Port Hills homeowners still in limbo

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 12:48 06/06/2013

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The Christchurch City Council admits it is in an ''invidious position'' on the Port Hills, with some residents unable to return to their homes because of the risk of rockfall, but with no offer from the Government to buy their properties.

Appearing before a parliamentary select committee, Peter Mitchell, the council's general manager of regulation, said  there were 379 properties on the Port Hills that were the subject of section 124 notices.

Under section 124 of the Building Act, prohibited-access notices are issued to dangerous properties, mainly to ensure public safety.

This means the affected Port Hills residents cannot occupy their properties, in most cases because of the rockfall risk, with no certainty when the notice will be lifted, if ever.

However, 51 of the properties were not classed as red zone, where owners will receive an offer from the Government to buy their houses.

''There needs to be an answer for those residents in those houses from that point of view, if they're not getting an offer from the Government,'' Mitchell told the regulations review committee.

''It leaves us in an invidious position because from my point of view, I have advice ... saying the 124 needs to stay, and yet there's no way forward for the residents.''

Mitchell was ''waiting with interest'' for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority's zoning review, which is due out this month, but which was originally due late last year.

This could reclassify some of the affected properties from green zone to red zone.

Council geotechnical adviser Don MacFarlane said that while the number of quakes was reducing, the risk continued.

''Sure, the probability of it is decreasing, but we have no certainty about when another earthquake might occur; absolutely no idea,'' he said.

''The models are one thing, the reality could be very, very different.''

There were more than 9000 ''mapped'' boulders on land owned by the council or the Department of Conservation, but there was no programme to reduce the risk of all of these causing damage.

The council had indicated it was willing to talk with any affected Port Hills residents about ''taking practical steps'' to reduce the risks posed to their properties by boulders.

Only eight residents had taken up the offer.

''To us, it has been a surprisingly small number who have pursued that option,'' MacFarlane said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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