Posts Tagged ‘christchurch’

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

Posted in Law, New Zealand on March 2nd, 2014 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

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

TEDxChristchurch: Curiouser and Curiouser

Posted in Life, New Zealand, Technology on October 19th, 2013 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

Hi. I was at TEDxChristchurch today. If you couldn’t make it, The Press was live streaming the day on their website, and videos will be up on TEDxChristchurch’s website soon. Coming to TEDx each year is like watching a child grow up because the quality of the event gets better every year – like design of the slides introducing speakers, audience participation methods, and the name tag/programme.

TEDx Christchurch 2013 lanyards USB music

Here’s why you need to watch the videos of the talks when they go online… (And also because I’ve missed bits, I’ve misinterpreted and I’ve probably misquoted a little.)

read more »

TEDxEQChCh 2012

Posted in New Zealand on September 1st, 2012 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

 

TEDxEQChCh 2012 volunteers

 

TEDxEQChCh was streaming live all day here.

Exploration

Rakihia Tau – Mihi

Highly Flammable – Performers

Highly Flammable

Roger Sutton – Opening remarks

Tom Hooper - CEO, Canterbury Development Corporation

The Kiwi mantra of ‘give it a go’ is far more valuable than we give it credit. Christchurch might not be attractive to the risk-adverse at the moment, but that’s alright. The job right now is to attract and retain young people, and make sure that talented young people are going to want to come here.

Vibeke Linde-Strandby – Architect

“Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes and even strategy.” – Tim Brown

Arlanda Stad is a business park concept with a soul.

“This is the first time I’ve tried to explain architectural concepts without slides.”

 John Hunter – Recorded TED talk

Watch the talk here.

John Hunter puts all the problems of the world on a 4′x5′ plywood board — and lets his 4th-graders solve them. At TED2011, he explains how his World Peace Game engages schoolkids, and why the complex lessons it teaches — spontaneous, and always surprising — go further than classroom lectures can.

John was put in charge of a gifted education programme. His first question was “What do I do?” the response was “What do you want to do?”.

The answer was the World Peace Game that features the UN, arms dealers, saboteurs and weather goddesses.

John admits to his students “I don’t know the answers.”

The documentary film John talks about is showing at the Hollywood Cinema in Christchurch, details will be up on the TEDxEQChCh website.

Jamie Fitzgerald – Adventurer, presenter on First Crossings

“For 42 hours we did not move anywhere.”

“So we haven’t moved anywhere and we’re winning the race.”

Sometimes when you think you’re making the least progress you’re actually making the most.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” - Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland

Experiential learning.

They asked what are the insights from other people’s success that we can apply tomorrow?

Celebrating milestones

We only ever focussed on that next milestone and we celebrated it.

“Why do I push my boundaries? If I let an opportunity pass I might be letting myself down.”

Ryan Reynolds - Chief Evangelist, Life In Vacant Spaces

We live in a culture of permits.

Anything a bit out of the ordinary is forbidden unless we get special permission.

We internalize this and close ourselves off.

There is a brief time in adolescence where we act as if anything is allowed unless strictly specified as forbidden.

Approach any rule asking what does it allow?

The Book Exchange Fridge Gapfiller project: people asked “Who’s going to be locking the fridge every night?”

A permanent solution might have been too daunting.

If people will not try things without permission, you have to make it easy to get a permit, Life in Vacant Spaces deals with barriers.

It’s easy to try something when it’s temporary.

What if you could try out an idea for free for 30 days?

Festival of Transitional Architecture.

“We’re totally unresourced and in over our heads, but everyone should get in over their heads right now.”

The caption of one of the projects featured in Ryan’s slides: “Needs funding – let’s talk :)”

The opposite of a permit is an invitation.

We want to foster a creative culture of creators and doers.

Inspiration

Kiel Johnson – Artist

A good idea only comes when working on a bad idea.

Lots of slides with awesome projects Kiel has worked on.

Made a printing press: “I am the press, I have the power.”

Made a survival vest for an emergency “I’m living in Los Angeles so when we fall into the ocean…”

“Get started on whatever you do… and good things will happen.”

“I do outreach… which is basically making more people like me.”

Two words: robot party.

Jane Henley – CEO, World Building Council

Green in a generation.

What we’ve created now is a set of disconnects and it’s difficult to realize visions in this environment.

“I wonder how long their drive to work is everyday.” Jane on a photo of a suburban cul-de-sac.

Market uptake is increasing in speed with each new technology.

