Fat Tony on Wellington’s building crisis


Mike ‘Fat Tony’ Williams discusses the Wellington CBD issue after the earthquake, amongst other things.

With just a year to go before the next General Election in New Zealand, yet another disaster in the shape of large earthquakes has struck in the South Island and reverberated badly as far as Wellington.

The locations of these shakes, mainly thinly populated rural areas, has meant that the cost in human life has not been near the scale of the Christchurch earthquakes or the Pike River mine explosion, but it will still be expensive.

The roads, particularly the one on the coast north of Kaikoura and rail line in the same region will be very expensive to restore and the infrastructure in the small towns that dot the region will not be cheap to set right.

Forget the rail, the Greens should be told to FRO. Use the space for a cycleway for tourists and 4-laning the road.

The damage to buildings in Wellington is worrying and could also be costly.

At least one eight-storey building will have to be demolished and both Statistics House and the Defence Headquarters will need significant repair. These latter two buildings are relatively new and should have been built to high standards.

The epicentres of the earthquakes which did the damage in Wellington was some distance from the capital, and one shudders to think what might have occurred had the shakes been closer.

Many years ago I asked the then Minister of Civil Defence what would happen to the government in the event that the “big one” struck Wellington.

My hope was that the capital would move to Auckland and I believed that if that happened, that’s where the capital would stay.

We don’t want all those civil servants coming to Auckland…unless you build a new set of buildings in between?Drury and Pokeno.

I was to be disappointed. The Minister told me that if the government was forced to move from Wellington, the destination would be Palmerston North on the grounds that this city was “seismically stable”.

I am in favour of the capital moving to Palmerston North on the grounds it is a shit of a place and no one will want to move there to work for the government, meaning the size of govt will fall. But you’d have to move everything, including Parliament and the Executive Wing. The main reason is if you house the civil servants away from their minister then it is harder to door-step the little weasels.

Politicians have very mixed feelings about such disasters. On one hand they are opportunities to strut in the limelight and seem to be in command, on the other the costs must be met and that takes the kind of money that could be spent on tax cuts or other goodies timed for election year 2017.

Disasters do focus the mind of?voters though. They will be looking at them closely and working out who can be trusted in an emergency or who will shamelessly use a disaster to build email lists, or promote spending billions fixing a 19th-century mode of transport.


-HB Today