Last red-zoners get exemption
The slow red-zone exodus is coming to an end for Christchurch property owners accepting the Government buy-out offer - and Iddo and Vrouwkje Bongers will be among the last to leave.
The Bongers flew to Canada last month to care for their chronically ill daughter for four weeks, and were scheduled to leave their Burwood house by January 31.
However, the couple returned to welcome news last week - they can stay in their red-zoned home for four more months, without incurring penalty interest from the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera).
Cera contacted the Bongers last Wednesday to say they were being granted a grace period because of their family circumstances.
"It's always been at the back of our minds, worrying about only having two weeks to move and wondering, 'how on earth are we going to do this?'," Vrouwkje Bongers said. "That feeling has gone now."
The couple are among the last still living on Locksley Ave, and will be the last of the property owners who accepted the government settlement left in the red zone.
"It's nice and quiet out here now, there's no traffic. But all the trucks coming to pick up houses to take away, it's quite a depressing sight."
A Cera spokesman said offers have expired for 137 red-zone property owners, many of whom may choose to remain in their homes.
The spokesman said extension requests were not an option this time round.
"However, some people have had the penalty interest waived given their circumstances, but this is based on strict criteria."
One hundred and fifty-eight property owners are expected to ship out of the residential red-zone areas in Christchurch and Kaiapoi before January 31 in order to complete the settlement process.
The Bongers' situation has been compounded by several delays in the development of their new property in Sovereign Palms, Kaiapoi.
Originally, they had used Lockwood Homes to design their future house in September 2012.
But after the local franchise was sold, they were quoted $35,000 more than their initial costings because of soaring labour costs in the region.
Last year they turned to Cornerstone Eco Homes to accommodate their budget, submitting a building consent application to the Waimakariri District Council in October. The application was returned 16 days later, with a request for further information totalling 44 questions.
Council building unit manager Warren Taylor said the consent process could not continue until those technical queries had been resolved.
Cornerstone project manager Mary Ginn said she was confident the application was progressing.
"I'm expecting that by next week, we'll have things looking healthier in terms of consent," she said. "We fully expect to be sorted by May."