Paying to rebuild Christchurch: A small temporary earthquake levy

While the horror of Christchurch’s second earthquake continues to unfold, those of us not immediately involved in the recovery can begin to plan for the rebuilding of a city and the livelihoods of those who live there.

The question that immediately comes to mind is how are we going to pay for the recovery and reconstruction?

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) and private insurance will cover most of the cost to private property. Everything else—the hospitals, the roads, the rail, the sewerage—will likely be borne by central government. More borrowing by central government is being contemplated.

As a practical, principled response to the Christchurch earthquake, the Green Party is putting forward for discussion the idea of a small temporary earthquake levy on all income earners over $48,000.

The levy would work like the one being introduced in Australia to pay the A$7.2 billion fix-it bill after their floods.

To make it fair, the levy would fall on those most able to pay it. Those earning between $48,000 and $70,000 a year could pay up to an additional one per cent income tax, while those earning over $70,000 could pay up to an additional two per cent income tax to help pay for the reconstruction of Christchurch. (People earning less than $48,000 and all those living in the Christchurch region would be exempt from paying the levy.)

A levy at those levels would raise an additional $921 $457 million per year and be directly tagged for disaster relief and reconstruction. The levy could last for a defined time period such as a year, or end with the reconstruction of Christchurch, whatever comes first.

Here are a number of different levy scenarios with estimates of the amounts they raise:

Total tax revenue collected Additional revenue collected $m (difference)
Scenario 1 228.62
Scenario 2 374.99
Scenario 3 457.24
  Levy amount per week
Taxable income Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3
$50,000 $0.19 $0.38 $0.38
$55,000 $0.67 $1.35 $1.35
$60,000 $1.15 $2.31 $2.31
$65,000 $1.63 $3.27 $3.27
$70,000 $2.12 $4.23 $4.23
$75,000 $2.60 $5.67 $6.15
$80,000 $4.04 $7.11 $8.08
$85,000 $5.00 $8.56 $10.00
$90,000 $5.96 $10.00 $11.92
$100,000 $7.88 $12.88 $15.77

Scenario 1: A levy of 0.5% applied to an individual’s income between $48,001-$70000 and a levy of 1.0% applied to an individual’s taxable income greater than $70,001.

Scenario 2: A levy of 1% applied to an individual’s income between $48,001-$70000 and a levy of 1.5% applied to an individual’s taxable income greater than $70,001.

Scenario 3: A levy of 1% applied to an individual’s income between $48,001-$70000 and a levy of 2% applied to an individual’s taxable income greater than $70,001.

EDIT: These figures have been updated by the Parliamentary Library and are based on a progressive tax. The original tables were calculated as a flat rate over the entire income rather than just the income above $48,000

There are those who argue against such a levy. Australia’s flood levy has been attacked by the Right who argue that further government cutbacks are the best way to find the necessary funds to pay for their flood damage. And a new, albeit tiny, tax raise for upper-income earners goes against the Key Government’s current pathway towards a flat tax structure. And of course we have already paid into the EQC kitty over many years.

However, we don’t believe these arguments against a small temporary levy are convincing. The public sector is already being cut and further cutbacks won’t help the jobs situation. A tax rise may go against National Party ideology but it is only temporary for a national emergency situation. And the size of the damage bill appears to be greater than current reserves and re-insurance.

With this small temporary earthquake levy we don’t wish to politicise the argument. We don’t wish to re-litigate the argument around National’s tax changes, nor do we think the Right should use the opportunity to promote their agenda of asset sales to pay for the damage. We need a pragmatic response to the situation we’re in. We can return to the arguments about tax rates and privatisation later.

A small temporary earthquake levy does appear to offer a fair way for all of us to do our bit to contribute to Christchurch’s recovery without adding to Government debt. We welcome your feedback.

EDIT: these are the old tables.

Income band Scenario 1 ($M) Scenario 2 ($M) Scenario 3 ($M)
$48,000-70,000 (@0.5%) $118 (@1.0%) $236 (@1.0%) $236
$70,000+ (@1.0%) $343 (@1.5%) $514 (@2.0%) $685
Total yearly revenue $461 $750 $921

The additional tax to pay for individuals would look like:

Income (pa) Scenario 1 ($/week) Scenario 2 ($/week) Scenario 3 ($/week)
$50,000 $4.80 $9.61 $9.61
$60,000 $5.77 $11.54 $11.54
$70,000 $13.46 $20.19 $26.92
$80,000 $15.38 $23.08 $30.77

76 thoughts on “Paying to rebuild Christchurch: A small temporary earthquake levy

  1. I have a few very simple suggestions.
    How about all MPs agreeing to cut their salaries to the average wage for the next year?
    How about all the list MPs giving up any taxpayer funded travel for their partners and families? If they want to be with them they can all move permanently to Wellington.
    How about all the ex-MPs paying tax on their superannuation payments? A large number of them get much more than 70k and don’t pay any tax on it.
    How about implementing the referendum result and cutting the number of MPs to 99?

