08
May
stored in: Christchurch, Earthquake and tagged:

Thank you to those at the Christchurch City Council who saw some sense in an otherwise silly situation and granted me a Certificate of Public Use. I am now allowed to open and have six weeks to resolve my urinals being 90cm too close to the neighbour’s car-park. While I still think this is silly, I have given up fighting. I will pay another engineer to do another design and another builder to come and install a fire wall. The, hopefully, I have nothing more to do with the Council until I begin the horrible process all over again when it is time to move.

We opened up last weekend for a few drinks and will open properly this weekend. We had hoped to install a roof this week but this suddenly got too expensive and complicated consent-wise. So, we are now running an open-air bar in a freezing cold city – and the southerly is sneaking toward us.

So I’m asking you to stick with us. We will sort out some shelter. But in the meantime you’ll need to bring along your warm coats and gloves. I will get some mulled wine and buttered rum brewing and hopefully in a few weeks we will have something sorted.

Thanks for all your support and from tomorrow you will be able to find us at www.thesmashpalace.co.nz.

Dearest Council,

My name is Johnny and my business was destroyed in the February 2011 Earthquake. Since then I have been working day-and-night to try and reopen. It has been a long, hard road and I am now nearing the end of my journey. Throughout this process I have come across good and bad people within your organization and my hope is that one of the good ones will read this and be in a position to affect some change and help me over my final hurdle.

When I was forced to find a new location for my bar I had to learn to play at being a  Property Developer. This is not something I had seen myself doing, nor had the experience for. Thankfully, a lot of kind people have helped me through all the pitfalls of developing a piece of land in this damaged city.

I have now built my bar, which I like to think is a creative take on the temporary state that this city finds itself in. I have a heap of people who have popped in and are really excited to have something that they can show their friends and say: “Look, Christchurch may be stuffed but exciting things are happening here that aren’t happening anywhere else in the country.”

I have an approved building consent, a 1:12 wheelchair ramp, handrails that turn down 90 degrees, steps with visibility strips on them, a compliant fire escape system, an eight-page evacuation procedure, a structural engineer has signed-off on the structure, an electrician has signed-off on the electricity…  In short, I am more compliant than I would like to be but I have done what has been asked.

But here is the kicker: I made one fuck up. I located 3m of my toilet block 900mm closer to the neighbor’s boundary than I was supposed to. I accept full responsibility for this. I have no experience at reading a fire report and was reading the wrong set of numbers. When I realized my mistake I got my ever-patient fire engineer back down to come up with a solution. He looked at my mistake and noted that my toilet block is full of porcelain and water. It is too close to the boundary, but on the neighbor’s side it is sitting beside a huge, asphalt-covered car park. His solution was for me to leave the toilets as they are, get a letter from my neighbor stating that he is comfortable with this and provide the Council with a document stating that if the neighbor should submit a building consent application to build on the boundary then I would have to achieve full compliance at this point. You see, being temporary, I will only be here for a year or two and we couldn’t see the neighbor wanting to knock down his lovely old building – that has survived the earthquakes 100% in tact – and rebuild within this time.

The fire engineer at the Council has rejected my proposal before he has even seen the documentation. I have been told that I need to resubmit an amendment to my consent. This will take a minimum of two weeks.

So I sit here with a completed bar, ready to trade, staff having given up their other jobs, but unable to open due to my own incompetence. What I ask of the Council is if there is any way to speed this process up? I have offered a solution which has been rejected in what feels like personality-driven point scoring. If someone down there told me what they wanted me to do, I would do it. It just seems like another two week delay on top of all the previous delays will almost knock me under as I continue to hemorrhage money.

I write this letter with the knowledge that there are some excellent people within the Christchurch City Council who can see what we are trying to do, who can see the value in projects like ours, who can see that the final hurdle is a minor one that does not endanger lives and can see that without small businesses getting back up-and running this city will die.

So, to anyone up there that can see the silliness of this situation, can you please help me? I am really struggling and hoping that somebody can resolve this before the liquidators show up and sell my bus to a gypsy.

Yours sincerely,

Johnny Moore and the whole crew at Smash Palace.

