During 2012 we had a series of forums for the Older Generation to meet some of the movers and shakers from CERA Insurers, EQC and the CCC. We called these meetings because it was becoming increasingly clear that if someone did know what was going on, they certainly weren’t telling us. Over 400 people turned up at the first meeting where we were told we had to be patient and we will all get through this in time. Unfortunately time is the one thing that is not on us older folk’s side.
If we had a forum today, we would be saying that for so many of us nothing has changed since that meeting, except it’s got more stressful and we’re three years older.
Time has run out for some of the people who attended that first forum. They are no longer here to see their houses rebuilt or repaired. They died.
I know of an elderly couple who have been waiting four years for their house to be rebuilt. Their house has just been finished and they have it up for sale as they have now moved into a retirement home. Four years is a hell of a long time to wait if you’re in your 70s or 80s.
Over the last few years God only knows how many meetings I have attended with insurance people, EQC, Council, CERA and community groups. I have a computer full of reports, minutes, statistics, projections, figures, graphs, promises etc. etc. But none of this has answered the questions raised at that first forum – what is the plan to rebuild/repair our homes and our lives? Far too many people are still waiting for their house to be rebuilt or repaired, as well as their neighbourhoods, their roads, their drains and sewers. For us older people, time is running out.
I’m 78 years old. I spent most of my working life in the construction industry, both here and
overseas and I have been wondering why it is taking twice as long to build a house now, sometimes more, than it used to. We used to price a three-bedroom house on a time frame of 400 hours to 600 hours (10 to 15 weeks) depending on the size of the house and the type of the section. And those were the days when everything was made on the job: dug out the foundations with shovels, mixed the concrete on site, nailed up the frames and pitched the roof.
Now everything comes ready-made, even the concrete and all done by machines. All they do now is set up the ready-made frames and fix the ready-made trusses. Everything is prefabricated. Even the door-frames come ready-made with the doors hung and all the doors handles and latches fitted. Yet despite this it is taking six months or more to build a house. It is also often taking 18 months and over to get to the building consent stage. That is just ridiculous!
It is the same with repairs. Most of the easy repairs have been done. Now they are working on the difficult repairs. Many of these are taking longer than building a new house.
Because of this very long time frame some people are running out of their accommodation allowance. Some of the rental agents are asking retired people to show them evidence that they can carry on paying the rent if their accommodation allowance does run out. If you can’t show this then you won’t get the house. This is happening here and now in Christchurch to our older folk!
If you need to extend your tenancy agreement there could be a charge but when the builder can’t give you a completion date and stick to it, how can you give a definite time to the rental agent?
All this adds to the stress people have been going through for the past four years. And I can tell
you from the number of calls I get every day that it’s getting worse.
This stress is one the main causes of the increase in mental health problems which can lead onto stress related physical health problems. People just feel they have been ground down and they can’t take much more.
We have a new ailment called red zone envy, the red zoners are seen as the lucky people. And be clear about this, it’s not just the old folk!
You see we know the cause of these problems and we know the cure – we have to speed up the building process and give people their lives back. That sounds easy and in fact it is easy if the people leading the rebuild have the will to do it.
In all the years I have been in the industry I have never seen such a chaotic mess as I have been observing over the past few years. There is no citywide planning. We have different insurance companies working with different PMOs working with different builders working with different sub contractors. We have men and machines criss-crossing back and forward all over the city the cost of which must be enormous both in time and money.
If you walk past a building site regularly you will find that there are more days when no one is working there than days when people are. Remember people are living in temporary accommodation and spending their accommodation allowance while this is going on.
How on earth can builders plan their work and carry it out effectively and efficiently in the situation
we now have here in Christchurch?
Not enough building inspectors, not enough skilled labour. According to the Press the Council is advertising for more building inspectors. That’s good news but I would have thought that this would have been sorted long before this.
Who is responsible for recruiting the skilled labour force?
Does anyone really know how many workers we need to carry out this rebuild?
How many do we need for the CBD and how many for the residential rebuild/repair?
How do you decide which houses will be repaired or rebuilt next?
So the question I am asking once again of you who are driving our recovery,
Where is the master plan for the residential rebuild/repair?
I have been asking this question for the last three years because if we’re going to keep on going in this way, families, old and young are going to continue to suffer unnecessarily.
So please, if there is a plan share it with us so that people living in the affected suburbs know what it is. If we could see the plan we would breathe a lot easier and it would ease the stress we are all going through. Tell us the good, the bad and the ugly so that we know what is going on, what the challenges are and what you are doing to sort it.
We shouldn’t need another Older Generations Forum, what we do need is an Earthquake Recovery Forum.
We need all the players to come together, Insurers, EQC, PMOs, builders, suppliers, CERA, SCIRT
and the City Council for the purpose of finding how to speed up the building process. For each week you take off the time frame it would have huge benefits for the people you are contracted to serve.
You could do this by identifying the roadblocks that causes the delays and then find the solutions to get through them. This can only happen with all the players working together and organising together. Building is a team sport and we have the farcical situation where the members of the team carrying out the actual work on site don’t know each other. Changes have to be made. We are tired of all the uncertainties.
We are not asking for the impossible. If you just brought the building time back to what it used to be it would be a big improvement.
This is the time for the government in the shape of CERA, together with the Council and the insurers to step up and show us how you are working together to speed up the process and make sure that we can all move into our new rebuilt or repaired home and enjoy it before we die!
Yours in hope
John Patterson QSM
Older Generations Forum
Supported by the Older generation Forum Committee
Rev Peter Beck
Letter provided by Sarah O’Brien.