University of Canterbury must improve crisis student communication and support

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Student communication

University of Canterbury James Hight libraryOn 22 July 2016 a woman was sexually assaulted while walking through the University of Canterbury owned Ilam Fields.

In response to a request from the Police, who informed UC Security of a “physical assault”, an email was sent to all students that day.

On 24 July 2016 a reporter from The Press contacted the University in response to the Police releasing a statement to the media. The Police told The Press that the assault was actually a sexual assault, and this fact was published in an article that day. In response to an Official Information Act request, most of which was initially declined, the University said that “the Police appeared not to have told the University of the sexual nature of the incident before telling the media”.

However, the University did not inform students of the sexual nature of the incident after it became public knowledge. The assault was alluded to in a 28 July UC blog post, which included 10 ’safety and security tips’ and a list of ’support for students’ links, including a link to the UC Health Centre. This content was also included in the next edition of the ‘Insider’s Guide Newsletter’, a weekly digest sent to all students, on 31 July.


Last night a student died suddenly at the Rochester and Rutherford Hall of Residence.

The death has been reported as sudden and not suspicious, often used by the media as code for a suspected suicide.

UC acting vice-chancellor, Dr Hamish Cochrane was quoted by the media as saying “all the university’s students and staff were advised [Sunday], and made aware of the support available”.

Communication to students consisted solely of a UC blog post listing four UC support services that are available to students, including the UC Health Centre. Links to blog posts appear for a few days in the sidebar of Learn, UC’s online learning management system which is regularly accessed by students and staff. However, no email was sent to students, and there was no acknowledgment that a student had died.

Late on Sunday night, a link to the blog post was included in the ‘Insider’s Guide Newsletter’ emailed to students.

UC Health Centre Counselling under pressure

Students are struggling to access support.

The UC Health Centre provides free counselling to UC students, however their website states that counselling appointments “are in high demand [and] you may have to wait a few weeks to be seen”. During office hours there is an on-call counsellor to deal with students facing an “emergency situation”.

During this year’s UCSA elections one group of candidates asked students on Facebook which one out of four campaign policies they thought was most important. “Increased mental health awareness and support” was voted second. In response to a question asking how the UCSA should help support those with mental health issues, students voted overwhelmingly for “increased health centre funding for more counsellors”.

Students wanting to skip the UC Health Centre counselling waiting list could choose to pay for sessions with a private counsellor or psychologist. Students may be eligible for the disability allowance, however there are restrictions, including a maximum payment of $61.69 a week (appointments with private psychologists can cost $150 or more).

How to get residents to avoid submitting on proposed zoning changes Christchuch City Council style

The Christchurch City Council is reviewing its district plan, and we live in/near an area that might be subject to rezoning. The Christchurch City Council, like they’re supposed to, is consulting with residents. They’ve sent out information about the proposed zoning changes to ratepayers who might be affected. All good so far.

Except it seems a bit more like an exercise in looking like they’ve consulted with the public. Let me explain.

1) Send 12 jargon-filled A4 pages which say a lot without saying much

I’d argue that a lot of people in Christchurch don’t want to voluntarily deal with more bureaucracy than they need to (think EQC and their insurance company). Because of that a balance needs to occur between sending sufficient information and that information being clear and concise (to avoid as many people as possible putting your mail in the ‘I don’t really care or have time for this’ pile). I’d tentatively argue that including the Draft Residential Chapter (pdf), Draft Commercial Chapter (pdf), and District Plan Review (pdf) information sheets in these mail outs resulted in information overload for many people who would have been better served by simply being sent the smaller (i.e. double-sided A4 sheet), easier to read and more relevant What’s Happening In Your Area sheet. When the actual draft chapters are hundred of pages clear and concise summary information sheets do need to be available, whether they’re mailed out or not.

Some of the information included seems like it’s been copy and pasted from internal material with a very different target audience. Three sentences into the main body of the information booklet Draft Residential Chapter the words “density” and “greenfield” are introduced, both without being defined. Other gems include “housing intensification”, “medium density housing” (defined on the very last page of the booklet), and “city-wide intensification mechanisms”. The “city-wide intensification mechanisms” enable “quick gains”. To the Council’s credit examples are given for what “quick gains” are. “Civic park”, “heritage park”, and “green corridor” are less egregious examples from another information sheet.

