Sunday, June 26, 2011

Faulty Thinking About Christchurch

(NB: Since putting up this post, I have posted further research which you will be interested to read if you want to understand how Christchurch Council planning failed to manage the city's seismic risk: How Councils Under-Played Christchurch Seismic Risk.)... but read this one first....

Maybe I read the wrong newspapers, but around the time of the September earthquake in Christchurch, I got the impression that it came as a very big surprise to all concerned. I got the impression that people thought Christchurch was safe as houses as far as earthquakes went. Not quite the last place on earth for an earthquake, but low risk. Well. That was the impression I got from what I read, and from people I know who live there. How wrong I was.

My last blog on this subject reported a few of my speculative thoughts on the matter, and quoted from the abstract to research by the NZ Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science (NZIGNS), published in Environmental and Engineering Geoscience 1995, and entitled Geology of Christchurch.

It took a while to track down the actual report itself, but I found it buried within the Serials section of the General Library at Auckland University. There are 61 pages of it covering many aspects of the geology of Christchurch and a detailed section on the risk of earthquakes there.

My reading of the data suggests that between 1869 and 1988 there have been 12 earthquakes bigger than 6.0 on the Richter Scale within 150 kms of Christchurch. Two of these were 7.0 and larger. The report contains this photo of earthquake damage to the Cathedral spire from an earthquake in 1888, and reports that the Cathedral was also damaged by earthquake in 1922 (a magnitude 6.9 earthquake centered around Motunau) and in 1929 (the Murchison earthquake). I discovered newspaper reports in the National Library that it was also damaged by the Cheviot earthquake in 1901.

The NZIGNS report tabulates 59 earthquakes that were “felt in Christchurch” between 1946 and 1994 (9 of these were centered outside the central South Island). Interestingly, the report tabulates the intensity of these earthquakes within Christchurch in terms of the Modified Mercalli Scale and the Richter Scale.

Modified Mercalli Scale
I. Very mild movement, only detectable by instruments.
II. Some people feel a slight movement, particularly on upper floors of buildings. Suspended objects such as chandeliers may swing.
III. People indoors feel some movement, similar to passing traffic.
IV. Motion is felt by most people indoors and some outdoors. Windowpanes and kitchen utensils rattle; parked vehicles rock. The movement is great enough to wake sleepers.
V. Felt by all people. Tall objects rock; plaster cracks and falls.
VI. Alarmed, people run outside. Poorly constructed buildings begin to show damage. Motion is felt by people in moving vehicles.
VII. Only slight damage in well-constructed buildings; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; much damage in poorly constructed buildings; chimneys broken.
VIII. Damage is still only slight in structures built to be earthquake-resistant; among substantial ordinary buildings there is much damage and some collapse. Poorly built buildings are substantially damaged. Tall things such as chimneys and monuments collapse. Heavy furniture is overturned.
IX. Even in earthquake-resistant structures, there is considerable damage. Greater damage in substantial ordinary structures; more collapse. The frames structures of buildings are thrown out of plumb, and buildings are shifted off their foundations.
X. Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry structures demolished with foundations. Rails bent.
XI. Few if any structures remain standing. Bridges destroyed, rails greatly bent.
XII. Total damage. Lines of sight and level are distorted. Objects thrown into the air.
Of the 59 earthquakes “felt in Christchurch” between 1946 and 1994, 47 were MMIV in intensity (ie IV on the Modified Mercalli Scale), 9 were MMV, and there was a MMVII (this was the 8 March 1987 earthquake centred in Pegasus Bay.)

(By the way - my understanding of the damage caused by the recent earthquakes in Christchurch that these range between MMVII and MMIX in intensity, according to the Mercalli Scale. Parts of Christchurch were harder hit than others.)

The NZIGNS report (dated 1995 remember) states: “Dibble and others consider the 5 June 1869 New Brighton earthquake to have been the most destructive since European settlement. This earthquake is estimated to have produced intensities of MMVII-MMVIII at Christchurch, and reports of the observed effects are consistent with an M5.75 earthquake (Richter Scale) located 10 miles from the city centre…” (NB: the nave of Christchurch Cathedral was not built until 1881.)

I found these reports about that earthquake and one that came shortly after:
5 June 1869: Earthquake in early ChristchurchOn 5 June 1869, Christchurch settlers were shaken by an earthquake centred beneath the city, possibly around Addington or Spreydon. The earthquake was probably shallow, with a magnitude of about 5.8. There was damage to stone buildings and the spire of St John’s Church on Latimer Square, and many fallen chimneys. The quake may have caused some ground settlement in the Heathcote Estuary, as locals describe the tide as running higher up the Heathcote River afterward.
31 August 1870: Earthquake near Banks Peninsula
On 31 August 1870 the Canterbury region was shaken by an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 5.8, centred south of Banks Peninsula, near Lake Ellesmere. Damage was minor in Christchurch—a few fallen chimneys and some structural damage to buildings. Shaking at Lyttelton and Akaroa was much stronger, with rocks falling from cliffs around Lyttelton harbour.
Anyway, getting back to the NZIGNS report. It goes on to consider the risk of liquefaction, and reports past liquefaction events in these terms:
“…Only one instance of liquefaction during an earthquake is recorded from the Christchurch area. This was for a magnitude M6-7.5 earthquake which occurred on 16 November 1901 (intensity MMIX in Christchurch) centred near Cheviot in north Canterbury…. ‘it was reported in The Press that at Kaiapoi the earthquakes of the 16th inst.were felt with great violence; that at some places the earth opened and water and sand were emitted from vents in the ground and that at one time an inundation by water from this source was apprehended…’”

I had a further hunt around for information about this earthquake and found these press photos and this story about what happened in Cheviot reported at the time in The Star:

“A terrible earthquake occurred at 7.45 this morning, travelling direct from, east to west. It lasted several minutes. There is not a brick building or chimney left standing. The windows in many houses were shattered to atoms. One little child was killed by a falling house. The bakers' ovens are broken to pieces, and everything in the district is a complete wreck….”

Note the power of this earthquake - "no brick building left standing...." Newspaper reports at the time record a string of aftershocks, the fact that people became exhausted, would not return to their homes, camped in the fields. That the Cathedral spire was damaged. This is the Evening Post newspaper report about what was seen at Kaiapoi during the Cheviot centred 'quake:

“…When first shock had passed, Mr. W. Waites, who owns an orchard and garden at the end of Charles and Sewell streets, noticed that his land was' apparently flooding from springs having been opened. It was then discovered that across his land, and part of Mr. Dunn's section, and over the surface of a paddock of several acres held by Mr. J. Sims, fissures from 1in to 3in in. width, and several chains in length, had opened… From these earthquake openings the water was freely issuing in such volume as to cause… probable inundation. Fortunately the rapid expansion of water seemed to be checked by a liberal supply of sand from some grey quicksand layer below the level of the river, and this was deposited in the orchard and elsewhere in the shape of round and oval porridge pots… The water, which had risen about six inches in on hour or two, disappeared by percolation, leaving the sand deposits in different fantastic forms….”


The 1995 NZIGNS report includes this “liquefaction potential map” of Christchurch, with high, medium, low and no liquefaction risk zones marked. The report confirms that the materials that are most susceptible to liquefaction are water saturated, loose, uniformly graded silt and sand, and notes that liquefaction has been observed in loose sandy gravels (overseas examples given). The report states:

“some of the Christchurch metropolitan area is underlain by similar materials, particularly large parts of the eastern suburbs and areas adjacent to the Heathcote River… Interbedded gravels are thinnest or absent in the central and eastern area of Christchurch where liquefaction effects and ground deformations (settlement and lateral spreading) are expected to be greatest…”

Here is a section of the “red zone” map released by Government this week which includes Bexley, Avonside and Dallington.

Note the similarity with this image which is a section of the NZIGNS map encompassing the eastern suburbs.

The NZIGNS report tabulates predictions for the likely return periods of different magnitude earthquakes that might affect Christchurch in future. These are under a section headed: “Seismic Risk”, which notes work done by “Elder and others”, and which is tabulated as the graphic to the left shows. Among other things it predicts that quakes as damaging as Christchurch has had recently (at least MMVIII) will happen every 55 years on average.

The report contains a number of warnings. It maps the existence of several known fault lines, but goes on to warn: “an absence of identified fault traces does not necessarily confirm faults are absent from a particular area. Since Christchurch and the Canterbury Plans are covered by geologically very recent deposits, it is possible that some faults have not been detected.

The report explains the significance of how close the epicentre is in terms of damage inflicted. It states:

“Close to the source of a large shallow earthquake (Richter 7 or greater), widespread damage and destruction often occurs, with intensities reaching MMIX or MMX. At distances about 100km from the epicentre, intensities are generally up to MMVI…” And it warns: “It should be noted that there are known active faults significantly closer than 100km to Christchurch which could generate similar large magnitude earthquakes.”
I don’t know what effect this report had in New Zealand. But it was published in an international journal whose editor (Allen Hatheway from Dept of Geological & Petroleum Engineering at University of Missouri) wrote in his foreword:
“…the authors leave nothing to the imagination in the question of local and regional seismicity… clearly, there is now a case for elected officials to take note and to ask and allow local and national agency geologists and engineers, planners and consultants alike, to assist in providing enforceable seismic-withstand guidelines or regulations.
More than in most cities, development of Christchurch is served by careful site examination. One has the impression that the temperate climate and tranquil setting of Christchurch belies a variety of benign geologic constraints- those that are costly mainly in terms of financial losses rather than by loss of life. The intersecting curves of increased urbanisation and frequency of occurrence of damage-oriented geologic constraints will soon begin to awaken the media and public officials, as well as the insurance companies. The time is right and the local geoscience and geotechnical expertise is ready.”
Looks like it took another 16 years before anyone woke up actually.

It is not as if the New Zealand Earthquake Commission has been ignoring this issue. In fact it appears that the Seismic Risk assessments that are cited in the NZIGNS report tabulated in this blog, were in fact prepared for the NZ EQC. The same table (as above) is set out in the summary of an earthquake risk assessment that was done for the EQC in 1991 entitled: The Earthquake Hazard In Christchurch: a detailed evaluation. (The authors of this work are: Elder, McCahon and Yetton.)

(You can see this summary here).

The 1991 EQC report summary states, in relation to the seismic risk probabilities:

These probabilities indicate that Christchurch has an overall seismic hazard level comparable to Wellington for medium intensity earthquake shaking… The greatest concern for Christchurch, located near a saturated, sand and silt rich, prograding coastline, is the potential for liquefaction…. This may cause subsidence, foundation failure and damage to services. Analysis shows that large areas of the city are underlain by sands or silts which, if sufficiently loose, would be highly susceptible to liquefaction….

The EQC report summary notes that the available data (covering the earlier earthquake events that are described above) is short, making it difficult to provide reliable predictions, given that the best predictor for the future is what has happened in the past. It states:

Analysis indicates that potential exists for relatively rare but very large earthquakes (approximately magnitude 8) along the Alpine fault, which essentially marks the western edge of the Southern Alps. More frequent moderate to large earthquakes (around magnitude 6-7.5) can be expected in the Canterbury Plains foothills and North Canterbury area, and less frequent moderate earthquakes under the Canterbury Plains and Christchurch itself. The attenuation model predicts that the damage in the city from these three types of event are likely to be similar. Of the four serious earthquakes in the early city history, three occurred in the foothills and North Canterbury region (the Amuri, Cheviot and Motunau earthquakes) and one virtually beneath the city (the New Brighton earthquake).
In other words, what the EQC report summary plainly says, a moderate earthquake “under the Canterbury Plains or Christchurch itself” would cause “similar” damage to a “relatively rare” big earthquake centered along the Southern Alps. This summary also apppears to address the data shortcomings that are confirmed in the later NZIGNS report, noting:
We have not attempted an in-depth lifelines study for Christchurch, or included economic or sociological analysis in this report. In addition to the need for this type of work, we recommend further action from the engineering profession including a review of the current seismic loadings code, local seismic design practices and building stock. We suggest site specific studies for the Lyttelton tank farm, Bromley sewerage ponds, pumping stations, substations, hospitals, civil defence facilities, airport and key bridges. Major areas of further research include studies of sand density variations and susceptibility to liquefaction across the city; continued paleoseismic evaluation of adjacent active faults, particularly the Alpine Fault, and further investigation of the deep sediments below the city.

