Brownlee opposes bait to quit city

JOELLE DALLY AND GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 01/07/2013

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Gerry Brownlee says he does not want people being encouraged to leave Christchurch, admitting his "surprise" that a Government entity was doing exactly that.

Housing New Zealand Corporation (HNZC) has been offering people on the Christchurch wait-list incentives such as free rent and fuel vouchers to leave.

It aims to contact all 360 applicants waiting for a home to see if they will consider towns like Blenheim, Invercargill, Timaru, Dunedin, Mosgiel or Gore instead.

Brownlee, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Minister, said he only learned of the scheme when reading the Sunday Star Times story yesterday.

Giving people incentives to leave needed to be part of a "well-managed repair programme", and he would "certainly be finding out more" today, he said.

Housing NZ South Island regional manager Symon Leggett said the idea was to ease demand for Christchurch homes among those who could not leave the city.

People on the B-priority list could be waiting months, if not indefinitely, for a Christchurch house. Any assistance provided to move elsewhere depended on individual circumstances.

"At the end of the day, the biggest incentive is a warm, dry house immediately, as opposed to waiting," Leggett said.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker thought it was a "very good idea".

"It might seem a little odd . . . but it's innovative and I imagine there will be people who are prepared to relocate."

However, mayoral hopeful and Labour's earthquake recovery spokeswoman Lianne Dalziel said it showed "an admission of defeat" by the Government.

"Of course it's sensible to make the offer, but it does represent a failure to rebuild social housing for people who want to stay," Dalziel said.

"I thought we wanted to encourage people to stay in Christchurch and be part of the rebuild. It's a disappointment it's got to this."

Kennard Real Estate director Colin Lock said moves by those waiting for Housing NZ homes could "take some pressure off" the private rental market. But living was not just "about houses", he said.

Helen Gatonyi, of the Tenants' Protection Association, said while some people could benefit from a shift, it was not a good long-term solution. "Many people who need housing need their support systems equally," she said.

5304 Christchurch Housing New Zealand homes currently tenanted

5000 homes to be repaired over next few years

357 households on Christchurch A and B priority waiting lists

350 green-zoned homes uninhabitable

206 homes in Christchurch and Kaiapoi residential red zones

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20 Christchurch wait list households shifted elsewhere since mid-April.

- The Press

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