Land price issue of 'real concern'

Planning costs may be slashed to ensure affordable land prices for residents in Christchurch's red zone, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton says.

Speaking to about 50 mostly red and orange-zone residents yesterday at a community meeting in New Brighton, Sutton said the region's land prices were a "real concern".

The authority's extraordinary powers could be used to reduce the cost of development land, he said.

A "common theme" from the meetings was that many properties in the red zone, where land cannot be rebuilt on, had a rateable value under $100,000.

"There's very little land on the market for those prices at the moment," Sutton said. "We have to move as quickly as possible to give an assurance that there is actually going to be land and house packages, or at least land packages, to begin with, at prices you feel you can afford."

Residents told yesterday's meeting that some developers had increased land prices after last week's Government announcement.

Sutton said supply-and-demand problems were expected, but cutting red-tape costs, such as planning and resource consents, was possible.

"I have quite extraordinary powers to actually bypass those planning laws, but my preference would be for the normal legal processes to work," he said.

Bexley resident Judy Cuthbertson, who attended yesterday's meeting, said she would have to move to a "shack" in the country with her payout of about $218,000. She said her other options were a caravan park or fitting out a shipping container.

"I went to the real estate agent and said, `I'm looking for one up from a dog box', because that's all I can manage," she said. "I've looked at yurts [tent-like structures], I've looked at mud-brick houses and do-it-yourself, but I can't afford any of it."

Cuthbertson, who is in her 60s, said she had planned to retire in her home and had relied on fee-paying students to help pay her mortgage.

"I can't take my $70,000 mortgage with me to the country because I've got no extra income," she said.

"I will see it as a new adventure, but my kids are devastated and I guess I'm pretty devastated."

Sutton told the meeting the Government package was "arguably pretty generous".

Cuthbertson said: "It wipes me out and it's only taken me the weekend to realise that I'm totally wiped. These people [at the meeting] will go home and work that out."

Residents also expressed concerns over the reluc-tance of insurance com-panies to pay replacement value for undamaged or partly damaged houses in the red zone.

Sutton said it was a source of "real frustration" that needed to be worked through.

The Press