18 Jul 2016

'Quake Outcasts' continue court battle

7:03 pm on 18 July 2016

Owners of uninsured homes that qualified for the government's red-zone offer in Christchurch are back in court, fighting for a better deal.

230414. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Christchurch. Red Zone houses.

A house in the Christchurch red zone (file) Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

In 2011, the government offered to buy properties from those worst affected by the earthquakes based on the value of their land and house.

However, the offer was only made to those with insurance.

Those without it, or who owned vacant land, were offered just half the value of the land.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled a person's insurance status should have nothing to do with deciding whether they qualified for an offer.

This led to the government offering uninsured homeowners 100 percent of the value of their land, but still nothing for their homes.

Forty-five people, known as the Quake Outcasts, are now asking it to apply the Supreme Court ruling and make them the same offer as those with insurance.

'Intensely frustrating'

Ian Gibson, whose aunt has dementia and was left uninsured when her sister fell ill and failed to pay her premiums for her, said he couldn't believe they were still having to fight the matter.

"It's just intensely frustrating that it's taken this long to work its way through the court system.

"We had three courts up to the Supreme Court that were in our favour, and then the government basically refused to follow the Supreme Court's ruling, and we're back now again in the High Court in Christchurch."

Quake Outcasts lawyer Francis Cooke QC

Francis Cooke QC Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Quake Outcasts lawyer Francis Cooke QC told the court the Earthquake Recovery Act made it clear that the responsible minister, Gerry Brownlee, needed to pay them out to aid in the recovery of the city.

"Not penalise people because you're 80 and you forgot to sign your cheque to your insurance company, or you put it in the hands of your aunt and your aunt hasn't done it properly... but that's the effect of the decision here, penalising people for reasons that are just not justified, and that's really what the Supreme Court has held."

Mr Cooke said those without insurance were more in need of the government offer than those with insurance because they were often poor or elderly.

Grant Cameron

Grant Cameron Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Outside court, another member of the claimants' legal team, Grant Cameron, said having decided it wanted to clear houses from the red zone, the government now needed to compensate people for this, whether they were insured or not.

It was disingenuous for it to claim the money was only an offer and that people somehow had a choice in the matter, he said.

The government's lawyer, Ken Stephen, told the court that Mr Brownlee felt the offer made to homeowners following the Supreme Court ruling, for 100 percent of the value of their land, helped with the city's recovery - while also taking into account the fiscal impact on the Crown of having to pay out additional money to those in the red zone.

The latest case is due to wrap up on Tuesday, and the judge is expected to reserve his decision.

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