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NZ Properties in Canterbury still unsafe over a year after last earthquake

Sean Wang - Wednesday, July 04, 2012

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A number of properties in the Canterbury area of New Zealand are still considered dangerous over a year after the last earthquake struck the region.

Of the 1,558 Port Hills properties awaiting land zoning decisions some 166 will still need further assessment before a decision can be made, and will stay zoned white, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has confirmed.

The land in question is potentially at risk of landslip and rock roll. In particular this involves eight properties in Lucas Lane where the ground is at risk of land slip and requires further work. It is expected this information will be available and assessed by the end of October.

The remaining 158 properties are at risk of rock roll, and before a final decision can be made, further discussion is needed between CERA officials, geotechnical engineers, the Port Hills Geotechnical Group and the Christchurch City Council. A decision for this group of properties will be made by 17 August 2012.

‘I know that this will be a huge disappointment to those land owners, as it is to me and the team that is working hard to find answers for everyone affected by the earthquakes. But in these instances there are varying degrees of damage to the land and we really need more time to ensure each area is zoned correctly,’ Brownlee said.

‘We are doing this out of fairness to the residents involved, so that they can be confident and secure in the knowledge that the science provides. It is in the best interests of these people that we take more time to look at the land and ensure we are getting the right answer,’ he explained.

Brownlee said that geotechnical engineers have been working up hard to assess these areas in question, but there is still too much work to be done to provide a decision at this time.

‘I know a lot of people will be feeling disheartened by this announcement, and we would give an answer if we possibly could. The issues faced in these particular areas are extremely complex and only time is going to ensure that the science is sound,’ he added.

Homes on the land that will remain zoned white may already be subject to a Section 124 notice from the Christchurch City Council, and if so this will remain in place.

The government will buy some 285 largely destroyed residential properties that have been subject to severe cliff collapse or rock roll, or are in grave danger of being so. Of these properties 191 relate to cliff collapse and 94 to rock roll.

A further 158 properties will stay in the white zone but may go red, depending on further work required to determine the possibility of life threatening rock roll in future seismic events. A decision on these properties is expected in around six weeks.

The cost of buying the 285 red zoned properties will be shared equally by the Crown and the Christchurch City Council and is expected to be around $205 million, taking into account purchase price and transaction costs.

Meanwhile, 1,107 residential properties have been rezoned from white to green, meaning the houses are safe for residential occupation and their owners can begin discussions with their private insurers and the Earthquake Commission (EQC) about repairs.