Demolition about to start in northern areas

Demolition of abandoned properties in earthquake-hit North Canterbury will begin this month.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said yesterday the levelling of red-zoned houses bought by the Government would resume this month in Christchurch's eastern suburbs and extend into Kaiapoi, Pines Beach and Kairaki.

However, the affected properties would not be made public because of security concerns.

"We've already noticed that making widespread announcements about exactly which houses are being demolished and exactly when they're likely to be demolished does tend to make them a target for criminal elements," he said.

"We want to avoid that sort of situation because a lot of these houses are in close proximity to other residential areas."

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) would instead consult directly with neighbours and police.

Brownlee said last month's demolition test run in Bexley and Dallington, where one contractor was assigned a cluster of houses to demolish, worked "very well".

"The trial confirmed the theory that working with a bundle of properties at one time works well and is cost-effective. It means that a single contractor can develop a programme and operate within a community with least disruption as possible."

About 70 per cent of the material had been recycled, which was "very high" given the nature of the demolition and damage to the properties.

"It's important to remember that what we are doing here has never been done anywhere else in the world in this way," Brownlee said.

"We are in fact writing the book on how these things should be done, post-these types of disasters."

Of the approximately 7000 red-zoned properties, owners of nearly 5000 had accepted a government offer.

About $487 million had been paid to the 2590 homeowners who had settled and moved on.

"I think it's important to note that when you've got well over half of the people in those zones already engaged in the settlement process, and about a third of them settled, things are going along at a very good rate," Brownlee said. The fate of 653 properties still zoned orange would be known by the end of the month, he said.

Christchurch's central business district red zone was unlikely to reopen by April as forecast, Brownlee confirmed.

Almost all significant CBD structures set for demolition had been contracted, with work under way on most.

Demolition of Clarendon Tower, BNZ House, Gallery Apartments, and the Crowne Plaza Hotel was "progressing very well".

Work on NZI House and Westpac Tower was under way. A contract for the demolition of the PricewaterhouseCoopers building was expected to be finalised next week.

"As the more significant demolitions progress it will become easier to reduce the cordon," Brownlee said.

"We had said we would like to have the cordon down to perhaps just being around some buildings by April. I think as more assessment has been made and more buildings have question marks hanging over them that is less and less possible."

The Press