We use labels to understand the plethora of information available to us. Performance ratings – energy, water, fuel efficiency ratings on appliances and vehicles.

Growing vegetables, community involvement, walking, closeness to family – valuable things from the past that need to be brought back.

Consumption to co-sumption

Good ideas: walking school bus, AirBNB – renting a room in your house out, carpooling (10 weddings have happened because of connections made through carpooling.com).

Community collaboration
Say a neighbourhood wants green energy – these community collaborators think up a solution.

We can look at Skype and the NZ Insulation Programme and see values becoming easier to achieve and becoming more important – connecting with friends overseas, having a warm home…

“When I was at school working together was called cheating.”

Twitter @worldgbc.

Donald Sadoway – Recorded TED talk

Watch the talk here.

What’s the key to using alternative energy, like solar and wind? Storage — so we can have power on tap even when the sun’s not out and the wind’s not blowing. In this accessible, inspiring talk, Donald Sadoway takes to the blackboard to show us the future of large-scale batteries that store renewable energy. As he says: “We need to think about the problem differently. We need to think big. We need to think cheap.”

Making a liquid battery to solve the strain on power sources.

“If you want to make something dirt cheap, make it out of dirt.”

“One of the greatest benefits of being a professor? Coloured chalk.”

“David’s young, smart, and wants a PhD.”

Abbas Nazari – Student, Former Afghan Refugee

Don’t think I could do his talk justice. Watch the video when it’s posted.

Wil McLellan – Founder, EPIC

Disruptive collaboration, the journey of getting EPIC built.

“Not feeling super positive.” – Wil on the day after the earthquake.

“We we got no money, we got no land, we got no property development experience.” But that didn’t hold them back.

“You’re pretty good at art… cough Lord Of The Rings” Wil to one of the most creative businesses in New Zealand, WETA.

Challenge convention, think outside the box.

Activation

Jed, Hera with Happiness Stan – Music

Jade Temepara – Founder, Hand Over A Hundy

Think about food differently.

Food has changed through generations ending up with things with no nutritional value.

A few days after the February quake there was no food in a supermarket near Jade and there wasn’t going to be for a week. “What am I going to do to make sure I have enough to sustain my own family” if food wasn’t available anywhere for a period of time?

Start a food revolution.

Hand Over A Hundy gifts $100 to families to start a vegetable garden.

Handing down skills and knowledge through generations – most of the mentors assigned to families are older people.

Do you have your own food system? Are you passing down valuable skills to your kids?
Are you teaching your children where real food comes from?

Pam Warhurst – Recorded TED talk

Watch the talk here.

What should a community do with its unused land? Plant food, of course. With energy and humor, Pam Warhurst tells at the TEDSalon the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community.

Propaganda gardening.

“We did not write a report, we did not ask for permission.”

Food is a common language.

“And we’ve done it all without a flipping strategy document.”

“I’ve seen the power of small actions and it’s awesome.”

“And for some reason I can’t comprehend it’s surrounded by prickly plants.”

“And there’s some people who don’t know what a vegetable looks like if it’s not in plastic with a label.”

“If you eat, you’re in.”

Ernesto Sirolli – Founder, Sirolli Institute

“We paid them to come… and sometimes they showed up.”

“Instead of asking ‘why aren’t you growing anything?’ we just said ‘thank God we’re here’.”

“If people don’t want to be helped, leave them alone.” It’s about respect.

“Let me tell you a secret. There is a problem with community meetings. Entrepreneurs don’t come.”

“How do you do that?” “I do something very, very difficult. I shut up.”

Entrepreneurs want confidentiality, dedication and for you to realize that a successful business needs:

A fantastic product, marketing and financial management.

None of the successful companies started with one. Study Richard Branson’s book – the first two pages. He doesn’t mention I. He says We 32 times.

George Parker – Actor

George talked about a performance he was involved in about the Canterbury earthquakes.

“We were used to working in unconventional spaces.”

Joshua Iosefo – Poet

An amazing live performance on invisible borders and being brown.

Aspiration

Ian Taylor – Managing Director, Animation Research Ltd

Ian wowed everyone with his animations.

“While everything was turning to crap here, people of that calibre were thinking about you.” Ian on getting help from big companies for his earthquake auction.

“Don’t see why not” attitude gets his staff around the world.

“Something special happened in Christchurch, grasp it.”

Sam Johnson – Founder, Student Volunteer Army

When we’re young we’re taught to value money, time, skills. Contribution is more important.

