Red-zoners still stuck in limbo

Cashed-up red zoners want answers over land

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 07:00 15/01/2014
Brooklands ‘‘stayers’’
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ

STAYING PUT: Clive and Janene Gould, pictured with their dog Zola, are Brooklands ‘‘stayers’’. They and other red zoners who rejected the Crown offer to purchase their land are in limbo until the Government decides the future of the red zone.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Cashed-up red zone "stayers" keen to rebuild their earthquake-damaged homes are urging authorities to fast-track decisions on the future use of written-off land.

Landowners who rejected the Crown offer to buy their properties are receiving cash settlements from insurers, but say they cannot rebuild while the threat of compulsory acquisition looms.

Brooklands stayer Stephen Bourke, one of 178 who have remained in the red zone, agreed on a cash settlement with his insurer before Christmas, but his rebuild plans are on hold because of the uncertainty.

Compulsory acquisition would be at market value, which could be as little as 10 per cent of pre-quake value for red-zoned land.

"Your house is worthless, unless you can move it. The only way around it would be to rebuild a house you knew you could relocate, but there's too many ifs and buts," he said.

The landowners' hands were tied, Bourke said.

"We're not going to spend any more money on anything until [the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority] says to us whether they're going to acquire our land or not. The reality is they don't need to."

Cera and the remaining residents should sit down and "nut it out", he said.

"How long are they going to leave us for? It's just not fair. They can't keep saying, ‘We don't know what we're going to do with you'."

Brooklands red-zoner Clive Gould, who is still negotiating with his insurer, was frustrated by the lack of certainty since he rejected the Crown offer last year.

"There's no way, even with a cash settlement, you'd start [rebuilding] until [Earthquake Recovery Minister] Gerry Brownlee writes it down and says he's not going to do a compulsory purchase on your land. That was always a question that was never answered from day one," he said.

Kairaki stayer Tim Stephenson said that in September community representatives had written to Cera asking that red-zoned land in the North Canterbury beach settlement be sold back into private ownership.

The Avon-Otakaro Network (AvON) wants to see red-zoned land in the eastern suburbs become a publicly-owned ecological and recreation reserve, linking the river precinct in the central city to the coast.

AvON co-chairman Evan Smith said in November that a long-term vision should be defined "at least within a year's time . . . if not before then".

"The worst possible outcome is for a degree of uncertainty to continue long term," he said.

Cera chief executive Roger Sutton told The Press the future use of red-zone land was "key for the future of Christchurch" and should not be rushed.

"People do want it done quickly but we do want to do something which means we actually build an asset. I do really think we can do something that's just fantastic," he said. The timeframe for deciding the red-zone's future was not yet known. "So far, the vast majority [of red zoners] have wanted to go and we're working with them to help them go. At some stage, we'll have to think about how we work with those [stayers] as well," Sutton said.

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- The Press

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