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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Owners' rights gone in demolition order

Owners' rights gone in demolition order

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 17/06/2011

The owners of more than 100 earthquake-hit Christchurch buildings facing urgent demolition will have no right to appeal and cannot use their own contractors.

The central Christchurch red zone is in lockdown after Monday's quakes, and The Press understands that only a few approved engineers and demolition companies are allowed to enter.

City Owners Rebuild Entity founder Ernest Duval said that in a meeting with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) on Wednesday owners were told buildings classed as "urgent" would be demolished by Cera's contractor at the owners' expense.

Cera said it would try to notify owners before their buildings were demolished, but there would be no right to appeal or opportunity to have their own engineering assessments, he said.

Duval said his company, Equity Trust Pacific Group, had 15 buildings in the red zone, including two that must be demolished. Two could now be on the "urgent list", but without access it was hard to know.

"There's probably going to be a few innocent victims [buildings], but it is very hard to know," he said.

KPI Rothschild managing director Shaun Stockman said he had had no word on the urgent demolition of his central-city buildings, one of which was in the shadow of the crippled 26-storey Hotel Grand Chancellor.

If there were buildings earmarked for urgent demolition, the public and owners should be told, he said.

Ganellen business and development manager Michael Doig said the company had submitted a plan to demolish The Press building in Cathedral Square, starting on Monday. Despite attempts to contact Cera, he did not know if this private work could proceed, and his engineers were unable to access the building. Any attempts by Cera to take over the demolition in the name of urgency would be met with "very pointy questions".

"It will be a substantially larger cost for the owner if it is a forced demolition."

Cera interim deconstruction manager Warwick Isaacs said on Tuesday that 147 buildings within the red zone had suffered more damage on Monday, and more than 100 urgently needed to be demolished. He said demolition would start within days, but Cera said yesterday that no time frame had been set.

Cera has refused to release a list of buildings facing urgent demolition, citing the privacy of building owners, and declined to say how many owners had been given urgent-demolition orders.

"We are currently beginning this process," Cera said.

Buildings already identified as suffering further damage on Monday include the Hotel Grand Chancellor, the Harcourts building and Christ Church Cathedral, but yesterday Cera would not say whether they were being earmarked for urgent demolition.

The previous process of giving building owners 10 days to produce a demolition plan had been suspended, with priority given to urgent demolitions, it said.

- The Press

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