Monday, 30 July 2012

Christchurch city ~ plans for the new CBD are announced

This evening the blueprint for the re-building of the centre of Christchurch was announced.  The plan is at the concept stage and costings and forecasts are yet to be arrived at.  Earthquake damage to the area was severe: with seventy percent of buildings already gone or scheduled to be demolished there is a great deal of scope for a whole different layout and style of city.

For the benefit of those who missed the news or live in other parts of the world I've gathered together a selection of articles which represent coverage:
  • Christchurch CBD blueprint questioned - TV One's Close Up presenter, Mark Sainsbury, speaks with Mike Coleman of the Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network, and Hugh Pavletich, Performance Urban Planner, speak about the urgency of addressing residents basic housing needs, in light of the thousands of residents who continue to live in badly damaged houses with resolution expected to be years away.  He also speaks with Paul Lonsdale of the Central City Business Association.  This is an interesting representation of views.
I'm definitely with home owners on this one: those in badly damaged homes with uncertain futures need solutions now.  Yes, the situation in Christchurch is complex with most homes throughout the city suffering some form of damage, but those with badly damaged homes need priority - full stop.  Decent, weatherproof and properly heatable living conditions are a fundamental human need.

A covered sports stadium seating 35,000 is part of the plan.  I do hope that Christchurch decision-makers learn from Dunedin's experience in the building of the Forsyth Barr stadium:

Dunedin's new Forsyth Barr stadium seats 30,000, cost over $200 million to build and in the first six months of this year lost $1.9 million.  It is forecast to loose more millions in the three years ahead.  The cost to the city is 23 years worth of a very hefty mortgage.  A large proportion of the city's residents, including myself, vehemently opposed it on the basis of its vast cost and the expectation of additional cost over-runs, but officials went ahead regardless.  The interest on the loan taken out to finance it accrued $18 million during the construction period alone.
Extensive parks and 'green' areas are incorporated into the Christchurch CBD blueprint, which I imagine will be pleasing to those who signed the Avon River Petition:
The blueprint provides an outline of the shape of things to come.  It's an unusual opportunity for the redesign and revitalisation of the city.  I hope designers, developers and planners are able to grasp this opportunity with both hands and rise suitably to the occasion!

4th August - Further links and comments:
  • Christchurch Central Development Unit:
    • Home page
    • The Plan
    • PDF download with details of the plan  This is a large file and takes quite some time to load up onto the screen.  Then when it does display on the screen the format of the pages is so oddly proportioned that it is impossible to see one page at a time and still read the text making it necessary to enlarge the ratio and scroll across the pages - a design fault.  Why PDFs are used for this type of thing I can't imagine.  
    • If you're looking for city maps to get a clearer idea of where everything will be - and what it likely to have to be pulled down to make way for it, the maps are there: on pages 8 and 22, if you're looking at the page numbers at the top of the PDF, or if you're looking for them in the text of the document at the bottom right hand corner of each page they are on pages 6 and 34.  
    • Land acquisition page  I find this aspect of the powers of the authorities most alarming: basically property owners and occupiers are required to sell out and move out on demand.  If anyone else has a more hopeful interpretation of this point I'd be glad to hear it!
My response to all these hurrahs is tepid: many of them seemed to be self-congratulatory on the part of those who have hatched them, were associated with those people, or are most likely to benefit from them commercially.  It's good to be enthusiastic and to have brave and bold visions, but what I'm hearing is in part the high that comes from working intensely on a big project for a relatively short stretch of time.  It is also surely a reflection of the sense of power that must have been part of it.  That's all fine but it is only part of the whole equation.

While there is a lot of public enthusiasm to see that new plans are getting under way there will be many whose businesses lie within the area who may not be at all happy about the prospect of being forced to leave.  The engineering firm, Kirk Roberts Consulting Engineers, is likely to be one of them: they have been in their brand new building only since April.  I imagine that such an unforeseen change of fortunes could be heartbreaking:
A couple of days ago I saw a television interview with a man who I think may be a property developer: he was asked how he felt about the buildings that he had already had approved and which are under construction but which will have to be pulled down to make way for the new developments.  What he said was philosophical but he looked close to tears.  How unbelievably frustrating!  What I have read about the building consent process is that it has been a very arduous and costly undertaking; add to that the rigours and hopefulness of getting construction under way... 

Supporters of the Centennial Pool are also upset that the pool is situated in an area designated for a playground.  Surely there is room for both!
I think it's good that a vision for the city centre is emerging, but I see no reason for there to be a big hurry to put the plan into action, or for it be steam-rollered into existence by the sheer force of authority.  We do live in a democracy, or at least we used to.  These days democracy in Christchurch seems to be remarkably close to being snuffed out completely.