The EQC Seismic Risk Assessment for Christchurch is dated 1991. Twenty years ago.

How much of this work was ever done?

How much of this advice was accepted and acted upon?

There are many questions that need to be answered by those in authority. Why? I'll suggest why. This information cites four earthquakes that did severe damage in and very close to the City of Christchurch (1869, 1901, 1922 and 1987). Based on this information the EQC report predicted a return period for another equally devastating earthquake of 55 years. Given the Cheviot earthquake in 1901, and then the Christchurch February 2011earthquake - exactly 110 years later - with a couple of big ones in between, perhaps their predictions are conservative.

New Zealand was advised this earthquake sequence was likely. So whose fault is it that authorities didn't act?

PS: Since putting up this post, I have added two later ones which you might be interested to read: Banks Peninsula Rising - Geologic History and Historic Christchurch Earthquake Newspaper Archives

Banks Peninsula Rising II

This video clip animation (which is silent by the way) made by GeoNet NZ is a helpful illustration of the way the New Zealand land mass has been formed between the interaction or collision between the Pacific Plate and the Indian Australian Plate. It's all interesting but what is especially interesting for the South Island is that the Southern Alps were formed by the two plates rubbing together and forcing the edges to buckle and bend and form the huge upthrusts that are now the Southern Alps.

This graphic shows the situation today. What is of particular interest is the fact that the Pacific Plate is "subducting" under the Indian Australian Plate to the north of New Zealand. ie it is diving under it. The arrow heads show where that is happening. But along the Southern Alps the edge of the Pacific Plate is apparently sliding along the edge of the Indian Australian Plate.

This difference in interaction is further illustrated in this graphic. The transverse movement/fault known as a "strike slip region" it appears. Even though the Plates are sliding along each other in the South Island, along the Southern Alpine fault, it's not as if this movement is well oiled. Any movement is in huge and violent jerks. Enormous pressures will still be exerted in an East-West direction (because the plates still press together), the edges will bind, causing a shearing stress on the Pacific Plate that lies under the Canterbury Plains. As a result a number of smaller faults have developed from the top of the South Island, parallel to the Southern Alps fault, that run down into the Canterbury Plains.

Some of these smaller fault lines are shown in this recent graphic prepared by NIWA which is now mapping new faultlines. You can just make out other red fault lines under the earthquake dots on the land around in Christchurch. It is movement in these smaller faults that give rise to smaller earthquakes (compared to those released in and by the Southern Alp fault.). But these faultlines are close to the surface and close to a city. So they can be much more destructive than a big distant earthquake.

This is an East/West cross section of Banks Peninsula (looking North). It shows the volcanic rock that formed Banks Peninsula after volcanic activity a million or more years ago. These volcanoes are extinct. The underlying rock is known to be faulted. (You can see the faultlines in the graphic.) This base rock was once flat but has been pushed up out of shape, and it has been squeezed by East-West tectonic plate pressure, and must have been cracked allowing volcanic magma to push through. One scenario is that this underlying rock is folding up slowly now. It may be a weak point in the plate. New faults may be forming. But this is speculation.

Intensive monitoring is the duty of authorities now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Climate Change - NZ Response

Climate Change is another area of study in the Auckland University "Legal and Institutional Context of Planning" paper. Here is some useful background, in the form of a short essay. What I've done here is look at the way the Resource Management Act has been changed, and cover some of the case history relating to applications to establish new power stations in New Zealand...

I start with the Vienna Convention for Protection of Ozone Layer - 1985 - part of what was known as the Montreal Protocol. (When I was at University of Canterbury, NZ atmospheric physics was leading the way measuring ozone in the atmosphere.) In response to this international agreement NZ introduced domestic law, the Ozone Layer Protection Act - enacted in 1990 - to control related activities here.

In 1992 there was the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. This led to the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change - sometimes referred to as FCCC. This starts like this:

The Parties to this Convention,

Acknowledging that change in the Earth’s climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind,

Concerned that human activities have been substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, that these increases enhance the natural greenhouse effect, and that this will result on average in an additional warming of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere and may adversely affect natural ecosystems and humankind,
You can download the 25 page FCCC.

Around this time, the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand made application for discharge consents for a proposed Stratford Power Station in the Taranaki Region. ECNZ applied to the Regional Council for consents to establish and operate a gas-fired power station in 1993. However, citing "National significance" (due to NZ's position on the FCCC), Minister Upton called the application in. This meant that the application could be considered by a Board of Enquiry, but the Minister would make the decision.

The Board recommended consent be granted, subject to ECNZ committing to around 4,000 hectares each year of forestry planting to mitigate the CO2 emissions from the power station. It also recommended that the Minister issue a National Policy Statement on Climate Change.

The Minister – in his decision – which considered the Board's recommendation – granted the consent, but gave ECNZ open licence pretty much to deal with any net increase in CO2, in ways they think fit…(which might include carbon sinks without specifying what those might be, and noting that the Stratford Power Station would be more efficient than ECNZ's other stations and could mean the old ones were used less....).

The Minister's decision was in 1995 and caused considerable disquiet.

Negotiations on what was to become the Kyoto Protocol to the FCCC were started in Berlin in 1995. The draft text was prepared toward the end of 1997, and countries began lining up first to sign it (done by representatives), and then to ratify it (done by Parliament's Executive). New Zealand signed it in 2002. (Click here for a fascinating insight into the tortuous process that was involved in arriving at the text of the Kyoto Protocol.)

At the time, Contact Energy made application to Auckland Regional Council to establish a gas-fired power station in Otahuhu, Auckland. Contact Energy obtained necesary consents to operate the power station. However the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) appealed the decision to the Environment Court, seeking a condition requiring tree planting to mitigate the CO2 emissions. Judge Whiting agreed with EDS deciding that NZ’s signature to the FCCC was a relevant matter, even though at the time NZ had not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The decision makes reference to the need for a National Policy Statement on Climate Change, and while the appeal was dismissed, it served a useful purpose in focussing attention on NZ's obligations. In passing I note also what the judge had to say about tree planting:
[92]...to the extent that the condition imposes sequestration planting outside the Auckland region, even if the Regional Council has jurisdiction to impose such a condition, we doubt that it can legally monitor and enforce such a condition. Quite apart from the legal position, if such a condition were imposed, the Regional Council would, be confronted with considerable practicable difficulties in monitoring and enforcing it. (The whole decision is here.)

After NZ ratified the Kyoto Protocol NZ set about giving effect to its commitments. This included enacting the NZ Climate Change Response Act 2002, and making changes to the RMA via the enactment of Resource Management (Climate Change) Amendment Act 2004.

According to the MfE website:
The Climate Change Response Act 2002 puts in place a legal framework to allow New Zealand to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and to meet its obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Act includes powers for the Minister of Finance to manage New Zealand’s holdings of units that represent New Zealand’s target allocation for greenhouse gas emissions under the Protocol. It enables the Minister to trade those units on the international market. It establishes a registry to record holdings and transfers of units. The Act also establishes a national inventory agency to record and report information relating to greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with international requirements. Full text of CCRA

Part 4 of this Act introduces the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which has had a difficult passage, and many critics. The changes to the RMA, via the Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Act 2004 are summarised here from MfE's Quality Planning website:
Under the Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Act 2004, three new matters were inserted into section 7 under Part II of the RMA:

"(ba) - The efficiency of the end use of energy;�
(i) - The effects of climate change; and
(j) - The benefits to be derived from the use and development of renewable energy".

In the context of the RMA, there are two ways in which particular regard may be given to the effects of climate change:

1. As an integral part of making decisions on resource consent applications and notices of requirement under the RMA for which the effects of climate change may be significant; and
2. In proactively assessing RMA policy statements and plans, as they come up for review or other changes are proposed, to identify whether more explicit and/or up-to-date policies are needed to address the effects of climate change than are currently provided.

The second point directly relates to Council's broader strategic planning initiatives. The effects of climate change can be integrated into local authorities ' longer term planning under the Local Government Act, as part of their mandate to take a sustainable development approach.
What this summary does not state is that it required Councils to plan for climate change (mostly adaptation), and that the power of regional councils to consider effect of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change when making rules in plans or deciding discharge resource consents was removed. However the way these changes were made to the RMA meant that the issue was far from settled.

Ambiguity led to a string of legal actions in regard to Mighty River Power's application to locate the Marsden B coal fired power station near the mouth of Whangerei Harbour. After 2004 RMA changes which incorporated Climate Change, Greenpeace challenged the Marsden B Power stataion consents.

The Environment Court accepted Mighty River Power’s arguments - that essentially Parliament had decided that climate change gas matters would be dealt with by National Government. Not by Regional Council authorities. Greenpeace appealed to the High Court, which upheld Greenpeace’s arguments in 2006. This decision was then appealed to the Court of Appeal. And Greenpeace lost that case, though the decision called for a Government National Policy Statement on Climate Change.

Finally, triggered by the possibility of a gas-fired power station in Rodney District, Greenpeace sought a Supreme Court declaration as to what the RMA provisions actually meant. That decision was in 19 Dec 2008 and it upheld the Court of Appeal decision.

On the opposite side of the Green Energy ledger, was the Franklin District Council vs Genesis Power Environment Court decision in 2005. The application related to 18 wind turbines on the south side of Manukau Harbour. The court was required to weight the various competing issues. On one side were visual effects, Maori cultural issues, noise effects, and effects relating to horses. One the other side were benefits derived from renewable energy, reduced greenhouse gases, contribution to the renewable energy target and others. The court held that "an overall broad judgment" was required and "such a judgement allowed for comparison of conflicting considerations and the scale or significance of them...". In his decision the Judge refers to "relevant matters" arising from Section 7 which included the newly added renewable energy matters. Judge Whiting allowed the appeal against FDC, and granted the consents to Genesis.

In the last few months the Government has issued The Renewable Energy Generation National Policy Statement. This requires responsible authorities to: recognise benefits; acknowledge constraints (incs env compensation for adverse effects that cannot be avoided, remedied, or mitigated – inc measures or compensation which benefits communities and for local environments that are affected); practical implications; manage reverse sensitivity; incorporate provisions in Regional Policy Statements, RPs and DPs.; within timeframe.

So that's something. But with CO2 levels almost at 400 parts per million and climbing, and the general scientific consensus being that global levels need to be around 350 ppm to avoid the risk of further warming of the planet, a lot more needs to be done. And it sure won't be solved by planting trees in mitigation.

Thinking about Sustainability and NZ Law

Looking through my swot notes for the Auckland University "Legal and Institutional Context of Planning" paper, I thought a useful place for some of them was here, in the form of a short essay. This one's about sustainability....

The statement "Sustainability means different things to different people" is a truism borne out by a close examination of the twisted path taken to incorporate the idea of sustainability into New Zealand law.

International pressure to engage with damage to the global environment grew after the Stockholm Declaration in 1972, and then the Brundtland Report – Our Common Future – which was published in 1987. This called for intergenerational equity, drew attention to the need for development in under-developed countries and the need for economic growth, and introduced the idea of sustainable development. That development and use of world’s natural resources needed to consider the needs of future generations.

The New Zealand Labour led government of the mid 1980’s, under the leadership of Geoffery Palmer, responded to these challenges and began work to develop an Act which would incorporate many other pieces of legislation relating to water, land and air. Interestingly the un-stated long title of the RMA reads: “An Act to restate and reform the law relating to use of land, air and water.” It eventually merged 60 Acts under one unifying purpose “to promote sustainable management of natural and physical resources”.

In the beginning pressure was also being directed by New Zealand environmental activists exemplified by Cath Wallace. Thus emerged an unusal alliance between environmentalists and new right thinking.

