Port Hills pair forced to wait

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 16/12/2013
Ben and Jenny Dutton
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STILL WAITING: Ben and Jenny Dutton are unsure what will become of their Mt Pleasant home, which is still green-zoned despite being deemed a 'catastrophic' life risk from possible future land movement.

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Jenny Dutton feels she is living a double life.

She and husband Ben were forced to leave their Mt Pleasant home when it was red-stickered after the February 2011 earthquake because of land damage.

Having failed in their bid to be rezoned from green to red in last week's Port Hills zoning review, the couple is stuck paying rates and mortgage costs on a property they believe is now worthless, as well as living costs for their new home in England.

It was one of 53 green-zoned properties last month identified by the Christchurch City Council as being in danger of "catastrophic" risk to life if there was future land movement.

The couple must wait until April next year to learn whether the risk is "tolerable" and suitable for rebuilding.

The property was subject to Section 124 notice - barring entry - for 22 months. The notice, which cited a failed retaining wall and mass land movement as risks, was removed in December last year without any repairs to the land.

"The retaining was still failed . . . it was still a life risk. [The council] just told us, statistically it'd be OK," Jenny Dutton said.

Her neighbours were last week re-zoned from green to red because of the risk posed by her unstable land.

"I personally would never live on [our] section with small children and someone telling me there was catastrophic risk to life, so for us it's all about who's going to buy it. The potential for getting value out [of the land] is frightening."

Dutton believed the failed retaining wall was the council's responsibility.

"The council have just flat-out said, 'It's not our responsibility, it's a private accessway' even though they own it. We're not insured for it because we don't own it, so it's not as if we could have done anything better."

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told The Press land issues caused by mass movement were "primarily a matter for Christchurch City Council, not the Government".

The criteria agreed by Cabinet for properties to be zoned red was based on life risk associated with rock roll and cliff collapse, he said.

New Zealand was "littered" with slow-moving land mass, Brownlee said.

"I've said many times before that even pre the earthquakes, it surprised me to learn that many of the survey pegs that they regularly analyse around Canterbury could move up to 50 to 70 millimetres in any given two-year period, so land moves.

"The real issue with the people who are on sections that might be caught like that is how do you put in foundations that will hold a house that will be unaffected by that general movement in the land?"

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) officials were "working closely" with the council to monitor any life risk issues associated with mass movement areas, Brownlee said.

"In the end, it's not in the interests of either Cera or the city council to leave anybody in a terminally difficult position."

The council would not comment on the Duttons' land stability issues.

"We will be communicating directly with the residents regarding the specifics of individual retaining walls to work through any questions or issues relating to ownership and repairs," a spokeswoman said.

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- The Press

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