6000 red-zone homes to be bowled

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 26/11/2011

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Demolition of more than 6000 Christchurch red-zone homes will start in February, flattening entire suburbs.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) has already taken possession of more than 1000 red-zone homes under the government buyout deal and will demolish the first "clusters" of properties early next year.

The scale of demolition is unprecedented in New Zealand. Private insurers and the Government are expected to spend about $150 million and take more than two years to clear large swathes of Christchurch and Kaiapoi.

However, authorities will have to tread carefully around remaining residents, with a Cera survey in October showing about 60 per cent of homes in the residential red zone were still occupied.

Cera residential red-zone manager Baden Ewart said authorities will try to work around occupied homes but dust, noise and vibrations would be unavoidable over the next two years.

Demolition work would be contracted out in clusters of 10 to 30 homes.

"As each property settles, we will see the emergence of clusters," he said.

The first clusters identified have been on Locksley Ave on the Avon River, Seabreeze Close in Bexley and two in Kaiapoi, although they may not be the first demolished.

It is not known what will happen to the thousands of hectares of land after the houses are cleared.

Many red-zone residents have lobbied for the land along the Avon River to be transformed into a reserve. Some have expressed concern the Government could profit from their misfortune, eventually fixing the land and building new subdivisions.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee has repeatedly refused to be drawn on the land's fate.

Ewart said properties would be initially be cleared of buildings, but fences and vegetation left in place.

A second sweep, after most people had left, would remove fences and turn greenery into mulch, which would be spread to prevent dust, although larger trees would remain.

A handful of red-zone homes have already been demolished by insurers.

The Government has yet to decide what will happen to properties not covered by its buyout deal, including vacant land, commercial properties and the uninsured.

Some red-zone homeowners in Kairaki Beach, Kaiapoi and Brooklands insist they will stay, which could put the Government and demolition crews in a tricky position in two years' time.

"We have talked about it and talked about it, but we haven't formed a view yet," Ewart said.

More than 6500 properties have been zoned red since the February 22 quake.

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The Government has offered to buy all red-zone homes for a price based on their rateable value, although homeowners can try to wrangle a better deal for their house from their insurers.

So far, 5230 red-zone property owners have received offers from the Government. Of those, 759 have selected option one – selling both their home and land to the Government – while another 1841 have selected option two – selling only their land.

A suburban "demolition" hub will be established in the safe part of the quake-damaged Marian College.

- The Press

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