  2. Alwyn, you know full well that the amount saved by your suggestions would be negligible. You are just using the Christchurch disaster to push your political barrow. Despicable!

    Russels’ suggestion is a sensible one, and far better than cutting social services, which would result in the cost of rebuilding Christchurch being borne by those who can least afford it, or raising the cash through privatisation, which would mean public assets are gone forever.

    As Russel has said, the levy would be only on those who can best afford to pay for the rebuilding of Christchurch, and would be removed once it is no longer required.

  3. I think you’re getting ahead of yourself, Russel. I think the first thing to do is figure out how that rebuild should proceed. This last big quake was on a new (or a newly known) fault line. I hope we don’t just take the knee-jerk reaction that we often hear national leaders of various countries utter about rebuilding X either the way it was or better than it was. That is an ill-considered response. At the very least, let’s listen to the seismologists about what we should plan for.

    Also, though this will not even cross the minds of most people, we face a very uncertain future, in terms of environmental damage and resource depletion. No-one should expect global civilisation and our society to continue business as usual for the foreseeable future. In all likelihood, the future will be very different. We should consider how cities should be planned (if they should exist at all) for a very different future where simplification, localisation, conservation and reduced resource/energy use will be the order of the day.

    So let’s not just throw money at this; let’s think it through carefully.

  4. Tony’s is a good comment, but I think the basic idea of putting something aside for infrastructure, however it may be shaped, is worth considering. We recently got a tax cut – this small rise would still leave people in my salary band better off than we were last year. I know I would feel better about my taxes going to a constructive purpose such as this. I wouldn’t hold my breath about it being accepted by a government that doesn’t like tax though.

  5. Agreed, Tony, that we do need to think through carefully how, and possibly where, the rebuild should proceed.

    But whatever option is considered the most desirable, the cost to the public purse will be considerable and I think we should at the same time be considering the best way of meeting that cost, as Russel is doing.

  6. With many capable people across the political spectrum and with the rebuilding and reorganisation required in Canterbury, I would suggest that the extreme step of forming a unified coalition government, to serve for the next two or more years, be implemented.

    The upgrade from a local emergency to a national one is the right call as even in purely economic terms (not even taking the human cost into consideration) only the infastructure costs to rebuid will have a national effect.

    No more Tansmission Gulley, Wellsford-Puhoi road upgrade, no Waterview tunnel, no public transport upgrades in Auckland or Wellington, no increases in welfare, etc, etc.

    These funds will all need to be diverted into rebuilding the Christchurch/Canterbury economy.

    Not to mention that the welfare system has just had an increase of mayby 100K extra people requiring long term assistance.

    The reconstruction is by far much bigger then any individual political party governing by partisan theory can handle and a unified interim government will be much more focussed on building the whole New Zealand economy (required to rebuild Canterbury).

    Ideas like Russel’s should be heard at the unified interim government cabinet meetings and discussed.

    Currently Green ideas wont be.

    I would be interested if others have similar thoughts.

  7. I support this idea. I earn under 48,000 per year and would be willing to pay into a CHCH recovery fund, I don’t think you need to limit this to mid-high income earners. But I would be keener on the 0.5% rate.
    I hope you can get some traction for this.

  8. Toad, it’s right that Russel should be thinking of how to pay the cost but he has already suggested specific amounts and rates. I see he’s given possible scenarios of costs but, again, that is getting ahead of himself. Sure, taxes would be a way of paying the costs but we can’t possibly know the costs of doing this right, so all his scenarios could be well wide of the mark.

  9. Tony- isn’t it better to have a structure in place which can be readily adjusted rather than scrambling to make one up later when the need arises? It is called good organisation and gives you flexibility and structure to respond to things quickly. And to be frank you are nit-picking and being a bit contrarian – it isn’t exactly helpful.

  10. Who says that people in the 48k upwards bracket are best placed to pay for this? We have a mortgage and are just managing to make ends meet. Yes we chose to buy a house, and are working very hard to pay for it. What has happened in christchurch is devastating and NZ needs to pay for it. I would love to have a 1% tax, but who’s going to offer to pay my mortgage for me?

    – Send some of those people on the dole down there to help out, keep paying their dole but at least they will have some work to do.
    – MP’s can most definitely take a pay cut and cut their travel perks – its not much in the big picture – neither is my 1% extra tax- but together it makes a difference.
    – How about all those people who have extra money can donate on their own accord. Maybe you can lead by example Russel?