“Do you have any skills?” – A business to Sam after he asked how he could help after the earthquake.

“Why humans exist is to interact with each other.”

“In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. Pick a general direction and implement like hell.”*

The Concert

The only way to get there is by doing four hours of volunteer work.

Bryan Stevenson – Recorded TED Talk

Watch the talk here.

In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America’s unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

“There is power in identity.”

1/3 young black men in USA are in jail, prison, on probation or parole.

34% of black male population in Alabama have lost the right to vote permanently.

Rich and guilty are treated better than poor and innocent.

The death penalty question is really: “do we deserve to kill?”

1/9 on death row are innocent. In aviation we would never let an airline fly if one plane out of nine went down.

11 times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white opposed to black.

22 times more likely to get the death penalty if the defendant is black opposed to white.

Germany would never institute the death penalty – it would be impossible with their history to endorse the systematic killing of its citizens. But in the USA it’s fine to kill more black people than white on death row.

“That’s going to make you tired, tired, tired… that’s why you gotta be brave, brave, brave.” To Bryan on his justice initiatives.

The opposite of poverty is justice.

Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

Alexandros Washburn – Urban Designer

“When you meet one kiwi, you meet 100.”

On seeing one of the towers on fire on 9/11: “And we were interested in this from a technical standpoint as architects because no one had died in a high-rise building that had sprinklers.” He thought that the plane close by was some sort of firefighting plane. It wasn’t.

9/11 was the first day of school for a lot of students (something I’d never heard before).

So many similarities to Christchurch: cellphones and most landlines weren’t working immediately afterwards, portable toilets, military stationed around the city, a no go zone, a mayoral election.

Improve the quality of public life by improving the quality of public space.

Urban planning

The smallest units matter.

If it’s worth remembering, it’s worth drawing.

How do you judge an effective public space? By the perspective of a pedestrian.

Alexandros drew an awesome diagram of a street with dimensions.

When you’re walking down the street, something should catch your attention every 10m.

Sewer catch basins can’t be moved when placed – it’s too expensive.

The fire department want specific things in specific places.

The Highline

“We had to think clearly, when there was high emotion.” After 9/11.

You have to hope for something greater tomorrow and you have to accept the fear that generates.

My hope for Christchurch video

Created by Becca MacGeorge.

Time’s up.

Fin.

Great day. Watch the talks when they get posted on the interwebs.

Christchurch Earthquake December 23

Posted in Life, New Zealand on December 25th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

Christchurch earthquake containers

Here’s a couple of videos:

Image credit: me

CERA Earthquake Recovery Strategy Youth Jam

Posted in New Zealand on December 4th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – 2 Comments

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?

Posted in New Zealand on November 13th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

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

Posted in Mental Health, New Zealand on October 24th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – 1 Comment

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

TEDxEQChCh Salon #1

Posted in Life, New Zealand, Worldwide on August 8th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

A week ago, Christchurchians braved the aftermath of the snow and met at the Bush Bar for the first TEDxEQChCh Salon*. Previous TED talks were shown, and people were invited to share what they were involved in post-quake, or something else the audience would be interested in. Someone I talked to summed up the difference between May’s TEDxEQChCh well: this was more about the people than the buildings.

Cathedral made out of #eqnz tweets made by Kunst Buzz on display in the TEDxEQChCh lobby

Kunst Buzz‘s tweet cathedral, the ChristChurch Cathedral made of a random selection of almost 1000 #eqnz tweets (approximately 98,000 characters) which was on display in the TEDxEQChCh lobby, among other TEDxEQChCh memorabilia that has been given to Te Papa.

The talks

Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

Brene Brown hacks into lives for a living. She talks about banana nut muffins, worthiness, being imperfect, her office supply addiction and human connection, which led her on a quest that sent her to therapy, but changed the way she lived.

Something she said seemed very relevant post-quake: “they had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others.” Very similar to advice given in a pamphlet dropped in our letterbox yesterday.

Tony Robbins asks why we do what we do

Tony Robbins usually runs 50+ hour coaching seminars over weekends. He talks about patterns, resources, needs and describes what happened in one of his seminars of 2000 people from 45 different countries in Hawaii on the day of 9/11.

Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter

Mark Bezos usually fights poverty, but also volunteers as a firefighter. He talks about his first fire, and that we shouldn’t wait for something to happen before we try to make a difference.

Dave Meslin: The antidote to apathy

Dave Meslin tries to make local issues engaging. He talks about barriers that keep people from getting involved.