Both wanted environmental issues to be internalised into decision making, to be formally taken into account. The greens wanted decisions to be taken locally, where they mattered, and this accorded with the new right’s vision that the market be able to make decisions about natural resources rather than the dead hand of the state. Both wanted integrated thinking.

Palmer writes in the book “The Making of the Resource Management Act” that the key concept “was sustainable development”, and goes on to elaborate that “sustainable management is a broad concept that reflects aspects of use, development and protection…”

Treasury influenced thinking as the policy developed. It argued that the social equity ideas that lay behind the Brundtland concept of sustainable development were “unworkable” in an environmental statute, and that the new legislation should concentrate on natural resources and the environment.

Palmer’s observations include reference to the thinking of Bruce Pardy who argued that “if an activity is not evaluated according to its effects on the ecosystem function, then ecological sustainability cannot be achieved”, and which led Palmer to refer to the need for “environmental bottom lines”.

The Government changed while the Resource Management Bill was in process, and Simon Upton became the new Minister of Environment. It appears that the National Government were even more enthusiastic than Labour had been to protect the environment, and did little to change the wording used in the Act which are set out in Section 5 of the Act under the heading: “Purpose Sustainable Management”.



Purpose
(1) The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.

(2) In this Act, sustainable management means managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being and for their health and safety while—

(a) sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; and

(b) safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems; and

(c) avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.

Much has been written about these words, and the fact the meaning is in two parts. The first part promotes and “enables” people and communities to use natural resources to provide for their wellbeing. The second part provides an environmental counter balance, that the use of the natural resources must be “while” sustaining the potential of those resources to meet the needs of future generations; and safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of ecosystems; and mitigating, remedying, avoiding adverse effects on the environment.

For example Skelton and Menon (2002) have argued (Adopting Sustainability as an Overarching Environmental Policy: A review of Section 5 of the RMA)that S.5 is not a definition of sustainable management, instead that it is simply a description. They cite various court decisions to back that view. The leading case is the High Court decision of Justice Greig, NZ Rail Vs Marlborough District Council in 1994, which considered the matter of establishing a ferry passage through the sounds. Justice Grieg said in effect, “there is a deliberate openness in the language, its meanings, its connotations which I think is intended to allow the application of policy in a general and broad way. Indeed it is for that purpose that the Planning Tribunal, with special expertise and skills, is established to oversee and to promote the objectives and policies and principles under the Act…”

This was further qualified by Kenderdine in Trio Holdings Vs Marlborough District Court in 1997 over establishment of a marine farm in Marlborough Sounds, to the effect that “to enable the promotion of the concept of sustainable management to still occur, then it may be that some adverse effects may be acceptable, and that it is matter of fact and degree…”

Judge Sheppard (in 1997) came to a similar set of findings in considering the appeal of North Shore City Council over the use of a MUL (Metropolitan Urban Limit) by Auckland Regional Council as a method to restrict urban development in its regional Policy Statement. He said to the effect that "...where some aspects of an activity do promote sustainable management and fully comply with (a), (b) and (c) (in Section 5 of the RMA), but others may not comply or fully comply with one or more of those aspects, to conclude with no judgment of scale or proportion would be to subject s5(2) to strict rules of statutory interpretation which are not applicable to the broad purpose…"

John Milligan (Barrister) writes in RM Bulletin 2002 in an essay “Adopting Sustainability? Sustainability, sustainable development and sustainable management”. He differentiates between strong and weak sustainability. At the heart of very strong sustainability "lies an injunction to preserve nature in all its forms... the position accords with those who attempt to ground an environmental ethic in something other than the instrumental value that things in the natural world have for humans - as, for example, in some notion of 'intrinsic value' in terms of which entities are valuable in and for themselves...".

He argues that weak sustainability is where nature and natural resources are seen as instruments for humans to use for their own wellbeing and economic development. An anthropocentric concept. He considers that ideas like “ecosystem services” and “natural capital” all serve the idea of natural resources as an instrument for human use and manipulation.

He considers that Brundtland with its emphasis on the paramount nature of human life and social equityand the need for economic development alongside the idea of intergenerational equity, that notion of sustainable development is instrumental and amounts to "weak sustainability".

Interestingly, he considers that the RMA, with its emphasis on environment and ecosystems stands a better chance of developing into strong sustainability, than the Brundtland idea of Sustainable Development.

He essentially agrees with Treasury that there is a need to separate human needs from environmental management.

However, until the Act reverts to the original intent of its makers – both National and Labour led – which envisaged environmental bottom lines – it will be a tool where the courts are able to exercise their "expert judgement", consider matters of "fact and degree" and permit activities which enable people to do their thing, even if those activities are causing adverse effects on the environment and ecosystems. Especially of those effects are "de-minimus".

The RMA is now liberally interpreted as one which promotes an idea of sustainable management that has been constructed by caselaw, not by Parliament.

Until a appropriate National Policy Statement is issued that brings ecological sustainability to the forefront of planning (perhaps the planned NPS on Biodiversity will go some way toward this), then the steady downhill slide of New Zealand away from being 100% pure will continue with certainty.

Banks Peninsula Rising

A long time ago I collected rocks. You can probably imagine that. Amateur geologist and all that. And growing up in Oamaru I learned how the East Coast of the South Island had had three distinct areas of volcanic activity in the past: Port Chalmers Dunedin, Cape Wanbrow Oamaru, and Banks Peninsula Christchurch. Interesting that these volcanic outcrops created good places for harbours (I should probably include Moeraki as well by the way).

The earthquake sequence and location at Christchurch has got me thinking. Like a lot of people. I look at Banks Peninsula's geology - how different it is from the Canterbury Plains - and wonder if something more fundamental is happening than movement along a few relatively quiet (until recently) fault-lines.

What got me thinking this way were these headlines:

Port Hills half a metre taller after Christchurch earthquake
Reported by Stuff - 2nd March 2011

Christchurch's Port Hills are nearly half a metre taller in places as a result of the colossal forces unleashed by last week's earthquake.

Satellite analysis by GNS Science shows the top of the roughly east-west buried fault responsible for the February 22 magnitude-6.3 quake lies between one kilometre and 2km below the southern edge of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary.

Land on either side of the fault has slipped horizontally as well as vertically, causing the Port Hills to rise by about 40 centimetres and land just south of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary to shift to the west by a few tens of centimetres.
I formed an intuitive view that the volcanic mass of Banks Peninsula was in same way separating itself, or at least moving independently, from the rest of the Canterbury Plains which is the cradle for much of urban Christchurch.

So I did a bit of research. First a bit of background from an Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1996:
Banks Peninsula is situated in about the middle of the east coast of the South Island on the margin of the Canterbury Plains.

It is approximately 450 sq. miles in area and its highest point is Herbert Peak, 3,014 ft. It comprises two extinct volcanoes which were active less than half a million years ago. Their craters have subsequently been enlarged to many times their original size by stream erosion; they were then invaded by the sea during the postglacial world-wide rise in sea level beginning about 15,000 years ago.

They now form the harbours of Lyttelton and Akaroa. Originally Banks Peninsula was an island, but it became tied to the Canterbury Plains at some late stage in geological history when the growing alluvial plain reached its base....
Throughout the European history of Christchurch there has been debate as to exactly when the volcanoes happened, and whether the harbours were formed by volcanic action, glacial action or weathering.


This map shows the geology of Banks Peninsula, and highlights the sequence of volcanoes that formed it over time. The Geology of Banks Peninsula, By R Speight, which was read in October 6 1942, at the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of NZ, cites investigative work done previously by WM Davis – a visiting geologist.

His view was that the formation of the cliffs and landform of Banks Peninsula is by erosion, not by the formation of the volcanic cones. He asserted that the valleys were cut “when the land was much higher…” He notes that “in very many cases on the East Coast clffs descend into very deep water…” Davis researched wells dug in the area, and was particularly interested in a well dug in Heathcote Valley – in that case solid rock was reached at a depth of 708 feet. Speight writes, “This seems to indicate that the former Heathcote Valley was eroded to that depth, and that the land once stood over 700 feet higher…”

This diagram is a geologic cross section of Banks Peninsula and where it intersects with the Canterbury Plains. In Volcaniclastic Rocks of the Orton-Bradley Formation, Banks Peninsula, a thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the Degree of Master of Science in Geology in the University of Canterbury by Richard Sutton in 1993, we read:

The composition of the Banks Peninsula volcanics correlates well with the hotspot or plume type of intraplate volcanism, usually when a plate moves over a fixed hotspot or plume within the mantle, a linear chain of progressively younger volcanoes forms, such as occurs at Hawaii. This does not appear to have occurred in this case, though here is some evidence of migration of volcanism from Lyttelton to Mt. Herbert to Akaroa....

Banks Peninsula consists of several large coalescing, composite volcanoes, composed predominantly of alkali rocks. Originally an island, the volcanoes were joined to the mainland by the progradation of the Canterbury Plains by deposition of loess and alluvium derived from the erosion of the Southern Alps. Banks Peninsula shows little evidence of deformation in the region. The volcanoes were formed on a pre-existing basement high, formed by the horst and graben structures in the Torlesse rocks, underlying the Canterbury Plains (Sewell et al. 1988).


So what does all that mean? Well what it basically says to me is that the volcanoes that form Banks Peninsula have formed on top of the layer of rock that underlies the Canterbury Plains. The volcanic action spewed up volcanic rock through cracks or fissures in that layer, and formed a pile of volcanic rock now known as Banks Peninsula. This underlying layer of hard rock is part of the crust of the earth that floats above the earth's mantle and molten magma that lies beneath, as depicted in this graphic.

Putting all this together, the scenario is that after the volcanic activity that formed Banks Island, there was tremendous downward pressure exerted on the Torlesse rock layer below. Just simply the force of gravity on this new mass of rock - area 450 square miles, average height (now) around 300 metres. This force over time has forced the layer below, which is floating on molten magma, downward. Like a boat floats deeper when more people jump into it. (This accounts for the observations of geologist Davis - above). The underlying rock layer sank till some sort of steady state was reached over time. Or maybe it got jammed.

And now we are experiencing a reverse ripple from below. Perhaps the downward movement was too far, too fast, got stuck, geologically speaking, maybe there are additional pressures at work, but what appeared to be in balance is now finding a new level. The underlying rock layer is lifting, floating up.

When you research something like this on Google, it is interesting what comes up. I end with this discovery. In the Journal of Environmental & Engineering Geoscience; November 1995; v. 1; no. 4; p. 427-488, we find a paper: Geology of Christchurch, New Zealand, by L. J. Brown, R. D. Beetham, B. R. Paterson, and J. H. Weeber, of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Note that this research was published in 1995, 16 years ago. In this we find the following statements:
Christchurch is situated on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand in the south Pacific Ocean. The city is located at the coast of the Canterbury Plains adjacent to an extinct volcanic complex forming Banks Peninsula. The site of Christchurch was mainly swamp, behind beach dune sand, and estuaries and lagoons, which have now been drained.....

Geological constraints of concern to Christchurch include flooding, variable foundation conditions, slope instability on the Port Hills, and coastal erosion. The Waimakariri River with its catchment in the southern Alps, regularly flooded Christchurch prior to stopbank construction and river realignment, which began shortly after the city was established in 1850. Variable foundation conditions as a consequence of a high water table and lateral changes from river floodplain, swamp, and estuarine-lagoonal environments, impose constraints on building design and construction....

The geology, tectonic setting, and active seismicity of the Christchurch area indicate that future large earthquakes will occur which will have major impact on the city. Earthquakes are expected to produce liquefaction, landsliding, ground cracking, and tsunami. Planning and design to mitigate the consequences of these phenomena are an essential prerequisite for preparedness....

