Red-zone homes key to rockfall work

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 11:40 08/05/2014
Lidia Belles and Andrew Abakhanf
Abbie Napier
BATTLERS: Lidia Belles and Andrew Abakhan rejected the Government's red-zone offer.

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Council's rockfall report 'whitewash' say red-zoners

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City councillors want more information before they decide whether to dismiss spending money on area-wide rockfall protection in the Port Hills.

A report presented to councillors this morning said the small number of properties that would benefit, coupled with the high costs of such area-wide mitigation work, made it an "unattractive and largely unaffordable" option.

But Andrew Abakhan, who lives in Finnsarby Pl and believes his red-zoned house could be saved if $150,000 was spent on a rock fall fence or bund, called on the council to reject the report and revisit the issue of area wide mitigation.

"Council can make a real difference in rescuing good quality housing while saving millions,'' Abakhan said.

Sumner red-zone resident, Phil Elmey, also called on the council to reject the report, saying it lacked any "sort of technical rigour''.

"Please go back and get this reviewed,'' Elmey said. "We need to revisit this with urgency. We are not going away; we are not taking the red zone offer.''

Council chief planning officer Mike Theelen stood by the report, saying that if only privately-owned properties were taken into account area wide mitigation was not a solution worth pursuing.

Theelen said the council had approached the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) to see if red-zoned properties it had acquired could be incorporated into any area-wide mitigation or whether they could be made available as sites for fences or bunds.

"The advice we have had back from Cera is the Minister has previously made his decision on not supporting area-wide mitigation and is not interested in letting Crown land be used for that purpose,'' Theelen said.

On that basis council staff were recommending against the council pursuing the issue further because if only a few privately-owned properties could be saved, the costs outweighed the benefits.

Councillors decided to defer making a decision on whether to accept the staff's recommendation until next month to give staff time to collate extra information.

Among the additional information councillors want is:

* Legal advice on the council's liability on red-zoned properties that have not been purchased by the Crown should rock fall protection measures fail.

* More details of the calculations that were used to underpin the cost benefit analysis which showed area wide mitigation was not worth pursuing.

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Mayor Lianne Dalziel said she suspected the cost benefit analysis would come out in favour of area-wide mitigation if the council could factor Cera-owned properties into the equation but the Government had made it clear it was an option that was on the table.

"The Government has said they are not interested in area-wide mitigation. Full stop. End of story."

- The Press

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