Christchurch businesses as a whole have continued to hold their own, and in my view the best solutions arise in a more evolutionary manner, as priorities are established and problems worked through part by part.  I don't see that simply pushing everything over and starting with the famous 'clean slate' is necessarily the best approach at all.

Have a vision, certainly, but remember that it is only a plan, and that plans can, and indeed should, evolve as life happens and time passes.  This can mean that where we end up may be substantially different from where we thought we were heading originally.  If good processes are carried out with inclusive integrity and patience this is likely to result in better, happier and more robust outcomes.

I grew up in Christchurch and am well aware of the capacity of residents to hotly debate civic issues, perhaps to a greater degree than in any other part of New Zealand.  Perhaps it is a measure of their earthquake-induced fatigue and distress that they seem to be taking these proclamations with such a marked degree of docility.

Note: I have duplicated and expanded this additional content of this article in a further article which you can find via the link below:
A complete list of my earthquake articles can be found on the following page:

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Water safety ~ check those swells and surges!

Snow on the deck!
It was early in June and a cold, clear morning.  No wonder it was cold: there was a dusting of snow on the deck!  A few days before Rewi had checked the tide and decided it would be a good day to go musselling: the tide was expected to be especially low (.4 of a metre), but it was so cold it seemed daft even to consider it.  However, Rewi was adamant.  Such low tides occur only for a few days each month and reveal certain parts of the beach which are not otherwise accessible and he was determined to take advantage of it.

I reluctantly agreed to accompany him.  I wore my ski pants so that I could be sure of keeping relatively warm and declared that I had no intention of getting my feet wet or of attempting to cross to the big rock; I would wait on what I deem to be my lookout rock, which is on the near side of the main channel between the two.  Unfortunately the look-out rock, so-called, doesn't allow a view of where he gathers the mussels but at least I can see that he gets across the channel safely, which is some comfort!

We went down to the beach about three quarters of an hour before what we know to be low tide.  This is a full quarter of an hour before the official low tide.  Given that we were nice and early we were not altogether surprised to see that the sea was still coming quite well in, although we hadn't anticipated quite how far!  Our destination was the rocks at the left and centre.

So we went off for a walk along the sunny end of beach to while away the time until the tide had receded further.  It was a glorious morning, crisp and cold and with a clarity of the air which comes after a dusting of cleansing snow:

The sea was producing large, vigorous and frothy waves but the major drama seemed reasonably far out from shore:

I took my time meandering along the beach pausing to take photos along the shoreline.  Heavy rain had filled the nearby stream and the unusual volume of water had forged a wide waterway to the sea.  Usually the outflow is slight and shallow.  On this day it was much more lively.  Here it is meeting the sea:

The swathe of water gushing forth was broad and sashayed out in front of a big rocky outcrop:

The low angle of the mid-winter sun picked out elaborate patterns in the near sandbank:

A variable oyster catcher rested on one leg, no doubt keen to soak up the sunshine after a very cold night:

The big skein of bull kelp showed that the tide had been moving with a vengeance, tearing it from its rocky home:

A close look at the surface of its dislodged 'holdfast' showed the contour of the rock to which it had been fastened, and revealed a colony of limpets which had made their home there:

The those great strands of kelp had grown from three stems which were close to being as thick as my wrist:

Having spent a while agreeably meandering along the far end of the beach we turned back.  Once back to our spot we stood watching the water.  The tide had gone out a bit.  The surges were still coming in rather a long way but then they drained out again.  Between surges I walked briskly to my usual lookout rock and Rewi did an experimental walk below the cliff face.  He was too slow and ended up climbing it - a little way. 

At that point we should have given up and gone home, but we didn't.  Rewi watched the water from closer nearby:

The water was retreating to what was close to the usual level of the low tide, and it looked as if getting across to the big rock should be straightforward, which is was.  I took this image from up on my rock, which was about four feet above the water level shown here, which was just as well:

To be honest even I didn't anticipate just how big some of the surges would turn out to be:

That's Rewi safely over there.  The water level in the channel in front of me filled up with a rush:

That water was really shifting:

Rewi was out of sight.  The channel behind me, which had been so devoid of water just minutes before, filled similarly:

I got very nervous.  I was high enough above water level but looking back to the beach I was uncomfortably aware that I was completely marooned. 

The big surges seemed to come in every couple of minutes.  Each time they came in the water took some time to ebb.  The time between them could be narrowing.  I waited anxiously for Rewi to complete his harvesting.  Usually it doesn't take him more than about a quarter of an hour, but even accounting for our earliness with the low tide it wasn't long before I started to panic.  From where I stood I couldn't see him.  This doesn't usually worry me too much, but given the force and height of the surges there was no way I was going to venture across that channel to check up on him.  He seemed to have been out there for longer than I expected and the time of low tide ticked nearer.  

