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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Christchurch edgy over talk of earthquake exodus

Christchurch edgy over talk of earthquake exodus

Last updated 05:00 09/03/2011
Christchurch residents are on edge as the Government presses on with suggestions for the "large-scale movement" of homes.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee yesterday repeated there may be no future for possibly 10,000 homes.

"I know it's distressing, believe me, but in the end, people do have to start to come to terms with those sort of suggestions," Brownlee said. "We think the prospect of some large-scale movement is quite real ... that is where we could end up."

However, Civil Defence had, so far, only identified about 2000 homes for demolition.

The Government is weighing up the cost of shoring up land against shifting people to new areas.

Brownlee said there was "plenty of room" for new communities around the city.

He repeated that the Government would protect the equity in people's homes.

However, the bricks and mortar look set to disappear in many cases.

"There will be people right now who are living in houses that quite clearly are not going to stand for the duration. They are so badly damaged they will need to come down," he said.

The Government would press on with land remediation in Kaiapoi, which was badly hit in last September's quake, but Christchurch work was on hold.

There appears to be a question mark over further remediation work in the city because the cost of improving land to satisfy safety and insurance standards may be too high.

Individual suburbs or smaller areas have not been singled out for a potential exodus.

However, Brownlee said it was "self-evident" the damage was concentrated in some places.

"As nerve-racking as it is, people who are in broken-up homes will have a fair idea that it could be them," he said.

Brownlee said it would be irresponsible to pick out areas, but it was right to signal "in general" that people might have to move to protect their home equity.

Prime Minister John Key said the Government would not leave Christchurch residents "high and dry".

"Initially, what was happening was that the Government was footing the bill for essentially fixing up the land to a condition where we believed it could be rebuilt [on] and then reinsurable," he said. "If we don't have to incur those costs, it gives us some options, but we're asking Treasury for some advice on that."

Christchurch Central MP Brendon Burns said suggestions of a large-scale movement of suburbs were distressing residents.

"The Prime Minister put the information out there [on Monday] without any thought through about the impact of the comments," Burns said.

"We have to tread very carefully at the moment. ..."

There would be many homes in some suburbs that were hard hit, but there were many other homes across the city that were affected too.

Civil Defence yesterday said it had identified 2190 homes for demolition. Its projections did not suggest that figure would rise to 10,000.

Brownlee said the 10,000 figure was supplied by the Earthquake Commission in the days after the quake. It was based on aerial observations of land damage, and what was needed after the September 4 quake.

In Parliament, Key admitted he had not received any official advice and had not consulted with Civil Defence national controller John Hamilton over the release of the 10,000 figure.

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