Quake zones not govt policy decision

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 13:34 30/07/2014
Quake Outcasts
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ
BATTLE CONTINUES: Bernard Shutt is a member of the Quake Outcasts, which is having its case heard in the Supreme Court.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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The creation of zones classifying earthquake-damaged land in Christchurch was not a government policy decision, a court had heard.

The Quake Outcasts group, made up of vacant and uninsured red-zoned land owners, is having its case heard at a two-day Supreme Court hearing in Wellington.

Among its legal arguments is that zoning decisions were made outside earthquake recovery legislation - authority the Government did not have.

In his opening address on the second day, Crown lawyer David Goddard QC said the power to act was conferred to government ministers by Parliament in June 2011.

The move "reflected the perceived urgency" of decisions needing to be made.

Aftershocks were still taking place at that time, he said.

"The ground was still literally shaking under the feet of the people of Christchurch, and that's what ministers were attempting to respond to."

There was "very significant pressure" on decision-makers to provide residents with information after the June 2011 quake, Goddard said.

The announcement of the red, green and orange zones in June 2011 was an information release, not a policy decision, he said.

"What's very clear is no decision is being made about building in that [red zone] area."

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias suggested the argument about whether the zoning decision was information or policy was a "man of straw".

"The critical thing is what decisions were taken and with what authority," she said.

Goddard said with or without the zoning, expert advice had deemed the red zone unsuitable for remediation.

Identifying the more than 100,000 green-zoned properties gave landowners and insurers the "comfort" to begin repairs, he said.

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