North West Homecoming [2020-11-24]

I grew up in the northwest of Christchurch and it was my home for 29 years starting from when we as a family moved from the North Island on the transfer of my father to become the manager of Westpac Papanui in 1974. My parents sold our house in Ilam Road in 2003 for $245,000. The next family made mainly internal changes such as converting the separate kitchen and dining areas into one open plan area and a few other things, but the house was still very similar when they sold up in 2016 for $670,000. The buyers at that time cannot have lived in it for very long or at all because it was removed around 2018/2019 and a new house has been built there, with a recent council valuation of $1.01 million. The street was really middle class when we first moved there but the development of new expensive housing on what was former health department land across the road has greatly increased property values in the area over time, and changed its character somewhat.

The main reason for me to visit the northwest neighbourhoods where I grew up is to visit the Latimer Library regularly. The library is located at Laidlaw College in Condell Ave, only 2 km from the former family home. Join me on this series of posts as I explore the suburbs and landmarks of the part of Christchurch where I grew up.

We’ll start with some aerial overviews courtesy of Canterbury Maps. I have created my own detailed set of aerial photos of the general neighbourhood which will be used in subsequent posts to point out the way the area has developed in the last 80 years. The first year I can get aerial photos for is about 1940 and it shows that the north-west of Christchurch was still at that time largely undeveloped. Our neighbourhood, Jellie Park, is still open field more or less in the centre of this view. If you can’t quite work out things from these scaled maps, don’t worry as subsequent posts will drill into a lot of detail “close to home”.

The next one I have is 1955 and it shows quite a lot of changes, mainly in the right hand side. We can see a number of new streets and a lot of houses. Aorangi Road has been built through and the state housing estate along both sides of it developed. Burnside Primary School is being built immediately to the right of the prominent vertical division (join between two aerial photos) in about the centre of the view.

1965 presents a greatly changed perspective. Part of this is due to various government housing construction programmes which churned out hundreds of residential sections for private sale in the 1950s. Although many of the houses were virtually identical and perhaps could be decried as “cookie cutter”, the neighbourhoods that were developed have become quite desirable over the years. My uncle’s family and some other people I have known lived in some of these streets in Burnside. Cobham Intermediate and Burnside High Schools have been built and the early development of Jellie Park with the lake and public “Lido” pools have been carried out. There are still some notable tracts of open land, some of which was not developed until the 1980s or even 1990s.

 

Jumping through to 1980, we had then been living in the area about five years. Burnside High School had grown quite a lot in the intervening years, and some of the remaining open land to the north of it (Ambleside Drive etc) has now been built on, probably due to a family owner selling up their mansion or rural landholding. The Laura Fergusson Trust’s premises have been developed on what is thought to be hospital board land immediately south of Jellie Park. Much of this land remained open for another 10-15 years. We can also see areas at the extreme left of the photo where new streets were being built in 1965, that are now fully fledged suburbs (Powell Crescent, Raxworthy Street etc, and also areas bordering on Ilam Fields off Maidstone Road.

So the next view is from 1990. Burnside High has grown even more (I had completed my schooling in the mid-1980s and so did not witness the continued expansion of the roll, which has recently peaked at over 2500 and is now being reined in by the government due to overcapacity at other Christchurch high schools), but the major difference you will see is that “hospital board” land next to Jellie Park being developed into a subdivision. The “Chateau Estates” has contributed to a wider gentrification of our street and undoubtedly driven up property values in the areas.

“Chateau Estates” was relatively slow to sell (the land was highly priced and properties there are likely in the million-dollar range) and it’s not until this last view in 2010 that we can see it is fully populated with housing all the way round. Jellie Park has been further developed with the extra buildings (council leisure centre) and a lot of landscaping. We had left the area in 2003 with the sale of the family home (I was living there at that time).

