Cabinet meet over Christchurch land decision

By Hayden Donnell

Treena and Ella Duff, near their Brookhaven home which was badly affected by liquifaction. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Treena and Ella Duff, near their Brookhaven home which was badly affected by liquifaction. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Cabinet Ministers will meet Prime Minister John Key this afternoon or tonight, with decisions possible as to which Christchurch areas will be abandoned.

Pressure has been building on the Government as residents in suburbs ruined by a series of Christchurch earthquakes plead for answers, so they can move on with their lives.

Labour MP for Christchurch East Lianne Dalziel has suggested announcements may take place on Thursday, as she had learned of a planned Government newspaper advertising and massive mail out to start that day.

Mr Key returns to New Zealand from Australia this afternoon, then flies to India on Friday.

Questioned about the possibility of a Thursday announcement acting Prime Minister Bill English said he could not confirm that: "I couldn't say for sure."

A large amount of work had been going into a decision, he said.

"Ministers will meet with the Prime Minister when he's back in the country and there will be some discussion about when an announcement can be made."

The meeting would either be this afternoon or evening. Mr Key is back about 2pm.

The Government understood residents were in a difficult position, Mr English said.

"The issues here are just the complexity of getting the reinsurers, who are all offshore, lined up with the insurance companies, with the community need for certainty, and doing that in a way that's fair to people of Christchurch, particularly those in very difficult circumstances and also making sure that in the future insurance isn't a complicated issue for New Zealand."

Mr English said efforts to gather data since last Monday's severe quake had been intense and the Government needed to know the risks behind any decisions made.

"We understand fully the frustration that there is for people who right across Christchurch, who've been knocked around, particularly by the last quake, so we are going to do everything we can.

"Of course we can't provide total certainty, but equally we don't want to create more uncertainty with half baked decisions."

Mr English said that the Christchurch was dealing with a disaster that on a proportional basis was worse than Japan's quake and tsunami.

"We are all dealing with quite new circumstances that weren't always anticipated by the black letter of either the legislation or the insurance contracts."

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee at the weekend disputed that residents were in limbo saying some things were "blindingly obvious".

Mr Brownlee said there was a growing perception whole suburbs would have to be demolished, but that it was more likely to be streets and houses that were written off.

Labour leader Phil Goff said it was time for the Government to give a clear signal, given Mr Brownlee's remark that it was obvious some areas could not be remediated.

"People are in limbo at the moment, they want certainty in their lives. They've been waiting a long time. I think it's time for the Government to get on and give them all of the information that they've got," he said.

Mr Goff said MPs had repeatedly been invited to briefing meetings that were then deferred. One was scheduled for Thursday.

"Hopefully this meeting will go ahead on Thursday and it will be an announcement that will give some certainty to people in Christchurch."

Mr Key yesterday defended the time it has taken to make the announcement at a joint press conference with his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard.

But Ms Dalziel said she is speaking out because she believes people need to be part of any decision on their future.

Cantabrians are struggling heal emotionally while they wait for information on whether homes will be bulldozed, she said.

"Information is currency. It's like gold. Withholding information is like saying there is no pay day this week. People have to be informed in the process or their recovery is put at risk.

"The not knowing actually is actually the hardest thing. It's the feeling of hopelessness and lack of control.

"If they're using the expression 'we're all in this together', why don't they mean it."

CERA chief executive Roger Sutton earlier said the agency had put in a "tremendous" amount of work to finalise land assessments since last Monday's aftershocks.

"While this has been a long and frustrating process for many, I can assure you that at no time has CERA eased up on the tremendous amount of work required to finalise decisions... Even with some of the homes of our own staff again badly damaged or uninhabitable, they haven't dropped the ball for a moment."

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