31 Mar 2015

Council accused of double standards

7:25 am on 31 March 2015

A Franz Josef grocer says if the Alpine Fault makes it too dangerous to for businesses in the town to expand and develop, then it should really be too dangerous to operate at all.

The Alpine Fault is marked out on satellite images by the western edge of the Southern Alps snowline.

The Alpine Fault is marked out on satellite images by the western edge of the Southern Alps snowline. Photo: NASA

Yesterday locals in the South Westland tourist village made submissions on the Westland District Council's plan to create a zone up to 130 metres wide through the township that would put a stop to them developing their businesses.

The Fault Rupture Avoidance Zone is a proposed measure to deal with the risk of and Alpine Fault Earthquake.

Under the council's proposed plan change, anyone in the 130 metre Fault Rupture Avoidance Zone could continue operating existing businesses, but can't develop what they have.

Cushla Jones, who runs the local Four Square, said if the plan change goes ahead, she and her husband will be stuck between a rock and a hard place, as the supermarket won't be able to expand and keep up with the tourism growth in glacier country.

Ms Jones said the council is employing a double standard by allowing businesses to continue operating in the zone, but saying it is too dangerous for them to expand.

"They're giving us this message that, we're in a very high risk zone, but existing use rights continue. But if the zone is being adopted because of risk to human life, how can we stay there? You can't have your cake and eat it as well."

The head of the local business association, Franz Incorporated, Craig Rankin, said it was dishonest of the council to say it only learnt of the earthquake risk when it received a report in 2010.

He said it was presented with a report in 1998 which outlined the location of the fault, and the threats it posed, but that it has still has still allowed businesses to develop, and people to invest.

Mr Rankin said even with the risk acknowledged in 2010, progress has been slow.

"It's been very very frustrating, and to really receive a report ... continued delays have been going on and on and on.

"We've been pushing the council, we can show you minutes going back four years.

"For the council to vote themselves another two years, just shows us, the council aren't taking this seriously, and it's a liability concern for them, rather than a real issue."

The part-owner of Alpine Glacier Motel, Diane Ferguson, who, along with other shareholders has heavily invested in the accommodation in the centre of Franz Josef, told the commissioners council staff have come and gone, but their problems have not.

"Every council staff member who is responsible for this situation has moved on. The current staff are likely to move on.

"The fault line will not move on, and we can't. The whole situation needs to be considered."

GNS Science said the Alpine Fault has a high probability of rupturing in the next fifty years.

The two independent commissioners who will decide which action the council will take will release their decisions in three weeks.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs