There was plenty of StopPress discussion after Designworks' chief executive Sven Baker offered some suggestions for ways the design industry could help Christchurch recover from the quake—and not long after he narrowly avoided falling victim to it himself. Now Designworks and Jay Wester, owner of plumbing and heating supplier Leap Australasia Ltd, have launched the first initiative to come out of those discussions, a registered trust called letsfixit.org.nz that aims to get Christchurch’s in-home domestic water services re-connected pronto. And according to Baker, it's already working, with the first volunteer plumbers expected to be on the ground in Christchurch in the next few days.
Baker says letsfixit is purely an interim practical measure designed to get people through before the council and insurance are able to assist and the immediate aim is one toilet, one sink and one shower for the most in-need households.
“All letsfixit.org.nz is asking from licensed plumbers is to volunteer their time, whether it's a few hours, a few days, or more. letsfixit will then organise to get them in touch with people on the ground in Christchurch and provide supplies for all the smaller jobs that need doing. All we really need are their skills.”
Businesses, trade suppliers and the wider public are also encouraged to come to the party with tools, materials and cash donations and Wester is currently discussing sponsorship agreements with major New Zealand businesses and international plumbing suppliers.
Since Saturday morning, there has been a steady stream of visitors to letsfixit.org.nz with plumbers, gas fitters, drainlayers and trade suppliers volunteering their time, labour and cash. A number of Christchurch homeowners have also offered accommodation for the out of towners.
"This is about us helping our industry to help others,” Wester says. “We’re all desperate to help, but it’s not always easy to know how. Water is crucial. Getting household water and wastewater reconnected again is one of the most practical things we can do to help people get back on their feet. Anyone can help through letsfixit.org.nz. But we’ll only be successful if the industry is behind us. We know people want to help, we’ve even had approaches from Australia. Now the task is to co-ordinate. We need the registered trade volunteers so we can match them to people in need, so get in touch.”
“It’s not about taking work from Christchurch guys. They are overwhelmed and the system is overloaded. People are traumatised and exhausted. They need our help.”
Designworks' Chris Meade says the whole point of this scheme, which has been six days in the planning, was to recognise that plumbers wanted to volunteer, but didn't know how to.
"Jay approached us to help bring the idea to life and for us it was a no-brainer. We can provide immediate help to meet an immediate need. To me, this is how we in the 'non-architecture' parts of the design industry can help: we know how to engage people around a simple idea, we can create communications and we have clients and contacts we can bring together."
Meade says it's an example of those in the industry banding together and an example of how the industry can help over and above offering financial support.
"Our web team were out of action/out of the country, so we approached Springload, who very kindly helped by building the initial splash page in half a day. And Scott Kennedy created illustrations for free over the weekend."