You will have to forgive me if many of my blog posts revolve around the earthquake and, if you have “earthquake fatigue”, I completely understand. We get “earthquake fatigue” too here in Christchurch. But, like it or not, the events of September 4 and February 22 have coloured the lives of Christchurch’s citizens in ways they may never have envisaged.
I was out at Amberley, a country town north of Christchurch, on Saturday evening. A friend was having a bonfire and party to reconnect with all her friends as she was an exile from deepest, darkest Bexley (she had to walk away from her house which was very badly damaged and flooded with raw sewerage and liquefaction). Another friend told me about how he and his partner had just been able to retrieve their crushed Toyota Hilux from the Smiths City carpark building. (He joked that it was, when retrieved, very much a “Lowlux”). He told me that an expensive set of snow chains had been looted from the vehicle by the demolition workers and that they had stolen some computer accessories from the glovebox and then crushed that part of the car to cover up their crimes. He was told by the official in charge of the car retrieval that his was a common complaint. Apparently, the demolition workers had thoroughly looted everything they could from all the vehicles before the owners could retrieve their vehicles.
These tales of amorality are widespread through Christchurch. Business owners in the central city had to abandon their premises and many have found when they were eventually able to access their businesses that they have had everything valuable looted. One business owner who knew that demolition workers stole a load of valuable native timber, matai, called it “mandated looting”.
The authorities have done nothing. These demolition workers seem to think they have a right to steal from people with impunity. I think they think that the insurers will pick up the tab, but legally anything in the owners’ premises is theirs until the insurers pay out the owners and then it becomes the property of the insurers. It is NEVER just up for grabs.
Sadly, after the initial rush of post-earthquake nobility from many citizens, and many private citizens and organisations continue to do fantastic things for their communities, the sickening stench of profiteering, looting and exploitation is becoming stronger.
Granted, some demolition companies are behaving well, but any demolition workers found to be looting need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and their companies banned from any further work in the CBD.
Amorality of this kind cannot be allowed to continue and the authorities cannot get away with turning a blind eye or putting the issue in the “too hard” basket.