Brownlee denies he ignored Cera advice over red zone

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013
Gerry Brownlee
Carys Monteath
Gerry Brownlee

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Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has rejected suggestions he ignored officials' advice in making reduced offers to uninsured red-zoners.

The Press reported yesterday the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) advised Brownlee last August that property owners in the residential red zone who did not qualify for the initial Crown compensation deal - mainly commercial properties and undeveloped land - should have the same offer extended to them.

A decision was made to offer those in limbo half the rateable value (RV) of their land and avoid the "moral hazard" of a government safety net for the uninsured.

Brownlee said yesterday that it was incorrect to suggest the Cera report gave recommendations.

"That is abundantly clear in the information released [to The Press]," he said.

"I'm entitled to have a department tell me what their initial thinking is, which they did. Then I left them to work the rest of it out and they gave me recommendations four months later."

Brownlee could not elaborate on the discussions that led to the final recommendation that an offer of 50 per cent of RV be made.

"All I know is I got a piece of paper that made those recommendations. I said, ‘Oh well, let's do some more work on it'," he said.

"This is a long time ago and I don't have a full recollection of it. . . . I'm quite content we've reached a reasonable position."

Labour earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said the "low-ball" offers would form part of a formal complaint she had made to the auditor-general about the Government's handling of the residential red zone.

"It simply isn't good enough. This is playing with people's financial situations," she said.

"I don't think there's a single New Zealander who would say the way the Government is treating these people is fair. The land couldn't be insured, so how on earth are [the Government] putting them in the same category as those people who are uninsured."

Brownlee doubted there were grounds to investigate. The auditor-general's role was to oversee public spending, he said.

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