On three important topics

It's interesting how when a thought bubbles up, it often bubbles up alongside others.

Like today, for example: there are three topics circling around in my head and I cannot tell which one is more essential / worthy to write down / share - so I am writing down all three of them. What are they?

Quality of rebuild in Christchurch.
Rainbow babies.
And financial issues of being a young family.

First, rainbow babies: I don't know if you're familiar with the term, but "rainbow baby" means a baby that has come to a family after a loss of another one, so, say, after a misscarriage or a stillbirth or something similar.

I don't know who coined the term - does anyone? - but it refers to a rainbow coming out after a storm has passed and, in my opinion, it is a very moving way to describe things.

I came across an article today where an adult who himself is/was a rainbow baby said - I haven't got the exact quote at hand, sorry, but he said that - the only reason he is here today is because his mother had had the courage to try again.

And I looked at that and thought: damn, I'd never thought of it from this angle before.

So many times I've come across this topic from the angle of parents - or prospective parents - and never once have I thought of what it'd be like being one.

Being - a rainbow baby.


The other thing I want to write about is the quality of rebuild in Christchurch - or at least some of the quality of some of the rebuild - and, oh dear God, where do I even start with this?

But first: I am not the best person to talk about this topic for many reasons, a few being that I am not a builder myself, and haven't got the technical nor the practical knowledge of why some of the decisions have been made the way they've been made.

Having said that: what I do have - and continue to have - are people who are participating in the rebuild on various levels, and the stories they tell me in personal, informal settings, behind a cup of tea, say, or when standing on the pavement, chatting about life in general, or during quick "What you up to?" chats.

Some of the stuff they tell me makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Some of the problems are non-structural - if not to say little - and some would probably say don't even mean much in the big picture, except... it's shoddy work. Stuff that breaks down prematurely because it wasn't done well to begin with, in my opinion, shouldn't be done at all.

Take plasterwork, for example. You know how in post-earthquake houses, cracks run up and down people's walls, ceilings, cornicing etc? Cracks that then get "repaired" during standard insurance work?

I am lucky / unlucky enough to know people who see some of those cracks getting "repaired", and going by what I have heard - some of these cracks will start showing up again very, very soon. And you know why?

Because companies are rewarded for speed, not quality.

Many of these cracks get plastered over, rather than being plastered into. It's quick, shoddy work - but very difficult to tell on a freshly finished paint job. Unless there's been someone there to witness how the cracks have been simply "smoothed over" - and that certain someone has then raised a complaint - no-one will know that these cracks will simply start showing themselves in due time, again, and good luck chasing up your insurance then.

Men who do their work well and slower get fewer houses done, and get paid less, and get put under pressure to measure up to "fast ones"; and men who do the work quick and shoddy, but sneakily, finish fast and earn well. And then men who witness the shoddy work but aren't in a position to do anything about it... carry the sight of these injustices within them.

There's such a lack of well-trained building professionals within this city that shoddiness doesn't get treated the way it'd be treated if times were slower, and quality more important.

At the moment, time seems to be important. And money, instead.

With more structural stuff it's easier: if framing isn't done well enough, it doesn't get passed during a building inspection, and has to be done over again. But you know what happens then? Men who've done it to begin with move onto other sites and the ones who actually care about the quality get sent to... repair shoddy stuff.

Over, over, and over again. These men spend days, weeks going from site to site, repairing stuff that was built only recently and should've been done well to begin with, but wasn't - and you know what pressure they get put under as they rebuild the rebuild?

Time pressure. And money.

A project that has been built once already and now has to get taken down to be REbuilt costs money, and men who work on the rebuild of the rebuild cost money.

And it's this back and worth, back and forth, back and forth...

I know painters who've came to Christchurch on forged resumes and forged reference letters, without any experience whatsoever, but because no-one had time nor interest to actually check them and train them, they just got sent to building sites to do painting and they... painted. For the first time in their lives.

Or those poor, young, bright-eyed apprentices who've been put to what is, essentially, basic labouring - without any mentoring which is supposed to be the core of apprenticeship - and then for months they labour. And labour. And labour - and wonder if Christchurch really was the place to come and learn carpentry, or masonry, or whatever else they're doing, because they spend their days digging trenches instead.

Or how the road that's been "repaired" merely a week ago already has a, surprise!, pothole in it.

That sort of stuff.

Some of the technical problems make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, but most of the stuff - the likes of what I have just described before - just makes me... sad; sad both for the people in this city and for the rebuild in general as, going by what I keep on hearing, there will be plenty of stuff re-appearing as "in need of repair" in years to come, and it won't be for reasons other than work badly done in the first place.

Wow. I think I've written such a long saga on this rebuild thing that I'm not even going to go into what being a young family is like, financially speaking.

1 comment:

  1. I hear you. It's saddening thinking of people doing a sub-standard job just for the money. I certainly hope I don't get those kind of people working on my own house (dream build). I'd much rather wait longer and know that it's quality.

    I've never heard of 'rainbow baby', but if that's the case, then I must be one and my brother must be too, as our Mother had a miscarriage before me and also before my brother. We were just talking about it again last night, and Mum said they were just awful. I'm very proud of her, and thankful that she shared it with us too.