No timeframe for when building consent issuance for new dwellings pick up, Brownlee says

No timeframe for when building consent issuance for new dwellings pick up, Brownlee says

By Alex Tarrant

There is no timeframe for when consent issuance will pick up for the rebuilding of homes in Christchurch because the ground is still shifting under them, the Minister responsible for earthquake recovery says.

Gerry Brownlee’s told land remediation work now needed to be carried out on land in Christchurch before rebuilding could begin, due to the lastest quake in February and continuing aftershocks.

The timeframe for the start of the rebuilding process is crucial for interest rates, given the Reserve Bank's comments last month after its rate cut that it would reverse the cut "once the rebuilding phase materialises." Most economists currently see rates increasing from December, but the speed of the rebuild will determine monetary policy and Brownlee's comments indicate considerable uncertainty over timing.

Although there had been some unacceptable hold-ups for consents following the September event, the quake on February 22 meant returning to the drawing board as land was still moving due to after-shocks, Brownlee said.

Statistics New Zealand figures show only 12 consents for new dwellings in Canterbury had been issued by the end of February due to the September quake (see below).

This has led to questions on whether law changes to supposedly speed up consent issuance for rebuilding last year had any effect, and whether EQC and insurance companies were moving too slowly to asses properties.

6,500 in line for demolition?

Meanwhile, Brownlee said on TV3’s The Nation over the weekend that around 11,000 houses were expected to have more than NZ$100,000 worth of damage following the more recent February 22 quake.

It would be uneconomic to repair about 6,500 of these, Brownlee said, indicating they would be in line to be demolished.

“And that number will creep up as there is a better analysis of those properties,” Brownlee said on The Nation.

Waiting for land remediation work

Speaking to last week, Brownlee said dwellings demolished or facing demolition could not be rebuilt until the land they were on was remediated.

“The assumption shouldn’t be made that because a house has to come down and be rebuilt that it can’t be lived in. Many people are living in those houses. They’re not as comfortable as they’d like to be, but they’re better than any temporary alternatives."

Consultations were being carried out in Kaiapoi District, as well as Christchurch suburbs like Burwood, Avonside, Dallington, and Bexley, before demolitions could occur.

“I think in the case of Bexley there were some holdups that were pretty unacceptable around consenting, and in fact all of the work in Christchurch was held up by consenting,” Brownlee said.

“So were we uncomfortable? Yes we were. I was very worried that we weren’t making the progress that we should have been, but I can see the reasons why,” he said.

“This time round, had we started all of that [before the February quake], we would still be doing what we’re doing now, which is, going back to the drawing board to reassess the land and work out whether or not those previous solutions were now applicable. They’re most likely not applicable.

“Had they been all completed, which is pretty much a physical impossibility in the time that we had, they would have probably done a pretty good job.

“But we’re now, as I say, Kaiapoi is OK, that’s all going ahead. That will see progressively the number of demolitions and then consents for rebuilds grow in that district,” Brownlee said.

“In Christchurch, we are going through a whole new exercise understanding the land down here. Things have changed quite considerably,” he said.

Putting timeframes on the process was difficult.

“I said to the many, many parties that are involved in this – I had a meeting with them all last Friday – we’ve got a cooperative model going so that we put all the information in one place, so that we can make decisions in a timely fashion once it’s all accumulated and collated, at all haste,” Brownlee said.

“Had we started a whole lot more rebuilds in some of those Christchurch suburbs, it is a fair speculation that they would have been equally totalled by the devastation of the 22 February [quake],” he said.

Brownlee could not give a timeframe for when consent issuance would pick up, “because at the moment we’re still getting the after-shock effect down here. The land is still moving, and that movement is up, down and sideways. So we just need to get that picture as quickly as possible,” he said.

“My commitment to people here in Christchurch is to move as quickly as possible, and to make decisions that will best protect the equity that they’ve got in their properties,” Brownlee said.

From Stats NZ building consent releases:

February: In Canterbury, 16 consents relating to the previous earthquakes were identified, including three new dwellings. The total value of these 16 consents was $2.6 million.

January: In Canterbury, 30 earthquake-related consents were identified in January 2011, including five new dwellings. The total value of these was $4.5 million.

