MPs deem quake labels unreliable

By Amelia Romanos

A Labour MP says hasty quake labels could affect future house sales. Photo / Sarah Ivey
A Labour MP says hasty quake labels could affect future house sales. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Unreliable labels used to indicate building damage following the Christchurch earthquakes could affect future property value, MPs say.

Immediately following the September 4 and February 22 quakes, buildings were classified with red, yellow or green labels to indicate whether there should be no access, limited access, or if the building was safe.

The labels used after the September quake have been recorded on the properties' land information memorandums (LIMs), which Christchurch-based Labour MP Lianne Dalziel said today could affect future sales.

At a parliamentary regulations review committee this morning, Ms Dalziel said the labels did not give a reliable guide to actual property damage and questioned whether it was fair to record the information.

National's Amy Adams, also from Canterbury, said there had been "incredible inconsistency" in the labelling process.

"I can think of two houses that I'm aware of that were both described as dangerous to live in, neither received a placard, equally I can think of another house that was given a green placard and collapsed a week later," Ms Adams said.

"To use information that was created in such a seat-of-the-pants environment for period or after legal ramifications, I think, is really, really risky."

Ms Adams said she could understand the council's fear of being sued if they did not disclose relevant information.

"But I really do have concerns ... that you're creating big issues, and creating exactly the sort of litigation that the court's talked about us avoiding.

"I'm not comfortable that the purpose for which those were created makes it justified in giving them these long-term, ever-after status."

Christchurch City Council spokesman Peter Mitchell agreed the labelling had been a 10-minute job and they were not always reliable, saying he had heard of cases where homeowners had negotiated their label on their doorstep.

However, he told the committee it was not a case of being fair, but of meeting legal obligations to supply all relevant information.

Mr Mitchell said two issues could arise if the council removed the information from Lims.

"One is people will say 'well, I wanted to know that and the council didn't tell me'," he said.

"Secondly, if there are gaps in the property file in 10 or 20 years ... they'll say 'we know there was an earthquake in Christchurch, what happened to that particular property? We knew it was in a part of town that was damaged in terms of land', and they'll get suspicious around it and it may cause sales to fail."

Mr Mitchell also questioned whether there would actually be a problem.

"We've issued about 150 LIMs since September with information on them about red and yellow placards, and on my information, we haven't had, as a council, any feedback from vendors in particular saying 'no, don't put this information on the LIM'."

About 57,000 labels had been issued, including 5000 yellow and red.

Labels from the February quake had not yet been recorded on LIMs, and the council was waiting to complete discussions with the committee before recording them.

- APNZ

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