With about five minutes in hand I waited for the water to ebb sufficiently, scrambled down from my rock and made a run for the high tide mark on the beach.  I still couldn't see him.  Again waiting for the water to recede I ran down closer - and there he was, quite safe and busily working away.  I called and called.  Over the noise of the sea he didn't hear me for a minute or two.  Finally he did.  "COME OUT", I called repeatedly, "COME OUT NOW!"  A big surge was coming in.  I was fairly high up the beach and the incoming water didn't look as if it would amount to much by the time it got there.  Some rocky humps nearby looked as if they would afford me enough height from the water.  Here they are photographed from further back:

I should have scrambled onto the one at the right:

But I didn't.  I had been on the lower one, which you can see below was inundated.  The water came in... and in... and by then it wasn't safe to hop down and run up the beach; I could only stand still.  I set my feet as steadily as I could while the wave came in over my feet, above my ankles, and then some.  I was wet to the knees.  After what seemed like an interminable length of time it slowly went out again.  I can tell you, with the certainty of that experience, that it's much harder to stand steadily against water which drags at your legs from behind than to withstand a wave from the front: the ebb-flow nearly had me off my feet and on my back - but not quite.  Here it is coming in over that same rock:

... And then further.  I took these photos about ten minutes later when I was at the point of making a run for it!

I was thankful that Rewi had finally heard me.  He stopped a few mussels short of the allowed quota and climbed back up his rock.  Heedless now of getting any wetter I ran to where I could see that he got safely back across the channel, and from there we both hustled back to high ground.  I had had a bad fright.  Although Rewi had got wet to the waist he wasn't admitting to anything of the kind.  However, it was far too close for comfort, and although it had been a calculated risk we learnt our lesson and won't take similar risks in future.  Neither of us had taken into account the height or the force of the surges.  I think we were both relieved to get back to the safety of high ground.  I know I certainly was - immensely so! 

The peacefulness of the sight of this small leaf on the sand signalled a return to more tranquil surroundings.  The pattern in the sand around it showed that the tide has washed over it before leaving it nestled where it was:

When we got home I checked the web for a reading of the swell height out in the open sea.  It had been 3.5 metres.  That is a big sea!  No wonder the sea had been pushed so far up the beach!  The combination of the level of the low tide and the surges from the big swells produced a low tide which would ordinarily equate to one in excess of a metre - quite unsuitable for musselling.  In addition, it was far more dangerous on account of its unpredictability!  In future I'll be checking the swell reading before we go out, as well as the level of the low tide!

Websites I use regularly:
  • Tidespy - adjust the map zoom to find markers showing swells and other data relating to your area
  • Met Service - click through on the Marine link part way down the page, and then click through to your location.
I have written three other articles about water safety.  The one linked to below is a companion article:
I have also written a number of others about exploring the beach and its rocky pools.  All my beach stories can be found by clicking on the link below:

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Rachel's Morning Glory Muffins ~

These muffins are as light, tasty and delicious as they are nourishing: look at all those nice nuts, fruit and carrots, the product of which is so more-ish that I find it impossible to eat only one at a time!  Get this recipe right and you will have an enduring crowd-pleaser.

 oven to 180 degrees Celsius 
  • Grease muffin trays.  Do make sure you have enough of these to hand: the mixture makes well over the usual dozen of the standard size.  I regularly get 18 muffins from it.
  • Sift flour and combine with other dried ingredients and set aside:
    •  2 cups of standard / plain flour
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup finely shredded coconut
    • 1/2 cup of chopped nuts.  I like a mixture of sunflower and pumpkin seeds with a teaspoon or so of poppy seeds.
    • 2 tsp of cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Beat together eggs, oil, vanilla and golden syrup: 
    • 3 eggs, beaten 
    • ¾ cup oil 
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
    • 1 teaspoon of lemon essence - or a good lot of lemon zest
    • 1 heaped tablespoon golden syrup  
  • Dissolve baking soda in boiling milk: 
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda 
    • ¼ cup boiling milk 
  • Grate and combine the carrots, apple and sultanas: 
    • 2 cups grated carrot 
    • 1 cup grated apple 
    • ½ cup sultanas 
  • Add combined fruit and carrots to the liquid mixture 
  • Stir gently into dry ingredients 
  • Spoon into muffin tins 
  • Bake for 20 minutes. 
This recipe was devised by my sister Rachel, who is especially talented in the kitchen.  The first time I tasted Rachel's I became an immediate fan, but the first time I made them myself I was in a hurry and didn't have all the ingredients, and the result was not a patch on the real thing.  The balance of ingredients, flavours and textures has been refined and adjusted over a number of trials and does work very well, so it's worth sticking to the recipe, at least for the first batch! 
~ Thank you, Rachel ! ~

Monday, 9 July 2012

Clean and green? Rubbish!

