5100 lose homes, 10,500 in limbo

Christchurch residents can check the status of their property through the official Government website - www.landcheck.org.nz or by phone on 0800 779 997

Birch Street in Bexley is one area of Christchurch that has been badly affected by the ongoing earthquakes that have hit the city. Photo / NZPA
Birch Street in Bexley is one area of Christchurch that has been badly affected by the ongoing earthquakes that have hit the city. Photo / NZPA

More than 5000 Christchurch homeowners now know their quake-hit homes will not be repaired and will be paid out, but another 10,500 have been left in limbo after the Government outlined today where rebuilding could happen.

Owners of the red zone homes which can not be saved can now choose to sell the whole property or just the land to the Government at the rateable value depending on their insurance situation.

Speech: What Gerry Brownlee told Christchurch

Speech: What John Key told Christchurch

Key points of today's announcement:

* Treasury estimated the net costs to the government to buy all 5000 properties at between $485 million and $635 million.

* Costs are expected to be met from the Government's $5.5 billion Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Fund (Cera).

* Advice from geotechnical engineers has seen all greater Christchurch land divided into four residential zones - red, orange, green and white.

* About 100,000 were in the Green Zone and could be rebuilt.

* Orange Zone properties, about 10,000, needed further investigation.

* White Zone houses, including the Port Hills and the central business district, were still being mapped or were not residential land.

* A map showing the suburbs and the zones they have been divided into can be found here.

Still in limbo

Prime Minister Key said the 5000 homeowners in the 'red zone' will get a statement from Government offering to buy their land in the next eight weeks.

But residents of 10,000 properties in the 'orange zone' faced a longer wait to find out the future of their homes, he said.

He defended the time it was taking to assess damage, saying EQC had received 350,000 claims in the last months.

That was difficult for an organisation that had been built up considerably in the last nine months, Mr Key said.

He said many of the 10,000 orange zone properties will still be demolished after further assessment.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) chief executive Roger Sutton said a series of meetings would be held from in the region from tomorrow at which residents would get the chance to ask questions about what today's announcement meant for them.

"I plan to be at every meeting, along with my staff, to cover the main issues, particularly next steps," Mr Sutton said.

"We will also have teams of people visiting neighbourhoods in coming days to ensure everyone knows where to go for help."

Community hubs would also be set up over the coming week so people could talk with key agencies and be linked with support services.

In the red

Mr Key said it would be a minimum of three to five years before any rebuilding of homes could take place on land in the Christchurch red zone.

That left the Government with no option but to offer to buy out homes of residents in those areas, he said.

"A minimum of 5000 homeowners were in a situation where they couldn't get a property rebuilt on their land for the entire time that their children were in high school."

Residents in the areas of Christchurch deemed too damaged to live face a choice about their future, said Mr Key.

He said the Government would offer to buy out their homes at the value on their rating bill.

People should consult with their banks and insurers over to sell their home, he said.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said those who decided to take Government cash for their homes can expect a quick transaction.

Many people would have a very strong idea whether they will take up the offer today, he said.

The options

For people who owned property with insurance in the residential red zones on September 3, 2010 - the day before the first big quake struck - there will be two options:

* the Crown makes an offer of purchase for the entire property at current rating value (less any built property insurance payments already made), and assumes all the insurance claims other than contents; or

* the Crown makes an offer of purchase for the land only, and homeowners can continue to deal with their own insurer about their homes.

Residents will be given nine months to consider the offer.

Christchurch has been zoned into four zones based on the scale of earthquake damage suffered.

Residents can check the status of their property through the official Government website - www.landcheck.org.nz - although the site has already gone down this afternoon.

Moving as fast as possible

Officials were moving as fast as they could to give certainty to affected residents, said Mr Key.

"We understand intensely the frustration of those homeowners... but it's got to be right."

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said 11,000 homes would soon be available for displaced residents to move into.

Another 6000 sections had been placed in the Christchurch long-term plan and could be available soon, he said.

Mayor Parker said the twin 5.6 and 6.3 magnitude earthquakes on June 13 had provided a clearer picture of damage to the city's 'orange zones'.

Work to assess the future of 10,000 homes in those areas would be carried out in the coming weeks, he said.

"Much of the damage in the orange zone has become more apparent recently.

"But we have 5000 houses that as a result of today have real clarity."

Mr Key said Treasury has put the cost of the first two Christchurch quakes at $15 to $20 billion.

"But the Government remains firmly committed to rebuilding Christchurch and that commitment remains firm."

The mapping released today does not include the Selwyn District Council area as the land in this district was not badly affected by the major aftershocks.

Most of the Selwyn area has been mapped as green. Any properties with land damage in the Selwyn District from the September earthquake or subsequent aftershocks are being dealt with on an individual basis.

"The offers of purchase only relate to residential home owners with insurance in the red zone as they were our first priority. We will be considering uninsured homeowners and commercial property owners in the residential red zone over the coming weeks and will get information to them as quickly as possible," Mr Brownlee said.

Banking support

ANZ bank has announced $1 billion in low interest mortage lending to help Christchurch residents relocate.

Residents from at least 5000 Christchurch properties will need to shift out of their homes after learning they are in the city's earthquake-devastated 'red zone'.

Prime Minister John Key welcomed ANZ's announcement of extra lending as a vote of confidence in the future of Christchurch.

"As the Government and community move ahead into the rebuilding phase, it is important that the business community continues to get in behind Canterbury and its residents.

"It shows that despite the earthquakes, there is business confidence in Christchurch and Canterbury."

ASB also announced it would give $500 in professional fees to 'red zone' customers purchasing a new home.

It offered to waive its application fee for a new home purchase, early repayment fees for those on fixed rate mortages and break fees on term deposits used to top up purchases.

Insurance relief

Insurance Council chief executive Chris Ryan welcomed the government's proposal, saying a process was now in place for individual homeowners to make their decisions and reach agreements with insurers.

"There are now options on the table for people to consider and this removes the lingering doubt that many have faced in the past weeks and months," he said.

"People now have a degree of choice and some certainty, and that's a good thing."

The insurance industry expected to pay at least $10 billion into the Canterbury economy and the rebuilding of the region.

- HERALD ONLINE, NZPA

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