30
Apr
stored in: Earthquake and tagged:

I thought I’d like to do an update on our current position. I’m sorry I’ve been slack with the blog. I was terribly bummed out about the situation in which I found myself; I’d spent most of my insurance money before I’d even been paid out, I was butting my head against the wall with the Council, I felt that the Press article misrepresented us and I had little to show for all the time and money I’d invested in this project. I was starting to stress out that I’d get half way through this thing and it would grind to a halt. I’d have to get a real job.

On top of this, some little prick broke into the bus and stole my laptop, camera and a bunch of other shit. Being a stupid thief, he tagged in the bus and left fingerprints everywhere. I was sure this would excite the police and they would send out a forensics team. It would be like CSI and we would catch the thief who would be the one we all least expected. Sadly, the police are too busy hiding behind bushes and busting hard-working motorcyclists for doing 106kph. This meant they had no resources to even come out to site and the best they could offer was “maybe don’t delete the photos of the tags, we may get onto it at some stage.”

So, due to justice not being done, we roped in the Eastside Justice Vigilante Mob. We strung up a bunch of trip-wires around the place and slept in the women’s toilets for over a week – awaiting  the intruder’s return and plotting how we would hog-tie him and do horrible things before handing him over to the police.

Sadly, nobody showed up. All that happened is when we got drunk we all fell over the trip-wires and hurt ourselves. Ramon managed to nail himself twice, which made him so mad that he threw Jock’s battery drill.

Here is a bad photo of his sore wee shins afterward.

So, I will seek to get you all back up-to-date this week. We have been having such a laugh setting this place up that it would be a shame not to share a few stories.

The Council are in to do an inspection tomorrow and we are hoping they will tell us we can open this week. If this is the case we will open up this weekend and hope for nice weather. Then we will shut next week and put our roof up. Then the following weekend we will open for good. It will be nice to be open and have the bank balance traveling in the opposite direction.

04
Mar
stored in: Uncategorized and tagged:

Smash Palace has received some coverage in the Press and on Stuff. This has led to a lot of hateful comments about me that I would like to address over the next few days.

Firstly, my comment about the Council being rotten and corrupt was made last month in relation to Tony Maryatt’s pay-rise, Bob Parker’s secrecy, and a protest at the City Council attended by a couple of thousand people. This quote was taken out of context and achieves little out of context.

I did not ask for the article to be written, nor comment in it. I worry that the short forms of journalism are only interested in catchy quotes without actually investigating the issue.If you want to know what I have to say, it is all right here. I stand by what I have said.

Also, please don’t call me the “Ex-Mayors Son”, I have never courted this title and have no interest in it being a signifier for me. If you want to slap a label on me,  call me a person that lost his business in the February earthquake. I have never asked for special treatment because of who my father is; I have asked for special treatment as an earthquake displaced business.

Over the past year I have been the recipient of a tremendous amount of sympathy and goodwill. Recover Canterbury has been alongside me all the way and I was the recipient of a grant from them that allowed me to pay an architect to draw up plans for my temporary bar. Jan – a family friend in Wellington – sent us some money to buy Rosie’s caravan and keep paying bills while we found a suitable location. Somebody bought me a pair of shoes when I had none in the days following the quake. Mitre 10 Mega in Ferrymead sold me decking timber at close to cost… Thank you to all the people and organisations that have helped me. I couldn’t have done it without the support.

Even the planning section of the Council had enacted policy that made my move easier. From the first point of contact they led me by the hand through the process and I thank John and his team for that.

And this is all I am saying:

The Building Act is fine when it’s business as usual. In Christchurch at present it’s not business as usual. Something needs to be enacted that allows temporary businesses to easily occupy all the vacant land that is becoming available in our city. If the Council do not make it easier for people to occupy these sites, they will remain vacant. It’s too hard to build anything at present. Community activity must be encouraged on these sites if we are to slowly start getting back on our feet. I have never said that unsafe structures should be allowed. I have always said what I build will be safe from a structural and fire perspective.

But I will save the structural discussion for later in the week.

In the meantime here’s what I thought I was going to be blogging about this weekend. It’s a photo of Ramon jumping the TY50 down our brand new steps on Friday after work. Congratulations to James for giving it a go and Jeremy for the fastest lap. Somebody took a massive chunk out of the deck but we reckon it all adds to the character of the place.

