Rezoned folk 'shellshocked'

CHARLES ANDERSON AND MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 06/12/2013
Van Hattum
Dean Kozanic

DREAM TURNED NIGHTMARE: Anna and Martin Van Hattum's immaculate Heathcote home has been re-zoned red despite five years of rennovations and repairs.

Anna Van Hattum
DEAN KOZANIC/ Fairfax
RED-ZONED: Anna Van Hattum.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Prime Minister John Key said the zoning review of Port Hills land had taken "a lot longer than we would have wanted".

"It's been a very difficult time for the people with Port Hills and because of the quake outcasts court case, the ability for us to communicate to the people of Port Hills the likely zoning of their properties has taken much longer than we would have wanted," he said. 

"We hoped that through our ability now to communicate the likely outcome of their properties that they'll be able to reconcile that information and take the next steps that are the most appropriate for them."

'The dream turned into a nightmare'

When the call came through at 9pm, Anna van Hattum thought it was a joke. Or a scam.

Her home was green-zoned and always had been. It was her and her husband Martin's dream - the site of one of the first wineries in the South Island, with views down the Heathcote Valley.

They had spent five years doing it up and had signed off Earthquake Commission repairs just last week. It was their retirement plan.

The voice on the other end of the phone told her to sit down. Was she with anyone? Her home, the voice said, was now red-zoned.

''The dream turned into a nightmare,'' Anna said.

''Then you have to wake up.''

All the 74-year-old had now was questions.

''Why did EQC fix my house and give me hope that everything was beautiful?'' she said.

The three years since the earthquake had been full of stress. Her husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer and it had been a long road to recovery. After signing off she had thought that maybe those days were in the past.

''We are just thinking, how is this possible?''

Yesterday, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said a review of all zoned properties in the Port Hills had resulted in 237 going from green zone to red zone, and 33 going from red to green.

For 95 property owners, rezoning had ''come as a surprise''.

''However, the analysis would tell us that they are in that unacceptable life-risk zone,'' Brownlee said.

Nine properties originally zoned red, where the owners had settled with the Crown, have been rezoned green.

The former owners would be given the option of buying back their homes.

A further nine properties rezoned green could continue with the Crown's purchase offer if they chose, despite their properties changing to be zoned green.

''We apologise for the original decision, but you always try and do things on the basis of a high degree of caution,'' he said.

Lyttelton resident Steve Chapman was stunned to learn the red-zoned home he had already sold to the Government was now zoned green.

Being able to buy it back was cold comfort, he said.

Chapman decided not to wait for the review before accepting an offer because his partner was expecting a baby.

''We're out of pocket because of a bad decision by a government, essentially.''

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Five properties with council-issued Section 124 notices, which prohibited entry because of life-risk, have remained green.

One had damage unrelated to the earthquakes, while the other four had rocks that could be ''easily removed'', Brownlee said.

''We expect those properties to be dealt with fairly speedily,'' he said.

Despite the number of zoning changes, Brownlee did not believe the earlier geotechnical assessment work was flawed.

He was ''very conscious'' of the long and frustrating wait for some Port Hills property owners but some of the delay had been outside the Government's control.

This week the Court of Appeal released its decision on the legal challenge by the Quake Outcasts group.

It found that Cera's zoning process was lawful, but the Crown had to review any offers made to owners of uninsured properties and vacant land.

Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson said the review results were an ''inexplicable bombshell'' for many residents.

ZONING REVIEW

270 properties rezoned, 95 of which had sought to be reviewed.

237 from green to red.

33 from red to green.

5 remain green, with an S124 notice.

The zoning review was undertaken by a panel led by Dr Keith Turner, who also led the zoning review for flat land.

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) has produced specific information for the 44 different areas in the Port Hills that have zoning implications to make it easier for property owners to understand their own situation.

Each of the areas are detailed at cera.govt.nz/port-hills, with videos to explain the outcome in each of these areas.

- The Press

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