Taking pride in our country needs start in our own communities if it is to serve any practical purpose at all.  Many New Zealanders like to say that our country is Clean and Green but this means nothing if our public areas are littered with unsightly rubbish, the accumulation of carelessly tossed aside odds and ends which should have been disposed of responsibly.  This is the sort of thing that anyone who is capable of bending over can help with.

This heap took me about twenty minutes to collect from around a nearby roadside area where there is a picnic table - and a rubbish bin.  It's a pleasant area, nicely planted with shrubs; the lawn is kept mown and the rubbish bin is emptied regularly, but it seemed that no one had actually picked up rubbish there for quite some time...

I cannot imagine why all this had not been put into the rubbish bin in the first place.  I found the blue bucket in the neighbouring swamp.  It no longer had a handle but I decided it would be useful in my garden.  It was nice to get something for myself for my efforts!

I filled that rubbish bin with as much as it would hold while still leaving space in the top for other users to make their own contributions, left the tennis ball for children or dogs, and took the rest across the road to another rubbish bin.  Then I set out on the second half of my walk carrying the now empty bucket.  All that bending and straightening had warmed me up thoroughly!  

I took a different route back home walking a loop which took me back along the beach.  By the time I got to the reserve at the foot of the hill I had filled the bucket up again.  Fortunately the reserve also has a rubbish bin.  There are plenty of rubbish bins!!! 

There are two possible responses to the nuisance and unsightliness of litter: one is annoyance, which I must say I feel acutely, and the other is pleasure - at having cleared it up, which I also feel.  I see-saw between the two.  

When I was growing up there was concerted publicity in the form of the slogan to
"Be a tidy Kiwi".  
One saw it on rubbish bins and signs everywhere.  Where is it now?  The need for it is certainly as great as ever.  A contemporary version I've come across from time to time is:
"Take only photographs, leave only footprints"
... which is excellent!  I would add:
"Put your rubbish in the bin ... or carry it home if there isn't one!"

Please do so, or be prepared to suffer the wrath of Rushleigh!

Gareth Morgan, New Zealand businessman and philanthropist, examines the implications of this rough and ready attitude in a broader context in his article:

Other articles I've written about community life can be found by clicking on the link below:
Articles about exploring the local beaches and rock pools can be found here:

    Wednesday, 4 July 2012

    Wintry walks and icy spectacles

    The freezing temperatures of mid-winter do bring one special bonus, which is the beauty of ice formations.  I recently decided that one way to get my circulation moving on these cold days is to take daily walks whenever possible.  I've been glad of the motivation to do so as I've seen some special things which I would otherwise have missed.  We are fortunate to live near the coast and have been exploring some of the coastal tracks.  This path doesn't look as if it would be all that promising...

    ... but it rapidly led me to these visual treasures.  The sea spray in the air combined with freezing temperatures had coated a lot of plants in hoar frost

    Look at the glorious detail the hoar frost has picked out on these dead fern leaves:

    Lupins were decked out in frosty lace:

    Clover became jewel-like:

    Common weeds turned to frosted silver:

    The bracken could be seen to be a work of art:

    And even growth rings in the timber of the fence posts were meticulously picked out:

    Another walk took us past a lagoon where a stream meets the sea.  We found that it had almost completely iced over.  

    Some of it was thin enough to break and lever out:

    The sound it made when tossed onto the frozen expanse was fabulous!

    A larger piece was prized out:

    Looking at it I thought about frosted glass, although this was rather thicker than most! 

    It was heavy too!  Boof - there it goes!

    A couple of days later we walked along the banks of similar lagoon from another stream which had also frozen over.  

    It was a relatively mild day but in the early afternoon the water was still largely covered with ice.  The stillness of the reflection is due to the icy surface.  Nearer to the road where it had melted the surface was ruffled by the breeze:

    Alongside the pathway clouds of bubbles were trapped in the ice:

    This big lagoon has a tiny outlet to the beach:

    There was no ice on the beach itself, but in sheltered places frost can remain there throughout the day.  The coast of Otago is chilly in winter!

    I'll write more about these walks another time.

    Other articles about my explorations along the beach and its rock pools can be found by clicking on the link below:
    The article I've written about yet another lagoon, the Kaikorai Lagoon, can be found via this link:
    My article about surviving winter in an uninsulated house can be found via the link below - there are plenty of useful facts in this one: