As seen in the NBR 11th March 2016, Page 31.
While recent after-shocks in Canterbury have attracted headlines speculating about what it means for Christchurch and the region the local mood is loud and clear from individuals and companies alike - “business as usual.”
“That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of empathy for the challenges people are still facing” says Myles Noble, Head of Earthquake Response and Insurer Relationships for Crombie Lockwood. “We know things are not back to normal for everyone, far from it. But our guys on the ground are working for clients who are more than ready to ‘move on’.”
However as numerous attitudinal research studies continue to show, for those still waiting for claims to be resolved life is hard and the uncertainty and stress is holding them back.
One of Crombie Lockwood’s most experienced local brokers Michelle Hamilton recently commented that it has taken her three years to settle her own claim. She has a ‘direct line’ to the insurance companies and understands all the steps in the process but there is no special treatment or a fast track way to resolve complex legal requirements. Even ordinary things take time.
“For anyone still struggling through that process the value of getting professional advice should not be ignored,” says Myles Noble. As he points out it doesn’t need to be a costly exercise and sometimes all it takes is another set of eyes to see a clear course of action. “Having someone act as an advocate is a powerful tool which puts pragmatic solutions above emotions.”
“To say it has been five years of disruption is an understatement. Transport problems are a constant, many sporting facilities remain unusable and heavy rain brings regular flooding due to infrastructure issues. These deeply felt, day-to-day concerns can have more of an impact on quality of life than even another 4.3 or 5.7.”
The resilience displayed through all of this has been remarkable. A willingness to roll up the sleeves and get on with the job is part of the local character and that’s evident across all industries and all sizes of businesses; from the local pie shop staying open in a temporary space and now expanding its premises to the tech company launching new solutions for emergency services.
“Innovation isn’t just a corporate buzzword in Canterbury. Simple necessity forced people and businesses to think outside the box and the results are impressive” says Myles Noble of various Crombie Lockwood clients he’s advised. “Commercial property owners allowed pop up retail to occupy their land for piece meal rent, creating new jobs. The hospitality sector found new and cost-effective ways to keep the locals fed and watered and five years on the restaurant and bar scene is more vibrant than ever.”
The risks are clear but local developers are showing a determination to rebuild from the rubble and maximise the benefits this unprecedented opportunity presents. This ultimately will shape what Canterbury will look like for future generations, making it a sustainable, attractive and exciting place to live, work, visit and invest. Attracting more investment is a key priority. It’s not a coincidence that offshore funds are encouraged by the work done so far and are bullish about the growth prospects a rebuild of this size provides.
Crombie Lockwood itself is “chuffed” about moving back into the CBD later this year taking space for 130 staff in the new PwC Centre. Since 2010 the business has re-located several times after leaving the company’s original Worcester Street offices, demolished after the earthquakes. The PwC Centre now under construction on the corner of Cashel Street and Cambridge Terrace has already attracted a number of blue chip businesses looking for a long-term home.
Of course Crombie Lockwood aren’t the only ones planning a move and the flow on effects will be enormous as thousands of office workers and support staff look for new places to shop and unwind. As the re-developed Hagley Oval has shown, big events have an outsized effect on how a community feels about itself.
“Christchurch is a city of two tales. To paraphrase some insurance language, on the one hand is material damage and the other emotional liability” says Myles Noble.
“The material damage, while immense, has been measured and a response is being executed for the City’s renewal. However the emotional liability is much harder to quantify and frankly not so easy to fix.”
“Repairing the hidden damage is important for the long-term health of the region. The physical rebuild is just the first step in that process.”
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