Shock as new homes erased

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 19/11/2011
Heart-breaking: Despite getting council approval to build her new home in Seaward View, Brooklands, after the February quake, Simone and her five-year-old son Joseph now have to leave.
Don Scott

Simone and her five-year-old son Joseph now have to leave.

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Brooklands residents left on condemned land were given council approval to build even after the February earthquake.

The Christchurch suburb of Brooklands was effectively wiped off the map on Thursday with the final 417 properties placed into the red-zone, meaning their land was deemed too damaged by the quakes to economically repair.

Among the condemned properties are two sections where, despite the uncertainty surrounding the land after the September and February quakes, the Christchurch City Council approved building consents.

They were granted since the February quake and another property was given a certificate of compliance – a council sign-off – on September 4.

Just months later, these properties have all been put in the red zone, with the land deemed economically unviable to support housing.

Simone, her husband and son Joseph, 5, received building consent on April 26 – two months after the February 22 quake – and moved into their new home in Seaward View on October 12.

On Thursday – after living in her new home for a month – Simone learned the property had been zoned red. "Everything just went blank. I think I went into shock," she said.

Simone's property – like many of her neighbours' properties – is undamaged, with her home built on strong foundations cleared by a geotechnical report that deemed her land safe to build on.

After the property was zoned orange in June, she asked the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) whether she should continue to build.

"We were told that as long as we had consent we should be fine."

The family was looking at legal options but Simone said she was furious at the council for allowing them to build on what was essentially condemned land.

Simone's neighbours, Amy and Tim Lepper, received building consent for their home just six days before the February quake, but were allowed to continue to build, moving in on July 29. The Leppers were also cleared to build after a geotechnical assessment.

Their property suffered no serious damage in any quakes.

Amy Lepper said after already being cleared to build by an engineer, she had expected her property to go green.

"Our hearts are broken to be honest, that we can't be here and our kids can't live here."

Council environmental policy and approvals manager Steve McCarthy said the council had not known the land would be zoned red when the consents were granted.

"The council is legally required to issue a consent if it meets with the requirements as outlined in the Building Code," he said.

Cera chief executive Roger Sutton said the authority played no role in issuing consents, but acknowledged the land decision had left some people in an "extremely unfortunate" position.

"In the fallout of the devastating earthquakes there will be a small number of people affected in ways that could not have reasonably been countered, despite agencies involved making appropriate decisions of the time."

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- The Press

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