Christchurch: Central city plan highlights ‘disconnect’

Press Release – New Zealand Labour Party

2 October 2011 MEDIA STATEMENT Christchurch: Central city plan highlights ‘disconnect’ Christchurch East MP Lianne Dalziel will make a plea to the council to ensure that the central city remains connected to the rest of the city in the recovery planning …Lianne
Dalziel
Christchurch East MP
2 October 2011 MEDIA STATEMENT
Christchurch: Central city plan highlights ‘disconnect’

Christchurch East MP Lianne Dalziel will make a plea to the council to ensure that the central city remains connected to the rest of the city in the recovery planning process when she presents her submission on the draft Central City Plan tomorrow.

“I am concerned that as things stand we will end up with a huge ‘disconnect’ between the CBD and the rest of the city,” Lianne Dalziel says. “This is a direct result of the planning process, which has the council driving the development of the CBD recovery plan separately from the recovery strategy plan for the whole city which is being run by CERA. No wonder people are unsure of just who is in charge of the recovery.”

Lianne Dalziel said she blamed the government’s legislation for this, but wonders why the council did not raise any objection to it at the time.

“My constituents in the eastern suburbs are feeling very disconnected from the whole process and some are concerned that proposals signalled in this draft may spell the end of hope for facilities like QEII, for example. This highlights that separating the planning for the CBD and the rest of the city has created an artificial boundary.

“Without a comprehensive recovery strategy, which includes an integrated transport strategy, that looks at the rebuilding of a range of facilities like QEII, that details the location of future residential developments and provides a clear direction from central government about the future of the red zoned residential properties that reflect the retreat from our waterways and wetlands, how can anyone be clear about the shape of the centre of the city?

“If I were a cynical person, I would say that the council has been set up to fail. The government gets them to produce a plan that cannot be implemented and then produces its own,” Lianne Dalziel said.

Questioning the complete absence of geotechnical information from the draft report, Lianne Dalziel said: “I am very concerned about the nature of the ground under the CBD, which remains in the white zone. The council has committed to a grid pattern that may not respect the existence of old streams and soils that are susceptible to liquefaction, meaning significant challenges for rebuilding in some parts of the CBD.

“In the residential communities the government has identified areas that will not be rebuilt for a range of reasons that revolve around the thickness of the crust, the risk of lateral spread, the cost of strengthening the land and the time that it would take to replace all the infrastructure and buildings. Surely these issues are similar in the CBD only this time we are talking about commercial properties that need to earn a rate of return for their owners.

“I worry that we could have a wonderful plan and insufficient developers prepared to reinvest on their existing sites due to the potential risks, inability to insure and the increased costs of rebuilding associated with new standards,” Lianne Dalziel said.

In her submission Lianne Dalziel states that the draft plan says that ‘it is feasible to design and construct future structures on each of the Central City Plan project principal sites’ and yet there is no information to support this.

“I have raised the location of the proposed metro sports facility as an example. It is planned to be located on the corner of Moorhouse and Ftitzgerald Avenues. Not only will this be contaminated land (it’s where the Red Bus company is located), it is over the road from AMI Stadium which suffered major liquefaction, with the resultant damage leaving in doubt its very future.

“I hope that the council will be willing to highlight the risks as well as the opportunities that the recovery presents when it reports to the Government,” Lianne Dalziel said. “As I said in my submission, I believe the draft plan captures an image in my mind’s eye of what I want the Christchurch of my childhood to look like in my retirement, but I want the plan to be realistic and achievable.”

Lianne Dalziel will present her submission to the council tomorrow in the Balmarino Room, Riccarton Park Events Centre, at 10am.

Submission attached below:

Submission on draft Central City Plan

Lianne Dalziel
MP for Christchurch East

I would like to present my submission in person at the hearings that have been scheduled.

Introduction
I am impressed with how the Council staff have managed to distil the essence of the community response to the “Share an Idea” process in order to produce a visionary and exciting draft Central City Plan. I have read Volume 1 (I have not read the regulatory volume) and it captures an image in my mind’s eye of what I want the Christchurch of my childhood to be in my retirement. I have become used to saying we have a ‘new kind of normal’, because getting back to normal is no longer something we can hope for. Our ‘new kind of normal’ must be better and more resilient than before. It must not re-entrench pre-existing vulnerabilities.

There are four issues that I wish to address – the first is something that I believe the Council must address in the final plan – the second relates to specific proposals, the third relates to a single element of the plan and the fourth is one that the Council cannot explicitly address due to the provisions of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011, but which I hope that you comment on in providing the final plan to the government. They are the nature of the ground upon which the city has been built, suggestions around specific recommendations, the lack of a coherent transport strategy for the city as a whole and finally the disconnect between the CBD and the rest of Christchurch.

1. The Ground beneath the Central City
I have attended a number of seminars this year, which have focused on the nature of the ground Christchurch has been built on.

The Royal Commission on Building Failures has already made public technical reports about the ground and other matters. There are no such equivalent reports to support this draft plan and I believe this is a major omission.

Although it is said (p22) that current findings support that it is feasible to design and construct future structures on each of the Central City Plan project principal sites and to promote a minimum 25-30-metre setback from the river banks, none of those findings are available and it is not clear how these and future work will “inform” the final plan. I have taken an extract from the summary of the Foundations on Deep Alluvial Soils[1] report:
“In the top 20m to 25 m, the CBD soils consist of recent alluvial soils including gravels, sands, silts, peat and their mixtures. The soils are highly variable within relatively short distances, both horizontally and vertically. Considering their composition (sandy soils and nonplastic silts), age (recent deposits, few hundreds to a few thousand years old) and depositional environment (river, swamp and marine sediments), these soils are generally considered susceptible to liquefaction, and in some cases (when deposited in a loose state) they exhibit very low resistance to liquefaction.

