An 'eyesore and a fire risk'

LIZ MCDONALD - PROPERTY EDITOR
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2013
Neighbours of Antonio House say it is an eyesore and want the owners to clean it up.
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

DERELICT: Neighbours of Antonio House say it is an eyesore and want the owners to clean it up.

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The owners of the old saleyards site, called one of Christchurch's biggest eyesores, are responsible for another derelict site in Upper Riccarton.

The old saleyards opposite Hagley Park have languished since the late 1990s when the Chiu family began an unsuccessful development attempt, and the overgrown land has attracted graffiti, loiterers, and a fire hazard notice.

Neighbours of Antonio House on Riccarton Rd, also owned by the Chiu family under the name Wellstar Co Ltd, say it too is an eyesore and a fire risk. They have been fighting to have the land kept tidy and fear fire could threaten units housing elderly residents next door.

A Chiu family spokesman said he thought the criticism was racially motivated.

The Upper Riccarton property became run down after the Chius shelved plans to renovate it as a motel about 10 years ago. The earthquake-damaged century-old brick mansion and adjacent buildings, previously the Holy Name Catholic seminary and the Antonio Hall student hostel, are on 1.5 hectares of overgrown land.

Neighbour Trevor Williams described the property as a "an absolute eyesore" full of 2-metre high grass and weeds. It is subject to trouble, break-ins and regular police call-outs.

"There are always people over there drinking, smoking and yahooing, and someone only needs to drop a match or broken glass to start a fire. Some of the [neighbouring] residents walk with frames and can't move very fast."

Despite a Christchurch City Council fire hazard notice before Christmas there had been no regular maintenance and local volunteers running working bees were trying to manage the site, Williams said.

"The whole thing is a mess - the owners shouldn't be allowed to get away with this. They are doing nothing and just waiting for the capital gain."

Christchurch City Council enforcement team leader Andrea Jopling said some grass cutting had been done and this had reduced the fire risk, but the work was not finished.

A Chiu family spokesman, who did not want to be named, said there was a security system on the property and he believed they were "making progress" maintaining the grounds. "We've spent a lot of money and discussed everything with the council."

The family, resident in Christchurch and Taiwan, still want to develop the land in future but have no immediate plans for it, he said.

He believed some of the criticism of the family's properties was racially motivated. The graffiti and vandalism was being done by locals and was part of a wider society problem, he said.

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