Peering over the edge of the map

Jeff Hoare used to be a heavy sleeper. But last week, in the early morning, he lay awake as the sound of police cars screeching to a halt stirred him all to easily.

On the fringe of the red zone, near his Richmond home, police were arresting a person stealing fittings from an abandoned house.

Hoare has begun to hear all sorts of noises, even the bark of his dogs, and automatically think the worst.

On walks around what used to be his neighbourhood, he was worried about know who he would meet on the streets - especially in the dark of winter.

"Sometimes you feel a bit forgotten because we haven't moved on. We are not in the red zone."

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) this week announced a plan to demolish flat-land red zone homes more efficiently by targeting geographical areas.

While the plan appealed to Hoare, who often took it upon himself to board up houses to protect against vandals, there was still a sadness when a home was demolished.

Where he saw evidence of ransacking and theft of houses, he only saw his neighbours homes and his friends who were no longer there to see what had become of their community.

Clearing the area more quickly sounded good but there was still pain.

"It's like pulling off a plaster," he said. "Do you do it slower and more painfully or just pull it off and get it over with?"

Evan Smith, of Avon-Otakaro Network, described it as a scar that was slowly healing.

The red zone was a magnet for rubbish dumping, pests, vandalism and arson, he said.

"It's good to see the landscape changing out there. It is quite debilitating whether you are living in it or travelling through it."

Fire Service assistant area commander Greg Crawford said once the red zone was gone there would be little concern over patrolling it.

Pockets of arson had occurred but Crawford said they were not as widespread as people thought.

"But blighted properties with broken windows and graffiti are a magnet for arsonists and I guess if they're all gone those people have to find somewhere else to partake in their wishes."

Cera said the flat-land red zone demolitions would be completed by the end of next year. It had already completed 3500 and there were 3500 more to go.

Christchurch police prevention manager Inspector Richard Bruce said the move would reduce crime and "undesirables" from taking advantage of the area.

This behaviour was ongoing but police patrols would continue and he encouraged the public to report any suspicious behaviour.

The Press