  11. Shane,

    I’m not nit-picking. We’re talking about a major rebuilding effort that will take many years, perhaps longer. That’s a lot of resources; we should at least attempt to make sure those resources are used in a manner which makes sense for the long-term.

  12. @Candice 11:27 AM

    Send some of those people on the dole down there to help out, keep paying their dole but at least they will have some work to do.

    The last thing Christchurch needs is a lot of people without the relevant skills being sent there.

    Sure, there are a lot of people with experience in demolition and construction on the dole elsewhere in the country at the moment. And I’m sure those whose family circumstances permit will be being sent there to assist with the rebuilding. But they should be paid a proper wage for it.

  13. how about an international competition to design a state-of-the-art ‘green’-city…?

    offer massive tax breaks to foreign ‘clean-industries’ to re-locate there..

    ..it is often said that new zealand is small enough to be able to make massive changes…

    ..surely this will be the opportunity to have a good crack at making a ‘small’ perfect-city…?

    christchurch could in one leap…

    ..go from a city focussed on the past…

    …to a working model of a city of the future…

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  14. While there might be some merit in this idea, but there a lot of people like me who have already donated a significant amount to the rescue effort to the likes of Red Cross etc.

    Adding levy on top of such donations is a bit unfair.

  15. If you are serious about making a difference, why exempt the bottom 75% of taxpayers from the earthquake tax?

  16. a new lottery…?

    ‘the big five’…

    guaranteed five new millionaires each week…

    all other profits to christchurch…

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  17. legalise pot..

    ..all taxes raised for forseeable future used to help re-build christchurch…

    ..make toking a patriotic act…

    ..and do it soon..

    ..it wd be a huge draw for the world cup tourists..

    ..plus future tourists..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  18. phul u says “how about an international competition to design a state-of-the-art ‘green’-city…?

    offer massive tax breaks to foreign ‘clean-industries’ to re-locate there.’

    Great idea phil – though probably difficult to do on a city-wide planning scale as the majority of buildings and streets will not change.

    But a great idea on a building by building level, and industry.

    And a fantastic way to change the negative connotations that might otherwise last for years or decades, into a positive impression for Chch.

    Perhaps a new style of buildings (like Napier did with Art deco) along the lines of the stunning art gallery (now CD headquarters). A ultra modern building with a massive 100% glass frontage, that didn’t suffer so much as a cracked window.

  19. @photonz1
    Napier is not, I think, a valid example of a “planned” city.
    Nearly the whole CBD was destroyed and had to be replaced. This is not the case in Christchurch, although there has certainly been a great deal of damage.
    I understand the main reason Napier was rebuilt in an Art Deco style was because it was cheap and had no parapets or overhangs to fall into the street. It was also much admired by the leading Architect in the area.
    It was not however a planned city. Indeed the fact that it ws rebuilt in about two years was probably due, as much as anything, to the fact that their was no RMA and no Historic Places Trust. If a bulding was damaged it was demolished. By the standards of that time Bye, Bye Cathedral
    The “iconic” Art Deco image is a product of the 1980s, not a plan from the 1930s.

  20. Anyone here have an inkling on likely insurance/s – including re-insurancing – increases.? Likely impacting all resident New Zealanders.. And sooner rather than later.. methinks that perhaps private insurers are more capable of stepping up what they shall require clients and customers pay. After all. rapid increase implementations give them a head start on cash and capital raisings.

    Has Russell taken this factor into account.?

  21. Alwyn – I wasn’t using Napier as an example of a “planned city” (which I’d already effectively ruled out).

    More as an example that a style of architecture can itself be a positive drawcard.

  22. @Alwyn 2:43 PM

    Napier is not, I think, a valid example of a “planned” city.
    Nearly the whole CBD was destroyed and had to be replaced. This is not the case in Christchurch, although there has certainly been a great deal of damage.

    We don’t know that is not the case in Christchurch. There has not been the chance to do the engineering assessments yet. If there is widespread liquifaction affecting building foundations, as there obviously is with the Hotel Grand Chancellor which will certainly have to be demolished, there may be many other buildings that “look okay” but will be in the same category.

    It could, like Napier, be a complete rebuild for the Christchurch CBD.

    (FFS – I find myself agreeing with photonz1, I think for the second time ever!)

  23. There are two words I increasingly despise-“The Government”.Call them very incompetant and mildly(?)corrupt;NZ has economically stalled though its public servants and parliamentarians still enjoy their privileges.I don’t trust them to use an Aussie-like disaster levy properly.In poor Christchurch,everyone’s insured.The premiums are all going to climb anyway to Tout Le Monde is going to pay more for their cover.

