CERA calls for neighbourly vigilance

8:11 pm on 7 January 2013

The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority is appealing for residents of the city's red zone to keep an eye on neighbouring vacant properties.

The authority says while it now owns many properties in the area, it is relying on help from remaining residents to call emergency services if they see anything that doesn't look right.

The residential red zone security manager, Brenden Winder, says sometimes people are not sure who to call if they have concerns and valuable time can be lost.

He says emergency services are best placed to respond quickly.

In March last year, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said $770,000 of taxpayer money would help fund using unemployed people to work in Christchurch's red zone, tidying up houses and acting as security.

Concerns were raised last year over the fire hazard created by overgrown gardens and lawns at abandoned earthquake damaged properties.

More than 6000 properties in Christchurch and Waimakariri had to be abandoned because of quake damage and Mr Brownlee said there had been vandalism, theft and arson.

Last summer, fire safety inspectors in Christchurch said two major blazes in central-city buildings - the partially demolished McKenzie and Willis building and a dis-used warehouse on Moorhouse Avenue - were set by arsonists.

Fire Service central Christchurch area manager, Greg Crawford, says it is working closely with CERA to ensure that red-zoned properties are not overgrown with plants and grasses.

Mr Crawford says the Fire Service has also adapted some of its fire-fighting equipment so that water to fight fires can be sourced from rivers.