Port Hills' homes face isolation

SAM SACHDEVA AND MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2012

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Port Hills residents could end up living on "islands" within the red zone if they can make their rockfall-threatened homes safe, Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says.

Parker and Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee remain at loggerheads over the city council's plans to fund rockfall protection for some red-zone homeowners.

Brownlee last week expressed shock after the council voted unanimously to consider the funding, following pleas from homeowners affected.

The city would give some owners up to half the 2007 capital value of their property to help them build and maintain rockfall protection.

Parker told The Press that only a small number of residents would be eligible for the funding because of the stringent resource consent requirements.

"It's a pretty high bar for people to cross," he said. "There's certainly a lot of work that has to be done."

Council funding for rockfall protection would not exceed its half of the cost to buy the home, with homeowners expected to foot the remaining costs.

Under an agreement reached with the Crown this year, the council committed to spend $57.9 million on buying or mitigating red-zoned homes at risk of rockfall.

Parker said the property owner would meet maintenance or replacement costs for rockfall protection, and design and engineering costs.

The red-zone designation would not stop residents from living in their houses, provided they were comfortable with any risks.

"If you're prepared to meet the standards required you would need to recognise that you'd be living, in essence, as an island inside an area where the overall zoning has measured the life risk as sufficient to be considered a red zone."

He said the owners would need to accept liability for the rockfall protection, and the resource consent would be revoked if a future owner decided they did not want to maintain the protection.

Parker was "neutral" on the possibility of Brownlee using his earthquake powers to block the council's proposal, but believed it would be a reversal of his previous statements on the matter.

Brownlee stood by his refusal to rezone rockfall-protected land and said the council's report noted that protection would not eliminate risk entirely.

"We needed to have certainty that as the land settles it would come back to a one-in-10,000 life risk," he said.

"It's going to be very, very difficult for people to convince the council that they can make it safe.

"I simply scratch my head and say, ‘What's changed from the pretty extensive discussions that we already had?' "

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Brownlee said he was "somewhat irritated" with the lack of information the council had provided about the proposal.

"I think the problem for me [is] we still don't know exactly what conditions the council is going to put on this," he said.

Council regulation and democracy services general manager Peter Mitchell said the council had already completed design standards to process consent applications.

He said planning changes to cover maintenance requirements would be provided to the council for approval early next year, while information explaining the process to residents was likely to be released next week.

- The Press

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