  24. disaster is also a time of opportunity…

    hard to see now…

    but that will come…

    (shit..!..whaddaya know..!

    photonz ran with my idea…)

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  25. Phil’s comment at 1:18pm is about the best thing I have heard in ages.
    It makes sense on so many levels, let’s hope (pray) that there is leadership with enough vision to make it happen.

  26. It would be a shame if the National Government disregarded this plan just because it came from the Greens.

    Personally I’m not sure that a complete rebuild in that area is a good idea. There’s been after shocks of 3+ every half hour or so with a 4.4 today.

    Gerrit

    A unified coalition government, to serve for the next two or more years, be implemented.

    It’s interesting how a disaster can make many of our arguments cease to be relevant. I personally agree that a Government that is not caught up in political ideals with all parties working together is a good solution, not only to the current disaster.

    Welfare spend is at $700,000 so far.

    A financial response must be implemented ASAP.

  27. Will this tax replace the EQC levy I already pay? I’d be for it then – property owners like myself will generally be paying less. Non-property owners, however, will be paying for services that benefit a property owner more than them. Houses without working sewage and water tend to be almost worthless. Same goes for houses without road access.

    Green policy used to be the benefits of taking shortcuts were negated by punitive taxation/levies. So in this case, where the benefit lies, so should the cost.

  28. @Michael 7:40 PM

    No, it would not. The EQC levy has always been based on the percieved natural disaster risk at the time.

    The Christchurch earthquakes, given that no-one had any idea of the existence of the fault lines that have caused the Christchurch quakes, were not included in the actuarial assessments upon which the EQC levy was set.

    So someone is going to have to pay the difference. I would agree with Russel it should be all of us, even if we do have to pay something on top of he EQC levy we had already paid, rather than cut the people of Canterbury adrift to fend for their own financial costs of reconstruction.

  29. toad says “(FFS – I find myself agreeing with photonz1, I think for the second time ever!)”

    And I’m backing phil, probably for the first time ever.

    International design competition for a city for the 21st century, with the latest in energy efficient buildings – keep pushing that idea.

  30. Rebuild Christchurch – bearing in mind the more severe earthquake risk will make the buildings more expensive.

    Don’t rebuild Christchurch

    Rebuild Christchurch somewhere near but not so prone to liquefaction.
    __________________________________________

    Those are the choices. Anyone has another one I want to hear it.

    Given those choices the first stage of making the decision is to determine if any suitable relocation site exists, or whether the liquefaction problem is no better anywhere that would not force the relocation of the entire population.

    The cost of building in a zone like that is high, the buildings one can afford to build in it are generally low to the ground. We’re not going to have the same ambiance the old city had.

    I don’t think that the government or the people of New Zealand are prepared to think about simply not rebuilding.

    I could be wrong. I don’t think like a New Zealander. However, I suspect strongly that the pollies are doing the logical thing, because whatever is done is going to cost us.

    respectfully
    BJ

    .

  31. I think that the tax is a very good idea, remember that raising revenue internally can avoid us having to approach the World Bank for a loan where we could be paying compound interest.

  32. Here is my honest opinion – I think it is time for the government to suck it in, borrow the money and face the credit ratings downgrade. Sure it might be painful in the short term, but it is necessary in more ways than one.

    ————————————–

    With regard to the liquefaction, if it has been such an issue with Christchurch, then someone might need to revisit Napier. Remember that most of the suburbs of Napier are built on top of the old Ahuriri Lagoon which itself was drained as a result of the 1931 Earthquake. Much of the Wellington CBD would also need to be looked at because it is a combination of dry land and land that only emerged as a result of the 1855 Earthquake.

    If someone can reconstruct Christchurch in such a way that liquefaction will not be a problem, then I do believe that Christchurch should be rebuilt in its current location. If not, then I wonder which centre could become the new Christchurch?

    ————————————-

    International design competition for a city for the 21st century, with the latest in energy efficient buildings – keep pushing that idea.

    I disagree, if only because strictly planned cities have not succeeded all that well – just look at Canberra and Brasilia for two examples. Perhaps elements of a design competition should be looked at for the Christchurch CBD, but otherwise I would keep the growth a little more organic.

    In saying that, I would like to see the Cathedral built as a replica, perhaps with a cenotaph in front of it with the names of each of the victims enscribed.

  33. Another thing we may not be out of the dark yet the fault line seems to be running east west from Greendale along Governors bay to east of Lyttleton and the shocks are slowly (thank god)travelling E.E.S.that could set off tsunami’s if 200 miles off the coast eg. Ache Indonesia.(see Christchurch Earthquack Map)

    So a contingency plan needs to be put into place in case of a tsunami and that is going to take money and having to pay the World Bank interest won’t help will it?

  34. Perhaps one approach would be for all properties in Christchurch City to be rates free for a year. Similarly a two year income and company tax holiday for those resident in Christchurch could also provide a sizeable boost to reconstruction. Putting a new tax on people who live there who are barely above average income is not going to help.

    There will need to be some prudential estimates of how best to deal with some infrastructure (which may be a chance to replace that which would have needed replacing at some point) with the right mix of borrowing and PAYGO funding. Given Canterbury has on average paid more into the NLTF from roads taxes relative to funding it receives, it certainly can claim an entitlement to getting 100% funding for reconstruction of its roads from that source. If it delays some new works elsewhere then so be it.

  35. Future planning of Christchurch could take a paradigm shift to the North west away from the Greendale/Governors Bay fault line.

    This should be standard practice through the world in places like Haiti, Turkey, L,aQuila Italy. It only means moving development 10 kilometers away from the fault line.

    So if the center of CHCH was where the other side of the Airport is now there would be very little damage. Was there much damage at the airport?
    I can’t understand why they closed it that day.

  36. Libertyscott you seem to be misreading what Norman wrote. The tax proposed specifically excluded Christchurch. And the last thing Christchurch needs is no rates revenue funding its services at this time and a mounting civic debt.

    I don’t support the proposal as stated. The problem is that EQC will have its reserves run down and increased premiums will take time to rebuild reserves. Thus there needs to be a deposit by government directly into the EQC – perhaps in the form of a loan that will be repaid as premiums mount up to replace it (hopefully).

  37. Future planning of Christchurch could take a paradigm shift to the North west away from the Greendale/Governors Bay fault line.

    Unfortunately that would bring the city closer to the faults in north Canterbury and the foothills of the Southern Alps.
    There is no easy solution to this, I would suggest that managing the risk in the current location is the only workable option.
    But until geologists analyse all the data and get a better idea of the nature of these faults we just don’t have the information we need to make such decisions.
    It could be that once it all settles down it won’t move again for another 15 000 years, or this could be the continuation of the southern propagation of the Alpine fault system and be much more active.

  38. One points out that Washington, DC is also a planned city.

    If we build it back where it is now, we have to build it differently, but we don’t have to change the names of the roads, or the locations of the parks. Simpler to do that in a lot of ways.

    If we want a “Cathedral” it has to be a lot more steel, a lot more ductile, and the upper bits have to be “Disneys” with fiberglass instead of stone. That’s going to be the case for a lot of the stuff that is for show. The bulk of the city has to be less than 3 stories tall and the second floors have to be lighter and the roofs have to be lightweight, not flat topped… and there’s still going to be problems with liquefaction.

    There are dozens of details but consider a “city” which has a tallest building of not more than 2 stories. What does that look like?

    The Cathedral(s) now rebuilt, stand as the tallest buildings. Anything that is built taller than 2 stories has to be engineered to take a jolt 50% stronger than this one. Expensive building to that standard. A lot of steel… and I swear that it should be against the law to carry a “brick” up a ladder…just to make the point.

    I think there are reasonable things that can be done with Christchurch where it is. The businesses that were in the city center need to be subsidized to stay there, and if their buildings are trashed they need to have help with rebuilding proper quake resistant structures, possibly with facades that LOOK like what it once was but is not built of stone and brick. The trolley lines can be restored. As damaged as the infrastructure is, the lesson about burying things in the ground has been learned.

    One of the lessons of the LA quakes is that liquefaction is not simply a matter of ground condition and magnitude of the quake. The waves emanating from the epicenter “reflect” off the surface and off more solid features, they can reinforce each other in areas and spare others next to them… and a different epicenter will generate a different pattern of surface effects.

    Residences are seldom more than 2 stories. Few would have been shaken apart. The liquefaction created a problem with buried infrastructure and the simple answer of not burying most of it, seems appropriate.

    There are ways to deal with overhead wires that don’t involve running them in front of houses.

    This is not an impossible job. It is simply an impossible mess. We can clear it and rebuild it better than it was.

    respectfully
    BJ

  39. On river plains such as Canterbury surely buildings need to have “floating” foundations (like hollow ferro cement boats) to have any reasonable expectation of resisting liquefaction.

    Of necessity, this would limit the height of the construction.

    Strip, plate and pile foundations are not adequate in this environment unless they reach to bedrock.

    If we are going to be taxed for the rebuilding of Christchurch I would want to see a different kind of engineering wisdom applied.

    And I would also want to see the cash spread to ordinary people in the suburbs, not just focussed on the big ticket items in the city centre.

    Best of luck Christchurch.

  40. There are dozens of details but consider a “city” which has a tallest building of not more than 2 stories. What does that look like?

    Well, I can tell you one thing bjchip, there would be no choo-choos running around.

