Public to have say on red-zone future

GEORGINA STYLIANOU AND LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 11:42 31/01/2014
Lianne Dalziel
Daniel Tobin
BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE: Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel says maintaining red-zone services is a extra financial burden for the council.
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Compulsory acquisition of red-zone stayers is possible once the future use of the city's written-off land is decided, Canterbury's earthquake boss says.

Today marks the deadline for remaining homeowners who have accepted the Crown buyout offer to leave their properties but the future for red-zone "stayers" remains unclear.

A total of 137 property owners have refused the Government's buyout offer and will remain in the red zone. This figure includes vacant landowners and about 100 home-owners who plan to stay.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) chief executive Roger Sutton this morning said 60 people had been allowed to stay in their homes penalty-free while owners arranged temporary accommodation or waited for their new homes to be completed.

The Government this year wanted to decide on the future use of red-zoned land in the city and Sutton said this could mean some properties were compulsorily acquired.

''Compulsory acquisition may occur for some of those properties but . . . I think there are different answers for different areas,'' he said.

''Seaside areas, places like Brooklands, it may be that there isn't any real future use and it's OK to keep infrastructure on and they can stay long-term.''

This could also apply to places like Kairaki Beach, he said.

Cera figures show Brooklands and Kairaki have the highest concentration of stayers.

''But we will need to work with the wider community . . . to decide what happens in the long-term.''

A handful of property owners had said ''they can't be bothered and don't want to move'' so they would now face steep penalty fines.

For example, if Cera had acquired land for $100,000, owners would pay 10 per cent of that price every year, or $200 a week, Sutton said.

''But if we've bought the land and their property then it could be a lot more than that.''

Fewer than five people had decided to stay and pay the fee, he said.

The details have been released following a meeting this morning between Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and mayor Lianne Dalziel.

Sutton said Cera had "always made it clear that it was possible services could go at some point" with future uses of the red zone "not compatible to people living there".

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PUBLIC TO HAVE A SAY IN RED ZONE FUTURE

This year's priority would be deciding on the future of the red zone and public consultation - similar to the Christchurch City Council's Share An Idea - was being considered, Sutton said.

A formal consultation process on the future use of the residential red zone would happen this year.

Some of the ideas that had already been mooted included rowing courses, swimming lakes and building a man- made hill "so people can run up to the top and watch the sun set", Sutton said.

About 50 per cent of empty Crown-owned properties in the red zone had been demolished and Sutton hoped all land would be cleared by the end of the year.

As of yesterday, 51 people who have accepted a Government buyout offer remained in the red zone and Cera had agreed to let them stay temporarily.

Those who accepted an offer but remain in their homes without Cera's permission will be charged monthly penalty fees.

Sutton said most of the 51 homeowners had been allowed to stay without penalty because they were building new homes that were a few weeks away from completion.

"There's a small number who are trying to buy a house now with their money and that's been taking some time."

Others had been given extensions for personal reasons - such as an elderly man with cancer who needed some time to "sort out his issues" and a man who was struggling to relocate his Retreat Rd home to another suburb.

Sutton said the final deadline for red-zoned homeowners marked the end of "a huge project".

"This has been of massive significance . . . we've moved the equivalent of the population of Ashburton," he said.

"Clearly there has been some casualties but we have done what we can."

CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT TO PICK UP $1M A MONTH TAB

The Government should pick up the $1 million-a-month tab for maintaining essential services in the red zone, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel says.

Her position conflicts with the Government's view that the council is responsible for providing services in written-off areas.

Dalziel yesterday told The Press the decision to date to not compulsorily acquire properties within the red zone had left the council between a "rock and a hard place".

The council was legally obliged to provide services to properties it was collecting rates from but did not need the extra financial burden, she said.

Cera this month estimated the cost of keeping services running was $500 a week a house, with the total upkeep being just under $1m a month.

Sutton said yesterday it was not viable to keep services going in the long term.

A council spokeswoman said the council and the Government had spent an additional $9.7m on roading, water, stormwater and wastewater assets in the red zone in the year to June 2013. The Government meets 60 per cent of the costs.

Dalziel said if the council withdrew services it could be legally challenged by property owners because they were not lawfully required to leave their homes.

"The cost of [maintaining services] is being transferred to the rest of the ratepayers but it seems to me that given it's a government decision to go down this track, the cost really ought to be borne by the taxpayer so there is a wider pool of people who are meeting [it]," she said.

Dalziel had not yet raised her concerns with the Government as she had only recently been briefed on the costs. "But it is a discussion I do intend having."

LEAVING THE ZONE

Today marks the final deadline for flat-land red-zoned residents to leave their homes.

About 100 residential homeowners have refused the Government's buyout offer.

The future for red-zone "stayers" is unclear. Decisions about the future of red-zoned land will be made this year.

People to have rejected the offer include 34 homeowners in Brooklands, 20 in Kairaki, 13 in Bexley, 10 in Dallington and five in Avonside. Maintaining services in the red zone could cost up to $1 million a month.

- The Press

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