Red, orange, green and white

by Toby Manhire / 24 June, 2011
A roundup of online responses to the government’s announcement on the fate of land in post-earthquake Christchurch
There was a mixed online response yesterday to the much anticipated announcement about the fate of many Christchurch homes in earthquake-blighted suburbs.

In a traffic-light-plus-white classification system, 5,100 homes were placed in the “red zone”, meaning that they have been judged beyond repair, with owners offered one of two options for state purchase and/or drawing on commercial insurance. About 10,000 homes are in the “orange zone”, with their fate hanging in the balance pending further investigation. About 100,000 in the “green zone” and viable. Then there is the “white zone”, which takes in the central city and stretches out across the Port Hills, which are yet to be mapped.

As a number of people pointed out, the choice of “red zone” was unwise, inviting confusion with the “red zone” label used to describe the badly damaged central business district that remains inaccessible to the public.

At Kiwiblog, David Farrar helpfully translated the classifications into a more demotic F-code. Respectively: “fucked”, “fluctuant”, “forthcoming” and “fine”.

Tweeter WendyDavie captured that sense of Christchurch’s collective focus with her post, as John Key was speaking on Thursday afternoon:

Bizarre everything gone quiet at hospital to hear announcement eerie

On the Avonside blog, Lawrence Roberts echoed that observation: “everyone in Christchurch is up to their ears in the land package”, he said, before generously offering a bunch of links for people outside the city who might need to catch up. Before the announcement, he had written:

Before the day is over many of us will have received what we've been asking for – an answer on the status of the land, and how that affects us personally.

He added:

The key word in the softening-up announcements made last night was offer. Those concerned will be made an offer. Wherever there is an offer there is an opportunity for negotiations. So, if you aren't happy with what is announced, don't worry. There will be time to tackle issues such as valuations and whether the purchasing power of the money offered is sufficient to allow reinstated to something similar to what existed on the 3rd of September.

The overwhelming sentiment was of sadness, sometimes grief. On Twitter:

fauxparse The house where I spent the first 22 years of my life is red-zoned. Feeling unexpectedly ill.

flipgrater I had 3 sisters on East side. 1 was made homeless in Feb. 1 has just been red-zoned. 1 is left across from a sea she can't swim in.

pharmacopaeia Oh man, goodbye Avon loop, home to many childhood bicycle adventures.

cescadotkay My lovely Avonside/Dallington river side walk, which I've done for many years, is going to be very different in the future. :-(

One woman wrote on Facebook:

Boo-hoo, we're in the red zone. This means our home for the last twenty years will be demolished in the not too distant future. My heart aches for my girl. My heart aches for this community and I'll own it - I'm seriously upset by this. And yeah, I knew it was the likely outcome but I have been hoping against hope. <sigh>

Also on Facebook, one teenage girl wrote:

My house is red zone :( ...  i cried when i found out :(

Writing at her blog, The Big Move – NI to NZ, Jenny (a Northern Irishwoman in Christchurch, seemingly), described herself as “incredibly lucky”:

Although we are relatively close to the Avon river, we aren't close enough to be in the red zone that follows its path. Our house is in the green zone. But I really feel for the people who have to leave a house they once loved in an area where they may have spent their whole lives and have so many memories and so many friends and neighbours. Whole communities are going to be torn apart and it will take a long time for many of the displaced people to feel at home somewhere else.

Of course some people have had enough and will be delighted to take the money and run. They have been living with broken houses, few services, and wet silty ground since September, and they don't want to spend any longer in that situation than they have to. Who can blame them?

I hope today's decision is good for most people even if it represents bad news about their house. But I don't envy anyone outside of the green areas.

Some were blunt, laconic:

RealmEnder Well, I'm in the red zone. Looks like I'll be moving.

Others delighted:

Spawn_Nick I'm red zone baby! SHOW ME THE MONEY!!

There was a fair amount of support for the clarity – which many had been urging weeks ago – the announcement brought.

CTAspley Its a great move by the govt and will give some the chance to make a decision about their future.

