Govt fires warning shot to owners

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 20/11/2012

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The owners of more than 100 Christchurch properties have received the first clear signal of the Government's plans to force through the acquisition of their land.

The Christchurch Central Development Unit (CCDU) yesterday sent notices to the 47 owners of 104 properties tagged for projects in the central-city blueprint, outlining its plans to take land.

Among the first to receive letters were those with land in areas earmarked for the bus interchange and eastern frame, particularly the two most southern blocks.

CCDU director Warwick Isaacs said the notices were the first step in the compulsory acquisition process, but were not intended to be adversarial.

Included were landowners still negotiating, as well as those refusing to negotiate or with whom talks had stalled.

"It's not a reflection of the people who are being difficult," Isaacs said.

"Everybody whose land we want gets one of these letters - even those we have an ongoing, happy relationship [with] and we expect the negotiations to be fruitful."

The "willing buyer, willing seller" process was progressing well, but there was a statutory time frame to be met if compulsory acquisition were needed, he said.

The letters explained the reason the land was wanted, that landowners would be compensated and suggested legal advice be sought.

No deadline for settlement had been set.

"If we get to a point where we can't conclude a willing buyer, willing seller negotiation, we will then revert to the compulsory process," Isaacs said.

"I think for some they thought that maybe the Government would not continue down the path of acquisition despite having announced that we would.

"I suppose it is a marker to say we are serious, we do want some momentum for the rebuild in the central city and this is a reflection of that."

He hoped the action would not strain negotiations, but accepted that it had upset some landowners.

The intention was to remain "friendly, approachable and fair".

"We understand that for some it will be quite an anxious time, but we do want to push on," Isaacs said.

Central-city landowner Roland Logan, a vocal opponent of compulsory acquisition, yesterday reiterated his refusal to negotiate with the CCDU.

His Madras St building, which houses Ng Gallery, was in the footprint for the new stadium.

"I'm not selling to them, and that's the end of it basically," Logan said.

"I know under the legislation they can compulsorily acquire it . . . let them try that because we've got huge public support behind us."

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Isaacs will be in The Press newsroom today to answer readers' questions about transport plans for the central city.

He last week revealed proposals to reduce inner-city speed limits to 30kmh, make Kilmore and Salisbury streets two-way, and create better pedestrian and cycling facilities.

Isaacs will be answering questions on the proposals in a Live Chat on press.co.nz from 12.30pm to 1pm today.

Email questions to amy.glass@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- The Press

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