Elderly residents need help

01:16, Jun 18 2012

A petition will go to Parliament on Friday calling for help for the elderly residents of retirement villages left with large losses and in substandard rental accomodation after the Christchurch Earthquakes.

The plight of the residents of red zone retirement villages has been followed by Sunday Star-Times and The Press, but as yet the Government is turning a deaf ear to calls to include them in the Government Red Zone scheme buying out homeowners at 2007 rateable values so they can restart their lives again elsewhere.

There are less than 200 elderly residents who are shut out of the Crown's offer, though the number is dropping fast due to a post-earthquake spike in death rates. But though the residents do not qualify, the businesses that owned the villages do, and have received payouts.

The government says its hands are tied because the Crown offer is restricted to the owners of residential properties, and the residents only had ''licences to occupy'', but last week Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee announced the extension of the residential red zone offer to include residential properties that were under construction at the time of the 22 February 2011 earthquake, and a small number of not-for-profit non-residential buildings.

That extension of the scheme, say campaigners for the elderly, shows the Government could do the same for the elderly retirement home residents whose licences to occupy only required the businesses owning the village to pay them back the amount they paid to get into the village, less a ''deferred management'' fee.

The village owners would have had to pay residents back the full amount the paid for their units in the event of an insurance event like the earthquakes, but a change to the Government-mandated Retirement Villages Code in 2008 permitted them them to pay back less, and it is that gap which campaigners say is the least the Government has a moral obligation to compensate residents for.

Grey Power wants to see the Government go further and pay all the village residents the money needed to buy similar units at 2007 prices.

The petition, which is signed by 17 Grey Power board members on behalf of its more than 65,0000 members, will be handed to Labour MP Lianne Dalziel in Friday in Christchurch.

Its text reads: ''That the House of Representatives urge the Government to protect the interests of current and former residents of Christchurch retirement villages that are on land zoned red by the government, by ensuring that the residents receive an additional payment from Government to make up the difference in value between the Occupation Rights agreement and the 2007 value of their individual units as assessed by a registered valuer, as part of the government's offer to settle with the retirement village owners.''

Joe Hollander, whose parents were in a red zone retirement village, says if the Government can voluntarily extend the scheme for some, it should consider doing to for the residents, who are among the most vulnerable members of society.

''They have done it for these others, so why can't they do it for the residents,'' he asked. ''They are out of pocket through no fault of their own and have been left to fend for themselves in substandard rental accomodation to try to eke out their money.''

And Hollander said the explanation given last week for extending the scheme to cover not-for-profits claimed it was appropriate because: ''everything they could to protect their interests in the event of a disaster'', adding: ''the zoning decisions will have serious implications for them, given the disruption to their services and activities.''

''That's just what retirement village residents did, and they have had a massive impact'' said Hollander, ''so why shouldn't they be treated the same?

Grey Power's Bill Atkinson, who has been leading the campaign for the residents, said he is feeling desperate for the displaced retirement village residents, and stories of misery are keeping him up nights.

Brownlee met with Grey Power, but has so far not indicated whether it will extend the scheme again.

Both Labour and New Zealand First are now calling for the Government to make voluntary payments to the residents from the scheme, which has already paid out more than $760million.