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Friday, May 13, 2011

Cera warns: act now

Cera warns: act now

Last updated 08:57 14/05/2011
Cera is threatening to take over the demolition of central Christchurch buildings and send owners the bill.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) interim deconstruction manager Warwick Isaacs said yesterday the owners of dangerous buildings would receive a letter giving them 10 days to submit a demolition plan.

If the letters were ignored or the time frame submitted was considered too long, Cera would take over and bill the owners for the cost of demolition.

"If no-one comes back to us in 10 days, we pull it down," he said.

Letters were sent to the owners of the quake-hit Hotel Grand Chancellor in Cashel St and the Copthorne Hotel in Durham St yesterday, and Isaacs said he expected Cera would eventually take over more than half the demolitions in the central city.

It is expected 900 inner-city buildings will have to be demolished, as well as 300 suburban commercial buildings.

Isaacs said the City Mall was an example of where Cera could make a difference.

"Five different buildings, three different owners and three different insurers . . ." he said.

"We are able to take an overview of that situation and do the job."

The central business district will be split into precincts, each with its own deadline for all dangerous buildings to be demolished.

The first precinct is the City Mall, which authorities want to reopen by October 29 for Cup and Show Week, with more precincts to be announced soon.

If building owners refuse to pay for the demolition, Cera has the power to forcibly acquire the property or lodge a charge against the title, which would have to be settled when it was sold.

The Cera jobs will be assigned to private demolition contractors, chosen depending on the size of the job by an in-house panel.

Questions remain over many of the largest quake-hit buildings, such as the Grand Chancellor and Copthorne hotels, where the owners and Cera have yet to agree on the method of demolition.

Last week, frustration over slow action on some large buildings prompted Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee to contact owners and urge them to "get on with it".

Isaacs said he would always prefer things to move fast, but he was "reasonably happy" with progress.

"Mr Brownlee's wee prod last week has been not unhelpful," Isaacs said.

Journalists were yesterday taken on tour of the inner-city red zone, which remains a ghost town of leaning buildings and rubble-strewn streets.

While some diggers were at work, such as on the Canterbury Television site, many stood idle and only a handful of sections appeared to be clear.

Many demolition contractors say work has slowed in the central city, despite a backlog of jobs.

Isaacs said work would increase in the next few weeks as building owners were given notice and the focus moved from suburbs such as Lyttelton and Sydenham to the central city.

- The Press

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