Budget 2012: Hard times for earthquake victims

By Jarrod Booker

Bill and Kathy Lawrence on their empty section in central Christchurch. Photo / Simon Baker
Bill and Kathy Lawrence on their empty section in central Christchurch. Photo / Simon Baker

For earthquake-battered Christchurch residents like Bill and Kathy Lawrence, the Budget offers no respite from the daily struggle to make ends meet.

The pensioners, who continue to pay rates and insurance on a quake-damaged property they cannot live at and soaring rent at their replacement home, found no support yesterday in what Finance Minister Bill English delivered.

"I did hear him say that they are there to help the people in Christchurch or something. Well, they don't appear to have done much," Mr Lawrence, 71, told the Herald.

The Budget reiterated the Government's $5.5 billion commitment to the Christchurch rebuild, with spending reaching its peak with $2.17 billion next year.

New spending within that existing fund included $95 million over the next two years on red-zone security and maintenance, and an additional $30 million over the next four years for the new Government unit managing the rebuilding of Christchurch's CBD.

The bill for red-zone payouts to the owners of homes on land too damaged for rebuilding has risen to more than $1 billion.

The absence of any new aid for people battling away in the quake zone was "very disappointing", Mr Lawrence said. "It just seems to be costing more and more each day ... I have to be do a wee bit on Trade Me to make up money so we can live a reasonable life.

"I know we are not as bad as lots of people, but it is hard going."

The central Christchurch home the Lawrences had lived in had to be knocked down, contents and all, after being badly damaged in the earthquake of February last year.

They must still pay 60 per cent of the rates at that unusable property and insurance as they wait to see what the future of the land is.

They now live at another property where the rent has gone up $45 a week in the face of soaring demand from those made homeless by the quakes.

"It's just under $400 (a week) now, and we are having to be very careful to pay that," Mr Lawrence said.

"I have always paid my way ... and now it's paying out for nothing."

Mr Lawrence is also a smoker, and he thinks the increase in excise tax is a "foul thing to do" to poor people under stress.

He admits he had not held out much hope for assistance from a Government "that's not really there for the underdogs".

Labour Party spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said accommodation costs were "going through the roof" in Christchurch, and the Government had done nothing about it.

He said one thing the Government could do without adding a cent to the Budget was to put pressure on the insurance companies to pay out what quake-affected people deserved.

Quake spending
$5.5b committed to rebuild, $2.17b spent next year.

This includes:

$95m over the next two years on red zone security and maintenance.

$30m over the next four years to management of the rebuild.

- NZ Herald

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