Subsidence a worry for city's residents

SARAH-JANE O'CONNOR AND GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 05:00 09/01/2014
Simon Kovacs

HIGH RISK: Simon Kovacs has seen frequent flooding in the past year from his estuary-side home, and has paid for the flood risk with higher contents insurance.

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The East

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Frequent flooding and land level drops are more immediate concerns than future sea rises, coastal Christchurch homeowners say.

Simon Kovacs has lived in South New Brighton on the edge of the estuary for about a year and yesterday told The Press he had seen significant flooding in that time. The floodwater, which could reach his front lawn, was "quite intimidating".

There had been no issues securing insurance for the house, but he had been stung by higher contents premiums because of flooding risk. South New Brighton resident Brett Shelley has lived in the area for about 16 years.

His earthquake-damaged home is a rebuild, and building on the same section had been his first option "mainly because of where we are".

The new house will be hiked a metre higher than the demolished structure to ensure it complies with the Christchurch City Council's flood-management plan.

There could be a "stigma" attached to houses when it came time to sell, Shelley said.

Burwood-Pegasus Community Board member and Southshore resident Tim Sintes said the emphasis when rebuilding should be on mitigating the risk of future sea level rises and increased flooding, rather than any talk of retreating from the coast.

South Brighton resident Hugo Kirstinsson said given the option, he would not rebuild in the area and did not think others should. "The only responsible approach here is allowing only relocatable buildings."

COASTAL SUBURBS FACE FLOODS 

Insurance could be harder to get in several coastal Christchurch suburbs because of rising sea levels.

A new report by Tonkin and Taylor predicts they could be under water within 100 years.

The report, commissioned by the Christchurch City Council, predicted large chunks of Christchurch's eastern suburbs could be submerged by rising sea levels by 2115.

Areas most likely to be affected were South New Brighton, Southshore, Sumner, Brooklands, and parts of Linwood. Main roads to Akaroa could also be cut off.

The Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) yesterday warned that insurers might pull cover for parts of Christchurch if the findings were not seriously considered.

However, the region's largest insurer, IAG, said it would not refuse insurance for any green-zoned property at risk of flooding.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the timing of the report's release "could not be better" as the council prepared to review its district plan.

Homeowners should not panic as the report was dealing with events 100 years out, she said.

"Anyone who suggests that these areas are about to be inundated as a result of a report . . . would actually be irresponsible." The plan's call for thinking more about resilience mirrored her own push for more debate around that issue.

Dalziel also planned to develop a regional resilience strategy.

ICNZ spokesman Samson Samasoni said the challenge would be translating the report's recommendations into action.

"Without adaptation, there will be increased claims and higher losses leading to higher premiums or even insurance cover being withdrawn in some areas of Christchurch and throughout New Zealand," he said.

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IAG spokeswoman Renee Walker said the firm had no intention of refusing the ongoing insurance of any green-zoned property based on flood risk.

"If a green-zone property in the flood management area has existing insurance cover and is not earthquake damaged, we do not intend to cancel the cover. If a property has suffered earthquake damage, provided it is repaired or rebuilt to a consentable standard, we would not refuse insurance on the basis of flood risk." The $90,000 ratepayer-funded report said future housing and development in those areas should plan for at least a one-metre sea-level rise. At best, protection measures could minimise the impact of rising sea levels, but it warned a "retreat" from some coastal areas may be needed over time.

The report called for "focused discussion" with those affected.

Greens list MP Eugenie Sage said wide consultation was needed, but said there was no need to panic.

Burwood-Pegasus ward councillor Glenn Livingstone said consultation was crucial. "If ever we need a bottom-up approach to something, it is this . . . it has important future implications." The issues were "part of the reality" of living in a coastal community.

Christchurch East MP Poto Williams said communities should "not be afraid" of discussing the issue. "I'm just anxious we start the discussion soon."

- The Press

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