Geotech Field Trip
Big day out with Geotech on the hills. Terry O'Leary's update.
On Thursday 21st April, Terry O'Leary, from the Sumner Community Group and CanCern (Canterbury Communities Earthquake Recovery Network) was invited along with a group of city councillors and local residents on a field trip to inspect the earthquake damage around the Port Hills. This short article describes his experience. The trip was led by Dr Mark Yetton (Chair Port Hills Geotech Group).
If you are one of the people in the local area who has been red-placarded because of rock fall and land slippage the questions uppermost in your mind will be:
- When can I live in my house again?
- If I can’t ever move back in, what is going to happen with regard to compensation in the event of a “retreat” from the land occupied by damaged or threatened properties?
Unfortunately, despite all of the science, and large amounts of money which have already been spent on securing some of the slopes and the continuing engineering, those questions still remain to be answered. According to Mark Yetton, “We still do not know with any certainty how long it will be before much of this land can be assessed as having an acceptable level of risk.” As far as private properties are concerned, with regard to compensation, EQC and private insurance will cover most of the damage. There will be situations however where land which is deemed not safe to live on will have to be assessed. There will be a process of negotiation around this which will involve land owners, insurers and local government. Sumner Community Group and CanCern will be encouraging these agencies to communicate with residents on an ongoing basis.
The field trip itinerary included;
Major Aitken Drive, Avoca Valley, Morgans Valley, Redcliffs (cliff base), Balmoral Lane (Cliff top)
Raekura Drive, Clifton Hill, Wakefield Avenue, Heberden, Lyttelton, Rapaki.
The day was bright and sunny. The councillors, residents and technical people were positive and interactions throughout the day were very cordial. Although it must be said there was a cumulative effect of witnessing so much damage to people’s homes that at the end of the day most of us were feeling pretty shell shocked.
In all areas there were significant numbers of houses red-placarded. The damage observed varied from fairly superficial road cracking at the top of Major Aitken Drive through to the boulder blasted properties of Huntsbury, Avoca Valley and Morgans Valley. We looked at the slippage on top of Clifton Hill and the continuing boulder and rock fall at Wakefield Avenue and Heberden Avenue in Sumner. Lyttelton has a range of issues including rockfall, property damage and significant damage to a large number of large retaining walls. The cost of repairing the walls alone will run into millions of dollars. The tour ended at Rapaki where we surveyed the devastation below the hills. Another issue which became obvious as the day went on relates to public land where damage is also extensive. There are concerns about where the repair funding may come from.
Where do we go from here?
Mark Yetton is reluctant to see anyone who has been red-placarded due to the threat of rock fall return to their properties until after the winter. More rock fall is expected to be caused by rain and further possible aftershocks.
Although the Councillors and Geotech group are aware that this is an incredibly stressful time for residents, I emphasised to them that working closely with the community in terms of communication would be a key to resolving issues.
Geotech group has given an undertaking to Terry to include affected residents as much as possible in all sharing of information. A meeting will be held in Sumner after Easter in order to keep red placarded residents as informed as possible. The councillors, many of them with their own properties and families badly affected by the quake are also keen to make themselves available to help residents in the coming months and years.
If I can take anything positive back from the trip today it is the remarkable feeling of Canterbury resilience and solidarity that was shown by the group, reflecting the wider sense of community we have witnessed here in recent months. There is a lot to do, but we can build on this.