Chch building owner: demo crew 'looted' native timber

UPDATE: This just in from Mr Kepes:

As at 4pm this afternoon all the salvaged materials [including several thousand dollars worth of Australian hardwood and native timber] had disappeared.

We managed to talk to the person supervising demolition in that part of the city who was adamant that all materials had been sent to landfill.

But clearly, as the pictures illustrate, the materials had carefully been separated for salvage.

Civil Defence doesn't want to know about it, and when I reported the incident to the police they advised they were too under-resourced to investigate.

Civil Defence national controller Steve Brazier says there is enough security in the central city red zone. "We have engineers who are on the site, we've got police who have roving patrols, we've got the industry who are hopefully policing themselves. It's not wide-scale pillaging by any means."

Mr Kepes characterises this statement as bluster. The Civil Defence boss is avoiding the facts, he says.


Keen readers of this blog will be familiar with Ben Kepes, the Christchurch entrepeneur who, along with his business partner, owns IT consultancy, cafe, coffee supply and outdoor camping businesses, plus a three-story building - or, we should now say, former building.

Mr Kepes was plucky through last year's quake. On February 22, when Keallhauled last caught up with him, he was in despair.

Last night, despair had turned to rage.

Two things make the entrepreneur furious.

1. His Litchfield Street building was demolished without him being contacted.

2. He suspects the demolition company has made off with materials from his building, including valuable native timber (echoing a case reported yesterday, in which Christchurch cafe owner Chris Meyer claimed a demo crew had taken valuables).

"Despite being in the CBD on the day of the February 22 quake, and registering on the various websites, we've had zero contact from either the council or Civil Defence - this despite it being all of a two minute exercise to find our contact details (most of which the Council has on its files anyway)," Mr Kepes told NBR.

"Our building has been demolished under the state of emergency, and last I saw it appeared that the demolition company had been recovering materials in, what can only be assumed, is opportunistic salvaging - that some would call looting," he said.

"Demo companies are creaming it."

Utter rot
"I'm a rescue worker so I understand that this is a calamitous event and hence people need to be flexible, but the issue here is the huge lack of consistency and poor communications across the various agencies," Mr Kepes said.

Yesterday, in telling parliament that 140 buildings have been demoiished so far, Civil Defence minister John Carter said "thorough efforts" were made to make contact with owners. For Mr Kepes, this claim was "utter rot".

Who took the native timber?
"We don't 'know' for sure that their intention was to make off with the stack of native timber in these photos (above), but since it's been piled on the very road they're trying to open access to it seems very suspicious. Have contacted Civil Defence and council but no answer yet."

Mr Kepes said his insurance company had paid a sum to clear the mortgage, but a claim over $3 million needed to rebuild was still been finalised. 

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