Earthquake highlights need to open city limits - developer

By Anne Gibson

Hugh Pavletich. Photo / NZ Herald
Hugh Pavletich. Photo / NZ Herald

Property developer Hugh Pavletich is arguing for more land around the fringes of Christchurch to be opened for building.

Pavletich lives in Riccarton and is the co-author of the annual Demographic Housing Affordability Survey.

In the wake of the earthquake, Pavletich is hammering home his message against building within city limits on bad soil.

He backed comments by architect Sir Miles Warren that Bexley, a badly affected area, should never have been built on.

Pavletich said most of the Christchurch housing stock stood up remarkably well.

"We got off bloody light. Much was learnt following the Napier earthquake," he said. "My sense is that there could be 98 per cent of people in the area who stayed in their own homes throughout. Just note the very small numbers moved to temporary shelters."

The 431 houses and flats demolished this week were about 0.25 of Christchurch's total of 170,000.

He criticised media focus on damaged CBD buildings such as the MLC, saying the spotlight should instead go on residential areas.

"I have yet to see a photograph of Bexley where housing was built on an old landfill and other stuff at the mouth of the Avon River ... including Avonside Drive."

Rolleston experienced much more damaging motion from the earthquake than Christchurch.

"One of the major problems the city faces is that there is not a stock of construction-ready sections on good ground on the fringes of the city at prices that are affordable," he said.

"The Government needs to focus on this with urgency. The areas where liquefaction occurred will not be built on and these in the main are pockets within the northeast quadrant of the city.

"The CBD, like most of the rest of the city, did not experience liquefaction problems," he said. "Commercial owners are quite capable of sorting out their problems. It is the residential owners where the focus should be.

"We should not be surprised by the failed buildings generally in the CBD.

"There is a concern the city council will attempt to delay the demolition of severely damaged structures."

Pavletich cites geophysicists around the world, such as Paul Caruso at the United States Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center, who praised New Zealand's good construction codes which ensured so many of the buildings withstood such a strong earthquake.

Chris Hunter, Hawkins Construction chief executive, was booked on an Auckland-Christchurch flight on on the Saturday of the earthquake just before 8am, to meet staff before going on a six-week European trip.

Instead, he delayed and flew down last Thursday to take a close look at Hawkins' two big sites: the $208 million Christchurch International Airport project and the Civic Building, a joint venture designed by Athfield Architects between Ngai Tahu Property and the council.

This is a redevelopment and extension of the old Post Office near Cathedral Square and built in the 1970s.

- NZ Herald

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