Cigarettes worth $30,000 and diamonds valued at $25,000 are among reports of valuables missing from Christchurch's central city no-go red zone.
The concerns came to light after The Press coverage of disquiet about effects, office equipment and files being dumped or taken to salvage yards during demolition.
Debbie and Chris Ritchie, who owned the Cashel St Night `n' Day 24hr grocery, housed on the ground floor of the DTZ building on the corner of Cashel and Oxford Tce, want to know what happened to about $108,000 of stock, including $30,000 of cigarettes, and $300,000 of plant left in the dairy after the February 22 earthquake.
The Press has also learned about $25,000 of diamonds left in Curtis Jewellers, another City Mall shop, not far from the dairy. The diamonds were in a safe on the ground floor of the two-storey Guthrey Centre.
DTZ and the Guthrey Centre were demolished by Christchurch contractors March Construction and Shilton and Brown.
Debbie Ritchie said her shop was demolished in July, and although she was unable to enter the red zone she was able to see, from the red zone fence, a container and shopping trolley outside her shop.
A bystander told her he had seen workers using the trolley to load the container.
Worried she could lose her goods before she received any insurance money, she called a telephone number on the container to be told she could buy her goods back on Trade Me. She said she then phoned Buzz March, a director of March Construction, who told her the only thing that had gone into the shop had been a robot.
She also contacted the police but since her insurance company was telling her to "just let them take it" and feeling ground down she did not pursue the complaint.
Ritchie said she managed to get some cash out on the day of the earthquake and the rest was removed under police supervision in April.
The Ritchie's problems are compounded by the fact their insurance company has still not paid out in full on the business – they also own the closed Victoria St Night `n' Day shop – and their house being in the red zone.
Buzz March said he would have to check with his job supervisors on Tuesday to get more detail on the specific demolitions but he had nothing to hide. He denied discussing a robot with Ritchie and said 90 per cent of the food and bottles in the shop had been dumped.
People were upset and traumatised and he understood why people would be critical. But people also had to understand how badly damaged the buildings were and the bombsite that confronted workers who often risked life and limb to do their job cleaning up the city.
Items were separated, so one truck might be full of paper and another scrap metal.
He said he was inundated with calls from people telling him they could not believe he was getting criticised.
His company's rule was that workers who found items of value during demolition should hand them immediately to a supervisor.
Safes found during demolition – there had been only half a dozen – were either opened under police or security firm supervision, or, if they were attached to concrete, dumped.
In the last fortnight The Press has uncovered many concerns about demolition in the central city red zone including:
Community House, 141 Hereford St –Tenants' computers, office equipment, kitchenware and paintings turning up in Shilton and Brown's salvage warehouse in Heathcote after the tenants had been told nothing could be retrieved from the building. Valuable office files were thrown out instead of tenants being contacted.
Securities House, 221 Gloucestor St – Tenants' files and computer equipment dumped and evidence of property being removed by demolition workers.
A CERA spokeswoman said CERA regularly and actively engaged with contractors who had a clear understanding of their obligations within contracts and the law.
"We have no knowledge of the specific cases you refer to and we can't comment on whether any allegations of loss of goods within the CBD Red Zone are attributed to contractors' staff or some other person," the spokeswoman said.
"Any allegations of criminal activity are referred to the police."
What has been happening in the red zone? If you have any information please ring 027 220 4453.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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