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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Brownlee off the hook - but it may not last long

Brownlee off the hook - but it may not last long

Last updated 05:00 24/06/2011
OPINION: Gerry Brownlee has done what he had to do. Finally. In the process he has spawned a new conversation starter in Canterbury: "What is your house zoned?" is set to replace "Where were you in that last shake?"

After months of purgatory, 5100 Canterbury households now know they can move – and move on, their houses having been classed as "red zone" residences.

Mr Brownlee admitted yesterday that, since the June 13 quakes, the process had been "sped up" – insiders suggest at the insistence of Prime Minister John Key, who could see the political danger building.

The latest big quake, Mr Brownlee conceded, "had a significant effect on the psychology of the greater Christchurch area". Enough became more than enough.

Now, homeowners who suspected they were on Mr Brownlee's "blindingly obvious" list know the Government agrees with them. They live mainly in the loop of Horseshoe Lake, Bexley, some Burwood subdivisions that were once part of the Travis swamp and alongside the Avon River, downstream of its intersection with Linwood Ave; classic low and middle-income Labour heartland.

The package shows a canny eye was on the politics as well as the humanity of the situation. Potential fish-hooks have been blunted.

Home improvements that have increased a property's value will be taken into account. Otherwise, the baseline pre-September 2010 value will be used to set a price: a fairer and quicker way than wrestling over individual valuations.

Those who take issue with the offer, and see an opportunity to make greater gains by pursuing their options with insurers, are free to try. Mr Brownlee even stopped short of saying he would compel those in the red zones to leave, hoping logic will do the job for him.

The decision to rush the package out has taken the political heat out of the issue for now. But, as Mr Brownlee always knew, the focus will now move to the 9000 residents in the limbo land of the orange zone.

Mr Brownlee will get grudging short-term thanks for yesterday's decision. But the lingering legacy of bitterness will only worsen if the thousands still in no-man's land do not get certainty soon.

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