The identification and quantifying of geological hazards, and the implementation of regulation and planning designed to discourage irresponsible land use, should continue in the future as the geological knowledge and database is expanded....
Which is all news to me. Though it clearly wasn't to some people in 1996.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Mind the Gaps in Auckland Transport Planning

It is tempting to attribute blame for the very public disagreement that has erupted between Central Government and Auckland Council about what the economic benefits of the proposed CBD rail loop project might be. However I think it more productive to examine Auckland’s crisis in transport and land use planning, and to consider how it might be fixed.

The most effective transport planning in Auckland has been for its motorway network which is still being built fifty years after being committed to paper. Auckland’s State Highway routes were protected by designations decades ago and ever since Transit New Zealand and its predecessors have employed buildings full of planners and consultants to transform these paper designations into motorways on the ground.

This dedication to planning and infrastructure delivery has never been applied to public transport systems in Auckland – with the possible exception of its much loved and lamented tram system. While there have been legislative initiatives and legacy projects aiming to improve Auckland’s public transport systems and their integration with land uses, these have been only partly successful.

Take the Northern Busway for example. The drive for this project came from Transit - Central Government’s State Highway provider – not from North Shore City Council. At the time Transit wanted consent to extend State Highway One north to Orewa. The Busway was proposed as a mitigation measure to compensate for the increase in congestion anticipated through North Shore City, over the bridge and into the city.

The Northern Busway is constructed within Transit’s State Highway corridor, entirely separate from North Shore City’s local road network. So it is no surprise that during the early years of planning North Shore City was a distant partner, only becoming committed when regional funder Infrastructure Auckland stepped up with $40 million toward the cost of stations which were to be North Shore City Council’s contribution.

North Shore City got a fantastic high capacity busway corridor plus stations at minimal cost to ratepayers. But - despite informal arrangements requiring North Shore City Council to work with Transit, Auckland City Council and Auckland Regional Council to deliver an integrated public transport system - NSCC failed to deliver its share of matching transport infrastructure at local level.

The pressure to build more park and ride facilities at busway stations is because local feeder bus services remain an unattractive option for commuters, while the absence of significant land development around busway stations is because their locations were designed to support the busway, rather than to stimulate investment. These are missed opportunities because of poor integrated planning.

My experience on this project led me – and others - to call for a regionally integrated approach to passenger transport planning and service delivery. In 2004 we got ARTA – Auckland Region Transport Authority – whose responsibilities were pretty much limited to bus and ferry services. ARTA’s involvement in rail and land use planning was only possible with the agreement of Ontrack and local councils respectively.

This poor institutional design did not prevent Waitakere City making a good fist of the New Lynn railway station which transformed New Lynn’s town centre into Auckland’s first public transport oriented development. The project was driven by a special purpose Development Agency set up by Waitakere Council after a research visit exploring success factors underlying similar rail and urban redevelopment projects in Perth.

Planners and managers there delivered a number of key messages: each project needs its own development agency with appropriate planning powers; land value uplift contributes to infrastructure funding; a high degree of community and private land owner engagement is essential; detailed and iterative planning takes time to get right and must be strongly led; it is critical to get rail freight off surburban railway networks to deliver three minute headway between trains.

We were advised that 40% of commuters using Perth’s rail services get to railway stations by bus, while 25% use park and ride facilities, and the rest either walked, biked or were dropped off. Perth’s CBD transformation involved redirecting CBD bus services to rail feeder stations – to maximise CBD commuter rail demand and to minimise the number of buses cluttering the CBD street network. A fleet of small buses are used to access destinations within the CBD.

Here in Auckland the institutions responsible for coming up with the preferred route for the CBD rail tunnel were ARTA and KiwiRail, and while Auckland City Council was consulted during this process, it did not drive it. It would be unfair to suggest that Auckland City Council went along for the ride – a bit like North Shore City Council did with the Northern Busway project – however it is my firm view that the planning for this very important project has really only just got started, if Perth’s experience and success is anything to go by..

For example, the rump of Auckland City Council now absorbed into the amalgamated Auckland Council, is preparing the Auckland CBD Master Plan. This is considering the look, feel and function of the CBD at a broad scale. (We need to think: “City Activity District” not: “Central Business District”. City planning is about much more than “Business”). Part of this City Master Plan work responds to the preferred tunnel route and will consider the economic development opportunities and potentials around proposed stations.

Like the proposed Spatial Plan, the Centre Plan is at an early stage, and both need to be integrated with the planning of the whole rail tunnel project. This task has not been made easy with transport being run out of a separate organisation whose funding is constrained by a Council struggling to cover the huge costs of becoming a Super City.

So far, I don’t think Auckland Council, or its predecessors, have done nearly enough at either the large-scale planning level or the building by building land use planning level, to have any right to demand that ratepayers or government funders should trust them to go ahead with the CBD Rail Tunnel project as it stands. A step change in rail requires a step change in integrated transport planning. Government funding support for this nationally significant planning effort is essential.

For good reason a Waterfront Development Agency was established with powers to get on with the development and planning of Auckland’s waterfront.

The CBD Rail Tunnel project is at least as important to Auckland as its waterfront, and needs integrated planning which considers land use and transport and economic development together, and an institutional framework to ensure coordinated implementation.

Mayor Len's Community Choice

Well old Granny Herald wasn't a happy read this morning. Mayor Len reported as doing a personal about turn on cruise ships on Queens Wharf. Just as Shed 10 was starting to shine in the sun. Reports suggest he hasn't even consulted his Council. Let alone the wider community (which is what the Waterfront Master Plan is for). I understand some of that work points to Wynyard Wharf being a good deep water option for cruise ships - if Captain Cook is too expensive.

So who has been in his ear? So successfully. Because that is clearly the community of choice for Mayor Len. And it certainly isn't the Auckland community that was promised Queens Wharf as the next people's park. A waterfront space for markets and parties and fun and games. This sudden change of heart has the whiff of a backroom deal about it. So sudden and out of the blue. Community choice.

Mayor Len has made a lot of wanting to double traffic through the Port (what would that do to the surrounding roads?), and of sharply increasing (by what factor?) the number of cruise ship visits. That's one voice of the business community speaking. The one that must have Len's ear. For a Mayor who made so much of being a community champion, of the people, he's a worry. All the potential of Shed 10 being sold down the river, compromised by cruise ship needs. You only have to look at Princes Wharf to see how that opportunity has been devastated by business needs, side-lining the broader Auckland community. Surely, Mayor Len, you don't wish that on Queens Wharf and Shed 10.

As if having to occupy space beside the McCully Cloud wasn't ignominious enough.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

University Planners Connect Auckland Waterfront



The Masters in Planning Practice class of 2011 prepare to present their Auckland Waterfront Design Projects in the 7th Floor studio. This is the Planning 701 Urban Design course. Prof Kai Gu is the lecturer.

There were 9 team projects this year, ranging from 2 to 3 students apiece. They covered topics including Princes Wharf, Queens Wharf, Quay Street, Copthorne Hotel corner of the Viaduct, and the Waitemata Plaza area of the Viaduct. Each project identified a particular focus area, mapped the history and planning environment, set out constraints, illustrated opportunities, and provided designs.

I was taken by many of the ideas, and am considering how to get a productive relationship going between Auckland Council and the Urban Design and Urban Planning research of Auckland University. This particular project was primarily about the public access between Britomart and Vector Arena. They proposed an elevated pedestrian walkway along the alignment of access lanes. It got me thinking....

So I took a few photos along that walkway. Here we are leaving Britomart Railway station building... looking towards the Ernst and Young branded building...

The generous walkway takes you past the interesting features built into the roof of the Britomart Station...

And there are several of these volcanic features, pedestrian friendly environment...

This takes us to the entry of the public walkway throuhg and under the Ernst and Young building...

This is a real opportunity inside the Ernst and young building. A generous and safe public space, well integrated with the public walkway we've just come along...

When we reach the end of the Ernst and Young building, you look across a street to see where to go next...

And there you are stranded. You've had a good experience so far, and now you are faced with signs pointing to a relatively unattractive back alley, a service lane designed for trucks and service vehicles, not the same sort of pedestrian experience. So that was the opportunity (and need) identified by the Design Project team.

Their suggestion of an elevated pedestrian walkway through this alignment got me thinking. That's the purpose of these projects. That's why I think Auckland should be benefitting from this sort of research and thinking. It made me remember this wonderful elevated walkway in Singapore...

Here it is again. Generous. Safe. Full of light. and what an extraordinary Helix design. Auckland's weather as we know can be unpredictable. Walking back to the station or to Vector in the rain not much fun in concert gear.

So here's that back alley walkway to Vector as it is now...

How about we try an elevated walkway though there. One that leaves room for vehicles. Runs behind what is now a parking building. Takes up some air space above the back alley...

Here's another view. (BTW, this is my output using SketchUp. A good tool for playing with ideas. Not my strength. Not a designer. But it is a good way to experiment and illustrate ideas.)

Here's another view. I agree that this walkway is a bit on the steep side! But you get the picture.

And here's a pic of the inside which I kind of enjoyed.... And the thing about Skletchup is you can produce animations very easily of your design. That's fun....

video

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CBD Rail Designation: Government and Auckland Agree

It is hard to see the wood for the leaves and the pages of consultancy documents and media releases that flutter like confetti around Auckland's Rail Tunnel project.

But there is agreement between Ministry of Transport consultants and Auckland Council consultants over one crucial part of that project. Both consultancies agree that the notice of requirement for the designation that will protect the route should be lodged.

Specifically, the Ministry of Transport Auckland City Centre Rail Link Business Case Review states up front:
There is a strategic case for lodging a NoR and it would make sense for Auckland Council to proceed with this.
while the Auckland Council's CITY RAIL LINK Summary Report (prepared with the involvement of Price Waterhouse Cooper, Parsons Brinkerhoff, John Bolland Consulting, Market Economics, Beca, GHD, and Ascari) states:
Auckland Transport and Auckland Council and their advisors are strongly of the view that the overall evaluation results are sufficiently robust to justify the immediate commencement of the designation process, particularly as the CRL is economically justifiable in terms of its transport related benefits alone. This process needs to commence as soon as possible to minimise the potential for any development to increase costs, delay the project, or even prevent its implementation.
I read that as we agree that the designation process should be undertaken now.

No-one is saying that construction should start now.

The Auckland Council report also states:
Auckland Transport and Auckland Council acknowledge that, in line with all major project development programmes, more work needs to be done to further develop the case for funding of the City Rail Link.
That seems entirely sensible, and is also pretty much in alignment with what is stated in the conclusion of the MoT study. This states:

[46] The Review concludes that there is a range of actions that could be undertaken or facilitated by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport which will improve confidence in considering outcomes expected from the CCRL (Central City Rail Loop).
  • Finalisation and implementation of the Auckland spatial plan and City Centre Masterplan to establish achievable growth projections for the CBD and to quantify where the growth projected for the CBD will occur.
  • Demonstrating commitment to resolving current and emerging CBD access issues, for example by improving bus operations and addressing capacity issues.
  • Development of a robust and achievable multi-modal programme for transport in the CBD, which considers a thorough analysis of alternatives and identifies the optimal mix of modes to meet demand.
  • Beginning implementation of large scale residential developments along the rail corridors.
  • Implementation of additional park and ride sites, and changes to bus feeder services where appropriate in terms of overall public transport demand.
  • [47] The implementation of these measures, combined with rail patronage above forecasts and a robust economic case, would provide a strong signal that the conditions are in place to drive the necessary benefits from the project and therefore to reconsider the case for investment.

    These points from MoT's consultants are appropriate. Moving Britomart Rail Tunnel project to the next stage after designation - ie getting government funding - will require attention to these areas.

    In particular, Auckland Council needs to demonstrate it has the focus and mettle to plan and implement associated land use changes that will deliver the economic developments that justify this investment.

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Faulty Thinking About Christchurch

    (NB: Since putting up this post, I have posted further research which you will be interested to read if you want to understand how Christchurch Council planning failed to manage the city's seismic risk: How Councils Under-Played Christchurch Seismic Risk.)... but read this one first....

