Christchurch earthquake: Huge rent rises may force Govt to step in

By Claire Trevett

Annette King. Photo / APN
Annette King. Photo / APN

The Mayor of Christchurch has accused landlords of "looting by another name" after reports emerged of rental increases of up to 150 per cent.

And Labour deputy leader Annette King has floated the idea of a cap on rent rises in Christchurch after reports that many landlords are hiking rentals because of the surge in demand.

Mayor Bob Parker said his council could do little about this, although the Government could impose some form of control.

In Parliament yesterday, Ms King said the United States government had capped rent increases at 10 per cent following Hurricane Katrina.

She asked Finance Minister Bill English if a similar proposal was being considered in Christchurch "to prevent greedy landlords from profiting from other people's misery".

Mr English did not rule out the Government taking action if the problem became widespread, saying it would share Mayor Parker's concern if there was "significant profiteering".

Any action would depend on advice from Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

Ms King said rent increases were only one of the longer-term issues that were now becoming apparent.

Residential rents were going up and the number of businesses that could not stay in their damaged offices meant there was a shortage of commercial premises near the CBD.

"So there are reports of business premises' rents suddenly going sky-high. It may be something [the Government] has to do if rents get beyond the abilities of people to stay there."

Parliament yesterday also passed legislation providing for a public holiday in Canterbury next Friday - the day a commemoration service will be held in Hagley Park.

Prince William will attend and Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson said tens of thousands of people were also expected. Although the legislation was supported by all parties, some Labour MPs raised concerns the ceremony was being held before the names of many of the victims were released.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard said he believed a service should be held after more time had passed so people knew more about those they were mourning.

"I know of a close friend who has died but his name has not been released."

Police Minister Judith Collins said some of those who died might never be officially named because of the difficulties in identifying the remains.

"This memorial day is about those who have died but it is also about all the survivors in Canterbury who have to live with the fact they have lost loved ones or friends, or had their businesses and everything else destroyed around them. All they have left is their lives."

The Manufacturers and Exporters Association said it was too soon.

"Many of the quake victims have not yet been identified, businesses are still trying to restore their production, and schools and other services are not yet fully up and running," said association chief executive John Walley.

"It is too early for this sort of discretionary disruption."

- additional reporting: NZPA

- NZ Herald

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