Vermin, mosquito woes soar in city

Mosquitoes, vermin and insanitary housing are growing problems in post-earthquake Christchurch.

Figures released by the Christchurch City Council's environmental health team show that the number of complaints about insanitary housing and mosquitoes more than doubled in the year to June, while the number of complaints about vermin nearly tripled.

Complaints about dust and noise have also risen.

The number of nuisance complaints - about anything from annoying cats to bad smells and hazardous substances - have jumped about 10 per cent.

The environmental health team says the rise reflects the difficult conditions people have been living in since the quakes.

In a report prepared for today's planning committee meeting, council inspections and enforcement unit manager Gary Lennan said complaints about vermin were up because of a warm autumn and quake damage to burrows and riverbanks.

The absence of people and vehicles in some areas meant there were fewer threats to vermin.

"Complaints have not been confined to any one area; a general increase across all areas of the city has been observed," Lennan said.

Maurice David, from pest-control company Rentokil, said staff were struggling to keep up with requests for help from Christchurch businesses and homeowners troubled by rodents.

"There's been a lot of ground movement and that has affected where the rodents live," he said.

For every mouse or rat people saw on their properties there were probably 10 others because they "breed like nobody's business", he said.

Canterbury medical officer of health Alistair Humphreys said the rise in complaints was worrying as vermin could carry disease, but there had been no increase in any of the notifiable diseases associated with rats and mice.

The mosquitoes found in Christchurch did not, at this stage, carry diseases and were a nuisance rather than a health risk, he said.

Health and social agencies were aware there were a significant number of homes in Christchurch that could potentially be classed as insanitary because they were damaged and "no longer fit for purpose", but if they took action in all those cases many in the city would have nowhere to live, he said.

In another sign of the changing face of Christchurch, council figures show the city has become a noisy place to live.

In the 12 months to June, the council received a record 15,122 noise complaints.

While there was a 52 per cent increase in complaints about construction noise - up from 129 in 2010-11 to 197 in 2011-12 - 93 per cent related to parties and loud music.

"It is thought that the earthquakes have influenced this by reducing the number of official venues and bars, causing more celebrations to occur at private homes," Lennan said.

"The current economic climate could also be an influence as there seems to be a trend for preloading and group entertainment being held within the home environment as opposed to commercial venues with better sound insulation."

The Press