The people

Tim Taylor

Tim Taylor talked about Project Regenerate a subsection on the Rebuild Christchurch site which shares visions for a future Christchurch in video form and lets people vote and comment on them.

Trent Hiles

Trent Hiles talked about the creation of a multi-purpose arts complex in Lyttelton and Lyttelton’s Act of Art, a Gap Filler project whose first installation, a tribute to James K Baxter and the town, is up.

Grace Duyndam

Grace Duyndam talked about the 350.org Moving Planet September 24th worldwide rally against fossil fuels.

* TEDx Salon’s are intended to engage the community between larger events through small recurring events, keeping the spirit of TED alive—ideas worth spreading.

Calendar Girls Cheerleaders

Posted in New Zealand on August 3rd, 2011 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

Last Saturday, Canada played the USA in an ice hockey match in Christchurch. Calendar Girls, a strip club, sponsored the event. They also paid $500 to All Star Cheerleaders to have them perform at the event, a team made up of mainly underage girls, including a nine-year-old (disclaimer: I know someone on the team.)

Announcements

‘“They were announced as All Star Cheerleaders brought to you by Calendar Girls,” [Jacqui Le Prou, Calendar Girls owner] said.’

I’ve been told that the team was referred to as the “Calendar Girls Cheerleaders” throughout the night. Online comments from those attending on the night support this too:

“We were at the Ice Hockey – and did think it was rather strange to be introducing the obviously young girls as ‘calendar girls’ – it was never mentioned that they were from a cheer leading club (although it was obvious they were trained in cheerleading) It wasnt just once they said it either – all night!!! If that was my daughter – i’d be FUMING.”—MT

“Did find it a little strange to have the young girls announced as Calender Girls Cheerleaders.”—Michael

Youth Olympic Games CheerleadingI’ve also been told that someone, I’m assuming from Calendar Girls, got a caption for a photo changed from the All Stars Cheerleaders to Calendar Girls Cheerleaders, that someone at The Press picked up on that caption for a photo of obviously young girls and that’s why a reporter started investigating.

Whoops

Above, Jacqui implies that the girls weren’t referred to as “Calendar Girls Cheerleaders”. However Calendar Girls’ social networking pages tell a different story.

Calendar Girls TwitterCalendar Girls TwitterEven more concerning is a photo of the Christchurch cheerleading team, including the nine-year-old girl, and I’m told Jacqui Le Prou’s young daughter, that was posted on Calendar Girls’ Auckland Facebook page. Faces blurred by me because they and their parents didn’t know where this photo was going to end up.

Calendar Girls Cheerleaders Facebook

Parents

“They don’t sign up for other people to pass them off as Calendar Girls, but then again their parents were all there and they didn’t pull them from their performance.”—The team’s coach, Claire Stackhouse.

The frustration is understandable. I’d say the reason why teams do events like this is to show that they actually have to put in work to pull off a performance, and to raise the profile of cheerleading to be more like a sport and less like something seedy. A comment on the Yahoo article hits the nail on the head on why the girls don’t have horrible parents:

“…cheerleading here bears little resemblance to the US or rugby style cheerleaders. Here it has morphed into something quite different, involving agility, skills, strength…”—Judy

I understand there was a second part to Claire’s quote that wasn’t included in the article (probably due to space constraints, understandable): during a performance that is supposed to be professional, it is very unprofessional to walk out half way through.

Auckland event

The same match was also played in Auckland and an All Star Cheerleading team performed there also.

“[Jacqui] Le Prou said the cheerleaders at the Auckland event were between 18 and 24.”

I’ve been told there were cheerleaders as young as 14 12 on the Auckland team. This also prompts the question: if Calendar Girls is really against using underage girls to promote their club (“she sent me a nine-year-old, which I wasn’t very happy about”) why did they not pull the Christchurch performance when they became aware that there were people on the team under 18, including a nine-year-old?

Why cheerleaders?

People familiar with cheerleading have said that cheerleading teams always have members of varying ages and that it would be near impossible to find a cheerleading team that only has people aged 18 and over in it. I question why Calendar Girls didn’t hire 18+ models, promo girls or use some of their own staff if they wanted to promote their club.

Whether someone involved was aware of what Calendar Girls wanted to introduce the team as or not still leaves the question as to why the team was referred to as the Calendar Girls Cheerleaders when the team was clearly made up of underage girls.

Image credit: Eustaquio Santimano

The National Interest of Foreign Espionage

Posted in New Zealand, Technology, Worldwide on July 25th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

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