25 Jun 2015

Further legal action over red-zone buy-out

5:33 pm on 25 June 2015

The Government has proposed to increase its buy-out offers for a group of red-zone property owners in Christchurch, after being directed by the courts to review them.

170414. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Empty  house on the red zone, Christchurch.

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

Despite this, the group of homeowners who challenged the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority's (CERA) red-zoning process and buy-out offers have already decided to further challenge the proposed revised offers.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court said CERA should revise its offers to owners of vacant, commercial and uninsured properties in the city's red zone.

The court action was brought by a group of affected homeowners, named the Quake Outcasts

CERA has today announced it would double its offer for owners of vacant and commercial properties, from 50 percent of their land's 2007/2008 rateable value, to 100 percent.

Under the plan, owners of uninsured red-zoned properties would receive offers of 80 percent of their land's rateable value, which the Quake Outcasts' lawyer has labelled "illogical and inappropriate".

CERA acting chief executive John Ombler said if the draft Red Zone Offer Recovery Plan was approved by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, offers would be made as soon as possible.

The draft plan is open to public comment and Mr Ombler said the minister's decision was expected by the end of next month.

A spokesman for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, Gerry Brownlee, said as the new offers were only proposals at this stage, the minister would not be making any comment.

The lawyer who represented the Quake Outcasts, Grant Cameron, issued a statement saying he anticipated most owners of vacant or commercial would accept the new offer.

However, he criticised the 80 percent revised offer for uninsured homeowners, saying it was "illogical and inappropriate".

"There are 26 owners in this category and the proposal provides no payment whatsoever for the value of improvements on those properties and consequently, does nothing to advance owners' recovery from the effects of the earthquakes," Mr Cameron said.

He said the group had decided to take up the leave reserved by the Supreme Court when it issued its judgment and will seek intervention from the courts.

"We feel the minister misdirected himself as to the need for a Recovery Plan... the proposed offers to the uninsured owners of residential land would be completely inconsistent with that judgment."

He said homeowners had suffered "appalling circumstances as a consequence of the Crown's attempt to take their land for next to no value".

"Unfortunately, today's decision reflects both a disregard for those persons' welfare and for the Supreme Court judgment."