Quake rebuilding 'a big job, a big ask'
A long wait is in store for Christchurch residents desperate for information on when their quake-hit homes will be rebuilt.
Officials overseeing the earthquake recovery process are working on a master plan, but say it could be months before it is ready.
Criticism has been growing in Canterbury at the lack of progress on rebuilding the region and at the absence of an overall recovery plan following the magnitude 7.1 earthquake on September 4 last year.
At a special summit meeting called by Christchurch mayor Bob Parker yesterday, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Commission chairman Murray Sherwin said work was about to start on drawing up such a plan.
One of the reasons for the delay was that authorities were still waiting on concept design plans from the Earthquake Commission for land remediation work needed in the worst hit areas. It was hoped to have those plans finalised by April.
"The recovery roadmaps are a priority for us," said Sherwin. Another priority was getting land remediation work started so people could start rebuilding.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told yesterday's meeting the remediation work, estimated to cost the government $140 million, was taking longer than he would like.
"But it is a big job and a big ask."
Outlining the challenges ahead, Brownlee said the authorities still had to address issues around the resource consent process, what would go on land and property information memorandums, and how they would express that land standards had been raised.
"Info sharing could be sharpened up a little bit," said Brownlee, in response to calls for more information.
Sherwin said many people didn't appreciate that behind the scenes "a hell of a lot" of planning had been done.
The commission's role was to oversee the recovery and overcome barriers, but the "heavy lifting" would fall to various Canterbury councils'.
Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt said the council had 100km of sewer pipes, 18km of water mains, 45km of roads and 161 parks that needed to be repaired, at an estimated cost of more than $500m. It also had $85m to $90m worth of repair work to do on its buildings.
The best guess from his staff was that physical ground work was unlikely to start before the end of winter and it would take around 18 months.
"The council still has things to work through, but we are going as fast as we can," said Marryatt. The council had set up a team to deal with an influx of building consent applications and were streamlining the processes for Fletchers, the contractor appointed by the EQC to oversee residential rebuilding, so it was not held up by red tape.
Other concerns raised at yesterday's meeting included heating – whether people who had lost their primary heating source because of chimney damage would get replacement heating before winter. It is estimated 9000 heat pumps urgently need installing in Christchurch, well beyond the capacity of the current workforce.
The lack of a government-funded rescue package for businesses was also raised. The government is due to announce details of a support package later this week.
EQC, which has 500 assessors on the ground, has received more than 180,000 claims.
It expects every claimant to be visited by the end of March.
It has paid out 119,525 claims, worth $739 million. It has 24,000 claims for land damage.
The 7.1 magnitude quake is most damaging natural event to hit New Zealand, estimated to be 30 times worse than any previous disaster.
670 people have been left homeless.
Up to 70,000 homes will take up to three years to repair.
Six kilometres of cordons remain in place due to public safety concerns.
- Sunday Star Times
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