It’s probably appropriate to start in just a small corner of “Fendalton North” as our neighbourhood was pretentiously known (in the name of the local Post Office) and so next time I will take in some close up views of the family home in Ilam Road. Stay tuned…

 

Home Heating: Radiant Vs (Oil) Column Vs Convector

I’ve always had predominantly or exclusively electric heating everywhere I’ve lived. There are quite a few different types of electric heaters available out there. The three types listed here are the best ones, in my view. I’ll briefly discuss the reasons for excluding other types:

  • Fan heater. The cheapest models seldom last more than one winter due to the motor seizing up. Why this is the case is a bit of a mystery, since portable cooling fans will last for years. And in fact, more expensive fan heaters can last much longer. Because it’s so difficult to be sure of the quality of what you are buying and because a fan heater has no real advantage over any other type, it is just easier to recommend against buying one. Don’t buy into the con that they can double as a cooling fan in summer – regular fans cost much the same, move more air and generally are much more durable.
  • Ceramic heater – a modern fan heater. Can be made smaller, but questions linger over whether the fan motor is any better quality than ordinary fan heaters.
  • Micathermic heater – just a modern type of radiant and briefly covered below.
  • Panel heater – this is really just another type of convector and will be discussed with the comments on that type below.

Obviously I didn’t mention heat pumps but I am talking primarily about portable heaters in the price range up to about $200. A heat pump is by far the cheapest electric heater to operate, but costs so much more and has to be permanently installed (although portable air con units are available).

So let’s compare the three types mentioned. The single biggest advantage all of them have is that with no fan or other wearing parts, they are very reliable and will give many years of service, and they are also very quiet. All types also have basic safety features like tilt switches and thermal cutouts and fuses fitted internally.

The oil column heater looks like the old style water filled radiator, except they contain oil instead. Electric elements are fitted inside and the oil is used to spread the heat more or less evenly over the surface area of the fins. The large surface area and the characteristics of the oil help to limit the surface temperature, which makes them quite safe. This is the most important characteristic, in my opinion, and why I prefer them for most applications. A rack can also be hooked onto the column for drying washing. Main disadvantages are being the most expensive of the three types compared, being heavy and therefore dangerous where kids could tip them over, and being relatively slow to reach full temperature (some of the modern ones are designed to pick up faster but at the risk of higher surface temperature). Because of that extra cost, oil columns are out of the three types the one that is most commonly produced in a range of sizes with different power outputs. They get pretty hot, enough to burn the unwary, although possibly not as hot as the top of a convector.

The radiant heater is like the old Conrays and the like that were the staple of many NZ homes in past decades. They have a built in reflector and radiant elements that produce mainly infra red heat (like the Sun) which has the big advantage of directly heating your body rather than the air in the room. This makes radiant heaters able to get to work very quickly and it also means its impact works the same even if you are in a very big or draughty space. Radiants also produce some convection heat from air passing over the reflector, and Goldair in particular have exploited this by designing some of their heaters with a grille on top to channel the air flow up. The main disadvantage with a radiant heater is how hot they get. The front of the heater is made of metal and can cause burns easily, and anything that is close to the front will also get heat up very quickly which is a big safety issue for children. Micathermic radiant heaters usually push out heat on both sides unlike most radiants that only heat to the front, so this type of heater can’t be placed close to a wall, whereas a more traditional radiant can be backed onto one.

Convector heaters out of these three types combine some of the advantages of an oil column with those of a radiant. Most convectors are just a simple vertical metal box that is easily folded in a factory and have vents both top and bottom. The internal element heats the air as it passes naturally through the box so hot air comes mostly out the top, although the sides will also get warm. Because of the simple design these are the cheapest of all three types, although fancy models with fans, electronic controls and other unnecessary features will push up the price.They produce full heat within seconds unlike an oil column and can be noticeably smaller. The main disadvantage is you can’t put a drying rack onto one of these, also the sides and especially the top get quite hot and so are a risk to children. Dimplex make something called a “Drytech” that appears similar to an oil column but is basically just a fancy looking convector and costs a lot more as the metal shape takes a lot more work to manufacture (the main reason for the higher cost of finned column heaters). Only advantage I can see is if I can hook a drying rack onto it. Panel heaters that some companies make are just basically a convector with the air vents in the front instead of top and bottom.