Wordsontheweb Choice between total payout and payout on land only, with insurance paying for the house. Bonza! Don't think it could be better

For some, however, all that was confirmed was their own lack of certainty:

HouseSell Red and green zones give clarity, white and orange create uncertainty

EmmaJOakden Another night in limbo-land, aka the orange zone #avonside

There were other concerns:

felixmarwick Umm $635 million divided by 5000 homes = $127,000 per home. I'm not sure Chch homes are that cheap

And this, troublingly, from one of Christchurch’s most astute Twitter users:

CherylBernstein Am becoming gradually INCANDESCENT WITH RAGE as I comprehend what the National government has done this afternoon in Christchurch.

Which prompted the following exchange:

robtreacher Christchurch property developers must be almost beside themselves

kaupapa @robtreacher make money from building dodgy suburbs, make even more rebuilding #winwin

CherylBernstein @kaupapa @robtreacher exactly.

There were also a handful of tweeters alarmed at the prime minister name-checking TradeMe and ANZ for their good deeds in his main announcement, which was taken live on most of New Zealand’s main radio and television networks.

kiwinerd Corporate types in a Govt presser? Bah.

h_yd_n Nice advertorial press conference by @johnkeypm. Trademe and ANZ getting a full service primeministerial reach around.

Grant Jacobs on Sciblogs made a similar point:

I have mixed feelings about Key’s introducing the CEO of ANZ with their package (pitching a commercial offer, helpful as it will/might be), but on the positive side it will be helpful and hopefully trigger some competition from the other banks.

And what of the future for this quake-bloodied earth?

tomatoinc I hope the NZ govt & @ChristchurchCC build a large reserve/park with those lands in the East. Please.. pleasee.

liamdann [Herald business ed] Widen the river, better drainage, native planting, wooden walkways..occasional cafe along the way...revitalise the Eastern suburbs

A_Kahikatea Five words that come to mind when I look at the #eqnz #chch redzone map: Kahikatea forest-wetlands ecosystem restoration

Wordsontheweb Imagine, if that whole area is returned to native vegetation & wetland, the return of wildlife to urban #Chch. It would be amazing

There were scores of efforts at stitching together a gag about the buffoonish sexism of Alasdair Thompson and the CERA announcement – and the way the former drowned out the latter – but nothing worth tweeting home about.

Bursts of bittersweet cheer did somehow break through, however:

Swiggs Christchurch is bloody red zone capital of the world!

AdrienneRewi Just rang friends about their house. They answered phone with :"Hello, this is the Red Zone." So good we can laugh about these things


UPDATE Friday 24 June 1.30pm: A couple of important new blog posts today:

At Scoop, Gordon Campbell points up some of the lingering concerns about the settlement offered. Including:

In some respects the current inhabitants of the 5,000 homes in the red zone will serve as guinea pigs for the much larger group of people judged yesterday to be in orange zone housing. For those people in the orange zone, if entry to the terms available to the red zone is to be on a case by case basis, there will need to be far greater clarity and genuine consultation as to how this evaluation is to be carried out.

And a post by David Haywood at his blog on Public Address is sobering and alarming in equal measure. Having diligently paid total replacement insurance premiums for his riverside property for years, David was this morning directed by Tower (on Twitter here, by the way) to a loophole:

Tower Insurance maintain that the house is not a write-off.  They maintain that they are only obliged to repair the house – not to honour our insurance policy for total replacement.  They say that just because we won’t be allowed to live on the land, and that the house will be bulldozed, doesn’t mean that the house is an insurance write-off.  Sorry, they say, but what the government mandates with regard to land is nothing to do with them.

The post, which you should read from the beginning, concludes:

It’s been a bad morning.  And I suspect it’s going to be a bad few years.

(Update #2 Wed 29 June, 10am: Philip Matthews and Cheryl Bernstein have both now posted. Necessary reading.)

A note on usage: I have included Twitter handles, ie usernames, but not the names proper (though links are included), on the basis that Twitter is generally accessible and user privacy settings straightforward. For the Facebook posts – accessed via searching on Open Book – I have removed (or redacted, as they say) the usernames, because it seems to me that Facebook is generally thought to be a less public network, and it takes a postgraduate degree in computer science to confidently manage your privacy settings.

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