The Christchurch City Council weights room
The Christchurch City Council weights room

2) Schedule all of your public meetings for 5:30pm on a weekday

Include so little but so much information in step one that for anyone to properly understand it in order to make an informed submission they’d have to read a lot more information or attend a consultation meeting (or both). Schedule all but one of your public consultation meetings (pdf) for 5:30pm-7:30pm on weekdays. Ignore the fact that residents might still be struggling to navigate the road works on their way home from work at this time, or might be having dinner, or might be putting young children to bed. Get bonus points for sending letters out that are advertising some of these meetings eight days before those meetings are scheduled.

3) Make it hard to find things on your website

What’s your number? To have a look at the district plan review zone map you need to guess which section of a tiny map your house is in. It took me a few tries to find our house, but perhaps that’s my poor sense of direction. Or maybe the City Council could, you know, label areas with names, or let you search by street.

Tiny map? Check.
Tiny map? Check.

4) If huge, potentially controversial changes are being proposed, ensure the diagrams “explaining” them are really confusing

People like things being explained with pictures and diagrams. They might even skip reading altogether and just look at the diagrams. That makes the diagrams that are used pretty important.

In the area of Halswell (pdf) the City Council wants to introduce a commercial centre, quite possibly one of the most controversial things you can do in a suburban area.

“A draft option is to develop a commercial centre on Halswell Road. The area highlighted on the map indicates the area within which the commercial centre could be located. … It is anticipated that this centre would occupy up to 15 hectares of land when it is fully developed.”

15 hectares is about 15 rugby fields.

Let’s compare the map that’s on the back of Halswell’s What’s Happening In Your Area sheet with some other area maps: Barrington, Bishopdale, and Riccarton.

Christchurch City Council 2014 District Plan Review Barrington Map
Barrington. Landmarks are named. The commercial centre is named ‘commercial centre’. All is well.
Christchurch City Council 2014 District Plan Review Bishopdale Map
Bishopdale. Where are we? I can orientate myself because things with names are named. The commercial centre is keyed as a ‘commercial centre’. Awesome.
Christchurch City Council 2014 District Plan Review Riccarton Map
Riccarton. Where am I? Oh, I’m by Westfield Riccarton, which is named on the map. And it’s pink because it’s a commercial centre and that’s the colour for commercial centres. Cool.
Christchurch City Council 2014 District Plan Review Sparks Road Halswell Map
Sparks Road/Halswell

Halswell. Let’s play a game called ‘find my house’. Does that tiny road say Halswell Road along it? Isn’t there a subdivision in that blank gap in the top-left corner now? Why are proposed roads squiggly arrow lines? What is a blue and a green network? By ‘proposed key activity centre’ do they mean ‘commercial centre’? (Yes. Yes they do.) Who really knows? It sure looks like the City Council doesn’t want anyone to work out what’s going on.

It’s also interesting to note that Halswell’s public meeting was on February 27, but there’s no news coverage of it or the proposed changes in general. What’s confusing to the public is confusing to the media too.

Image credits: Health Gauge, Christchurch City Council

CERA Earthquake Recovery Strategy Youth Jam

About a month ago Social Innovation held the CERA Recovery Strategy Youth Jam at Hagley Community College because the submissions received so far on the draft Recovery Strategy were missing young people’s opinions. About 20 of us went over CERA’s Recovery Strategy for Christchurch, and as a group submitted responses to the questions posed by CERA about the strategy (we’re in the organisation spreadsheet under ‘Emerging Leaders Forum’). Excellent food was provided by The Sauce Kitchen.

These are the questions and some of our responses to them, from my notes and the spreadsheet. Longer versions of our answers are in the spreadsheet, typed up by some poor people at CERA from 49 A2 sheets.

On with the show.

Social innovation
Not us.

We’ve highlighted the most important lessons we’ve learnt since the earthquakes began – but are there others?

  • How useful technology was – http://eq.org.nz, Twitter. Use existing technology more effectively. We all have cellphones, can we take advantage of them better? The Civil Defence website was a train wreck, just a big list of updates. Radio – are we meant to listen to a specific station?
  • The definition of “essential services” is different between people. For some people public transport is essential as it is the only way they have to get around.
  • There’s a reliance on volunteers – Student Volunteer Army, the EQ map etc.
  • Neighbourhoods could be trained – have their own Search & Rescue team, they are willing
  • Only a few schools were used as Civil Defence “bases” for shelter etc. – why not use more?
  • Businesses need backup plans, be able to work away from the office. Not just technology backup.
  • Need to be careful what is used as a memorial eg. the opposite of the CTV lift shaft idea
  • Grassroot movements
  • Communities formed and came together after the earthquakes – how do we glue them together so they stick once we have rebuilt?
  • Need to record down what has happened, capture stories – library is doing this, audio recording booth at The Show
  • Emergency kit – being prepared
  • Global connectedness
  • Our ability to adapt to change

Together, do these goals describe the recovered greater Christchurch that you want? Are there other key goals we should seek to achieve?

  • Communication throughout the process
  • High speed broadband
  • Cycleways
  • Heritage buildings
  • Community
  • Sustainably manage resources
  • Environmental need takes into account
  • Better air quality
  • Better ways to get around
  • Easy to commute to city
  • Modern tram system, not heritage – light rail
  • Precincts mean you know where to go, but variety is important
  • Psychological health
  • Attracting new people
  • Living in town
  • Walking
  • Death to malls
  • Democracy, voices heard, CCC open, transparent
  • Educated community, free seminars in first aid
  • Diversity – ages, backgrounds, ethnicity
  • Unique businesses
  • Do not return to the way it was, new ideas, opportunities
  • Building community resilience
  • Disaster planning
  • Engagement between locals and tourists -> interaction, not segregated
  • Positive spontaneous stuff
  • Vibrancy
  • Sense of ownership of public space

Given demands on resources, do you support the priorities identified? [What priorities did we miss?]

  • Enabling people is important. Getting businesses back into their red zone properties
  • Youth involvement
  • Hosting major events
  • Engaged and informed public
  • Schools and education
  • Building standards
  • Innovation precinct
  • Safety and well-being
  • Economy, businesses, creation of jobs
  • Big infrastructure – stadiums
  • Focus on the word affected areas
  • Open spaces near buildings – somewhere to go if we have another quake
  • Getting people sorted, but fixing for the future
  • Safe place for youth day and night
  • Giving opportunity to voice ideas
  • Connecting the city with transport
  • Environment and sustainability
  • Acceleration as a priority is concerning – do it well
  • Decreasing reliance on infrastructure through design
  • Re-design, don’t just re-establish
  • Community
  • Being the garden city
  • Get back the old before we build new things
  • Business connection hub
  • Tourism
  • Youth input and consultation
  • Preserve heritage buildings
  • Significance of people losing their lives
  • Recreation centres/areas in residential red zones

There’s no perfect number of Recovery Plans, so if you think we need other plans tell us what and why?

  • Community – maintaining strength, each neighbourhood is unique and knows its own needs
  • Environmental, sustainability
  • Too much weight towards economic plans
  • Flooding
  • Attracting tourists
  • Emotional recovery
  • Communication. Transparency and accountability for public spending
  • Technology
  • Urban design
  • Energy, power generation, efficiency, localised, smaller scale
  • Community Education

Recovery requires confidence – of insurers, banks, developers, investors, business-owners, residents and visitors. Will the proposed Plans provide sufficient confidence for people to progress recovery?

  • If youth involved, they will build where they want to live
  • Being involved at all stages. Accountability, communication, collaboration -> confidence
  • Investors can be part of something new
  • Insurers – will they insure, pay out, how much for?
  • Community involvement gives confidence, there’s safety in numbers.
  • Red zone people lack of confidence

What will ensure decision makers deliver the recovery we want, as soon as we need it, at a cost we can afford?

  • Accountability, transparency, communication, ongoing consultation
  • Try not to displace communities
  • Use different methods to get input. Engage the city – go to the public, schools, use social media – Facebook

What else needs to be assessed when monitoring the Recovery Strategy? Are there other circumstances in which a review of the Recovery Strategy may be required?

  • If we have another disaster
  • If the community doesn’t feel involved
  • How are the strategies going to be monitored? How can people have their say?
  • Monitor prioritization
  • Adapt communications to suit different demographic.
  • Survey/monitor how well people understand and care about the strategy.
  • Opinions about the design, feel, location of buildings
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Economic monitoring
  • Ability for citizens to review the implementation of strategy. Reports that come from monitoring need to be appropriate to the audience – us
  • Can agencies/established community networks be appropriated to carry out monitoring initiatives within respective demographic eg. Otautahi Youth Council, this in turn invests in future leaders
  • If monitoring is to encourage accountability then monitor transparently
  • Reporting – ticking boxes – doing something that doesn’t actually change anything
  • Make results of monitoring easily accessible and engaging.
  • If there is another significant quake
  • If there is a change in Government there needs to be a review of their perspective on the strategy
  • If monitoring reveals dissatisfaction then time for review and change of direction
  • In the instance of a natural disaster have lessons been learnt and how can we adapt approach
  • Ongoing failure of basic utilities
  • Reluctance of private investors to participate in reconstruction‚
  • Dubious public private partnerships for recovery
  • If people do not reinvest in CBD and public does not rejuvenate city
  • Climate change is not considered
  • Young people’s educational futures

Image credit: PopTech

What Would Jesus Do?

On Friday I went to the Canterbury A&P Show. The usual mix of anti-abortion and Christian stalls were there.

Pro-choicer

Voice for Life

This is the description the anti-abortion people (Voice for Life – Canterbury) gave the Show organizers:

“Recapture the wonder: an educational stall focusing on the amazing development of the child in the womb using pictures and life sized models.”

Read: ABORTION IS MURDERRRRRRRR!!@@@@

Opposing viewpoints

The lack of stalls with balancing viewpoints (pro-abortion1 or agnostic/atheist) concerns me. This isn’t the case of having the choice of whether to buy a tractor or not. It’s “buy this tractor or burn in hell for eternity”. This is what was in one of the booklets we were given (Are You a Ewe?) from the Christian stall:

“Rebellion against God deserves death and punishment forever in hell.”

They also had Atheism is definitely wrong leaflets.

Agnostics, atheists and pro-abortionists: where you at?

1: I’m pro-abortion (and not pro-choice) because all woman should have access to abortion services. That doesn’t mean I want to abort everyone’s children.

Image credit: Steve Rhodes

Red Zone Secrets

Here is something I don’t get. If it is safe for demolition workers to go through the contents of earthquaked buildings before/while/after they’re demolished, why is it not safe for the occupiers?

“Safes found during demolition – there had been only half a dozen – were either opened under police or security firm supervision, or, if they were attached to concrete, dumped.”

Why is this even necessary? Is it that hard to work out that a safe found in the rubble of building X maybe belongs to someone occupying building X? Could we build on that and guess that someone occupying building X would be able to open the safe themselves, without force, even if it is attached to concrete?

ConfidentialScarier, is that computers and files containing confidential information, in this case mental health records are 1) being “thrown out” at all and 2) if they are “water-damaged”, which doesn’t fly with me, aren’t being disposed of securely.

“The items she was most concerned about included files and computer hard drives containing personal information. Securities House, a seven-level building in Gloucester St near Latimer Square, was demolished by March Construction and Shilton and Brown in May. It housed at least nine mental health agencies.

Tenants, tipped off about the demolition, managed to stop a truck leaving the site in the rain and divert it to an empty section where the contents were tipped.

Tenants then spent the next two days retrieving files from the rubbish. The files had been in locked metal cabinets which had been emptied.

Office manager Mark Petrie said he had contacted a project manager at the time of the demolition to be told no chance existed for any records or personal effects to be salvaged.

He was told all records were water-damaged and filing cabinets rusted.

A former Shilton and Brown worker who worked on the Securities House demolition told The Press workers were told to throw files, many of which appeared to him to be in good order, in the rubbish.”

Where have some files gone? Who knows.

“Canterbury Muscular Dystrophy Association office manager Eris Le Compte, whose office was on the first floor of Community House, said she had gone to look for the 230 personal medical files she had in her office.”

Hopefully other businesses are doing better, because it’s not just a couple of buildings in the red zone that are housing sensitive information.

CERA feigns ignorance. Clearly some demolition contractors have no idea what they’re doing (or every idea of what they’re doing). If CERA has no knowledge of specific cases of important belongings going missing inside the red zone they’re obviously not doing a very good job.

“A CERA spokeswoman said CERA regularly and actively engaged with contractors who had a clear understanding of their obligations within contracts and the law.

‘We have no knowledge of the specific cases you refer to and we can’t comment on whether any allegations of loss of goods within the CBD Red Zone are attributed to contractors’ staff or some other person,’ the spokeswoman said.”

What’s been going on inside the red zone raises a number of issues businesses need to be planning for. After an event like the Canterbury Earthquake, how effective will locks, safes, and filing cabinets be at protecting valuable and confidential information through demolition and when 930+ people are left roaming in and around your building for a significant period of time?

Image credit: Jeremy Keith

The National Interest of Foreign Espionage

A van was crushed by rubble following the February Canterbury earthquake, containing Israeli tourists. One of them, Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, was killed instantly. Michal Friedman, Liron Sadeh and Guy Yurdan escaped. It’s been revealed that Israeli involvement after the quake has been investigated by the SIS and the police.

Fact checking

What appears to be the original Southland Times article that broke the investigation seems to have been poorly fact checked and shows a lack of editorial oversight. Shemi Tzur, Israeli’s ambassador in the South Pacific is said to have flown from Australia, where he is based, except a quick Google search shows that he is actually based in Wellington.

The same article talks about a piece of suspected Russian malware named “agent.btz” and says that “attempts to remove the malware have so far been unsuccessful”, which gives the impression that the computers of the United States Military are still infected. The next part of the sentence states that “new, more potent variations of agent.btz are still appearing”, so what is probably meant is that attempts to eliminate the malware out of existence have been unsuccessful, which isn’t surprising considering the nature of malware and software in general.

Red flags

9000 passports!James Bond cameras

The Southland Times article says that Ofer Mizrahi “was reportedly found to be carrying at least five passports.” John Key said “according to his information, Mizrahi was found with only one passport”, of European origin.

The group of three that left Christchurch gave Israeli representatives his Israeli passport. So that makes at least two passports.

Shemi Tzur says that he was handed Ofer’s effects and they contained “more than one passport.” Does that makes at least three passports or does this include the Israeli passport handed off at the airport?

He says it’s common for Israelis to have dual citizenship because Israeli passports aren’t welcome in some countries, which is understandable. However that doesn’t explain why Ofer was traveling with both/multiple passports—I am an expert thanks to watching Border Security on TV and conclude that less eyebrows would be raised at an airport if, when searched, someone wasn’t in the possession of more than one passport.

12 hours

Passport stamps

Within 12 hours of the quake the three remaining Israelis had evacuated Christchurch, driven to the airport by Shemi Tzur himself.

This raised eyebrows because they left Ofer behind in the van, but in their defense there was nothing they could have done and it wasn’t like they were leaving someone injured behind. Guy Yurdan, one of the three, said that Ofer was killed instantly.

The advice from many countries to citizens in Christchurch would have been to get out of there as soon as possible. The potential lack of accommodation, food, and water, plus the risk of further aftershocks would have supported their decision to leave as quickly as possible.

A mysterious seventh Israeli

Concerns were raised about a “mysterious seventh Israeli” who was in New Zealand illegally and was reported missing after the earthquake, but weeks later was reported to have left the country. Not sure whether there was anything suspicious about the person apart from their visa situation.

