Council goes after central Christchurch's 'dirty 30' building owners who are 'kicking the city in the face'
The Christchurch City Council is going after the owners of the "dirty 30" derelict properties holding up the central city rebuild, says a councillor behind a new clean-up campaign.
Councillors will on Thursday receive a staff report identifying about 30 properties labelled as barriers to the city's rebuild. The report targets unoccupied, deteriorating buildings, as well as those that are unsafe or encroach on public space.
Councillor Jamie Gough, who has pushed for action on eyesore sites, said many of the "dirty 30" owners took insurance payouts, but did no work on their buildings.
"The landowners who are sitting on their hands are being disrespectful to the city. They are kicking the city in the face," he said.
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"I want them to get the message that we are coming after them. We are mandating staff to go for the jugular."
Council staff have sent the owners warning letters, offering guidance and listing enforcement options if action was not taken. As a last resort, the Crown could compulsorily acquire the sites.
Gough described the report as a "war plan" that pulled together existing powers for staff to "go out and get these absentee owners".
The move follows public impatience at the lack of progress, anger from neighbours over squatters and damage and concern the sites create a bad impression and deter investment.
The list will not be publicly released until the meeting, but is understood to feature Christ Church Cathedral and the council's own Provincial Chambers and Our City O-Tautahi buildings, plus private buildings including the Duncan's buildings on High St, Malvern House on Hereford St, The Peterborough complex on Peterborough St, Harley building on Cambridge Tce, the Victoria Mansions on Victoria St, the old State Insurance/Design and Arts College building on Worcester St and the former Spagalimi's building on Victoria St.
However, some heritage building owners sent letters were incensed at being included and say the list was wrongly targeted.
Anna Crighton of the Christchurch Heritage Trust said she was "insulted" to get a letter about the old Trinity Church and Shand's Emporium buildings they were spending $5 million restoring on the corner of Worcester and Manchester streets.
The trust could have done with the council's offer of help three years ago, she said.
"They haven't done their homework – they should have looked at each building on its merits. Heritage building owners have it tough enough without getting thoughtless letters like this."
Landowner David Collins said it was ironic his Duncan's building was listed because he had "been battling away" with the council for six years to get it repaired and strengthened.
Another co-owner of the building, Richard Peebles, said it was "a bit off" that they were waiting for consent from the council, yet "they say we are holding things up".
"But I think they're just targeting buildings and we support pushing people that aren't getting on with it."
Gough said the message was not aimed at owners working hard on restorations.
"There's no silver bullet – staff are being proactive. It's probably better to cast the net a bit wide than miss some out," he said.
"We're saying to owners, 'We know who you are and we're sick and tired of you holding the city to ransom'."
The council report outlined a three-step approach for dealing with property owners. First they would be offered help with development plans. Then council would apply pressure by charging for traffic management and cordons over public land..
Thirdly the organisation would threaten enforcement, including forced aquisition by the Crown under rebuild laws.
However, letters to owners say only that council would exercise patience, but that if talks were fruitless authorities might "use other tools in existing legislation to spur on progress".
Christchurch must "move on from its post-disaster state and present to the world the rejuvenated gateway city which people want to visit," the report said.