    Maybe I read the wrong newspapers, but around the time of the September earthquake in Christchurch, I got the impression that it came as a very big surprise to all concerned. I got the impression that people thought Christchurch was safe as houses as far as earthquakes went. Not quite the last place on earth for an earthquake, but low risk. Well. That was the impression I got from what I read, and from people I know who live there. How wrong I was.

    My last blog on this subject reported a few of my speculative thoughts on the matter, and quoted from the abstract to research by the NZ Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science (NZIGNS), published in Environmental and Engineering Geoscience 1995, and entitled Geology of Christchurch.

    It took a while to track down the actual report itself, but I found it buried within the Serials section of the General Library at Auckland University. There are 61 pages of it covering many aspects of the geology of Christchurch and a detailed section on the risk of earthquakes there.

    My reading of the data suggests that between 1869 and 1988 there have been 12 earthquakes bigger than 6.0 on the Richter Scale within 150 kms of Christchurch. Two of these were 7.0 and larger. The report contains this photo of earthquake damage to the Cathedral spire from an earthquake in 1888, and reports that the Cathedral was also damaged by earthquake in 1922 (a magnitude 6.9 earthquake centered around Motunau) and in 1929 (the Murchison earthquake). I discovered newspaper reports in the National Library that it was also damaged by the Cheviot earthquake in 1901.

    The NZIGNS report tabulates 59 earthquakes that were “felt in Christchurch” between 1946 and 1994 (9 of these were centered outside the central South Island). Interestingly, the report tabulates the intensity of these earthquakes within Christchurch in terms of the Modified Mercalli Scale and the Richter Scale.

    Modified Mercalli Scale
    I. Very mild movement, only detectable by instruments.
    II. Some people feel a slight movement, particularly on upper floors of buildings. Suspended objects such as chandeliers may swing.
    III. People indoors feel some movement, similar to passing traffic.
    IV. Motion is felt by most people indoors and some outdoors. Windowpanes and kitchen utensils rattle; parked vehicles rock. The movement is great enough to wake sleepers.
    V. Felt by all people. Tall objects rock; plaster cracks and falls.
    VI. Alarmed, people run outside. Poorly constructed buildings begin to show damage. Motion is felt by people in moving vehicles.
    VII. Only slight damage in well-constructed buildings; slight to moderate in well-built ordinary structures; much damage in poorly constructed buildings; chimneys broken.
    VIII. Damage is still only slight in structures built to be earthquake-resistant; among substantial ordinary buildings there is much damage and some collapse. Poorly built buildings are substantially damaged. Tall things such as chimneys and monuments collapse. Heavy furniture is overturned.
    IX. Even in earthquake-resistant structures, there is considerable damage. Greater damage in substantial ordinary structures; more collapse. The frames structures of buildings are thrown out of plumb, and buildings are shifted off their foundations.
    X. Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry structures demolished with foundations. Rails bent.
    XI. Few if any structures remain standing. Bridges destroyed, rails greatly bent.
    XII. Total damage. Lines of sight and level are distorted. Objects thrown into the air.
    Of the 59 earthquakes “felt in Christchurch” between 1946 and 1994, 47 were MMIV in intensity (ie IV on the Modified Mercalli Scale), 9 were MMV, and there was a MMVII (this was the 8 March 1987 earthquake centred in Pegasus Bay.)

    (By the way - my understanding of the damage caused by the recent earthquakes in Christchurch that these range between MMVII and MMIX in intensity, according to the Mercalli Scale. Parts of Christchurch were harder hit than others.)

    The NZIGNS report (dated 1995 remember) states: “Dibble and others consider the 5 June 1869 New Brighton earthquake to have been the most destructive since European settlement. This earthquake is estimated to have produced intensities of MMVII-MMVIII at Christchurch, and reports of the observed effects are consistent with an M5.75 earthquake (Richter Scale) located 10 miles from the city centre…” (NB: the nave of Christchurch Cathedral was not built until 1881.)

    I found these reports about that earthquake and one that came shortly after:
    5 June 1869: Earthquake in early ChristchurchOn 5 June 1869, Christchurch settlers were shaken by an earthquake centred beneath the city, possibly around Addington or Spreydon. The earthquake was probably shallow, with a magnitude of about 5.8. There was damage to stone buildings and the spire of St John’s Church on Latimer Square, and many fallen chimneys. The quake may have caused some ground settlement in the Heathcote Estuary, as locals describe the tide as running higher up the Heathcote River afterward.
    31 August 1870: Earthquake near Banks Peninsula
    On 31 August 1870 the Canterbury region was shaken by an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 5.8, centred south of Banks Peninsula, near Lake Ellesmere. Damage was minor in Christchurch—a few fallen chimneys and some structural damage to buildings. Shaking at Lyttelton and Akaroa was much stronger, with rocks falling from cliffs around Lyttelton harbour.
    Anyway, getting back to the NZIGNS report. It goes on to consider the risk of liquefaction, and reports past liquefaction events in these terms:
    “…Only one instance of liquefaction during an earthquake is recorded from the Christchurch area. This was for a magnitude M6-7.5 earthquake which occurred on 16 November 1901 (intensity MMIX in Christchurch) centred near Cheviot in north Canterbury…. ‘it was reported in The Press that at Kaiapoi the earthquakes of the 16th inst.were felt with great violence; that at some places the earth opened and water and sand were emitted from vents in the ground and that at one time an inundation by water from this source was apprehended…’”

    I had a further hunt around for information about this earthquake and found these press photos and this story about what happened in Cheviot reported at the time in The Star:

    “A terrible earthquake occurred at 7.45 this morning, travelling direct from, east to west. It lasted several minutes. There is not a brick building or chimney left standing. The windows in many houses were shattered to atoms. One little child was killed by a falling house. The bakers' ovens are broken to pieces, and everything in the district is a complete wreck….”

    Note the power of this earthquake - "no brick building left standing...." Newspaper reports at the time record a string of aftershocks, the fact that people became exhausted, would not return to their homes, camped in the fields. That the Cathedral spire was damaged. This is the Evening Post newspaper report about what was seen at Kaiapoi during the Cheviot centred 'quake:

    “…When first shock had passed, Mr. W. Waites, who owns an orchard and garden at the end of Charles and Sewell streets, noticed that his land was' apparently flooding from springs having been opened. It was then discovered that across his land, and part of Mr. Dunn's section, and over the surface of a paddock of several acres held by Mr. J. Sims, fissures from 1in to 3in in. width, and several chains in length, had opened… From these earthquake openings the water was freely issuing in such volume as to cause… probable inundation. Fortunately the rapid expansion of water seemed to be checked by a liberal supply of sand from some grey quicksand layer below the level of the river, and this was deposited in the orchard and elsewhere in the shape of round and oval porridge pots… The water, which had risen about six inches in on hour or two, disappeared by percolation, leaving the sand deposits in different fantastic forms….”


    The 1995 NZIGNS report includes this “liquefaction potential map” of Christchurch, with high, medium, low and no liquefaction risk zones marked. The report confirms that the materials that are most susceptible to liquefaction are water saturated, loose, uniformly graded silt and sand, and notes that liquefaction has been observed in loose sandy gravels (overseas examples given). The report states:

    “some of the Christchurch metropolitan area is underlain by similar materials, particularly large parts of the eastern suburbs and areas adjacent to the Heathcote River… Interbedded gravels are thinnest or absent in the central and eastern area of Christchurch where liquefaction effects and ground deformations (settlement and lateral spreading) are expected to be greatest…”

    Here is a section of the “red zone” map released by Government this week which includes Bexley, Avonside and Dallington.

    Note the similarity with this image which is a section of the NZIGNS map encompassing the eastern suburbs.

    The NZIGNS report tabulates predictions for the likely return periods of different magnitude earthquakes that might affect Christchurch in future. These are under a section headed: “Seismic Risk”, which notes work done by “Elder and others”, and which is tabulated as the graphic to the left shows. Among other things it predicts that quakes as damaging as Christchurch has had recently (at least MMVIII) will happen every 55 years on average.

    The report contains a number of warnings. It maps the existence of several known fault lines, but goes on to warn: “an absence of identified fault traces does not necessarily confirm faults are absent from a particular area. Since Christchurch and the Canterbury Plans are covered by geologically very recent deposits, it is possible that some faults have not been detected.

    The report explains the significance of how close the epicentre is in terms of damage inflicted. It states:

    “Close to the source of a large shallow earthquake (Richter 7 or greater), widespread damage and destruction often occurs, with intensities reaching MMIX or MMX. At distances about 100km from the epicentre, intensities are generally up to MMVI…” And it warns: “It should be noted that there are known active faults significantly closer than 100km to Christchurch which could generate similar large magnitude earthquakes.”
    I don’t know what effect this report had in New Zealand. But it was published in an international journal whose editor (Allen Hatheway from Dept of Geological & Petroleum Engineering at University of Missouri) wrote in his foreword:
    “…the authors leave nothing to the imagination in the question of local and regional seismicity… clearly, there is now a case for elected officials to take note and to ask and allow local and national agency geologists and engineers, planners and consultants alike, to assist in providing enforceable seismic-withstand guidelines or regulations.
    More than in most cities, development of Christchurch is served by careful site examination. One has the impression that the temperate climate and tranquil setting of Christchurch belies a variety of benign geologic constraints- those that are costly mainly in terms of financial losses rather than by loss of life. The intersecting curves of increased urbanisation and frequency of occurrence of damage-oriented geologic constraints will soon begin to awaken the media and public officials, as well as the insurance companies. The time is right and the local geoscience and geotechnical expertise is ready.”
    Looks like it took another 16 years before anyone woke up actually.

    It is not as if the New Zealand Earthquake Commission has been ignoring this issue. In fact it appears that the Seismic Risk assessments that are cited in the NZIGNS report tabulated in this blog, were in fact prepared for the NZ EQC. The same table (as above) is set out in the summary of an earthquake risk assessment that was done for the EQC in 1991 entitled: The Earthquake Hazard In Christchurch: a detailed evaluation. (The authors of this work are: Elder, McCahon and Yetton.)

    (You can see this summary here).

    The 1991 EQC report summary states, in relation to the seismic risk probabilities:

    These probabilities indicate that Christchurch has an overall seismic hazard level comparable to Wellington for medium intensity earthquake shaking… The greatest concern for Christchurch, located near a saturated, sand and silt rich, prograding coastline, is the potential for liquefaction…. This may cause subsidence, foundation failure and damage to services. Analysis shows that large areas of the city are underlain by sands or silts which, if sufficiently loose, would be highly susceptible to liquefaction….

    The EQC report summary notes that the available data (covering the earlier earthquake events that are described above) is short, making it difficult to provide reliable predictions, given that the best predictor for the future is what has happened in the past. It states:

    Analysis indicates that potential exists for relatively rare but very large earthquakes (approximately magnitude 8) along the Alpine fault, which essentially marks the western edge of the Southern Alps. More frequent moderate to large earthquakes (around magnitude 6-7.5) can be expected in the Canterbury Plains foothills and North Canterbury area, and less frequent moderate earthquakes under the Canterbury Plains and Christchurch itself. The attenuation model predicts that the damage in the city from these three types of event are likely to be similar. Of the four serious earthquakes in the early city history, three occurred in the foothills and North Canterbury region (the Amuri, Cheviot and Motunau earthquakes) and one virtually beneath the city (the New Brighton earthquake).
    In other words, what the EQC report summary plainly says, a moderate earthquake “under the Canterbury Plains or Christchurch itself” would cause “similar” damage to a “relatively rare” big earthquake centered along the Southern Alps. This summary also apppears to address the data shortcomings that are confirmed in the later NZIGNS report, noting:
    We have not attempted an in-depth lifelines study for Christchurch, or included economic or sociological analysis in this report. In addition to the need for this type of work, we recommend further action from the engineering profession including a review of the current seismic loadings code, local seismic design practices and building stock. We suggest site specific studies for the Lyttelton tank farm, Bromley sewerage ponds, pumping stations, substations, hospitals, civil defence facilities, airport and key bridges. Major areas of further research include studies of sand density variations and susceptibility to liquefaction across the city; continued paleoseismic evaluation of adjacent active faults, particularly the Alpine Fault, and further investigation of the deep sediments below the city.

