Red-zoners may appeal to UN

Last updated 05:00 11/06/2012

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Aggrieved Christchurch red-zone residents are taking their plight to the United Nations.

They believe the Government's buyout offer breaches their human rights and the United Nations should intervene on their behalf.

Kaiapoi resident and Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network (WeCan) spokesman Brent Cairns said the idea of zoning specific areas where repairs and rebuilding were allowed was a violation of civil liberties.

"The basic freedom of choosing where and how we live, for purposes that do not impact the public's health or safety, is being thrown out of the window.

"The zoning has targeted low-cost landowners, families and elderly that are the most vulnerable and with less means to fight the system," Cairns said.

The "supposedly voluntary buyout offer" was structured in such a way that it was, in effect, compulsory and bypassed existing laws that regulated the taking of land by Government.

Cairns said the Government's threats that services would either be removed or not repaired in red-zone areas, should property owners choose to stay on in their homes, more than 7200 families were effectively being evicted.

Pleas for intervention at the local and national level had gone unheeded, so it was now time to "go international".

Cairns has developed a template letter he is urging people to use to write to the United Nations Human Rights Council, asking it to investigate.

Meanwhile, figures released to the Sunday Star-Times reveal the New Zealand Human Rights Commission (HRC) has received 87 inquiries and complaints from Canterbury in the aftermath of the quakes.

A spokeswoman said most of those complaints related to disability access issues and housing, in particular concerns about rezoning and the shortage of rental properties in Christchurch.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford said the situation in Christchurch was being closely monitored. One area of concern was whether people were being properly consulted.

"We are certainly aware... that there are real concerns about how decisions are being made about zoning," Rutherford said.

Those dissatisfied with the process could not take their concerns to the UN though until they had gone through due process here.

"You cannot run off to any UN agency unless you have exhausted all your remedies in New Zealand," Rutherford said.

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