December: In Canterbury, about 30 earthquake-related consents were identified in December 2010, which included two new dwellings. The total value of consents was $10 million.

November: In Canterbury, there were a small number of earthquake-related consents identified in November 2010. The total value of these was $2.3 million. Two of these were for new dwellings.

October: In Canterbury, a small number of low-value consents authorised in October 2010 were related to the earthquake. None of these were for new dwellings.

September: The earthquake on 4 September 2010 has had some impact on building consents issued in Canterbury, due to factors such as territorial authority offices being closed temporarily. The three territorial authorities most affected were Christchurch city, Waimakariri district, and Selwyn district. Combined, the number of consents issued in September was about one-third lower than the monthly average for the previous 12 months. A handful of consents were earthquake-related (none were for new dwellings), with a combined value of approximately $0.5 million.

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?

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John Campbell's article last night is only reveals a glimpse of the problems with EQC:

We have buildings that need rebuilt in totally undamaged areas, nothings happened.  When EQC come, of course they try to deny any damage is covered and come up with estimates like for one of mine where every plaster and lathe ceiling and wall is shattered, the veranda has slipped away from the house, the garage has an erupting fissure in the middle of it, two chimneys collapsed and the floor is rolling like the ocean and Fletcher's have been allocated $33,000 to do ALL of the repairs.  Good luck.  I couldn't do it for $100,000, so I'd like to see what Fletchers could do.  The problem is, I don't wait to wait 5 years for Fletcher's to turn up.

Give me a settlement now, and I can sort out the problems.  That way I don't have a property sitting vacant waiting for some bureaucratic system to get round to it.

I paid insurance.  Give me what I'm entitled to and let me move on.

There are a lot more than 10,000 houses which will go over cap.  It's probably more like 30,000.  Nearly every single house in the lower part of Fendalton and Merivale has a lot of damage and because they are all expensive properties virtually all will be over cap.  Add in a majority of old houses in St Albans, Central City, and Richmond.  Throw in a lot in Sydenham, Addington.  And that's before you look at the ones out south west damaged first time round or the absolutely annihilated eastern suburbs.

Building will likely never start, because they most affected simply pack up and leave the keys for the bank.  At this rate it looks like the only option.

To restore confidence, that smarmy Simpson man from EQC needs sacked.  As does Hamilton.  Unfortunately Gerry and John probably need to go too, and the media needs to let the country know how bad it is so they can decide in November.

Interest rates are on their way down lower, not higher because no CBD rebuild will likely happen.

Talk by Brownlee that the Government need to take charge strikes fear into most Cantabrians.  It's our insurance monies, our land, let individuals just get on and solve their own problems.  Trying to cotton ball a city is sheer stupidity.

my heart goes out to you chris

one random idea: what about setting up a single issue political party based on Chc solutions? if you could take a few electorates you might be surprised at what you could do.....stand against Brownlee and make him really stand to help you guys......   there must be a lot of voters down there in the same position chris....a bit of organisation might give you some heft...if rodney hide can do all this with 1 electorate then there must be something in it...


just an idea....


i wish we could do wife and i have actually got our kid's primary school to adopt one of the hard hit decile 1 schools down there. we're collecting household goods and sending them down....gonna send about 100 kids up to hanmer for a trip to take their minds off it....but somehow it still feels like its not enough. like i say mate my heart goes out to you.


Campbell Live are asking anyone with EQC complaints to meet them and explain their problems in 60 seconds.  Expect a queue:

Hi there,

Thank you so much for taking the time to email us. 


EQC says it has received 300 complaints from Christchurch homeowners about their EQC assessments but we reckon there are a lot more.


Tomorrow we're giving Christchurch residents a chance to have their say. Campbell Live has comandeered a Jucy Rentals campervan. It'll be outside the Stadium Bar (opposite AMI Stadium), 77 Stevens St from 7am until 7pm tomorrow, April 6th. We'd love it if you'd come to the campervan and in 60 seconds tell us on camera why you're not happy with your EQC assessment. 


Hope to see you there!



The Campbell Live team

Yeah mate, I'm hearing you.

EQC won't payout people in case they go out and blow it on P. Full stop. You're allowed to burn up 10K's worth, but nothing more. Arses.