    The EQC Seismic Risk Assessment for Christchurch is dated 1991. Twenty years ago.

    How much of this work was ever done?

    How much of this advice was accepted and acted upon?

    There are many questions that need to be answered by those in authority. Why? I'll suggest why. This information cites four earthquakes that did severe damage in and very close to the City of Christchurch (1869, 1901, 1922 and 1987). Based on this information the EQC report predicted a return period for another equally devastating earthquake of 55 years. Given the Cheviot earthquake in 1901, and then the Christchurch February 2011earthquake - exactly 110 years later - with a couple of big ones in between, perhaps their predictions are conservative.

    New Zealand was advised this earthquake sequence was likely. So whose fault is it that authorities didn't act?

    PS: Since putting up this post, I have added two later ones which you might be interested to read: Banks Peninsula Rising - Geologic History and Historic Christchurch Earthquake Newspaper Archives

    Banks Peninsula Rising II

    This video clip animation (which is silent by the way) made by GeoNet NZ is a helpful illustration of the way the New Zealand land mass has been formed between the interaction or collision between the Pacific Plate and the Indian Australian Plate. It's all interesting but what is especially interesting for the South Island is that the Southern Alps were formed by the two plates rubbing together and forcing the edges to buckle and bend and form the huge upthrusts that are now the Southern Alps.

    This graphic shows the situation today. What is of particular interest is the fact that the Pacific Plate is "subducting" under the Indian Australian Plate to the north of New Zealand. ie it is diving under it. The arrow heads show where that is happening. But along the Southern Alps the edge of the Pacific Plate is apparently sliding along the edge of the Indian Australian Plate.

    This difference in interaction is further illustrated in this graphic. The transverse movement/fault known as a "strike slip region" it appears. Even though the Plates are sliding along each other in the South Island, along the Southern Alpine fault, it's not as if this movement is well oiled. Any movement is in huge and violent jerks. Enormous pressures will still be exerted in an East-West direction (because the plates still press together), the edges will bind, causing a shearing stress on the Pacific Plate that lies under the Canterbury Plains. As a result a number of smaller faults have developed from the top of the South Island, parallel to the Southern Alps fault, that run down into the Canterbury Plains.

    Some of these smaller fault lines are shown in this recent graphic prepared by NIWA which is now mapping new faultlines. You can just make out other red fault lines under the earthquake dots on the land around in Christchurch. It is movement in these smaller faults that give rise to smaller earthquakes (compared to those released in and by the Southern Alp fault.). But these faultlines are close to the surface and close to a city. So they can be much more destructive than a big distant earthquake.

    This is an East/West cross section of Banks Peninsula (looking North). It shows the volcanic rock that formed Banks Peninsula after volcanic activity a million or more years ago. These volcanoes are extinct. The underlying rock is known to be faulted. (You can see the faultlines in the graphic.) This base rock was once flat but has been pushed up out of shape, and it has been squeezed by East-West tectonic plate pressure, and must have been cracked allowing volcanic magma to push through. One scenario is that this underlying rock is folding up slowly now. It may be a weak point in the plate. New faults may be forming. But this is speculation.

    Intensive monitoring is the duty of authorities now.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Climate Change - NZ Response

    Climate Change is another area of study in the Auckland University "Legal and Institutional Context of Planning" paper. Here is some useful background, in the form of a short essay. What I've done here is look at the way the Resource Management Act has been changed, and cover some of the case history relating to applications to establish new power stations in New Zealand...

    I start with the Vienna Convention for Protection of Ozone Layer - 1985 - part of what was known as the Montreal Protocol. (When I was at University of Canterbury, NZ atmospheric physics was leading the way measuring ozone in the atmosphere.) In response to this international agreement NZ introduced domestic law, the Ozone Layer Protection Act - enacted in 1990 - to control related activities here.

    In 1992 there was the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. This led to the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change - sometimes referred to as FCCC. This starts like this:

    The Parties to this Convention,

    Acknowledging that change in the Earth’s climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind,

    Concerned that human activities have been substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, that these increases enhance the natural greenhouse effect, and that this will result on average in an additional warming of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere and may adversely affect natural ecosystems and humankind,
    You can download the 25 page FCCC.

    Around this time, the Electricity Corporation of New Zealand made application for discharge consents for a proposed Stratford Power Station in the Taranaki Region. ECNZ applied to the Regional Council for consents to establish and operate a gas-fired power station in 1993. However, citing "National significance" (due to NZ's position on the FCCC), Minister Upton called the application in. This meant that the application could be considered by a Board of Enquiry, but the Minister would make the decision.

    The Board recommended consent be granted, subject to ECNZ committing to around 4,000 hectares each year of forestry planting to mitigate the CO2 emissions from the power station. It also recommended that the Minister issue a National Policy Statement on Climate Change.

    The Minister – in his decision – which considered the Board's recommendation – granted the consent, but gave ECNZ open licence pretty much to deal with any net increase in CO2, in ways they think fit…(which might include carbon sinks without specifying what those might be, and noting that the Stratford Power Station would be more efficient than ECNZ's other stations and could mean the old ones were used less....).

    The Minister's decision was in 1995 and caused considerable disquiet.

    Negotiations on what was to become the Kyoto Protocol to the FCCC were started in Berlin in 1995. The draft text was prepared toward the end of 1997, and countries began lining up first to sign it (done by representatives), and then to ratify it (done by Parliament's Executive). New Zealand signed it in 2002. (Click here for a fascinating insight into the tortuous process that was involved in arriving at the text of the Kyoto Protocol.)

    At the time, Contact Energy made application to Auckland Regional Council to establish a gas-fired power station in Otahuhu, Auckland. Contact Energy obtained necesary consents to operate the power station. However the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) appealed the decision to the Environment Court, seeking a condition requiring tree planting to mitigate the CO2 emissions. Judge Whiting agreed with EDS deciding that NZ’s signature to the FCCC was a relevant matter, even though at the time NZ had not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The decision makes reference to the need for a National Policy Statement on Climate Change, and while the appeal was dismissed, it served a useful purpose in focussing attention on NZ's obligations. In passing I note also what the judge had to say about tree planting:
    [92]...to the extent that the condition imposes sequestration planting outside the Auckland region, even if the Regional Council has jurisdiction to impose such a condition, we doubt that it can legally monitor and enforce such a condition. Quite apart from the legal position, if such a condition were imposed, the Regional Council would, be confronted with considerable practicable difficulties in monitoring and enforcing it. (The whole decision is here.)

    After NZ ratified the Kyoto Protocol NZ set about giving effect to its commitments. This included enacting the NZ Climate Change Response Act 2002, and making changes to the RMA via the enactment of Resource Management (Climate Change) Amendment Act 2004.

    According to the MfE website:
    The Climate Change Response Act 2002 puts in place a legal framework to allow New Zealand to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and to meet its obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

    The Act includes powers for the Minister of Finance to manage New Zealand’s holdings of units that represent New Zealand’s target allocation for greenhouse gas emissions under the Protocol. It enables the Minister to trade those units on the international market. It establishes a registry to record holdings and transfers of units. The Act also establishes a national inventory agency to record and report information relating to greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with international requirements. Full text of CCRA

    Part 4 of this Act introduces the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which has had a difficult passage, and many critics. The changes to the RMA, via the Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Act 2004 are summarised here from MfE's Quality Planning website:
    Under the Resource Management (Energy and Climate Change) Amendment Act 2004, three new matters were inserted into section 7 under Part II of the RMA:

    "(ba) - The efficiency of the end use of energy;�
    (i) - The effects of climate change; and
    (j) - The benefits to be derived from the use and development of renewable energy".

    In the context of the RMA, there are two ways in which particular regard may be given to the effects of climate change:

    1. As an integral part of making decisions on resource consent applications and notices of requirement under the RMA for which the effects of climate change may be significant; and
    2. In proactively assessing RMA policy statements and plans, as they come up for review or other changes are proposed, to identify whether more explicit and/or up-to-date policies are needed to address the effects of climate change than are currently provided.

    The second point directly relates to Council's broader strategic planning initiatives. The effects of climate change can be integrated into local authorities ' longer term planning under the Local Government Act, as part of their mandate to take a sustainable development approach.
    What this summary does not state is that it required Councils to plan for climate change (mostly adaptation), and that the power of regional councils to consider effect of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change when making rules in plans or deciding discharge resource consents was removed. However the way these changes were made to the RMA meant that the issue was far from settled.

    Ambiguity led to a string of legal actions in regard to Mighty River Power's application to locate the Marsden B coal fired power station near the mouth of Whangerei Harbour. After 2004 RMA changes which incorporated Climate Change, Greenpeace challenged the Marsden B Power stataion consents.

    The Environment Court accepted Mighty River Power’s arguments - that essentially Parliament had decided that climate change gas matters would be dealt with by National Government. Not by Regional Council authorities. Greenpeace appealed to the High Court, which upheld Greenpeace’s arguments in 2006. This decision was then appealed to the Court of Appeal. And Greenpeace lost that case, though the decision called for a Government National Policy Statement on Climate Change.

    Finally, triggered by the possibility of a gas-fired power station in Rodney District, Greenpeace sought a Supreme Court declaration as to what the RMA provisions actually meant. That decision was in 19 Dec 2008 and it upheld the Court of Appeal decision.

    On the opposite side of the Green Energy ledger, was the Franklin District Council vs Genesis Power Environment Court decision in 2005. The application related to 18 wind turbines on the south side of Manukau Harbour. The court was required to weight the various competing issues. On one side were visual effects, Maori cultural issues, noise effects, and effects relating to horses. One the other side were benefits derived from renewable energy, reduced greenhouse gases, contribution to the renewable energy target and others. The court held that "an overall broad judgment" was required and "such a judgement allowed for comparison of conflicting considerations and the scale or significance of them...". In his decision the Judge refers to "relevant matters" arising from Section 7 which included the newly added renewable energy matters. Judge Whiting allowed the appeal against FDC, and granted the consents to Genesis.

    In the last few months the Government has issued The Renewable Energy Generation National Policy Statement. This requires responsible authorities to: recognise benefits; acknowledge constraints (incs env compensation for adverse effects that cannot be avoided, remedied, or mitigated – inc measures or compensation which benefits communities and for local environments that are affected); practical implications; manage reverse sensitivity; incorporate provisions in Regional Policy Statements, RPs and DPs.; within timeframe.

    So that's something. But with CO2 levels almost at 400 parts per million and climbing, and the general scientific consensus being that global levels need to be around 350 ppm to avoid the risk of further warming of the planet, a lot more needs to be done. And it sure won't be solved by planting trees in mitigation.

    Thinking about Sustainability and NZ Law

    Looking through my swot notes for the Auckland University "Legal and Institutional Context of Planning" paper, I thought a useful place for some of them was here, in the form of a short essay. This one's about sustainability....

    The statement "Sustainability means different things to different people" is a truism borne out by a close examination of the twisted path taken to incorporate the idea of sustainability into New Zealand law.

    International pressure to engage with damage to the global environment grew after the Stockholm Declaration in 1972, and then the Brundtland Report – Our Common Future – which was published in 1987. This called for intergenerational equity, drew attention to the need for development in under-developed countries and the need for economic growth, and introduced the idea of sustainable development. That development and use of world’s natural resources needed to consider the needs of future generations.

    The New Zealand Labour led government of the mid 1980’s, under the leadership of Geoffery Palmer, responded to these challenges and began work to develop an Act which would incorporate many other pieces of legislation relating to water, land and air. Interestingly the un-stated long title of the RMA reads: “An Act to restate and reform the law relating to use of land, air and water.” It eventually merged 60 Acts under one unifying purpose “to promote sustainable management of natural and physical resources”.

    In the beginning pressure was also being directed by New Zealand environmental activists exemplified by Cath Wallace. Thus emerged an unusal alliance between environmentalists and new right thinking.

