Rebuild could make Christchurch better withstand quakes - Key

A house on Woodham road in Avonside, Christchurch. Photo / Greg Bowker
A house on Woodham road in Avonside, Christchurch. Photo / Greg Bowker

Christchurch can be rebuilt in a way that buildings would withstand very strong earthquakes in the future, Prime Minister John Key says.

Cabinet will today discuss a package to assist with the immediate recovery from last Tuesday's earthquake, such as an extension of the $350 subsidy a week per worker put in place after the September quake. That subsidy was only for workplaces with 20 or less employees but Mr Key said today's package would be broader.

The Government would help those companies in the central business district (CBD), closed by the quake but able to open temporarily in other locations.

"We need to go through lots of different analysis of what is actually required," he told TV One's Breakfast programme.

The Government had had no advice on suggestions the CBD be moved altogether.

"That would be quite a big call to do that," Mr Key said.

"If you look at the CBD it's quite clear that a lot of buildings are going to have to come out of the CBD so where a building is condemned it will need to be taken down."

Remarkably some of the more modern, well-constructed buildings in the CBD were unscathed, he said.

For example the completely intact Inland Revenue building across from the rubble of Canterbury TV.

"That gives you a flavour, a window into what a modern day Christchurch is going to be like. It will be buildings built to that standard to withstand very strong earthquakes."

The Government was also focussed on helping residents and Housing Minister Phil Heatley yesterday announced a rent break for about 2500 state house tenants. Temporary housing options were also being looked at.

Mr Key estimated this quake would cost about $13 billion, on top of the $6b-$7b of the first quake. The Earthquake Commission picked up about $4b, $5b would come from reinsurance and $5b-$6b through private insurance.

That left a shortfall of about $5b.

On top of that the country would have to deal with the economic ramifications of the quake.

"When you see the May budget, and we haven't had any advice on this yet... it's going to have a substantial impact in two areas.

"One, the revenue will be reduced, we get revenue from tax, economic activity is down, less revenue coming in. The second thing is, and this is the immediate sort of outgoing, the sort of package we are announcing today and other packages they will run into the hundreds of millions of dollars over time. That costs us money that was unexpected."

So far 147 people have been formally identified and more than 50 remain unaccounted for after last Tuesday's earthquake and police yesterday said the death toll was expected to pass 200.

The first funeral for a victim of the quake will be held today. One of the youngest victims, five-month-old Baxtor Gowland, will be farewelled at a service in Upper Riccarton.

Police were today expected to name two more people who were killed in the quake.

A magnitude 4.1 aftershock just before 8am led to the evacuation of residents on Clifton Hill in Sumner.

Residents said the tremor moved the hill and dislodged more rocks.

Global fund-raiser

At the weekend Mr Key launched a global fund-raiser the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.

"This (the earthquake) is of world-wide proportions and affects a world-wide audience," Mr Key said today.

Donations can be made at www.christchurchearthquakeappeal.govt.nz

Telecom, Vodafone and 2Degrees mobile customers can text chch to 933 to make an automatic $3 donation, and donations can also be made through internet banking or at any branch of New Zealand's retail banks.

- NZPA

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