The principal zone of liquefaction (due to the 22 February earthquake) stretching west-east along the Avon River affected several high-rise buildings in different ways. Buildings on shallow foundations, supported on loose to medium-dense sands and silty sands that liquefied, suffered differential settlements, residual tilts, and bearing capacity failures (sinking of the building in the soil). Pile supported structures, particularly when the piles reached competent soils at depth, generally showed less differential and residual movements. There is evidence that hybrid building foundations (consisting of shallow and deep foundations or piles of different lengths) performed relatively poorly during the earthquakes. Multi-storey and high-rise buildings supported on shallow foundations sitting on shallow gravels showed mixed performance. The variable thickness of the gravel layer and underlying soil layers contributed to uneven settlements and residual deformations. These adverse effects were particularly pronounced in transition zones where ground conditions and behaviour change substantially over short distances, including zones of marked ground weakness and lateral spreading.

Robust shallow foundations, often accompanied by land improvement measures, and deep foundations reaching competent foundations soils at large depths are appropriate for founding buildings on deep alluvial soils. These types of foundations have shown to provide an improved and acceptable performance during strong earthquakes. Attention to details in the design and due considerations of the soil-foundation-structure system as a whole are essential for ensuring a satisfactory performance during strong earthquakes.

The design process has to be supported and based upon results of appropriate field investigations, the extent and nature of which will depend on the particular features of the site and requirements of the building considered. The report identifies some general concepts that should be followed in the design of foundations for buildings on alluvial soils in relation to the observed performance during the 2010-2011 earthquakes and the current seismic design philosophy.”

What this says to me is that there is a combination of ground, foundations and building structure that contributed to failures in the CBD. The underlying historic stream patterns (which are not referenced in the draft city plan) clearly had a major part to play as well. If the number one guiding principle is to foster business investment, then the cost of rebuilding to new standards or moving away from areas of high risk needs to be addressed from the outset. I worry that we could have a wonderful plan and insufficient developers prepared to reinvest on their existing sites due to the potential risks, inability to insure and the increased costs of rebuilding associated with new standards.

In the residential suburbs the government has identified areas susceptible to liquefaction and lateral spread, where the scale of the land damage has made it too costly and untimely to repair. It seems to me that there needs to be a thorough assessment of the CBD and decisions made about where it is sensible to rebuild or not. This may impact on the grid pattern, which is one of the foundations of the draft.

I would like to see a robust section on the underlying geotechnical challenges that face the rebuild.
2. Specific Feedback on Proposals

Remembering/Maumaharatia
Having visited Kobe recently, it is my view that the Earthquake Memorial, the EPI-Centre and the over-arching Earthquake Interpretation should be a single building and it should be built on the former CTV Building site. Calling it the EPI-Centre Memorial Building would meet a range of objectives.

I am totally opposed to constant visual reminder of the earthquake through exposed ruins – I don’t mind something people can go and see if they choose to – but this isn’t ancient Rome. And we weren’t struck by something unique like a nuclear bomb. This is a personal view, but I feel sick when I see buildings I love in ruins and it takes me back to two of the most frightening moments I hope to ever experience.

As in Kobe (15 January) I believe that there should be one Remembrance day and that is February 22 and it should be a Provincial Half Day – like ANZAC Day. As well as an inter-denominational memorial service, it should also be a day of celebrating the progress that has been made.

The Plan
Generally speaking I am supportive of the plan, but because of my concerns about the nature of the ground beneath the CBD I doubt that all of the elements can be achieved. The metro sports facility is planned to be located on the corner of Moorhouse and Ftitzgerald Avenues – where the Red Bus company will have poisoned the land over many generations – and which is over the road from AMI Stadium which suffered major liquefaction, with the resultant damage leaving in doubt its very future.
That being said, I like the concept of the Avon River Park, the different precincts and the lanes, making the city an interesting place to visit. I certainly like the emphasis on sustainability.

3. Transport Choice
I am deeply concerned that transport in the CBD can exist in isolation from the rest of the city. There needs to be an overarching transport strategy for the city and the CBD can be one of several hubs.

There is no point doing a little bit of light rail – it is either fully integrated into a network of public transport options – or it is not. Reading that this one stretch of rail is costed at around $80M per kilometre is meaningless without comparative costs and how it is planned to be integrated with the public bus network.

I love the concept of light rail, but I need to know that it is the right choice for Christchurch, given the size of our population and the degree of subsidy it may entail. The facts need to be examined before such major decisions are made.

Is it time to tell central government that Christchurch needs to bring the management of the entire public transport network back within its responsibility? The capacity to integrate timetables, inter-changes and the Red Bus company’s excellent infrastructure must surely be in the city’s interests. The concept of competitive tendering which has sent Red Bus to other cities to make up for lost revenue seems ridiculous given the challenges we face here. There are other ways of ensuring that services remain competitive – e.g. benchmarking – and I believe it is time to have a bold transport plan for Christchurch

4. CBD Recovery Plan
It is the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act that says a Recovery Plan for the whole or part of the CBD must be developed, and the Christchurch City Council, in consultation with the affected communities, must lead the development of this plan.

The problem is that the definition of the CBD is much wider than the actual CBD and the process itself alienates this process from any strategic thinking about the recovery of the city as a whole.

It is a shame that this has occurred and I hope that this is mentioned to government when the draft plan is submitted.

Authorised by Lianne Dalziel, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

[1] Misko Cubrinovski & Ian McCahon August 2011

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