Complaints about thefts from inside quake cordon

8:54 pm on 25 March 2011

More Christchurch businesspeople are complaining about the theft of goods from shops in the earthquake-damaged central city.

They say items are going missing from premises sealed off soon after the quake on 22 February.

Police on Friday confirmed they are investigating several complaints of theft which include clothing, leatherwear and valuable native timber taken from demolition sites.

Some businesspeople believe demolition crews are behind the thefts, while one demolition company says there is not enough oversight behind the cordon.

Police are not commenting on particular cases, but have issued a reminder that property in demolished buildings belongs to their owners.

Ben Kepes, the owner of a demolished building in Lichfield Street, says he saw native timber stacked near the building after the demolition on Wednesday. The wood was removed on Thursday.

Mr Keeps says business owners should be allowed in to view their buildings and Civil Defence should be actively supervising demolition companies to ensure they meet their contractural obligations to return valuables to their owners.

Civil Defence national controller Steve Brazier told Checkpoint says there is enough security in the central city red zone.

"We have engineers who are on the site, we've got police who have roving patrols, we've got the industry who are hopefully policing themselves. It's not wide-scale pillaging by any means."

The New Zealand Demolition and Asbestos Association says any companies found looting material from quake-damaged buildings in Christchurch will have their membership stripped immediately.

However, it says it is hamstrung as a professional body not all of the 23 accredited demolition firms are members the association - something Civil Defence is at a loss to explain.