Red Zone deadline extended

Minister Brownlee today announced that the 30 April 2013 deadline for leaving the older Red Zones has been extended by three months. A great thing to have happened, and much appreciated.

The next task, for very early in the new year, will be to bring scrutiny to bear on the sticking points – in many cases insurance issues.

The Minister’s announcement is here.

The full text of the statement reads:

Release Date: 17 December 2012

A three month extension to the final settlement date for a small group of residential red zone property owners will ease a number of pressures they are facing, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says.

The extension will apply to those property owners who under initial rules would have needed to settle with the Crown and vacate the red zone by 30 April 2013.

They will now be able to nominate a new settlement date up until 31 July 2013.

Mr Brownlee says the extension will help red zone property owners who have struck logistical difficulties in exiting their properties.

“It is important to note this does not mean the timeframe has changed for accepting the Crown offer, only the date to settle with the Crown and vacate.

“So far 6391 red zoned property owners have signed sale and purchase agreements, and of those 5212 have already settled with the Crown.

“In numerous residential red zone blocks we now have only one or two houses left in private ownership, so it is very clear the vast majority of people have moved swiftly to leave the worst damaged land and get on with their lives,” Mr Brownlee says.

“The aim of this extension is to help those who are finding themselves in difficult situations beyond their control.”

Mr Brownlee says any further extensions are unlikely as the red zone land must be cleared of residential occupation because it cannot easily sustain critical infrastructure.

Property owners who have already nominated a settlement date but who need to change it to a date closer to 31 July 2013 will need to contact their lawyers once the Christmas break is over to arrange an extension.

This settlement extension does not apply to Southshore and South New Brighton or Port Hills property owners, for whom a different process currently applies. .

Gerry Brownlee and being stuck in the Red Zone

Yesterday’s Press carried an article Red-zoners call for more time by Charlie Gates (here). The basis of the article is that, for some people, circumstances totally beyond their control mean they cannot be out of their Red Zone properties by the 30th of April. Part of the article refers to Minister Brownlee’s view of the situation:

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee told Parliament yesterday that it was “unlikely” that red-zone residents would be able to stay in their homes after the deadline had lapsed. “Given that to do that there would have to be maintenance of access and also infrastructure to those homes, it would need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis but I would have to say it is unlikely,” he said.           [note: can’t find this in Hansard so taking the Press on trust]

The impression given, and erroneously recorded for posterity in Hansard,  is that because of the need to maintain access and infrastructure to the homes of those who need an extension, it would be unlikely they would receive an extension. The point missed by this statement is that not all those seeking an extension have problems with access or infrastructure. Unless the address and infrastructure details of those asking for the extension were known, and had been investigated, how could such a statement be made? Is it intended to make a case by case assessment? If so is there a list of those needing extensions? When, how and by whom is it being compiled? Not exactly a meaningful statement. Or is there a quite different meaning? Is it just simply that it is unlikely that an effort will be made to do a case by case assessment? Why not? Too much like hard work? The people and their circumstances don’t warrant the effort? Or maybe there will be loss of face or the creation of some horrific precedent or squatter problem if a small concession is made, no matter how important it is to those who very much need it? While Red Zone damage is, by definition, wide spread, there are locations where the infrastructure continues to function with little or no extra maintenance. Cowlishaw Street and Chaddesden Lane immediately spring to  mind (and of course the residents still pay full rates because the council is still providing full services). Why would Minister Brownlee make such an sweeping, and not entirely accurate, statement to Parliament?  Assuming it wasn’t just an attempt to shut down criticism and moaning by creating the impression that nothing can reasonably be done, why say this? It may well be that Minister Brownlee is not well informed of the situation, and can speak only on the basis of the briefings he has received.  No doubt Minister Brownlee would rather endure Vogon poetry than speak with Labour or New Zealand First MPs, but surely he has spoken with his caucus colleagues from Christchurch Central and Waimakariri? I would like to think they have passed on the messages given to them that there are people stuck and they need an extension of time. Or is he deaf to his Parliamentary colleagues? Perhaps if the Minister’s more able advisers were to talk with those who are stuck in the Red Zones, and relay the information accurately and fully to the Minister, he would be better able to understand what the problems are, how people are suffering, what is needed to be done, and keep Parliament more accurately briefed on the situation. Not to mention make some effort to assess the case by case needs of those stuck in Red Zoned houses. As an aside, I hope Ministers get better information than was supplied to the Press for this article.   At the foot of the article there are some pretty much meaningless statistics from CERA. Take the following:

The 97 properties red-zoned after appeal in August were given eight months to settle. Of those, 14 have already settled and moved out and 34 have signed a sale and purchase agreement, according to Cera.

What do the numbers mean? Nothing of relevance or use. They may create the impression that perhaps 48 properties out of 97 have found successful resolution but that is unlikely to be close to reality.  More significantly, of the 97 properties how many have certainty that they will be gone by the 30th of April? That is the important number, and it isn’t there.  Is this the level of information being passed to the Minister and/or his advisers? .

Southern Response Progress statistics update – Red Zone progress issues

Southern Response have updated their progress statistics to the end of October. The chart is here. The Red Zone statistics make interesting reading and add to concerns that a number of people will not be in a position to leave by the 30th of April 2013. Of Southern Response’s claims 32% are in the Red Zones. All 2,131 in the Red Zones (100%) have had their assessments and costings completed, 98% have had offers, and 87% made decisions based on those offers (numerically this is 233 yet to make decisions, and there are also another 43 yet to receive offers). In the notes with the statistics Southern Response flag this gap as an area of concern. Southern Response also report 49% electing to buy another house, 21% taking a cash offer, 9% as a customer managed rebuild and 8% rebuilding with Southern Response (see the NOTE below about the statistics published in the report). Of those building with Southern Response (164 houses) 21 have been completed. The remaining 143 are made up of 59 under construction and  84 not yet started. While Southern Response note that the construction numbers will increase (a somewhat meaningless statement as there are no figures given), the approach of Christmas can be expected to slow progress and mean an as yet unknown number will not be finished by the 30th of April 2013. Rebuilds that are customer managed (184) are not fully reported so there is no way of knowing how much progress, if any, is being made and how many will be completed by April 30. Southern Response’s share of claims in the Red Zones is 2,131 properties, less than one third of all Red Zone dwellings. If their experience is typical of the progress being made then there are many hundreds of claims, decisions, and rebuilds experiencing delays, indecision, and the increasing possibility of not being completed by April 30.  If Southern Response has progressed more quickly than some other insurance companies then the situation is worse.  Actual numbers can only be speculation however it does seem there may be anywhere between 200 and perhaps 400 or more cases of households unable to move out come 30 April. That is a lot of grief if CERA decide to trespass and evict them. NOTE:  Some of Southern Response’s percentages don’t give a clear picture of what is happening, being worked out on the overall number of claimants rather than on those in a particular category. An example is the statistic that 49% of claimants have elected to buy an existing house, a statistic based on the number who have chosen this option (1,045) compared with the total number of claimants (2,131) rather than the number of who have made decisions (1,849). In this situation it would be more indicative of what is happening to say 57% of those who have made decisions decided to buy an existing house. When it gets to the number being rebuilt the percentages become increasingly meaningless. Rather than complicate life I have used Southern Response’s figures above, but they need to be reworked a little to have a better understanding of what is happening.