New Zealand’s government to buy quake damaged houses

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New Zealand’s government has offered to buy thousands of properties in areas in Christchurch, the country’s second largest city, because of the damage done by recent earthquakes.

Christchurch was struck by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in September last year and a more devastating magnitude 6.3 quake in February that killed 181 people and crippled much of the city. There have been several sizeable aftershocks since.

It is estimated that around 5,000 Christchurch property owners face having their homes demolished and certain swathes of land have been judged to be too unstable for rebuilding in the short term. The future of an additional 10,000 homes, many of which may also need to be destroyed, is still being assessed.

Some £312 million has been set aside by the government to compensate property owners. Prime Minister John Key said the total cost of the earthquakes amounted to more than £9.4 billion, about 8% of the country’s annual economy. But he said that the government is fully committed to rebuilding Christchurch as much as it can.

Officials confirmed that the city is being divided into four zones, red, orange, white and green. In the red zones properties will be demolished and the land will not be rebuilt upon any time soon.
Orange means homes may need to be destroyed and land cleared. White indicates officials are still assessing the land, and green means the land has been given the all clear and people can begin to rebuild or repair their homes.

The government has set up a website, www.landcheck.org.nz, to help property owners work out which zone they are in.

Among the worst affected areas are Bexley, Avonside, Avondale, Dallington and Horseshoe Lake. People in Lyttelton and other Port Hills areas will have to wait a little longer for their options plan because the effects of the June 13 aftershocks on them have not been assessed.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee is expected to reveal further details this week. It is thought that only property owners who have insurance will be eligible for the government buy out plan.

Key said that the long term goal is to eventually rebuild all of the city. ‘All land can be repaired. There is an issue then about how easily that is achieved, the time it will take and what will be the disruptive factors for communities,’ he explained.

Residential property is being given priority. Key added that rebuilding in the central business district is unlikely to begin for a year.

Government offers to buy properties won’t be made for a couple of months and owners will have nine months to respond.

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