Red-zoning 'just doesn't make sense'

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 09:16 21/02/2013
Bob Gordon
Dean Kozanic

PUZZLED: Bob Gordon with a dog Star stand above the two disputed red-zone homes.

George Johnson
Dean Kozanic
BATTLING TO STAY: George Johnson and his wife wanted to retire in their Lyttelton home.

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Port Hills red-zoners are questioning why the Government is paying nearly $1 million for two properties experts believe can be protected for a fraction of the cost.

George Johnson and Bob Gordon's homes were the only occupied properties in Lyttelton's Gilmour Tce zoned red in June last year because of rockfall risk.

Neighbours were issued section 124 notices, which barred entry on safety grounds, after the February 2011 earthquake but Johnson and Gordon were not.

The pair were stunned when their properties were later written off and the others zoned green.

The Press reported in December that a Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) report found the risk to the two properties, which have a combined rateable value of $1m, could be mitigated for $100,000.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee decided against rockfall protection measures across the Port Hills, but the city councillors later voted to consider individual options.

"It begs the question, why the hell would you spend the other $900,000?" Johnson said.

"It just doesn't make sense."

He and Gordon have challenged the decision and are waiting for the result of a Cera zoning review of 141 Port Hills properties, expected this month.

Rocks above the street were tied back with cables and mesh before the June 2011 earthquake, which Cera officials found did not reduce life risk.

No rocks fell into either the section during the February quake or significant aftershocks in June and December 2011.

Vegetation on the slope has provided protection but was not considered in the zoning process.

"Both Bob's and my property have quite a few trees above our houses and let's face it if a rock the size of a car came down nothing's going to stop it, but we haven't had a pebble come into our [property]," Johnson said.

He and Gordon were considering individual protection work, but with Brownlee having ruled out green-zoning mitigated properties and the red zone deemed uninsurable, the benefits were questionable.

"It's a lovely house and I want to retire here. This has been a long-term plan," Johnson said.

Cera chief geotechnical engineer Jan Kupec told The Press this month red-zone decisions had been internationally peer-reviewed.

"Yes, there are properties in the red zone that haven't been impacted [by rocks]. The word you're looking for is 'yet'," he said.

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- The Press

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