need to be completely re-thought. Instead of reassessing how the plan has worked in the almost 2 years since it was released, Brownlee and Isaacs are doubling down on the Blueprint, betting that it’s failures can be glossed over by putting the house on red. It’s a high-risk play, with a potentially disastrous legacy if it all goes wrong. This is planning by bluster and stubbornness, and now is the time to admit that we need a rethink, before everything is bulldozed by an outdated plan.
I agree with a lot of this article about the good and bad of laneways, and recommend that you give it a read. One thing that the author doesn’t really touch on – and that I think is key with respect to the way that lane ways are proposed for the city – is the artificiality of them. Antony Gough has been to Melbourne, and wants to put in little lanes like the ones he saw there. To do this, he is going to put them through his development, and hope that shops populate them. Sure, better than nothing – but not the way that cities evolve lanes. Even in pre-quake Christchurch, you had a stark example of this. Poplar St was a success as shops and bars moved into a group of buildings that had been built up for all manner of purposes over a century; SOL Square was drawn up on a plan, and while the bars did well, it was at the expense of the shops, who had all gone under within a year or so of opening. There was very little life down those lanes during the day.
If Christchurch wants lanes – and we want them to be successful – then the best way forward would be for CERA to let developers work on smaller pockets of land, rather than concentrating development into giant blocks of land, then expecting Potemkin Laneways to be built through them.
A Stuff Nation assignment asks people to imagine their heart of the city. This particular vision tickled my fancy:
Hazel Oldham said she would like Christchurch to be a clean city without ”shabby shops”. ”I’d like to see some tough rules which require shops to sweep streets and keep exteriors painted and spotlessly clean,” Oldham said. ”There should be no junk drifting along streets and people should be paid to keep streets clean.”
Now, I’m not advocating for an intentionally dirty city, but this person seems to have no idea what makes a city tick. If you want spotless exteriors you could go and visit a mall – we have plenty of them. The only thing that makes central Christchurch interesting right now is the various states of decay that it’s in – new buildings popping up next to sites covered in rubble and wild flowers. The rebuild is going to take some time, so if you want a sterile city, I’d suggest you look somewhere else.
It should have read “parking squeeze in CBD annoys South Island’s richest man, no-one else”
Front page of the Press this morning is a story about the government wanting to put more people in the CBD of Christchurch:
The Government wants 20,000 residents living in Christchurch’s inner city – and is formulating a plan to achieve it.
Thing is, before the quakes the council had a goal of 30,000 people living in the CBD – though the reality was that there were around 7000-8000 (though no one quite knows how many). The usual measure for the “central city” is the Four Aves – so most of these people live / lived in two strips; between Salisbury St and Bealey Ave in the North, and Barbadoes and Fitzgerald to the East.
While I applaud this happening, I think it’s pretty silly that the Government’s target of 20,000 is actually less ‘aspirational’ than the council’s pre-quake target. I personally think that we should be aiming to have far more people living in the CBD – 100,000? 250,000? The redesign of the Christchurch CBD is our chance to re-shape the way New Zealanders live in the 21st century; we cannot continue to expand endlessly across the plains, lest we find ourselves in a situation like Auckland has. 100,000 people living within the four aves would not be a particularly remarkable density on an international level – but New Zealand is so tied to an unsustainable “1/4 acre dream” that I doubt that this will ever be considered. At least not now. Maybe when it’s too late.
This is a comprehensive, scathing post from Puddleglum that anyone who gives half a fuck about Christchurch should read. It is the third part of a series of long posts on Christchurch, which looks at the frame. As I’ve argued, it documents how the Frame and the associated land deals in the CBD are nothing more than a concentration of wealth into the hands of the developers who already hold most of the cards. There are many eminently quotable quotes:
Even the “most popular projects” only barely have support from half the residents, which itself is quite remarkable.
As has been made abundantly clear, however, the ‘anchor projects’ – especially the Frame and the Stadium – were not proposed primarily for their supposed amenity benefits. Their main raison d’être has always been as land soaks: the need to take central city land out of circulation.
And some conclusions that I whole-heatedly endorse:
In simple economic terms, the government has engineered greater wealth concentration in Christchurch. Fewer hands now control more of the economic levers in the city and region. And – as a horse goes with a carriage and love supposedly goes with marriage – along with greater economic power goes greater political control over Christchurch’s destiny.
As I mentioned, it’s a very long post, but that’s because it is comprehensively researched. I really can’t recommend it enough.
The Press, Saturday July 20th:
A fundraising auction is being held for the Christchurch Art Gallery tonight … under the artistic direction of internationally renowned artist Michael Parekowhai
The Press, Monday July 22nd:
Wealthy Cantabrians have donated more than $100,000 towards a symbol of hope for the city … Money raised at the event will find the purchase of the Michael Parekowhai sculpture On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer
The headline on this morning’s story was “A symbol for a bullish city”; maybe “bullshit” was autocorrected.
Today, demolition workers were clearing the upper levels of the 10-storey, 142-room hotel including throwing television sets out of the open space that was once the wall of one of the rooms within the complex.
On the one hand, this sounds like amazing fun. Throw a TV out of the 8th floor of a hotel, without getting in trouble. In fact, you get paid for it. It’s your job. Go on. Throw another.
On the other hand, this is the obscene waste that is the rebuild. TVs – possibly, probably still working, are being hiffed out of windows, where they will presumably be swept up off the ground and sent to a landfill. Would it have been that hard to walk them to the lift, and send them away in one piece? Even if middle-class New Zealand has moved onto LCD and plasma TVs, I’m sure that a home could be found for them. If a home couldn’t be found, then we could at least take them apart, salvage the various elements in them, and send the recyclable bits to the appropriate places.
But no. Let’s just throw shit out windows. Let’s bowl over whole suburbs rather than uplift salvageable houses and shift them somewhere. The environmental cost of this quake is almost unfathomable, and it’s not even really being talked about.
In an opinion piece in the Press this morning, Roger Sutton says that the removal of the CBD cordon fences is a “turning point” for the city.
The removal of the rebuild zone cordons from Christchurch’s central city is a real turning point in the recovery of our city.
He’s right, it definitely is progress. But I can’t be the only one who feels like we’ve have countless turning points already? I worry that we’ve had so many turning points, no-ones actually sure which direction we’re going in.
The youngest councillor, Jamie Gough, has gone in to bat for the youth of Christchurch, fighting against alcohol restrictions in the CBD. A valiant effort, but one that he should have nothing to say about due to his family conflict of interest. Just last week, big Uncle Tony, aka Jamie’s uncle Antony Gough, said that this policy would impact negatively on his new bar development.
‘‘The 1am door policy is totally unacceptable to us,’’ said Gough, who owns the portion of Oxford Terrace called The Strip.
He went as far as saying that if this was passed, some of the bar spaces would not be filled, and this threatened the viability of the whole project. So, less than a week later, little Jamie is faithfully defending his family’s economic interests.
The Press story says that Gough “hails from the same family as property magnate and Strip developer Antony Gough”; the story should stop here. A councillor is lobbying for a change in policy that will directly benefit his family interests. There could be no clearer example of a conflict of interest. For the Press to think this sentence somehow clears them from any accusations of a conflict of interest is laughable, but at least they vaguely mentioned the conflict, unlike the last time they covered Tim Carter’s opinion on convention centres, which his father might be building.
He should not be able to vote on this bill, and he should not be able to lobby support for it in the run up to the vote. The rebuild is already cloaked in secrecy and tied up in back-room deals; we do not need to tolerate such blatant conflicts of interest.
(For what it’s worth, I think the restrictions on bars are too restrictive, which I will blog about some other time)