Charity to rebuild quake victims' homes

18:50, Sep 23 2010

Christian aid group Habitat for Humanity plans to recruit an army of tradesmen to rebuild the homes of uninsured Christchurch earthquake victims.

The nonprofit group, which uses volunteer labour to build houses for families in need, hopes to assemble a workforce of more than 600 to complete the job, which could take up to 18 months.

Habitat chief executive Pete North said yesterday a national appeal asking tradesmen to volunteer "time and skill" for two to four weeks would begin next week.

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Funding from the Canterbury Earthquake Appeal or the Government would be needed, he said.

The group has built 364 homes in New Zealand since 1993, and last year helped construction efforts in Samoa after the tsunami.

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"We sent 600 volunteers to rebuild Samoa, so we're hoping for a good response around New Zealand," North said.

"I'm hoping we'll have at least 300 tradespeople, matched by 300 handymen.

"It would be nice to think there's that many people around New Zealand that would like to help."

About 5000 uninsured homes were damaged, but North said it was too early to determine exact numbers.

Priority would be given to low socio-economic families, the elderly and those with disabilities.

"We're here to help the needy, and particularly the needy who are vulnerable through no insurance," he said.

The group has been consulting with the Christchurch City Council, World Vision, Red Cross, Salvation Army and local churches.

"We don't want to get involved in interviewing families," he said.

"We need somebody else to put their hand up to identify who the uninsured are, because we're builders."

At least half the volunteers would need to be qualified tradesmen to maintain building and safety standards, he said.

"We've got lots of volunteers already who have said `I just want to help', but we're just going to have to decline them because we have to have people who know what they're doing to make sure the work is done correctly."

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said Habitat's offer was "inspirational".

"One of the big concerns I've had for some time is that around the city there are a number of people who don't have insurance for a variety of reasons," he said.

"[Habitat] offered basically free labour if we were able to find materials, and I thought that was a brilliant idea."

Funding details were still being worked through, Parker said.

Housing Minister Phil Heatley said yesterday he was not aware of Habitat's plans.

"Any such proposal will be considered within the context of all other options for rebuilding Canterbury," he said.

The Press