Christchurch red-zone demolitions to accelerate

The pace of suburban clearance is expected to accelerate next year.
The pace of suburban clearance is expected to accelerate next year.

The clearance of Christchurch's red-zoned suburbs is expected to accelerate next year as thousands of houses are approved for demolition.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) hopes to demolish nearly 8000 residential red-zone houses over the next "couple of years", with more than 1200 already deconstructed.

Cera had a target of 3000 houses cleared by June next year, said deputy general manager of operations Baden Ewart.

Demolition progress was expected to speed up in January as insurance settlements were completed, he said.

At the peak of the clearance process, about 80 houses would be demolished every week.

"There is a natural tempo of 60 to 80 a week," Ewart said.

"There are two potential limiters. One is the ability of industry to get enough people in to do all the work at once. The second element is being able to do the work and manage the movement of vehicles.

"If we had lots and lots of truck movement it creates a health and safety hazard for everybody."

The houses could be cleared in lots of about 20 to 30, rather than one at a time.

"It's our intention to do them in clusters, but properties come to us one at a time and there is a balance between waiting for homes to be released and the security issues that arise when homes are left."

Ewart said work could not yet proceed on the more than 1200 properties where Cera had settled with owners.

Cera could not start demolition until it had settled with insurance companies and the Earthquake Commission.

"Settling with the Crown means the people have sold their properties to Cera, but it doesn't mean that they are available to be cleared from the site because we still have to go through the insurance settlement process with EQC and the insurer. As yet, none of those properties have been released to my team to be demolished," he said.

"It is a processing constraint. I think they will start coming to us towards the end of the year."

Evan Smith, of the Avon Atakaro Network, said demolition progress appeared to be slow: "It doesn't seem to be progressing at all. People had expected to see a bit more clearance and demolition by now than we have seen," he said.

A few streets in Bexleywere being cleared, but it was just a start.

EQC national claims manager Gail Kettle said information was being gathered on the red-zone houses.

"There is an agreed process to enable enough information to be collected about the cost of the damage so that if there is any question about the settlement amount, it can be resolved after demolition."

The Press