Friday 11 March 2011

Being an object of sympathy

If you're a city business set for failure because your servers are just behind the cordon, you're screwed. But it you need to breach the cordon to get a wedding dress, well that's something entirely different.

Stephen Franks takes on the folks standing between central city businessmen and their businesses' continued survival:
On the last day of February, during a trip to Christchurch, I raised with a Minister the plight of a friend who needed his computer server to get his business back on its feet. He was with a Christchurch business leader. The friend had new premises sorted. The 14 staff were ready. The government was saying it was going to subsidise wages, but they did not need that to forestall redundancy – they needed to know when they could restart work.

The server was in his car, shut behind a carpark gate within the cordon area.

Both men were utterly frustrated, having been bounced back and forth between Civil Defence and the Police. They'd offered to put together and pay a specialist team, including engineers and safety experts to go to premises where critical records could be retrieved. They would distract no rescue worker or other official.

No one could give them a decision or even tell them who would make such a decision.

The Minister undertook to enquire, and called back promptly, I was told I could reassure the business people that a plan would be announced that Monday evening that would cover organised access.

Yesterday the friend dropped in to our office in Wellington. He is still not operating. 10 days later his car is still where it was, ready to drive out from the carpark. He has not been allowed to take his own experts in to retrieve the material. You can read about his efforts here and here and here.

Ministers spend what will be hundreds of millions in grants to help employers keep their employees in Christchurch, yet do not have the courage or the drive to insist that ordinary people get access to their own property and capacity to operate. All are terrified of being held "accountable" should anyone permitted to do so make the wrong personal decision to take a risk in order to get their business going.
I can understand the government wanting to block folks from putting themselves in a situation where they might easily need to be rescued. But where they've arranged all the safety experts themselves?

If they just snuck through the cordon and grabbed the servers, they'd get off with a night in the cells and a warning, right? That's what happened to a woman who breached the cordon and went into a condemned building to get her wedding dress. Surely as much leniency would be given to keeping a business from bankruptcy as would be given to someone wanting to make sure her wedding day was just right.
"We got past the cordon. We managed to get all the important dresses down from the balcony, but once we were in the shop the cops [turned up]," said Mrs Phan, who is from Vietnam.

"We got arrested on Peterborough St. We got the whole thing. Handcuffs, the lot."

She and her husband spent a few hours in the police cells before being freed with a warning. Undeterred, Mrs Phan went in again about midday yesterday – this time escorted by a policeman sympathetic to her cause.
All the law firm needs is a policeman sympathetic to their cause.


  1. Yep, discretionary police powers abrogating the rule of law, which had already been suspended to emperor Jerry. A police state, that's what it's come to.

  2. I find hard to sympathize with a lawyer that doesn't care enough about his clients to have off-site backup. On top of that, he leaves his clients' information (most likely unencrypted) sitting in his car. For all purposes he—and his clients—would be royally screwed by fire, or theft or... (long list here). #idiocy should apply to him.

  3. @Luis: Contributory negligence, sure. Lots of places don't have off-site backup though. Even the University....

  4. @Eric ...and that's why I use dropbox. I have access to most of my lecture materials, so I can re-start teaching next week with little problem.

  5. Like Luis I have little sympathy for the lawyer. Doesn't take much to do offsite backups, just use one of the several storage services to store the backup tapes offsite - they'll even send the daily courier to your door to pick up/drop off tapes. Costs around $400 a month.

    Sure you've then got the hassle of finding something to restore the data onto, but at least you've got the data. However I note that this lawyer has already sourced other hardware out of Auckland.

  6. @Duncan, @Luis: Contributory negligence perhaps. But also note that lawyers would need to be extra cautious about offsite backup because if there's ever a breach, they're then in the poos for client data getting out. There's probably some extra secure backup solution for that; don't know its price or feasibility from NZ.

    I can't see why "the lawyer screwed up too" means he deserves that his files be held behind the cordon when he's more than willing to front all of the costs of ensuring safe access.