285 owners know the worst; 166 still waiting
White-zone limbo will continue for more than 160 Christchurch homeowners, while a further 1392 residents have received zoning relief.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee yesterday announced 285 Port Hills properties at risk of or destroyed by cliff collapse, rockfall or land slip had been zoned red. Relief came for the owners of 1107 properties zoned green but answers for 166 requiring further assessment would not known before August 17.
A decision on eight homes in Hillsborough's Lucas Lane was expected in October.
Brownlee said the issues were extremely complex and the extra time would ensure the "science was sound".
"I know this will be a huge disappointment to those landowners, as it is to me and the team that is working hard to find answers for everyone affected by the earthquakes, but in these instances there are varying degrees of damage to the land and we really need more time to ensure each area is zoned correctly," he said.
Homes worth a total of $205 million were scrapped in red zone areas. Of the 285, 191 were close to a cliff collapse and 94 were in danger of rockfall. No viable options to stabilise the cliffs had been identified, Brownlee said.
"We would be talking years before people got back into houses. Unlike the flat land, there is the life risk issue associated with ongoing occupation of those areas."
Homeowners would be offered two buyout options, with the cost shared between the Crown and city council.
It was "not a small amount" but would be offset by insurance.
Houses in the green zone were deemed safe and homeowners could begin discussions about repairs with insurers and the Earthquake Commission, Brownlee said.
Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson said the "long and painful" wait was finally over for some residents but it left a lot of questions for others. "For those still white-zoned, frustration will be massive. They have been given dates in the past for decisions, including today, that have not been met," she said.
Mayor Bob Parker said yesterday's decision gave many homeowners "real clarity". "It does mean probably another six to eight weeks of waiting [for white zoners] and that's not being done because bureaucrats somewhere are tangled up, gone on holiday or too busy. There is a life risk issue ... and that will take a bit more time," he said.
Council-issued section 124 notices prohibiting occupation will be removed from green-zoned houses but will remain on those zoned white and red. Parker said the council was "continuously evaluating" the notices and residents were urged to stay out of the properties.
Avoca Valley resident Gary Rochford, who for months defied his section 124 notice, said being zoned green was a "hollow victory" because many of his neighbours were still zoned white. He had framed the notice because it made his entrance "look unkempt" but was considering ceremonially burning it.
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton said community meetings for affected residents would be held next week.
WHITE TO GREEN
Marnie Kent was "very relieved" when her Ocean View Terrace property in Sumner went green.
"All along I was thinking I would go green but as Brownlee was speaking I did start getting a few fears it could go red. I've never felt unsafe here and I really didn't want to leave."
She said she had tried to remain positive throughout the whole zoning process and was glad it was over. "I tried not to stress and just be accepting that whatever was going to happen would happen, but it's nice not to have to think about it any more and I can just move on ... It has been a long process but it isn't anyone's fault."
Kent, who had lived in her home for 13 years, said she would celebrate over dinner with friends whose properties had also gone green.
WHITE TO RED
Mark Tranter was surprised to hear his Sumner home of 14 years had gone red and said the slowness of the land zoning announcement was "disgusting".
"I didn't want to go red, I wanted to go green. It's down to simple costings - how much rock fencing would cost here compared to government valuation of the house."
He said the zoning decision process had been "ridiculous".
"There is no excuse for why this should have taken so long."
Tranter felt the government valuation of his home was too low, because he had been in the process of renovating the house when the earthquake struck. "The valuation is so low I won't be able to replace this in Sumner. "I'll have to go live on TC3 land. I've been speaking to my agent and the valuation is about $80,000 short from what the finished product would have been." Tranter said he had no fears about living in his home and would have happily stayed put.
Tony Ging and his partner, Janna Fitzsimmons, were "extremely disappointed" to be kept waiting for a decision on their Avoca Valley house.
Their home has been unliveable since the quakes and the couple, along with their two young children, have been forced to move four times while waiting for the decision to be made.
"It's been such a long road to this point and there have been a lot of sleepless nights and stress," Ging said.
"We'd been extremely excited about getting some news today only to have further disappointment ... We can't get repairs done to our house or live there. We're still paying rent and our mortgage. We're stuck in limbo."
He was not confident a decision would be made on his land in August.
"I know we're going to go green, it's just when they'll tell us."
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