 

22
Feb
stored in: Christchurch and tagged:

All the major pieces of Smash Palace are now on site, ready to be arranged. We backed the bus over Bealey Ave last night in a lovely display of cowboy traffic management.

Since it’s a building and not a bus, we decided it was fine for Greg to drive it down with no license. Instead, we carried our Building Consent application in case the Police pulled us over.

I’m told our Building Consent is coming. I’ll believe it when I see it. In the meantime, Anna has banned me from communicating with the Council after I told someone that “some Nazi’s tried ‘just following the rules’ as an excuse and they still got strung up after the war.”

Stop by and say “hi” if you’re in the neighbourhood. I will give you the grand tour.

 

 

10
Feb
stored in: Christchurch and tagged:

I was so pleased to see Gerry Brownlee calling Parker a clown. It reminded me of that ill advised photoshoot for that ill-advised flower show. It must be nice to be off on a junket in China while the rest of us are stuck in Christchurch fighting the Council, hell bent on running small businesses broke.

08
Feb
stored in: Christchurch and tagged:

Followers of this blog will know my contempt for the Christchurch City Council. Never before have I come across an organisation so rotten and corrupt due to lack of leadership and mismanagement.

But it would be easy to criticise and pass judgement without offering a solution. I care about this city enough that I would like to see the Council fixed so that some time in the future people might actually want to live or open a business in the Central City.

The only chance for any real change won’t come until election time. Hopefully with the way the city is being run, good people with a sense of public duty, will decide to stand for council and the mayoralty. Make sure when this happens that you get out and vote to hold those standing accountable for fixing this mess.

I will again vote for Yani Johnasen and Tim Carter, two of the only sensible voices sitting around that council table.

But for those of you living in Burwood/Pegasus, you have the chance to vote in the by-election. For all of you, I would like to endorse Peter Beck. I talked with him on the weekend and am confident he has what it takes to be another sensible voice at the table.

As a committed atheist, Peter is one of the few people who gives me hope that religion can be about love and compassion. A non-judgemental form of religion is fine by me. I like his politics, I like his values and I like him as a friend. I also like that after the earthquakes, that loony religious newspaper that announced the earthquake was due to our lack of religion branded him the “swearing Dean”.

So make sure if you live in Burwood/Pegasus that you get out and vote. There is no way we can clean up this mess without ensuring really good people are running this city. So please vote for Peter and tell all your friends to do the same.

03
Feb
stored in: Christchurch and tagged:

I have met with the Council three times this week. Each time I’ve been told that all they need is this or that piece of information and I will have my consent. Each time I have provided the information asked only to have another hurdle placed in my way. Somebody is either stupid, gutless or malicious.

My building consent officer has now gone on holiday, handing my case over to some poor guy who now has to deal with a custometr that’s angry like a snake. Just to ensure it stays hard, it seems nobody thought handing my case over properly was necessary. That is unprofessional. Now I am re-sending all the information to a new officer, asking the same questions that I was told had been resolved.

Again I state that the good people in the Council are very good – some have come to me and expressed disgust at the way I have been treated, but the fact of the matter is that if something doesn’t change soon this town is looking at a dead Central City for the next 50 years. If you let engineers design things in the current risk averse climate, you will have a city whose character is no different from Riccarton Mall.

So I scrap on, day in day out, all day long sending off stupid information so some dropkick can tick boxes. But I can’t help but wonder what it is like for people that don’t have the old Irish mad-dog fighter in them.

Here’s one of my favourite conversations of late:

Me: “You need to understand, it’s just a bus and a couple of portable buildings.”

Council employee: “It’s not a bus, it’s a building.”

“Trust me, it’s a bus. It has a warrant and registration.”

“That might be the case, but it’s a building.”

“No, it’s definitely a bus.”

“It doesn’t matter what you think. To us it’s a building.”

“Do you want me to come and pick you up in the building. We can drive around town in the building and see if we can’t resolve this.”

“Don’t be smart with me…”

Half way through our conversation I realised I was getting some use from my useless university education. As far as I can tell this arguement could be framed using Aristotle’s ideas of Matter and Form. What is it about a bus that gives it it’s “busness”? Does a bus become a building if it plays the role of a building? If you sit on a table does it become a chair?