    Both wanted environmental issues to be internalised into decision making, to be formally taken into account. The greens wanted decisions to be taken locally, where they mattered, and this accorded with the new right’s vision that the market be able to make decisions about natural resources rather than the dead hand of the state. Both wanted integrated thinking.

    Palmer writes in the book “The Making of the Resource Management Act” that the key concept “was sustainable development”, and goes on to elaborate that “sustainable management is a broad concept that reflects aspects of use, development and protection…”

    Treasury influenced thinking as the policy developed. It argued that the social equity ideas that lay behind the Brundtland concept of sustainable development were “unworkable” in an environmental statute, and that the new legislation should concentrate on natural resources and the environment.

    Palmer’s observations include reference to the thinking of Bruce Pardy who argued that “if an activity is not evaluated according to its effects on the ecosystem function, then ecological sustainability cannot be achieved”, and which led Palmer to refer to the need for “environmental bottom lines”.

    The Government changed while the Resource Management Bill was in process, and Simon Upton became the new Minister of Environment. It appears that the National Government were even more enthusiastic than Labour had been to protect the environment, and did little to change the wording used in the Act which are set out in Section 5 of the Act under the heading: “Purpose Sustainable Management”.



    Purpose
    (1) The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.

    (2) In this Act, sustainable management means managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being and for their health and safety while—

    (a) sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; and

    (b) safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems; and

    (c) avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.

    Much has been written about these words, and the fact the meaning is in two parts. The first part promotes and “enables” people and communities to use natural resources to provide for their wellbeing. The second part provides an environmental counter balance, that the use of the natural resources must be “while” sustaining the potential of those resources to meet the needs of future generations; and safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of ecosystems; and mitigating, remedying, avoiding adverse effects on the environment.

    For example Skelton and Menon (2002) have argued (Adopting Sustainability as an Overarching Environmental Policy: A review of Section 5 of the RMA)that S.5 is not a definition of sustainable management, instead that it is simply a description. They cite various court decisions to back that view. The leading case is the High Court decision of Justice Greig, NZ Rail Vs Marlborough District Council in 1994, which considered the matter of establishing a ferry passage through the sounds. Justice Grieg said in effect, “there is a deliberate openness in the language, its meanings, its connotations which I think is intended to allow the application of policy in a general and broad way. Indeed it is for that purpose that the Planning Tribunal, with special expertise and skills, is established to oversee and to promote the objectives and policies and principles under the Act…”

    This was further qualified by Kenderdine in Trio Holdings Vs Marlborough District Court in 1997 over establishment of a marine farm in Marlborough Sounds, to the effect that “to enable the promotion of the concept of sustainable management to still occur, then it may be that some adverse effects may be acceptable, and that it is matter of fact and degree…”

    Judge Sheppard (in 1997) came to a similar set of findings in considering the appeal of North Shore City Council over the use of a MUL (Metropolitan Urban Limit) by Auckland Regional Council as a method to restrict urban development in its regional Policy Statement. He said to the effect that "...where some aspects of an activity do promote sustainable management and fully comply with (a), (b) and (c) (in Section 5 of the RMA), but others may not comply or fully comply with one or more of those aspects, to conclude with no judgment of scale or proportion would be to subject s5(2) to strict rules of statutory interpretation which are not applicable to the broad purpose…"

    John Milligan (Barrister) writes in RM Bulletin 2002 in an essay “Adopting Sustainability? Sustainability, sustainable development and sustainable management”. He differentiates between strong and weak sustainability. At the heart of very strong sustainability "lies an injunction to preserve nature in all its forms... the position accords with those who attempt to ground an environmental ethic in something other than the instrumental value that things in the natural world have for humans - as, for example, in some notion of 'intrinsic value' in terms of which entities are valuable in and for themselves...".

    He argues that weak sustainability is where nature and natural resources are seen as instruments for humans to use for their own wellbeing and economic development. An anthropocentric concept. He considers that ideas like “ecosystem services” and “natural capital” all serve the idea of natural resources as an instrument for human use and manipulation.

    He considers that Brundtland with its emphasis on the paramount nature of human life and social equityand the need for economic development alongside the idea of intergenerational equity, that notion of sustainable development is instrumental and amounts to "weak sustainability".

    Interestingly, he considers that the RMA, with its emphasis on environment and ecosystems stands a better chance of developing into strong sustainability, than the Brundtland idea of Sustainable Development.

    He essentially agrees with Treasury that there is a need to separate human needs from environmental management.

    However, until the Act reverts to the original intent of its makers – both National and Labour led – which envisaged environmental bottom lines – it will be a tool where the courts are able to exercise their "expert judgement", consider matters of "fact and degree" and permit activities which enable people to do their thing, even if those activities are causing adverse effects on the environment and ecosystems. Especially of those effects are "de-minimus".

    The RMA is now liberally interpreted as one which promotes an idea of sustainable management that has been constructed by caselaw, not by Parliament.

    Until a appropriate National Policy Statement is issued that brings ecological sustainability to the forefront of planning (perhaps the planned NPS on Biodiversity will go some way toward this), then the steady downhill slide of New Zealand away from being 100% pure will continue with certainty.

    Banks Peninsula Rising

    A long time ago I collected rocks. You can probably imagine that. Amateur geologist and all that. And growing up in Oamaru I learned how the East Coast of the South Island had had three distinct areas of volcanic activity in the past: Port Chalmers Dunedin, Cape Wanbrow Oamaru, and Banks Peninsula Christchurch. Interesting that these volcanic outcrops created good places for harbours (I should probably include Moeraki as well by the way).

    The earthquake sequence and location at Christchurch has got me thinking. Like a lot of people. I look at Banks Peninsula's geology - how different it is from the Canterbury Plains - and wonder if something more fundamental is happening than movement along a few relatively quiet (until recently) fault-lines.

    What got me thinking this way were these headlines:

    Port Hills half a metre taller after Christchurch earthquake
    Reported by Stuff - 2nd March 2011

    Christchurch's Port Hills are nearly half a metre taller in places as a result of the colossal forces unleashed by last week's earthquake.

    Satellite analysis by GNS Science shows the top of the roughly east-west buried fault responsible for the February 22 magnitude-6.3 quake lies between one kilometre and 2km below the southern edge of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary.

    Land on either side of the fault has slipped horizontally as well as vertically, causing the Port Hills to rise by about 40 centimetres and land just south of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary to shift to the west by a few tens of centimetres.
    I formed an intuitive view that the volcanic mass of Banks Peninsula was in same way separating itself, or at least moving independently, from the rest of the Canterbury Plains which is the cradle for much of urban Christchurch.

    So I did a bit of research. First a bit of background from an Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1996:
    Banks Peninsula is situated in about the middle of the east coast of the South Island on the margin of the Canterbury Plains.

    It is approximately 450 sq. miles in area and its highest point is Herbert Peak, 3,014 ft. It comprises two extinct volcanoes which were active less than half a million years ago. Their craters have subsequently been enlarged to many times their original size by stream erosion; they were then invaded by the sea during the postglacial world-wide rise in sea level beginning about 15,000 years ago.

    They now form the harbours of Lyttelton and Akaroa. Originally Banks Peninsula was an island, but it became tied to the Canterbury Plains at some late stage in geological history when the growing alluvial plain reached its base....
    Throughout the European history of Christchurch there has been debate as to exactly when the volcanoes happened, and whether the harbours were formed by volcanic action, glacial action or weathering.


    This map shows the geology of Banks Peninsula, and highlights the sequence of volcanoes that formed it over time. The Geology of Banks Peninsula, By R Speight, which was read in October 6 1942, at the Canterbury Branch of the Royal Society of NZ, cites investigative work done previously by WM Davis – a visiting geologist.

    His view was that the formation of the cliffs and landform of Banks Peninsula is by erosion, not by the formation of the volcanic cones. He asserted that the valleys were cut “when the land was much higher…” He notes that “in very many cases on the East Coast clffs descend into very deep water…” Davis researched wells dug in the area, and was particularly interested in a well dug in Heathcote Valley – in that case solid rock was reached at a depth of 708 feet. Speight writes, “This seems to indicate that the former Heathcote Valley was eroded to that depth, and that the land once stood over 700 feet higher…”

    This diagram is a geologic cross section of Banks Peninsula and where it intersects with the Canterbury Plains. In Volcaniclastic Rocks of the Orton-Bradley Formation, Banks Peninsula, a thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the Degree of Master of Science in Geology in the University of Canterbury by Richard Sutton in 1993, we read:

    The composition of the Banks Peninsula volcanics correlates well with the hotspot or plume type of intraplate volcanism, usually when a plate moves over a fixed hotspot or plume within the mantle, a linear chain of progressively younger volcanoes forms, such as occurs at Hawaii. This does not appear to have occurred in this case, though here is some evidence of migration of volcanism from Lyttelton to Mt. Herbert to Akaroa....

    Banks Peninsula consists of several large coalescing, composite volcanoes, composed predominantly of alkali rocks. Originally an island, the volcanoes were joined to the mainland by the progradation of the Canterbury Plains by deposition of loess and alluvium derived from the erosion of the Southern Alps. Banks Peninsula shows little evidence of deformation in the region. The volcanoes were formed on a pre-existing basement high, formed by the horst and graben structures in the Torlesse rocks, underlying the Canterbury Plains (Sewell et al. 1988).


    So what does all that mean? Well what it basically says to me is that the volcanoes that form Banks Peninsula have formed on top of the layer of rock that underlies the Canterbury Plains. The volcanic action spewed up volcanic rock through cracks or fissures in that layer, and formed a pile of volcanic rock now known as Banks Peninsula. This underlying layer of hard rock is part of the crust of the earth that floats above the earth's mantle and molten magma that lies beneath, as depicted in this graphic.

    Putting all this together, the scenario is that after the volcanic activity that formed Banks Island, there was tremendous downward pressure exerted on the Torlesse rock layer below. Just simply the force of gravity on this new mass of rock - area 450 square miles, average height (now) around 300 metres. This force over time has forced the layer below, which is floating on molten magma, downward. Like a boat floats deeper when more people jump into it. (This accounts for the observations of geologist Davis - above). The underlying rock layer sank till some sort of steady state was reached over time. Or maybe it got jammed.

    And now we are experiencing a reverse ripple from below. Perhaps the downward movement was too far, too fast, got stuck, geologically speaking, maybe there are additional pressures at work, but what appeared to be in balance is now finding a new level. The underlying rock layer is lifting, floating up.

    When you research something like this on Google, it is interesting what comes up. I end with this discovery. In the Journal of Environmental & Engineering Geoscience; November 1995; v. 1; no. 4; p. 427-488, we find a paper: Geology of Christchurch, New Zealand, by L. J. Brown, R. D. Beetham, B. R. Paterson, and J. H. Weeber, of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Lower Hutt, New Zealand. Note that this research was published in 1995, 16 years ago. In this we find the following statements:
    Christchurch is situated on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand in the south Pacific Ocean. The city is located at the coast of the Canterbury Plains adjacent to an extinct volcanic complex forming Banks Peninsula. The site of Christchurch was mainly swamp, behind beach dune sand, and estuaries and lagoons, which have now been drained.....

    Geological constraints of concern to Christchurch include flooding, variable foundation conditions, slope instability on the Port Hills, and coastal erosion. The Waimakariri River with its catchment in the southern Alps, regularly flooded Christchurch prior to stopbank construction and river realignment, which began shortly after the city was established in 1850. Variable foundation conditions as a consequence of a high water table and lateral changes from river floodplain, swamp, and estuarine-lagoonal environments, impose constraints on building design and construction....

    The geology, tectonic setting, and active seismicity of the Christchurch area indicate that future large earthquakes will occur which will have major impact on the city. Earthquakes are expected to produce liquefaction, landsliding, ground cracking, and tsunami. Planning and design to mitigate the consequences of these phenomena are an essential prerequisite for preparedness....

