Red-zone land may be bought forcibly

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2014

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Compulsory acquisition of red-zone properties not sold to the Crown is a possibility once the future use of the written-off land is decided, Canterbury's earthquake recovery boss says.

More than 130 property owners - including owners of vacant and commercial land - have refused the Government's buyout offer.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) chief executive Roger Sutton said yesterday that 60 people had been allowed to stay in their homes penalty-free while owners arranged temporary accommodation or waited for their new homes to be completed.

The Government wanted to decide this year on the future use of red-zoned land and Sutton said this could mean some properties were compulsorily acquired.

"Compulsory acquisition may occur for some of those properties but . . . I think there are different answers for different areas," he said. "Seaside areas, places like Brooklands, it may be that there isn't any real future use and it's OK to keep infrastructure on and they can stay long-term."

This could also apply to places such as Kairaki Beach, he said.

Cera figures show Brooklands and Kairaki have the highest concentration of "stayers".

Prime Minister John Key said yesterday the Government offer "could technically" be made compulsory for those 130 to accept.

Plans for the red zone would involve community consultation and he acknowledged the difficult situation red-zone stayers were now in.

"They won't be able to get insurance there, we can't support the services there; long-term it's hard to believe it would be easy to sell the property there," Key said.

Sutton said a handful of property owners had said they did not wish to move so they would now face penalty fines.

Maintaining essential services in the red zone was costing close to $10 million a year - a cost being shared between the Christchurch City Council and the Crown, Sutton said.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said this week the Government - not the council - should pick up the ongoing cost of maintaining services and she would meet Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee today to discuss this issue.

Sutton would not be drawn on Dalziel's comments but said it was "good that [Dalziel and Brownlee] are discussing it".

Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network spokesman Brent Cairns, a Kaiapoi red-zoner, said talk of compulsory acquisition came as no surprise.

The key for landowners who had rejected a Crown offer was how much compensation they would receive if the land was acquired at market value.

Cairns' pre-quake rateable value was $350,000 but the most recent valuation for land and dwelling was $25,000. "The whole concept of the red zone has destroyed the value of our land," he said.

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