  41. Christchurch: Rebuild or relocate?

    http://thejackalman.blogspot.com/2011/02/christchurch-rebuild-or-relocate.html

    What do you do when there are huge sinkholes swallowing up cars and trucks, silt washing all over the place, buildings falling on top of you and the ground beneath you continues to shake? Shifting Christchurch is a consideration many people will not like to make, but in the aftermath of Christchurch’s largest aftershock earthquake event ever, some hard decisions need to be made.

  42. There is nowhere to relocate to. The rest of the flat land in Canterbury is just as prone to the same seismic issues.
    Buildings can be protected from liquefaction relatively easily when they are being built, so rebuilding on the same site should be feasible.

  43. Actually there isn’t an “easy” in there Shunda. They can be protected, but a lot of the protection involves not building certain types of structures.

    Not too tall, too wide, too long. It has to be able to behave as a unified floating structure and not fall over. The rest is about resilience or ductility of the structure, deformation without destruction.

    John-ston – At 2 and 3 stories one can still build densely enough to be able to use trams and trolleys. It isn’t as though this limitation prevents decent levels of industry and I would expect purpose engineered buildings to offer office space more than 2 stories up. Even with most of the city held to simpler designs.

  44. “..Buildings can be protected from liquefaction relatively easily when they are being built, so rebuilding on the same site should be feasible…”

    can you say the same thing for roads/infrastructure…?

    i think that as winter sets in we will see the new orleans syndrome kicking in…

    ..a mass evacuation from those deciding they have had enough of aftershocks..(just to mention one reason.)

    ..and we will see the disintergration of the wrecked houses etc…

    i dunno…

    ..shall we all go back to europe…?

    and as wellington isn’t if..but when…

    …shouldn’t the governing infrastructure…

    (..not to mention the nations’ treasures…)

    ..shouldn’t it be shifted kit and kaboodle to auckland…?

    ..we are only sitting on 15 volcanoes..

    ..but seriously..!

    and the thing is with new orleans…

    ..is that a repeat can be prevented by building a better sea-wall…

    ..which they have done…

    ..and still the people haven’t come back..

    ..but you can’t do anything really to stop another earthquake…

    ..who would want to live/work there…?

    ..i know hindsight is wonderful..

    ..but those early settlers really shouldn’t have drained that swamp…

    …and built a city on it..eh..?

    and the hill suburbs didn’t do any better..

    ..rnz is reporting one suburb with 70% of houses destroyed..

    ..whaddaya do…?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

    ..it’s all looking grimmer and grimmer by the day..

  45. Multi story buildings need to have a base structure that includes deep “pile” type structures as well as base isolation, this is done on alluvial ground around the world in modern cities.
    But it is not cheap!
    Residential properties are somewhat easier, we have an example right next door to our home.
    The ground around my home in Greymouth is deep river silt and then sand, (yes I know, and the Wife and I are deeply concerned!) a new house next door had to create a sturdier foundation than my 100 year old home as part of the building code.
    They excavated a huge hole larger than the foot print of the house and about 8 feet deep. They then lay a filter fabric (that allows water through but not silt or sand) on the bottom of the hole and right up the sides.
    They then back fill the hole with river gravel and compact it as they go with a large heavy vibrating roller.
    The house on top was then placed with timber piles concreted into the gravel pad, I assume a concrete pad poured on top would also be suitable, but in this instance the house was relocated and renovated so it had to be piles.
    I would imagine the idea is to create a foundation that behaves differently to the surrounding strata and restricts liquefaction to soil outside the footprint of the building.

  46. Phil

    Even I am not so pessimistic about this Phil. It is all about doing the engineering and making the house something different from “bricks and mortar” which clearly has had some sort of grip on the NZ mind for decades. That’s not how to build houses in a quake zone. Build a dome. Build with steel and lightweight materials. Build with pipes suspended and wiring above the ground and less stuff buried… or where one is sure of the solidity (possible in parts of Wellington), build the house into the ground as it will then all move together.

    Totally possible to manage this risk. Not so easy to make people believe it is managed anymore.

    respectfully
    BJ

  47. “..Not so easy to make people believe it is managed anymore..”

    which would explain why nobody has come back to new orleans..

    ..and they managed to fix it there…

    so..a city of domes..y’reckon..?

    i can see people deciding on taking jobs on whether the work-place is ‘safe’..

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

  48. ““..Buildings can be protected from liquefaction relatively easily when they are being built, so rebuilding on the same site should be feasible…”

    can you say the same thing for roads/infrastructure…?”

    Yes, at least for water mains and power lines. Use HDPE pipes instead of clay (this link might not work without subscription, is The Press p9 22/2/11).
    http://www.knowledge-basket.co.nz.ezproxy.lincoln.ac.nz/search/doc_view.php?d3=ffx03/text/2011/02/22/A009134391580-CW.html

    Underground cables need occassional coiled segments like on phone handsets.

