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Monday, March 7, 2011

10,000 homes may be lost

10,000 homes may be lost

Last updated 10:16 08/03/2011
Ten thousand Christchurch homes may have to be demolished and some areas may have to be abandoned.

Prime Minister John Key said some houses were damaged beyond repair, while the rebuilding cost in some areas that had been believed to be worth saving after Canterbury's first earthquake had risen to the point where that was no longer an option.

"The liquefaction damage from the second earthquake is so great and the land damage ... the early indications are that it's so significant we can't remediate it in any time frame," he said.

Another 100,000 of Christchurch city's 140,000 houses are believed to have suffered damage on February 22, but can be repaired.

Key said geotech engineers were working hard to assess sites and should be able to provide a better indication of what streets areas cannot be rebuilt in a few weeks.

It would take more time from then to firm up specifics.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said he hoped geotechnical reports could be completed within three months.

In the meantime, he did not want to start "picking out areas" that may or may not be rebuilt.

"There will be some parts of the city  and it will only be a few parts  where a rebuild is just not the option it was after September 4. I'm doing my utmost to make it a quicker process."

Key said some people desperately wanted to move.

"Equally as I have met many people who want to move out I have also met plenty of people who have a lifetime of memories in their home and are very anxious to stay and I think we all appreciate that...

"I don't think they (residents) should jump to conclusions because no one knows that yet," Key said.

Key said Housing New Zealand and the Department of Building and Housing were looking at a range of modular housing options, but that currently there was more temporary accommodation available than people were taking up.

"There are other options for people, many people don't necessarily want to move out of their homes despite the fact that there are no basic infrastructure services there."


The grim news came as the Government confirmed it was preparing legislation for a new "centralised" body to oversee the rebuilding of Christchurch, which Key said would give the Government "stronger, more direct control" over the process.

Brownlee said any new structure would recognise that the bill to rebuild Christchurch would run into "many billions of dollars"  and the Government would have to pick up most of the tab.

"I think when the city was without its current damage, the council had a way of doing things and that was fine. They could manage that ... it was business as usual.

"But they've just been dealt - and we have as a community - just been dealt a massive whack and we've got to decide as a community do we want to take a decade to get over this or move a bit more quickly?"

The Government yesterday announced a memorial service and public holiday for Christchurch on March 18.

Meanwhile, the state of emergency has been extended.

Key confirmed it was likely to continue for some weeks.

The housing crisis is also looming as a critical issue.

"I think there will be certain areas of Christchurch  and I don't know how large and it might be limited to streets, but might be larger than this where the option is simply 'here is a cash option and you can take the cheque', or here is a subdivision and you can choose a site and maybe a building plan that's commensurate with the insurance model you have," Key said.

It had not been decided whether the Government would pay compensation over and above what householders received in insurance from the private sector and the Earthquake Commission, but Key did not rule it out.

The Government is already in negotiation with developers.

"We might be in a position, if we can secure some land through some of the subdivisions that are there ... There are a number of options in terms of [new] subdivisions in Christchurch," Key said.

Not all of the 10,000 homes potentially needing to be demolished were in ruined suburbs. However, in some areas, the land had sunk and householders would have little choice but to walk away because their homes would be uninsurable.

While the news might be bad for some, for others it might be a relief.

After the first earthquake, they were looking at a wait of up to two years before they could rebuild.

"We can do [this] much faster," Key said.

A paper prepared for Cabinet shows it could be months before many houses get a flushing toilet, with an estimated 158,000 people  or half the city's population  still without access to sewerage.

"A full assessment of damage to the sewerage network and infrastructure will not be known for several months," the paper says.

Officials are aiming to find enough portaloos and chemical toilets to supply one for every four people.

- with NZPA

- The Press

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