I like VL idea, let's make a political party to challenge these knobs, and get some action happening.

don't let them run off cashed up, social cohesion will fail, they may get a life...

Here's the real problem...."remediation" other words doing something to the ground beneath the surface that prevents a future quake causing the same outcome...nobody has a bloody clue what can be done that will make certain the land is not going to turn to shite again...and that means the insurance companies are seriously unlikely to insure anything in those areas.

This will not stop Gerry from ploughing ahead with a scheme that "experts" table to do the job....experts....!

And the cost of the scheme that the "experts" dream up....hundreds of millions for sure....way more than buying land to the south west and doing a whole new friggin suburb with facilities and sevices and shopping and transport. But that would mean those who had the "better" locations and the more valuable plots in the "porridge zone", having to live side by side with them from over there!...and we can't have that can we oh dear me no. Now you know why the decision has been made to spend whatever it takes to make the land that is not stable land look like stable land...cost is not an issue!

My concern is, whats the point of rebuilding / repairing when there are likely to be other quakes and aftershocks, which are likely to damage these newly built/fixed houses. That is going to put even more strain on EQC. God knows what it will do to insurance premiums,  I also wonder how aftershocks on a newly built house will be treated by the EQC, as it won't be a new earthquake event. You could end up with double of triple the cost of the just a single earthquake, as it is a bit like building on a moving target. I think temporary housing for the next few years may be the answer, and supposedly the government are organising upto 10,000 temporay units to be built. Certainly it is a very major and expensive problem, and will probably be the number one election issue.



When Key said that the government had already spent $1billion for the quake, did he mean insurance money or money from our coffers?

how about getting some underutilised engineering students from Canterbury uni to come up with a design for a modular home that could be made from old shipping containers?

i'm thinking of a ready resource (containers) that can be repurposed later and is also transportable......    any genius students out there?

But you can make a simple wooden box just as in the context of making something livable.

Probably look to what they did after WW2 would be a start.


Just Google it already been done by pros in Europe and there are heaps of such homes and offices in use. The hard bit will be getting passed the red tape pointy heads wanting to extract the money from the victims opting to build.

Here..have a gork at these.....

steve and uncle wol. the reason i suggested containers is that i know the germans are doing clever things with them, but that also they are low rise, modular, and structurally very strong.........personally i'd rather live in timber but if the ground is still moving for the next year or two wouldn't you want something that will just sit on top and not really lose it's shape?


anyway i'm just spitballing and trying to think outside the square a bit. 

what about that japanese guy who built a house the size of a carpark? 

it's time for some creative solutions

With projects like that the price per square metre always blows up to something like a conventional build.  Christchurch also has ooddles of flat land so solutions are easy if needed.  But the real issue is that no solution is needed, because there are thousands of perfectly habitable vacant houses siting across ChCh.

The number of people who left exceed the number of uninhabitable houses so there certainly aren't homeless lining the streets or anything similar.  If anyone can't find a house or flat at the moment it's probably only because they are either to tight to pay market rent (which is the same as what it was pre-earthquake) or they are bad tenants who would never have got a flat anyway.

You sure on that last paragraph, what I'm seeing is people stuck in their currently damaged home with its ongoing financial commitments at a level they cannot afford to rent another property over and above.

Les, some businesses are more transportable than others.  Those stories wouldn't have been so rosy if their plant and machinery had been wrecked.

Waiting for cordons to be lifted and insurances to be paid isn't much fun.  Twiddling thumbs when money could be being made isn't my idea of a good time.

Sure Chris, I agree with you. Know about it, however, am keen to show that some are bouncing back where they can, and in time hopefully more and more will - you too. Don't give up and don't forget - Illegitimis nil carborundum! Cheers, Les.

I have also posted in the past about this Les however they really don't want to know about that certainly has already polarised the community. Some are actually do very well while others are in a dreadful situation. It will create it own frictions.

We need to see both perspectives and not deny either. It is particularly important that the kind of information Chris has been sharing isn't denied, swept under the carpet. Far too many people who have cause to complain won't, for all sorts of reasons. If the complaints and problems aren't heard, the necessary corrections and solutions won't happen. Hopefully those who hold the power to solve the problems will become more effective in providing solutions, however, the start point is recognising the existence of problems.

It will be kind of stupid to rebuild on the worst hit areas.