I decided that, in response to a wholly obfuscated and some might say downright dodgy approach towards dealing with demolition related issues in Christchurch, that my correspondence about the matter would buck his trend and be held in the public arena.

This is especially so after receiving an invoice for close to 500% of what we should have paid or the demolition of our building. After notifying CERA that we wouldn’t be paying the invoice, we received a reasonable response asking why. In the interim we’ve also had discussions with a number of people involved in the demolition industry who allege that looting by demolition companies is widespread and blatant. It appears that we’re only now seeing authorities begin to clamp down on this.

Below is a copy of the letter I sent to CERA’s Demolitions Finance Team outlining our reasons for disputing the invoice – I’ll continue to inform readers what eventuates from this situation.

To – David Jones

Demolitions Finance Team

CERA

David,

I refer to our letter dated 14 October and sent in response to our advisory that we dispute the invoice for the demolition of our building situated at 165 Lichfield Street, Christchurch. In your letter you requested our reasons for disputing the invoice, our reasons include, but are not limited to the following;

1. On the afternoon of February 22nd, and in the days following, we spent extensive amounts of time in and around our building and, while it undeniably needed demolition at some point, we dispute that the building presented a clear and immediate danger and hence the need for an emergency demolition

2. As we have mentioned previously, we made significant attempts to engage with both Civil Defence and the Christchurch City Council, in fact our phone number was displayed prominently outside the building, despite this, and in contrast to repeated assertions by both the Civil Defence Controller and latterly CERA, that every effort was made to contact building owners, the first contact we had from any official party was your invoice dated the end of August. As such, and given our contention above, we dispute the invoice on the basis that discussion regarding a reasoned approach to the demolition of our building was denied us

3. Prior to the February 22nd earthquake we had already engaged a demolition company, Southern Demolition, to effect the demolition of the building. We were in discussions with them following February 22nd and despite them being ready and prepared to continue work under out pre-existing contracted, Civil Defence chose unilaterally to take charge of the process

4. We note that at the time of demolition CERA did not in fact exist. As such we dispute CERA’s right to retrospectively invoice companies for works undertaken prior to its existence

5. With regards the amount charged for the demolition, with extensive experience in the general contracting industry, and after closely monitoring the demolition process, we contend that the amount charged is in no way proportional to the amount of time spent on-premises and generally accepted charge-out rates. As such we do not intend to pay an undocumented and, in our opinion, highly inflated invoice

6. With regards the waste disposal component of the invoice, we have had discussions with demolition company personnel who have alleged that the waste from our building did not in fact pass through a transfer station but was surreptitiously removed to privately held sorting yards where demolition companies extracted any salvageable items. As such we dispute any and all waste disposal charges

7. Despite assurance from the Controller of Civil Defence that demolition companies did not have salvage rights to the materials recovered post February 22nd, and despite being told by the supervisor in charge of the works that all materials were sent to transfer stations and no recoverable items remained, we publicized our concerns about looting by demolition companies. Subsequent to my interview on Radio New Zealand, a number of items mysteriously appeared on site being a very small proportion of the recoverable items. Given our belief that Civil Defence essentially granted demolition contractors a wholesale right of salvage over the items within our building, we will be taking legal advice over our rights to counter-invoice CERA and/or the demolition companies for the estimated value of the recoverable goods

8. Finally given the unilateral nature of these works, and also given the fact that it did not exist when the demolition took place, we dispute CERA’s right to charge a project management fee or the demolition works

Hoping this answers your questions, should you require any further clarification please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned.

Please also note I have sent a copy of his invoice to our insurance company and various media outlet

Yours sincerely,

Ben Kepes

Director – CGK Holdings

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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