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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Doubt over who will pay to fix Christchurch's hills

Doubt over who will pay to fix Christchurch's hills

Last updated 05:00 16/03/2011
Earthquake authorities are in discussions over who will pay for hazards on Christchurch's hills to be fixed when the state of emergency ends.

Rock falls and landslides are a constant threat as the city endures aftershocks and increasing winter rainfall will likely loosen already unstable ground.

There is uncertainty over cases where land would be costly to make safe or repair.

A Civil Defence spokeswoman said the hazard-management process was dually controlled by the Christchurch City Council and the Earthquake Commission (EQC), with the EQC footing the bill while a national state of emergency was in place.

"They're mainly concerned with threat to life. They're not so concerned about private property right now."

Geotechnical engineers have been inspecting the Port Hills and identifying hazards that need addressing since the quake.

Co-ordinator of the hill hazards response group Mark Yetton said the focus now was on those that posed an immediate risk.

"Traditionally Civil Defence are interested in life and limb and safety to road users and pedestrians using footpaths," he said.

"Then there is the issue of property – who insures that and who would pay to protect that? The decision is who is ultimately going to pick up the tab?"

Yetton said discussions were not causing geotechnical work to be delayed.

"We're proceeding on the basis that [the money] will come from somewhere."

EQC spokesman Gordon Irving said the standard policy of the commission covering land repairs may not apply.

"It usually is the role of the EQC to repair things like landslides with retaining walls. But we've got to look into that with the cost of land issues.

"If it costs $400,000 to fix some land but the section is only worth $200,000, can you fix it? That's the issue." Irving said the commission was discussing the matter with relevant parties.

Christchurch City Council principal adviser, natural resources, Peter Kingsbury said it would be up to the EQC and private insurers to decide who paid if local and central Government allowed repairs to go ahead.

"The cost of carrying out `permanent' rock and soil mass/material stabilisation can be very high, and may not be economically feasible for what the works protect."

AMI chief customer officer Richard Hutton said he believed any natural hazard that posed a risk to a house following a disaster fell under the EQC's remit.

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