    The only (partial) solution for sewers is to place them under the verges so they don’t ruin the road above them and can be fixed without having to dig up carriageways.

    The earthquake press conferences are held on the forecourt of a “floater”. The major problem in the CBD isn’t liquifaction it is resonant frequencies. Now that the resonant frequencies can be determined from the spectra recorded on the seismometers the appropriate standards for each building height can be calculated and the building code improved accordingly
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch/4706888/Christchurch-Art-Gallery-built-to-highest-standard

    see also point 8 here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1985_Mexico_City_earthquake

  49. BJ… Build a dome. Build with steel and lightweight materials. Build with pipes suspended and wiring above the ground and less stuff buried

    The Dutch have some houses that are actually built like boats. They are capable of floating & the utilities are attached above ground, allowing movement during flooding.

    In NZ a strong dome structure built on a hollow foundation (like a big circular doughnut) tethered via a “utilities” umbilical secured to a deeply driven anchor pile might be suitable as a residential home in unstable alluvial country.

    Or in fact, in any location that may subsequently become affected by storm surges, sea level rise or seismic activity.

  50. photonz1,

    “International design competition for a city for the 21st century, with the latest in energy efficient buildings – keep pushing that idea.”

    I wouldn’t term is as a design competition for a city for the 21st century and neither did Phil. His idea was for a competition for a green city. The fact that it is in the 21st century is irrelevant and the term merely implies that technology is what it’s all about. I would hope that any such competition would not be about technology but about sustainability.

  51. Tony,

    design and technology can work together to create sustainability.

    I am hoping that our contributions to Canterbury (and I support the proposed tax) will be accompanied by a wise use of resources in the rebuilding process.

    A substantial part of Christchurch will need tearing down and rebuilding and I hope it is done in a creative way, mindful of any mistakes that the inevitable engineering investigations are able to highlight in previous designs and technology.

  52. greengeek,

    “design and technology can work together to create sustainability”

    Maybe they can; I never said they couldn’t.

  53. Title this blog relates paying to rebuild ChCh.. I’ve put my twopennorth in on insurers’ capital competances etc..

    But quite correctly others have raised the issue in terms of rebuild what.. earlier and elsewhere I’d suggested that Canterbury’s first Surveyor Thomas – Mt Thomas – be reconsidered for his suggestion of a metropolitan center at Oxford. Did he know something today’s folks didn’t? The problem for ‘his’ adoption at the time was distance to the port.. but today…??

    Myself I’m for a partial relocation embraced in a vision of rebuilding low, wide and fast. The latter transport related. And oh yes, after learning from Earth’s destructive forces.. and forcings. No more builds on liquefactioned areas for instance…

  54. Tony says “I would hope that any such competition would not be about technology but about sustainability”

    Unless you want the same thing to happen, we have to make buildings as safe as possible, as well as energy efficient as possible.

    No doubt that will require latest technology on both fronts. Just look at the glass art gallery – no so much as a cracked window.

    I called for modern energy efficient buildings – what’s your problem with that?

  55. We need to follow the lead set by Greensburg GreenTown. We too can build to LEED platinum standards. All it requires is for the government to hypothecate the billions of dollars of GST it will earn from the rebuild to fund the higher cost of building to the highest efficiency standards. To avoid any possibility of confusion – most of the rebuild money will come from reinsurers to whom we have been paying premiums for decades so the rebuild is NOT, in the most part and specially in the medium and long term, a reallocation of existing spending – it is new spending and thus the GST on it is also new and therefore NOT included in Treasury’s medium and longterm fiscal forecasts.
    http://www.greensburggreentown.org/history/

    My understanding is that the IRD regards insurance payouts on “write-off” commercial buildings as a “sale” to the insurance company and charges income tax on the difference between the insured value and the depreciated asset value. This is going to be a particularly nasty surprise for traditional owner/occupier small businesses for whom cheap and nasty will be all they can afford after paying the taxman.

  56. Why don’t ministers sell their new BMW and forfeit half of their wages for the next 10 years. Heck, what about all MPs? That would pay half of it.

  57. photonz1,

    Unless you want the same thing to happen, we have to make buildings as safe as possible, as well as energy efficient as possible.

    No doubt that will require latest technology on both fronts. Just look at the glass art gallery – no so much as a cracked window.

    I called for modern energy efficient buildings – what’s your problem with that?

    My only problem is the phrasing and the consequent implications. For example, you put in a redundant word: “modern”. Anything built today would be modern by definition but I suppose you put the word in to indicate something more than that.

    Yes, we have to make building safe and efficient. But what we should build and how those buildings should be arranged is another question.