Five Facebook likes

A Facebook tribute page for Ofer came to the attention of investigators because it only had five likes over four months (now 32). Apparently many Israelis don’t have social network accounts. Perhaps those on Facebook who knew Ofer didn’t know of the page? It seems a stretch to say that this is suspicious.

Four phone calls

It’s been reported that Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned John Key four times on the day of the earthquake. John Key says that they only actually spoke once in “those first days.” It seems reasonable that a Prime Minister is hard to get hold of, especially during a state of emergency. I’m not sure what the significance of prime ministers calling each other is, I assume representatives from many countries spoke to John Key as a result of the earthquake.

Two search and rescue teamsMission control

There was reportedly one Israeli search and rescue team but then there were two? Either way it seems at least one either wasn’t allowed access to the red zone or was removed from the red zone by armed personnel. According to Shemi Tzur, a team was sent by the parents of Ofer Levy (other Ofer?) and Gabi Ingel, two Israelis who died in the earthquake.

The article says “Israeli families reacted that way when their children needed help anywhere in the world, often because it was demanded by insurance companies.” Insurance companies often demand that families hire and fly to a foreign country private search and rescue teams when search and rescue is already underway by the country?

Strange.

Perhaps stranger is Hilik Magnus, who runs the search and rescue company in question, Magnus International Search & Rescue:

“He served in the Israel Defence Forces in an elite paratrooper battalion specializing in special operations. He fought in the Attrition War, first lebanon war and the Yom Kippur War, remained a reserve officer for twenty years and served also in the intelligence community.”

Stranger?

Their team entered the red zone “accompanied by police, only to retrieve the personal effects of two people who died.” “There was only one rescue team and it was allowed inside the red zone to accompany police to retrieve backpacks belonging to Mr Levy and Mr Ingel.”

One Israel Civil Defense Chief

The Southland Times article says “In the hours after the 6.3 quake struck: Israel’s civil defence chief left Israel for Christchurch.” The New Zealand Herald reports that Matan Vilnai did visit Christchurch, but nine days later. And not from Israel, but from Australia where he was for a visit.

This doesn’t seem suspicious.

A groups of forensic analysts

An Israeli forensic analysis team sent by the Israeli government worked on victim identification in the morgue. A security audit of the national police computer database was ordered after someone connected that the analysts could have accessed it. The police say that their system is secure. Someone from the SIS says that it could be compromised with a USB drive:

“An SIS officer said it would take only moments for a USB drive to be inserted in a police computer terminal and for a program allowing remote backdoor access to be loaded.”—Stuff

It’s questionable why USB access would even be enabled on computers that have access to such confidential material.

Why New Zealand?

Intelligence

Gordon Thomas, who has written about Mossad says that Mossad trainees, possibly picked during compulsory military service, were usually planted overseas in groups of four. He says that the CIA and MI6 have offices in Auckland and have “held high-level meetings with New Zealand spy bosses”. They want to know what sparked the SIS investigation, what investigations were carried out and what passports the group possessed. He thinks New Zealand is a credible Mossad target because al Qaeda cells could expand into the Pacific Rim. Israel would want to know what our intelligence agencies know, what they are sharing and how good they are at getting information.

He says that Mossad has a reputation for using students as agents and that using two couples is “standard Mossad operation style. The reason they have a man and a woman … it’s easy to pass unnoticed, unchallenged, and the woman acts as back-up.”Passport

Passports

New Zealand passports are readily accepted around the world. Anyone gaining one who had nefarious purposes would likely face no contest at a border. Paul Buchanan, who has worked at the Pentagon says that it’s unlikely the four were Mossad agents because of their age and the apparent low-level task of passport fraud they were undertaking, but they might have been recruits operating as sayanins, the Hebrew word for helper. He says that after the September earthquake, Christchurch may have been seen as a good target to get names of New Zealanders to use for false passports.

 

The three survivors from the van gave an interview to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, days after the earthquake. It would seem unlike spies to put themselves out in the public eye like that, but maybe that’s reverse psychology. Who knows.

Image credits: Ian Rutherford, Ludovic Bertron, J Aaron Farr, Tom Raftery