Council's lack of action irks homeowners

Homes 'landlocked' by quake-damaged road

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 24/09/2012
Louise Litchfield
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ

TICKED OFF: Louise Litchfield's Mt Pleasant property is one of eight in Soleares Ave zoned green, but off-limits because of a damaged access lane. Residents are unable to return home because the city council has not agreed to repair the road.

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Homes in a Christchurch hill suburb street have been "landlocked" by an earthquake-damaged road that may never be repaired, residents say.

The lane connecting eight properties to Soleares Ave in Mt Pleasant became impassable because of several rockfalls after the February 2011 quake.

Damaged properties were green-zoned in December, but homeowners were unable to move back and told by insurance firms that repairs could not begin until the road was fixed.

The 100 per cent rates relief was revoked after the council's red stickers, which barred access to the houses, were removed.

The Christchurch City Council disputed responsibility for the road until Mayor Bob Parker intervened two months ago at the request of Port Hills Labour MP Ruth Dyson.

A council spokeswoman said a feasibility report was expected to be completed next month, but no guarantee could be given about the road's future.

Homeowner Louise Litchfield said residents had been told for months that repairing the road was "discretional".

"We started asking questions and were just told time and time again that it wasn't a legal road and [the council] weren't legally required to reinstate it. They didn't feel they had to at all," she said.

"They're preventing us from going home, really. I definitely want to go back, but when's that going to be?

"If anything's going to happen, it's going to take years. I'm not holding my breath. They said ‘no' for so long before we even managed to get a meeting."

She had moved three times since the quake and spent nearly $20,000 on legal bills.

Her legal advice, based on the council's land information reports, was that the lane was part of the main Soleares Ave carriageway. Rubbish had been collected and potholes patched in the past, Litchfield said.

"When we went green we were delighted, not realising the council were going to landlock us," she said.

Litchfield believed two homes could be occupied if not for the road and a third was off-limits only because of the threat posed by her house.

Her insurer could not start demolition without street access.

"Even if they did get my house down, that means my land would be at risk because it wouldn't be insured and there'd be no EQC cover. This could take years to resolve and anything could happen in that time," she said.

The stress had been "enormous".

"We have not just been waiting for an answer but fighting for our opportunity to know whether we can actually move forward or join the growing number that are having to count the cost of losing our investments and being left with nothing," she said.

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