    I don’t know the details of the museum building. It looks untouched but there may be a number of factors. However, are you suggesting that everyone lives and works in glass buildings, as expansive as that one?

  58. rimu, I would also have increased borrowing – I would place the borrowed money into the EQC, so that as they pay their liabilities in Christchurch they have emough to meet future disasters on hand. As I posted before as levies are paid in over the next decade or so – barring any disasters EQC can pay back the loan.

    Kevyn has raised the idea of using GST revenue from the rebuild – this can be used to provide incentives to manage the cost of higher safety standards and meeting any town planning design plan to those rebuilding their properties as well as public work costs.

  59. Tony asks “However, are you suggesting that everyone lives and works in glass buildings, as expansive as that one?”

    Did you see me suggest that?

    Or even anything remotely like everyone shouild live and work in glass buildings?

    Tony says “My only problem is the phrasing and the consequent implications. For example, you put in a redundant word: “modern'”

    geeze Tony – you don’t like the word modern. You don’t think building for the 21st century is relevant. Any other little points you want to nitpick on?

    Tony says “The fact that it is in the 21st century is irrelevant ”

    Of course it’s relevant. We have modern communications to consider, modern lifestyles, modern problems like energy efficiency and potential future transport system…..whoops …sorry – you don’t like anybody using the word modern.

  60. Sorry if my post was a bit too subtle for you to interpret, photonz1. I see you are stuck in the “modern” paradigm of technology and “progress”. You see the next 20, 50 years as simply a continuation of the last 20 or 50 years. There is no stopping technological progress, eh?

    I think you need a more modern thought process.

  61. The government spends $2b on IT/Computer systems a year.
    If we cut that in 1/2 (lets face it IT systems dont need to be upgraded as often as they are, if they work leave them working for two more years, and new projects can be put on hold for 24 months)
    That gives chch $1b a year, which is a little more than your proposed solution.
    Now if you say increased everyones tax (rich and poor) buy 1% as well surely you have a fair system in place for everyone. Rich, poor and governmental. If we are all in it as a country then even those who are poor should be willing to stand up and look after their fellow Kiwis.
    Perhaps with this approach we could “pay” the 5b shortfall in 2 – 2 1/2 years.

    So lets all chip in, its easy to target middle/upper middle income earners, but in a disaster, we all should put in.

  62. Toad @ March 1, 2.15pm

    Can’t say there’s a absence of partisanry in your inference (do correct me if I am wrong ) re the Minister of Finance NOT ruling out the several topics you mention.

    What say ye then of alternatives..? For instance and very much more to the point mightn’t the fellow and his department appoint a Price Czar in respect of paying contractors etc undertaking post-Earthquake rebuild works. The object being to have commensurate ‘rewards’ to such committed companies, firms etc. Commensurate that is to say a period’s rebuild budget/s.. and complementing funds allocation/s on a strictly enforced(ruled) basis in relation to those funds. In a word, oversight. In several, with controls to prevent price gouging and project distortions. Whilst moderating broadly.

    My concerns here springs out of the PM’s reported overall rebuild projectionss at $10-15bn. As an Administrator supreme, so to say, one might readily accept the PM’s framing. But the figures do rather suggest either an unintended sloppiness or, perhaps more likely, a basis of inducement to have businesses make their ‘opportunity’ from funding largesse. When what most folk want is to have the job done!

    So I sense there may be more to be gained in your nailing down rebuild costs as opposed whining about what the MoF may or may not intend on present budget. Worth a look.?

  63. What if any extra tax take was used to speed up the rebuild of the ChCh CBD? Would we see that as beneficial?

    Or should that money be used only for creating single level homes in the suburbs?

    Apparently Aranui have not even been given a Portaloo yet. I’m concerned that extra cash always seems to find it’s way into the hands of powerbrokers instead of families.

    Maybe we should leave the CBD as a dead husk?

  64. As for funding

    1. cancel the Kiwi Saver tax incentive $1Bpa over 5 years – there’s $5B for the government rebuild costs. (It has not been affordable since we went into recession anyhow and besides the 2% employer contribution is sufficient to make it attractive to employees – also restricting the $1000 start-up to new savers when they start jobs).

    2. The GST from the rebuild provides money to cover extra private cost meeting the standard required and also a new urban plan cost.

    3. A loan paid into the EQC and repaid when higher levies restore a sufficient level of reserve (how soon this is dependent on the level of the higher levy and whether any new disaster occurs while the reserve is being built up).

  65. SPC – excellent suggestions, especially the EQC “suspensory” loan idea. Very innovative.

    Maybe also a release of “EQC Bonds” of some sort, so that wealthier people could make their spare savings available direct to the rebuild rather than languishing in private banks?

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