Govt may buy damaged land to help owners move on following Christchurch quakes, PM Key says

Govt may buy damaged land to help owners move on following Christchurch quakes, PM Key says

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)

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


John Key says - “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."

This is the first time that I have heard about this proposal.  The authorities have kept this a secret until now.   When it comes to making statements regarding land remediation JK should keep his mouth shut because it is obvious that he does not know waht he is talking about.  

Not true late last year the Press reported that the Govt and Council propsed a major prgram I recall the cost $200m plus to remedy land slumping issues around rivers etc

Have updated with a video from Key's post cabinet press conf this afternoon with more comments on this



I think this a sensible plan.

The EQC only pays out on buildings, not land but it will pay to remediate land.

After the Sept quake they were going to build underground rock walls up to 100m wide along the river edges to stabilise the land. The cost would be $100 of thousands per section, the property owners probability still wouldn't be happy to rebuild and it would take years to construct.

The idea would be an offer to swap the damaged section for an new section in some other part of Chch. The choice of section would need to owners but it could be settled quickly and the rebuilding could start much quicker than the time it takes to build the rock walls, even if the new sections had to be developed. The old land could be cleared and left as a riverside park

So a bit like the SCF bailout, but for land owners ,then? We've had plans and contingencies for just this type of event for X number of years; but come the day, when it all looks a bit too big, forget the EQC and it's structured plans. Just get the tax payer to fund a 'better' version. What's the point of having the EQC and all its bit and piece in the first place, if when it gets tough, we change the plans?

or for that matter private insurance?

What are you crapping on about?

The EQC pays for the rock walls or it pays for the new section. What tax payers? What does it have to do with the SC Finance?

The EQC will fix or compensate land loss.

Its just a question whether its better to fix the damaged land or pay out.

Its just the same as a car insurance claim, do you fix or write off.


What a thucking stupid idea! I'm really beginning to hate socialism particularly when it implies we are all  made accountable when things don't go to the individual capitalists plan so lets socialize all the loses!

Did we socialize the "capital gains" all these property owners made for near on a decade? NO!

Where's the accountability for your own life decisions? Whether you buy this or that and then nature comes along and takes it away , well that's just TOUGH LUCK!. That's the deal with material wealth. Be prepared to lose it all and start over. As the saying goes:

"those who have nothing have nothing to lose"

If you want to start a class war Key then by all means make this stupid idea a reality at your peril.


Hi agree about SCF...I ranted at the time that the GG should have been ditched

But this is different. We need to support Christchurch and rebuilding on a swamp is throwing money down the toilet and John Key knows it. He is a business man and has made a decision knowing its probably better to pay out the home owners than to risk another shake.

Take a moment to think about what those thousands of people are doing right now....sleeping in a tent and pooing in a long drop with no power and aftershakes and no job.

It's time for all of us to help as tax payers. Leave the emotions out of the decisions and do whats best right now.



Who would set or decide the price based on what? GV? QV? an REA? This is insanity! Are we becoming a pathetic bunch of tossers in this country or what?

Over 200,000 thousand people lost their lives and nearly 1 Million lost their homes (if you could call them homes) in Haiti but who cares right? They were poor to begin with and of the wrong ethnic group and skin colour. 

No, noo, we can't have people from a 'pretend' rich OECD country living on the street now can we. Wouldn't look good for tourism and the RWC, not to mention the 100% Pure You bullshit!

NZ, get over yourselves! Your lives are so privillaged and you take it so forgranted. Even if your  home is now rubble and slush you still have it GROSSLY better than 3 Billion others if not 5 Billion!

Don't hold back Justice, let it all out it will make you feel better:)

The old saying that "Lightning never strikes twice in the same place" is not strictly true. Thank goodness that work had not already commenced on building the concrete walled bunding around the damaged land from the September quake. The authorities are doing there level best to sort out NZ's worst ever disaster. Give them a break, or stand for future election. Lets concentrate on the Posives, not the Negatives. NZ is a great big village with only 2 degrees of separation. Lets all pull together and get this beautiful country going again. All the way with P.M.A. (positive mental attitude)

You might want to get rid of the "old boy's" network first eh? which runs deep through our government and local councils before giving the general populis a lecture on positivity!

How about a lecture on this country's blantant ingrained corruption too it's elites first eh?


Hey I have a great idea of how we could get the money too, we could just borrow more, no worries at all, there's and endless supply of it.

If they do this then they should actually pay for it, don't go borrowing till the cow's come home, have some guts and have a levy to pay for it, or don't do it at all.

They are becoming a bit of a joke with this, lower taxes and spend more policy they have.

Just wondering if they have actually set any records yet, for how much and how quickly they've borrowed money.


FYI Government now saying 10,000 houses will have to be demolished and rebuilt.

Potential cost of that at NZ$320,000 a pop would be around NZ$3.2 billion by my calculations. Not sure insurance and EQC will pay for all of that that. So where will it come from?




What price is the government going to pay for the land? Market value, rateable value, there is  a big difference in land prices in CHC They said this last time around and then changed there mind and said well if you live in Bexley, we are not going to buy your land for a replacement cost that you can go and buy in Pegasus bay, so these home owners will have to be careful as they may find themselves with a short fall if they try and rebuy or rebuild in CHC and find they will have try and borrow more from the banks (which given the state of Canterbury will be a lot harder than 12 months ago), unless the government is going to start there own subdivision somewhere on the outskirts?