    The identification and quantifying of geological hazards, and the implementation of regulation and planning designed to discourage irresponsible land use, should continue in the future as the geological knowledge and database is expanded....
    Which is all news to me. Though it clearly wasn't to some people in 1996.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Mind the Gaps in Auckland Transport Planning

    It is tempting to attribute blame for the very public disagreement that has erupted between Central Government and Auckland Council about what the economic benefits of the proposed CBD rail loop project might be. However I think it more productive to examine Auckland’s crisis in transport and land use planning, and to consider how it might be fixed.

    The most effective transport planning in Auckland has been for its motorway network which is still being built fifty years after being committed to paper. Auckland’s State Highway routes were protected by designations decades ago and ever since Transit New Zealand and its predecessors have employed buildings full of planners and consultants to transform these paper designations into motorways on the ground.

    This dedication to planning and infrastructure delivery has never been applied to public transport systems in Auckland – with the possible exception of its much loved and lamented tram system. While there have been legislative initiatives and legacy projects aiming to improve Auckland’s public transport systems and their integration with land uses, these have been only partly successful.

    Take the Northern Busway for example. The drive for this project came from Transit - Central Government’s State Highway provider – not from North Shore City Council. At the time Transit wanted consent to extend State Highway One north to Orewa. The Busway was proposed as a mitigation measure to compensate for the increase in congestion anticipated through North Shore City, over the bridge and into the city.

    The Northern Busway is constructed within Transit’s State Highway corridor, entirely separate from North Shore City’s local road network. So it is no surprise that during the early years of planning North Shore City was a distant partner, only becoming committed when regional funder Infrastructure Auckland stepped up with $40 million toward the cost of stations which were to be North Shore City Council’s contribution.

    North Shore City got a fantastic high capacity busway corridor plus stations at minimal cost to ratepayers. But - despite informal arrangements requiring North Shore City Council to work with Transit, Auckland City Council and Auckland Regional Council to deliver an integrated public transport system - NSCC failed to deliver its share of matching transport infrastructure at local level.

    The pressure to build more park and ride facilities at busway stations is because local feeder bus services remain an unattractive option for commuters, while the absence of significant land development around busway stations is because their locations were designed to support the busway, rather than to stimulate investment. These are missed opportunities because of poor integrated planning.

    My experience on this project led me – and others - to call for a regionally integrated approach to passenger transport planning and service delivery. In 2004 we got ARTA – Auckland Region Transport Authority – whose responsibilities were pretty much limited to bus and ferry services. ARTA’s involvement in rail and land use planning was only possible with the agreement of Ontrack and local councils respectively.

    This poor institutional design did not prevent Waitakere City making a good fist of the New Lynn railway station which transformed New Lynn’s town centre into Auckland’s first public transport oriented development. The project was driven by a special purpose Development Agency set up by Waitakere Council after a research visit exploring success factors underlying similar rail and urban redevelopment projects in Perth.

    Planners and managers there delivered a number of key messages: each project needs its own development agency with appropriate planning powers; land value uplift contributes to infrastructure funding; a high degree of community and private land owner engagement is essential; detailed and iterative planning takes time to get right and must be strongly led; it is critical to get rail freight off surburban railway networks to deliver three minute headway between trains.

    We were advised that 40% of commuters using Perth’s rail services get to railway stations by bus, while 25% use park and ride facilities, and the rest either walked, biked or were dropped off. Perth’s CBD transformation involved redirecting CBD bus services to rail feeder stations – to maximise CBD commuter rail demand and to minimise the number of buses cluttering the CBD street network. A fleet of small buses are used to access destinations within the CBD.

    Here in Auckland the institutions responsible for coming up with the preferred route for the CBD rail tunnel were ARTA and KiwiRail, and while Auckland City Council was consulted during this process, it did not drive it. It would be unfair to suggest that Auckland City Council went along for the ride – a bit like North Shore City Council did with the Northern Busway project – however it is my firm view that the planning for this very important project has really only just got started, if Perth’s experience and success is anything to go by..

    For example, the rump of Auckland City Council now absorbed into the amalgamated Auckland Council, is preparing the Auckland CBD Master Plan. This is considering the look, feel and function of the CBD at a broad scale. (We need to think: “City Activity District” not: “Central Business District”. City planning is about much more than “Business”). Part of this City Master Plan work responds to the preferred tunnel route and will consider the economic development opportunities and potentials around proposed stations.

    Like the proposed Spatial Plan, the Centre Plan is at an early stage, and both need to be integrated with the planning of the whole rail tunnel project. This task has not been made easy with transport being run out of a separate organisation whose funding is constrained by a Council struggling to cover the huge costs of becoming a Super City.

    So far, I don’t think Auckland Council, or its predecessors, have done nearly enough at either the large-scale planning level or the building by building land use planning level, to have any right to demand that ratepayers or government funders should trust them to go ahead with the CBD Rail Tunnel project as it stands. A step change in rail requires a step change in integrated transport planning. Government funding support for this nationally significant planning effort is essential.

    For good reason a Waterfront Development Agency was established with powers to get on with the development and planning of Auckland’s waterfront.

    The CBD Rail Tunnel project is at least as important to Auckland as its waterfront, and needs integrated planning which considers land use and transport and economic development together, and an institutional framework to ensure coordinated implementation.

    Mayor Len's Community Choice

    Well old Granny Herald wasn't a happy read this morning. Mayor Len reported as doing a personal about turn on cruise ships on Queens Wharf. Just as Shed 10 was starting to shine in the sun. Reports suggest he hasn't even consulted his Council. Let alone the wider community (which is what the Waterfront Master Plan is for). I understand some of that work points to Wynyard Wharf being a good deep water option for cruise ships - if Captain Cook is too expensive.

    So who has been in his ear? So successfully. Because that is clearly the community of choice for Mayor Len. And it certainly isn't the Auckland community that was promised Queens Wharf as the next people's park. A waterfront space for markets and parties and fun and games. This sudden change of heart has the whiff of a backroom deal about it. So sudden and out of the blue. Community choice.

    Mayor Len has made a lot of wanting to double traffic through the Port (what would that do to the surrounding roads?), and of sharply increasing (by what factor?) the number of cruise ship visits. That's one voice of the business community speaking. The one that must have Len's ear. For a Mayor who made so much of being a community champion, of the people, he's a worry. All the potential of Shed 10 being sold down the river, compromised by cruise ship needs. You only have to look at Princes Wharf to see how that opportunity has been devastated by business needs, side-lining the broader Auckland community. Surely, Mayor Len, you don't wish that on Queens Wharf and Shed 10.

    As if having to occupy space beside the McCully Cloud wasn't ignominious enough.

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    University Planners Connect Auckland Waterfront



    The Masters in Planning Practice class of 2011 prepare to present their Auckland Waterfront Design Projects in the 7th Floor studio. This is the Planning 701 Urban Design course. Prof Kai Gu is the lecturer.

    There were 9 team projects this year, ranging from 2 to 3 students apiece. They covered topics including Princes Wharf, Queens Wharf, Quay Street, Copthorne Hotel corner of the Viaduct, and the Waitemata Plaza area of the Viaduct. Each project identified a particular focus area, mapped the history and planning environment, set out constraints, illustrated opportunities, and provided designs.

    I was taken by many of the ideas, and am considering how to get a productive relationship going between Auckland Council and the Urban Design and Urban Planning research of Auckland University. This particular project was primarily about the public access between Britomart and Vector Arena. They proposed an elevated pedestrian walkway along the alignment of access lanes. It got me thinking....

    So I took a few photos along that walkway. Here we are leaving Britomart Railway station building... looking towards the Ernst and Young branded building...

    The generous walkway takes you past the interesting features built into the roof of the Britomart Station...

    And there are several of these volcanic features, pedestrian friendly environment...

    This takes us to the entry of the public walkway throuhg and under the Ernst and Young building...

    This is a real opportunity inside the Ernst and young building. A generous and safe public space, well integrated with the public walkway we've just come along...

    When we reach the end of the Ernst and Young building, you look across a street to see where to go next...

    And there you are stranded. You've had a good experience so far, and now you are faced with signs pointing to a relatively unattractive back alley, a service lane designed for trucks and service vehicles, not the same sort of pedestrian experience. So that was the opportunity (and need) identified by the Design Project team.

    Their suggestion of an elevated pedestrian walkway through this alignment got me thinking. That's the purpose of these projects. That's why I think Auckland should be benefitting from this sort of research and thinking. It made me remember this wonderful elevated walkway in Singapore...

    Here it is again. Generous. Safe. Full of light. and what an extraordinary Helix design. Auckland's weather as we know can be unpredictable. Walking back to the station or to Vector in the rain not much fun in concert gear.

    So here's that back alley walkway to Vector as it is now...

    How about we try an elevated walkway though there. One that leaves room for vehicles. Runs behind what is now a parking building. Takes up some air space above the back alley...

    Here's another view. (BTW, this is my output using SketchUp. A good tool for playing with ideas. Not my strength. Not a designer. But it is a good way to experiment and illustrate ideas.)

    Here's another view. I agree that this walkway is a bit on the steep side! But you get the picture.

    And here's a pic of the inside which I kind of enjoyed.... And the thing about Skletchup is you can produce animations very easily of your design. That's fun....

    video

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    CBD Rail Designation: Government and Auckland Agree

    It is hard to see the wood for the leaves and the pages of consultancy documents and media releases that flutter like confetti around Auckland's Rail Tunnel project.

    But there is agreement between Ministry of Transport consultants and Auckland Council consultants over one crucial part of that project. Both consultancies agree that the notice of requirement for the designation that will protect the route should be lodged.

    Specifically, the Ministry of Transport Auckland City Centre Rail Link Business Case Review states up front:
    There is a strategic case for lodging a NoR and it would make sense for Auckland Council to proceed with this.
    while the Auckland Council's CITY RAIL LINK Summary Report (prepared with the involvement of Price Waterhouse Cooper, Parsons Brinkerhoff, John Bolland Consulting, Market Economics, Beca, GHD, and Ascari) states:
    Auckland Transport and Auckland Council and their advisors are strongly of the view that the overall evaluation results are sufficiently robust to justify the immediate commencement of the designation process, particularly as the CRL is economically justifiable in terms of its transport related benefits alone. This process needs to commence as soon as possible to minimise the potential for any development to increase costs, delay the project, or even prevent its implementation.
    I read that as we agree that the designation process should be undertaken now.

    No-one is saying that construction should start now.

    The Auckland Council report also states:
    Auckland Transport and Auckland Council acknowledge that, in line with all major project development programmes, more work needs to be done to further develop the case for funding of the City Rail Link.
    That seems entirely sensible, and is also pretty much in alignment with what is stated in the conclusion of the MoT study. This states:

    [46] The Review concludes that there is a range of actions that could be undertaken or facilitated by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport which will improve confidence in considering outcomes expected from the CCRL (Central City Rail Loop).
  • Finalisation and implementation of the Auckland spatial plan and City Centre Masterplan to establish achievable growth projections for the CBD and to quantify where the growth projected for the CBD will occur.
  • Demonstrating commitment to resolving current and emerging CBD access issues, for example by improving bus operations and addressing capacity issues.
  • Development of a robust and achievable multi-modal programme for transport in the CBD, which considers a thorough analysis of alternatives and identifies the optimal mix of modes to meet demand.
  • Beginning implementation of large scale residential developments along the rail corridors.
  • Implementation of additional park and ride sites, and changes to bus feeder services where appropriate in terms of overall public transport demand.
  • [47] The implementation of these measures, combined with rail patronage above forecasts and a robust economic case, would provide a strong signal that the conditions are in place to drive the necessary benefits from the project and therefore to reconsider the case for investment.

    These points from MoT's consultants are appropriate. Moving Britomart Rail Tunnel project to the next stage after designation - ie getting government funding - will require attention to these areas.

    In particular, Auckland Council needs to demonstrate it has the focus and mettle to plan and implement associated land use changes that will deliver the economic developments that justify this investment.