Government may buy badly damaged land off people in Christchurch to help them move on following the devastating earthquakes that have hit the city, Prime Minister John Key says.
Asked by radio host Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB when government would make decisions such as whether it would buy damaged land off people in Christchurch, Key said that had not been top of mind, simply because of the search and rescue, and recovery efforts. Listen to the audio here on NewsTalkZB
“But we’re asking for all of the obvious geotechnical advice. There’s been substantial liquefaction damage in parts of East Christchurch. From the GNS Scientists we know that the Port Hills have moved up about 40 centimetres, and some of those suburbs have dropped considerably,” Key said this morning.
“Now last time [after the September 4 quake] we had a plan to fix up that land, to remediate it with a process which we thought would actually work. The question now is whether it will work, and we simply don’t know the answer to that because there’s been a lot more damage,” he said.
Government would need to go away and assess that fairly quickly.
“One thing I can say is that there’s quite a lot of land in Christchurch - quite a number of subdivisions - and I have had, when I was on the ground in Christchurch on Friday, quite a number of people coming up to me saying, ‘look I like where I live but unfortunately this is just too difficult to deal with and if you can show me another option I’d like the money or I’d like to move on to another property,’” Key said.
So you’re looking at that? Hosking asked.
“I think that will definitely be an option for people,” Key said.
Hosking: So you’re going to buy people out of a neighbourhood and move them on?
“Well that may well be an option if we can’t fix up the land. But even in some cases, looking to try and help people through to another property might be the right way to go,” Key said.
Hosking: And what are you going to do with the land – buy it?
“That’s the thing that we have to look at. The question in some cases will be whether the land can actually be rebuilt on. We don’t know that yet, we’ll go and get the proper advice on that,” Key said.
“But in some cases land’s sunk to such a level that it’ll be prone to flooding amongst other things. So whether it’s even possible to rebuild on, whether it’s possible to fix up in the way that we were proposing to last time, we don’t know yet,” he said.
“But we do need to get that advice and we’re getting that straight away.”
'Cash or subdivision'
Meanwhile, Key fleshed out the options at his regular Monday afternoon press conference in the Beehive.
"I think there will be certain areas of Christchurch, and I don’t know how large – they might be limited to streets but they might be larger than that – where the option simply is a) here is a cash option, you can take the cheque. Or the second option is, here is a subdivision and you can choose a site or maybe a building plan that’s commensurate with the insurance model you had," Key said.
"But there will be some parts of Christchurch that can’t be rebuilt on. The liquefaction damage from the second earthquake is so great, and the land damage, the early indications are that it’s so significant we can’t remediate it in any timeframe," he said.
That was a "sort of good-news-bad-news story".
"For some people it will be very frustrating because they’ll be moving away from where they’re living currently. But we can do that much faster, because under the old model [after the September 4 quake] we were looking at remediating land," Key said.
"In some instances we were essentially asking people to move out of their house for a couple of years while the remediation took place, then the house was demolished and the house was rebuilt," he said.
"Now they might just be going to another section. How many people that affects, we don’t know. That’s the geotechnical advice we’re getting at the moment."
(Updates with comments and video of Key at Monday afternoon press conference in the Beehive)