Christchurch

The short answer to the question above is you all did, wherever you happen to be in NZ.

How come? Well straight after the earthquake teams of engineers and builders from across NZ spread across Christchurch to get a picture of the devastation and they were shocked by what they found. Unreinforced concrete slabs, block retaining walls with no reinforcing and no grout, walls not connected to foundations at all, unreinforced brick chimneys that all fell down, brick veneer walls that all fell off, heavy roof tiles that fell through ceilings, sewer pipes laid without fall and without pressure!

Canterbury people can definitely play rugby better than the rest of us but their standard of house construction was just dreadful and their council inspection of construction standards virtually non-existent. The clowns that were put in charge of repair works failed completely to see how lucky they were that the earthquake happened in day-time when most people were at work and instead they focussed on the one or two commercial buildings where most deaths occurred, not realising how many more would have been killed by falling chimneys, roof tiles and brick walls if the earthquake had struck at night while people slept at home.

What followed was the usual NZ bureaucratic lurch from no standards at all, to over-prescription of everything. Just like what happened after Cave Creek which failure could have been prevented by simply insisting that DoC got building permits like everyone else, but instead the bureaucrats produced a whole new code just for DoC.

After Christchurch, Wellington bureaucrats went into over-drive churning out bookfulls of building code standards on anything remotely connected to construction, then turned their attention to councils requiring ludicrous levels of information on every building permit application which they then applied to every part of the country, regardless of geology or previous standards of local building enforcement.

This is where you all got caught up in paying for Christchurch. Suddenly house plans that needed to be only about ten sheets of drawings became 50 sheets accompanied by endless specifications and Producer Statements that jumped the price of drawings and of course the building itself. Bewildered Ministers like Phil Twyford wondered how his supposedly simple Kiwibuild got out of control not realising the blame lay in the offices of his building bureaucrats in Wellington, another city foolishly built on an earthquake fault.

Some examples of the stupidity now facing building permit applicants are: The requirement for seismic analysis of suspended ceilings in single storey commercial buildings in non-seismic areas where even if there was a failure, nobody will be killed by a 400gram tile falling a metre, yet Christchurch homes still have heavy roof tiles above them with no such calculations; The requirement to provide the specifications for fixing gib board to be added to document packs even on buildings with no gib board in them and when even the most hopeless builder knows how to fit gib board (what next instructions on how to bang in a nail); The requirement to specify the paint to be used on Gib Aqualine in wet areas when Gib states any paint will do. The list goes on!

The Minister of Housing, Phil Twyford and the Minister of Construction, Jenny Salesi need to sit down with some small builders and architectural draughtsmen and get to grips with just how mad and expensive this has got, rather than waste their time with big loss-making companies like Fletchers where the management is several layers away from what is actually happening.

Probably won’t happen but it should.

Editor

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