PM meeting with ministers over quake land

10:02 pm on 21 June 2011

Cabinet met on Tuesday evening to decide on a plan outlining which land in Christchurch will have to be abandoned because of earthquake damage.

Prime Minister John Key will be visiting Christchurch on Thursday but says that does not necessarily mean an announcement on the future of damaged land will be made on that day.

Mr Key returned from a brief trip to Australia on Tuesday afternoon to face pressure to end the uncertainty for householders.

The region has been hit by two strong quakes: on 4 September last year followed by the devastating and fatal quake on 22 February. A tremor on 13 June caused more damage.

The Labour Party has said it believes an announcement about Christchurch might be made on Thursday.

But the response of the Finance Minister Bill English was that he couldn't be sure the Government would be able to tell people by then which areas would be abandoned and which would not.

He said it was a complicated process involving reaching agreement with insurance and re-insurance companies.

"Whatever damage is there, the Government's made provisions for covering its portion of costs.

"You can understand that the insurers and re-insuers are pretty anxious to pin down just what their liabilities might be, particularly when they've had another new significant earthquake."

But Labour leader Phil Goff says the Government can't leave the people of Christchurch in limbo any longer.

"There have been a number of meetings called to brief MPs that have been deferred. Hopefully this meeting will go ahead on Thursday and it will be an announcement that will give some certainty to people in Christchurch.

"They've been through a lot - three major earthquakes, liquefaction - they've had enough. They need to know what the future holds so they can get on with their lives."

Mr English says there has been no hold-up in the process - it is simply that this is a very large-scale disaster.