Speech: What Gerry Brownlee told Christchurch

Gerry Brownlee. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Gerry Brownlee. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the announcement today of zones of land damage in greater Christchurch is the most up-to-date information that can be provided.

"The government will continue to provide the public with timely and accurate information on the state of the land and what it means for residents," Mr Brownlee said.

All greater Christchurch land has been mapped into four zones - red, orange, green and white.

RED ZONE
Land marked red is unlikely to be suitable for continued residential occupation for a prolonged period of time.

The criteria for defining areas as residential red zone are:

-There is significant and extensive area wide land damage;

-There is a high risk of further damage to land and buildings from low-levels of shaking; and

-The success of engineering solutions would be uncertain and uneconomic; and any repair would be disruptive and protracted.

"It is not feasible to rebuild on this land at the present time," Mr Brownlee said.

"Such wide scale land remediation would take a considerable period of time, and the social dislocation of such massive works would see people out of their homes for at least three years, and in some cases more than five years.

"In some areas we're talking about the need for up to three metres of compacted fill to bring the land up to compliant height, along with many kilometres of perimeter treatment.

"Repair in all the red areas would not only require raising the height of the land but also a complete replacement of essential infrastructure like sewer, water, electricity and roading.

"Full land repair in these areas may mean that every house would need to be removed, regardless of its degree of present building damage.

"The resulting ongoing social dislocation would have major impacts on schooling, transport and employment for whole communities.

"Giving people the ability to relocate on land where they can rebuild immediately is the best option we have," Mr Brownlee said.

For people who owned property with insurance in the residential red zones on 3 September 2010 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.

"The government hopes to be able to come back to residents in the red zone with an offer of purchase within the next eight weeks.

"Residents will then have nine months to consider the offer of purchase," Mr Brownlee said

GREEN ZONE
"The majority of greater Christchurch properties - about 100,000 - have today been given a green light to go ahead with their repair and rebuilding of their homes," Mr Brownlee said.

"Insurers have shown a willingness to work with the government and homeowners as we move forward with Canterbury's recovery.

"Property owners in the green zone no longer have to wait for the results of any area-wide land assessment reports by EQC or their engineering consultants Tonkin & Taylor.

"There will be some isolated exceptions where geotechnical assessments will be required due to major land damage, but for the most part Christchurch can get on with rebuilding.

"Repair and rebuilding work should take into consideration the risk of ongoing aftershocks, so some finishing tasks such as brick and driveway concrete laying should be delayed until that risk decreases."

ORANGE ZONE
The orange mapped areas are where engineers need to undertake further investigation. Some of the damage in these areas is a direct result of the magnitude 5.6 and 6.3 earthquakes which struck on 13 June, and has not yet been adequately assessed to provide residents with certainty.

"We'd have liked to have provided clarity for the hundreds of households in orange mapped areas, but we have listened and responded to the many people saying they want information now. This is the most up-to-date information we have.

"We will progressively announce the outcome of investigations in these orange areas over the coming weeks and months," Mr Brownlee said.

There are about 10,000 properties in the residential orange zone.

WHITE ZONE
There are also some areas in white on the map, including the Port Hills and the central business district, which are still being mapped or are not residential land.

INFORMATION FOR RESIDENTS
From today residents will be able to visit the www.landcheck.org.nz website and enter their address to find out what zone their property has been mapped into, and download a fact sheet on what it means for them. Residents can also contact the government helpline on 0800 779 997 if they are unable to access the website or they want more information.

The government has commenced outbound calling to those people in the residential red zone to discuss the announcement with them and an information pack will be mailed out to those residents in the next few days.

This is the largest natural disaster we have ever faced in New Zealand. EQC has now received more than 360,000 claims for all the earthquakes since 4 September, one of the highest numbers ever handled by a single insurer in the world. The previous biggest event for EQC was the Gisborne earthquake in 2007 with 6224 claims.

There have been more than 7350 aftershocks since the 7.1 magnitude earthquake on 4 September, including 28 that have been magnitude 5.0 or greater.

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 4 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.

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