Council turns down red-zone land deal

MICHAEL WRIGHT
Last updated 05:00 09/04/2012

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The Christchurch City Council (CCC) has declined an offer to buy land to relocate red-zone residents en masse because of concerns about setting a precedent for other earthquake-hit suburbs.

Councillors on Thursday rejected a developer's request to buy 20 hectares of forest park land near Spencerville for a subdivision to house dozens of red-zoned Brooklands residents.

The land is owned by the council and subject to a 30-year commercial forestry licence with Matariki Forests.

John Fowler, who developed the Seafield Lagoon subdivision in nearby Brooklands, planned to turn the land into 113 lots "exclusively" to offset the loss of that community.

The Waimakariri River mouth suburb was red-zoned by the Government last November, meaning the land was uneconomic to repair and all 417 property owners would have to leave.

Many wished to stay, or at least keep their community together.

Fowler told a council meeting in March that 70 Brooklands property owners had expressed interest in the Spencerville development.

However, a council staff report said a residential rezoning of the land raised planning and resource management issues and could invite similar requests from other communities.

"Offering up council land for subdivision for a specific part of the community ... carries the risk of setting a precedent,'' it said.

"Should this proposal proceed, then other red-zoned communities such as Bexley and Southshore might expect similar treatment from the council or Government."

The land was outside the urban limits of Canterbury's regional policy statement and would need Environment Canterbury approval to be rezoned residential.

Spencerville lies just south of Brooklands and its land was classified technical category (TC) 3 by the Government, meaning foundation repairs, house rebuilds and new subdivisions would be subject to stricter building standards.

Council staff were concerned that would raise development costs by up to $80,000 a section and which could not be recouped in sale prices.

There were also "significant geotechnical and hazard issues", the report said.

"Spencerville has sustained high levels of damage from recent earthquakes,'' it said.

''Given its two to three-metre elevation above sea level, it is at risk from flooding ... and tsunami inundation to a greater level than that expected for the rest of Christchurch."

Brooklands resident Jeanette Neal said the Spencerville proposal was popular among Brooklands residents keen to stay in the area.

"Spencerville was a really good option. If there weren't so many barriers in the way, we would have been very keen for it,'' she said.

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"It'll be really sad to leave this side of town. The beach is right there. That's why we would have liked to have stayed around Spencerville." 

Neal and a group of neighbours had bought adjoining sections in the Preston Downs development in West Melton, and she knew of another group that had done the same at the Millfield subdivision in Ohoka.

The city council had "dragged the chain" on decisions in the area, she said.

"The council makes everything so difficult and so long,'' she said.

"If we'd stuck around waiting for CCC to sort out their stuff ... it just seems like it's taking forever for things to happen."

Neal and her neighbours hoped to move in by the end of the year.

Fowler is overseas and unavailable for comment.

- The Press

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