3 Dec 2013

Red zone owners want paid by Christmas

9:11 pm on 3 December 2013

Owners of uninsured and undeveloped land in red zones in Christchurch say want to be paid by the Government for their properties by Christmas this year.

The Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court ruling that the Government's offer to purchase uninsured or empty properties for half the 2007 rateable value was illegal.

The case was taken a group of residents of the Brooklands suburb calling themselves the Quake Outcasts, who argued that they want 100% of their rateable value to sell their properties to the Crown. The area was devastated in the February 2011 quake and the red zone put in place nine months later.

The Court of Appeal found that while the red zone was lawfully created, the Government's decision to make offers to purchase was not lawful because it did not properly address the purposes of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act.

In particular, the court found that the offers did not engage with the purpose of enabling people to recover from the damaging earthquakes. The court found the creation of the red zone did not affect the legal rights of property owners in the zone.

The group's lawyer, Grant Cameron, told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Tuesday that they want new offers sooner rather than later.

"There is a fairly limited time in which we can seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. Therefore, given the holiday break, it really behoves the parties to have a talk about how this might be properly resolved."

A spokesperson, Ernest Tsao, said he hopes the Government will now make the right decision - and if it doesn't, the group will take further legal action.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the Court of Appeal's ruling means months of waiting on zoning decisions for Port Hills residents will soon be over.

Mr Brownlee said he welcomes the court's findings that the residential red zoning of the most damaged parts of greater Christchurch was lawful and that the process was well conducted.

He said the Government would now review its earlier decisions on offers for vacant and uninsured improved properties on the flat land in the city.

Once it gets clear direction from the court on the mechanics of the process, it will make a new decision on the offers, he said.