Moving Franz Josef town from faultline could create wasteland - residents

By Mark Price of the Otago Daily Times

A plan to relocate part of the picturesque Franz Josef township away from the Alpine Fault could create a wasteland in the tourist town, residents say.

Franz Josef development society chairman Marcel Fekkes says there are 32 commercial and residential buildings in the zone under consideration for relocation by Westland District Council.

"It will become a bit of a wasteland. It's not good for the growth of Franz, that's for sure," Mr Fekkes said.

Relocating part of the Franz Josef township to more stable ground will be on the agenda at a meeting of property owners in the town next week.

The town lies across the Alpine Fault and the council's proposed district plan change 7 establishes "fault rupture avoidance zones" along the faultline.

New building or building expansion would effectively be halted with the land restricted to car parking and gardens.

Council planning manager Richard Simpson said he did not consider the move would be "a big deal".

"Some of them [commercial buildings] have probably reached their economic life anyway and they could probably make some business decisions and relocate.

"We are only talking about a discrete area of Franz Josef."

Mr Simpson said the council had made a "courageous decision" and the public now had the information it needed to make future decisions.

"Nobody's saying get out of here, it's dangerous. There are some longer term decisions to be made."

Mr Fekkes said the town's only petrol station straddled the faultline and that would become an issue if the town had to "dig ourselves out" after an earthquake.

"In the course of a civil defence emergency we would certainly need a fuel dump somewhere, and definitely not there."

Explaining its reasons for establishing the new zone, the council said any building or structure affected by fault rupture was likely to have considerable damage and lives would be at risk.

The Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences [GNS] has predicted a 20 per cent chance of an earthquake on the faultline in the next 30 years.

The predicted movement was 8m to 9m horizontally and 1m to 2m vertically.

Mr Fekkes was in the process yesterday of setting up a meeting of the owners of affected buildings and other interested parties.

He expected it would be held next week.

"It would be great if we could just say well let's forget about it ... because the way things were was fine. But that's not going to happen."

- Otago Daily Times

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