I thought “this is interesting, it could be a fun debate”, but I suspect someone who went from a boring degree to a boring job might not have had the inclination to study Greek philosophy. So I told him people like him were killing the city and hung up.

Tune in next week when I become Michael Laws and the Christchurch City Council actually eats itself.

 

02
Feb
stored in: Christchurch, Earthquake, Events and tagged:

I went to the protest at the City Council yesterday. For me, it wasn’t about the CEO’s pay rise, it was about an institution that is so inept and damaged that none of the different parts are talking to one another. I see this as a failure of leadership and therefore hold Clerk Tony and Sideshow Bob responsible.

I have spent the past few months trying to obtain a building consent to put a bus, a caravan, and two portable buildings on a property in the city. The site is to be wrapped in scaffold to keep the wind out and create a “building” using a material that is everywhere in the city in a novel fashion.

The Planning department was my first stop. They were super helpful and supportive and guided me through the process. I got the impression that Council wanted businesses that had been destroyed in the quake to remain in the city and would facilitate this happening. Thanks to everyone in planning, you made my life easy and gave me hope.

Then I hit building consent, a department that would make a Monty Python skit look sensible and predictable. From the first point of contact they were unhelpful, restrictive, dogmatic, small-minded and determined to ensure I incurred as many unnecessary costs as possible.

Let me say that my intention is not to do anything that is in any way unsafe. I had a proper fire report and structural engineers have looked at the scaffolding and done all their complicated calculations to ensure it wouldn’t blow over in the wind or fall over in an earthquake.

But… the Council needs to see that a couple of portable buildings on a piece of empty land is different from the erection of a multi-storey permanent building. I am getting hit with the same consent requirements as I would if I were building the Empire State Building. This is silly and expensive and every time another fucking engineer has a bright idea that I need to prove something else it costs me thousands of dollars in fees.

If I’m not there you will have a car park for the next two years.

I managed to get to the head of department and he is a lovely, reasonable, pragmatic bloke. He helped me through what I saw as the tail end of my application. I thought there was light at the end of the tunnel. After weeks of silly fighting over paperwork, I thought I was there. I had held my tongue in public because all I wanted was to get my consent and get trading again.

No.

Today’s development is that the Council engineers “don’t have the expertise” to deal with our application from a structural point of view. As such, they have farmed it out to an external consultant – passing on the fees to me – so that some expert can look at whether a portable toilet and kitchen are safe. Maybe wind on a scaffold is too tough for the mediocre engineers that end up working there, but really, you should be able to handle a couple of portable buildings.

It is the passing on of time and cost without a care in the world that is rotten and horrible. If you aren’t competent to look at an application, maybe hire someone that is – give them some of that fat pay-rise that Big Tony has so kindly handed half back.

It seems to be nobody’s fault that they are operating in such a dysfuncional fashion. I have come across good people within the organisation that understand my predicament and sympathise with me. I thank these people for their support, but I can see good people getting nowhere. So, somebody needs to be held accountable for just how fucked up the Council has become, operating like it’s business as usual and driving small businesses broke.

So, I’m blaming Tony and Bob. When the head of the fish is rotten, the rest soon follows. There has been a monumental failure of leadership and if all the staff I talk to are not responsible, then somebody has to be. So “thank-you” to all the staff who have been helpful. I mean that. I can see when good people are in a bad place. But someone is at fault and while it might be nice to fly home to Hamilton after a hard days work, some of us are stuck here trying to rebuild our lives. if you’re so good at management how about you fix this broken monster.

That is why I was at the protest. To shout my dissatisfaction at the side of a building and join with others around me in saying “Something has to change. For some of us this is our home, not just a job.”

02
Feb
stored in: Christchurch and tagged:

Hey all. If you know anyone who is looking for a hospo job, send them my way.While I prefer to have known staff since they were born, opening date is getting closer and finding people who fit into this category is getting harder.

So, bar staff, kitchen staff, part time, full time… Whatever you’re looking for, flick me an email and we can take it from there.

My email is johnny(at)goodbyebluemonday.co.nz.