I have all three types in my house. Overall I prefer oil columns for most uses. I have one convector for any time I need heat quickly – I use it mainly to dry out the bathroom during my free hour of power every day, and it only cost $60 to buy. I am unsure what the great advantages of an oil column compared to a convector now are apart from the drying rack ability as they still get quite hot. Either type is best for a confined space as they mostly give out heat on the top, and the sides whilst hot to touch aren’t going to set anything on fire at 10 cm, so they can be placed close to a wall or other objects in a room as long as there is nothing directly above that can get toasted. I still have three radiant heaters bought for previous draughty or poorly insulated flats – still come in handy in a sleepout or shed, or for quick use in the kitchen for short period – but they spend most of their time in a cupboard now. Most portable electric heaters have hot surfaces which is a limitation when around children; the wall mountable types (panels and some convectors) could be put high enough to be out of toddlers’ reach). The air con is the only type of electric that doesn’t heat the air too much and so don’t dry it out as much as other kinds of heater.

If I was buying one today – it’d be a toss up between a convector or an oil column, depending on application. I’d expect both of these will have a long trouble free life of many years’ service. I do recommend if you are heating a room, to use a plug in timer and separate thermostat – the ones mounted in them are too close to the heat source to be effective. Both these additional devices can be hard to find – however Arlec currently have models which can be purchased from Bunnings.

Time To Reconsider Need For Facebook

On this blog and others I write, I have criticised Facebook on numerous occasions. The reason for this is simply that Facebook has become so huge and dominant that they are becoming bullies who suck vast amounts of information out of us without our consent and impose very draconian and tyrannical controls over the use of their platform. Facebook will now collect anything and everything they can get about you and I do not for one instant believe their claims that they do not sell any of the information they collect.

In the last few months numerous computer algorithms that they are using to detect abuse and hacking have tripped me up on numerous occasions and I simply do not believe any of the claims Facebook has made about these situations, like that there was suspicious activity on my account on multiple occasions recently, forcing me to change my password three times in as many weeks, or recently, it was claimed my computer was automatically scraping people’s profiles. This resulted in a block for one week that was just supposed to stop me viewing profile information, that in actuality that stopped me from being able to read a lot of messages off people’s timelines, pages or groups. This is because Facebook’s code is so full of bugs or limitations that one feature not working properly can have unexpected consequences in other features or functionality. I had this problem before which was the reason I deleted my first personal profile and created a new one a couple of years ago.

If I look on the internet to see what other people are saying, there seem to be a lot of automated profile disablings going on and the biggest issue for all of us is we have absolutely NO RIGHTS on the Facebook platform. Their approach is shoot first and ask questions later. You cannot get anything addressed properly, you cannot actually have a conversation with a support person at any time. So because of all these recent issues it is time like never before for me to look at really do I need Facebook at all. Since I have always had everything I could on other platforms like Blogger and WordPress and some websites, there isn’t really much of an issue….and now with Groups.io available for groups, essentially a new version of Yahoo Groups, there is even less need for FB. This at a time when Facebook is still creating and adding new features like Messenger Rooms. Whilst I also have considerable disdain for Google, they along with almost everyone else are far easier to work with and I would rather use their own bulk chat capability than MR.

This time around I have gone a lot further than at any other point I can name in unpublishing nearly every page that I have set up myself, unliking a number of interest pages that I follow, leaving some unimportant groups, etc. I expect to sign up to Neighbourly probably to follow neighbourhood concerns. I now only have a few groups I am looking at and only two pages active at the moment. My blogs will continue but without the automatic Facebook syndication. Whether the pages will be removed altogether I haven’t determined but it is possible that is going to happen. I already have plenty of other platforms other than Facebook and so I really don’t need FB for a lot of things overall. So we shall see how that goes.