Court hears red zone options 'bleak'

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 18:28 23/07/2013
Francis Cooke
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ
MAKING A POINT: Quake Outcasts Group lawyer Francis Cooke addresses the court.

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A decision to write off Christchurch's worst-affected land has been labelled ''de facto compulsory acquisition''.

The 68-strong Quake Outcasts group is challenging the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act and the way the Government handled the residential red-zoning through a High Court judicial review being heard over three days this week.

The group wants the declaration of the zoning and the 50 per cent buy-out offer from the Government deemed illegal.

Counsel for the group, Francis Cooke QC, today told the court that landowners had no choice but to accept the offer because the environment if they stayed would be ''virtually unliveable''.

Essential services would not be maintained, and mortgages and insurance unobtainable.

''To describe the options as bleak underestimates the situation,'' he said.

''The reality was that life in the red zone in a short period of time would be intolerable.''

Cooke argued the laws governing compulsory acquisition gave property owners protections that included:

- The right to individual consideration for compensation, unlike the ''global'' approach used in red-zoning.

- Compensation being assessed on the cost to acquire an equivalent property elsewhere.

''It's not clear-cut, but at least the homeowners would have an argument that their compensation should be based on [the] cost of relocation,'' Cooke said.

''The failure to apply these provisions has deprived the individuals of their right to seek compensation on that basis.''

Red-zoned land had ''residual value'', but its use as residential land was gone.

The delay in determining the offer uninsured landowners would receive placed additional pressure on them to accept, Cooke said.

''The reality is those receiving the discounted offer must either accept it or nominate to live in what can fairly be described as a terrible environment,'' he said.

''The circumstances surrounding the offer eliminate all the pre-existing rights and interests associated with ownership. Ownership of a piece of land is meaningless unless you can do things with it.''

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