800 queries as 200 lots go on sale

The first sections are about to go on sale in a giant Christchurch subdivision where hundreds of earthquake-affected Cantabrians are looking to build homes.

Two hundred sections at the Prestons subdivision will be released for pre-sale on Saturday. There have already been 800 inquiries from would-be buyers, even though they will have to wait to build until titles are ready in December next year.

The 203-hectare development in the city's northeast will have 2500 sections and be a suburb in itself - larger than Hagley Park and with more residents than the Pegasus and Northwood settlements combined.

David Schwartfeger, chairman of developer Prestons Road Ltd, said many would-be buyers were quake affected, either red-zoned or with substantial damage to their houses.

The first sections are priced between $180,000 and $245,000 and measure 450 to 650 square metres. Another 200 could be released after Christmas.

"Groundworks are being done six days a week. The guys are working as fast as humanly possible," Schwartfeger said.

Originally, the development company - a joint venture between Ngai Tahu, supermarket owner Foodstuffs and Singapore-owned developer CDL New Zealand - hoped to have homes on the site by 2011 and sell 100 sections a year for 20 years.

However, it faced a fight that ended only when Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee used emergency powers to approve the project last year.

The subdivision is on former market gardening and grazing land on either side of Prestons Rd and is bordered by Mairehau and Lower Styx roads.

Ground testing since the quakes has revealed the land is mostly technical category 1, with some TC2 patches that the company will strengthen.

The company will also remove layers of peat found by the tests but says there has been no liquefaction.

Schwartfeger said plans were "well advanced" for the subdivision's 700-pupil school and a supermarket to be built on an existing petrol station site on the corner of Marshland and Prestons roads.

The project will also involve upgrading Prestons Rd and several intersections.

The past few months have seen heavy demand for land in and around Christchurch, especially in the Selwyn and Waimakariri districts, and several subdivisions, including the 1050-section Faringdon at Rolleston and the 1100-section Silverstream at Kaiapoi, have fast-tracked sections to meet demand.

Homes are being approved at the rate of about 330 a month in the region, the highest level for five years. Many are being built as fixed-price house-and-land packages that developers say have become increasingly popular since the quakes.

Buyers are a mixture of red-zoners, existing homeowners selling to red-zoners and rebuilding themselves, and new arrivals to Canterbury.

The Press