13 Mar 2015

Quake ruling 'win' for property rights

5:41 pm on 13 March 2015

A Christchurch group of red-zone property owners say their court victory against the Government is also a win for all New Zealanders who own property.

A house hit by the Christchurch earthquakes

A house hit by the Christchurch earthquakes Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The Supreme Court has ruled the Government's decision to offer owners of uninsured properties and land damaged by the Christchurch earthquakes only 50 percent of their rateable value as unlawful.

The Supreme Court today released its decision into the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority's handling of the Christchurch residential red zone, and the buyout offers some owners received after the earthquakes.

The decision ordered Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, and the authority, to reconsider the buyout offers for the affected landowners.

The case was brought by a group of property owners, known as the 'Quake Outcasts'.

Most of the 68-strong group are owners of uninsured homes or vacant land, which cannot be insured in New Zealand.

The Quake Outcasts took their case to the Supreme Court last year after the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling that offers of 50 percent of the 2007 land value were illegal, but said the establishment of the red zone was legal.

Gerry Brownlee speaks to media after the release of the Civil Aviation Authority report.

Gerry Brownlee Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch

The group's spokesperson Ernest Tsao said the ruling would affect future land decisions.

"That means any future government, or bureaucrat, politicians cannot just make decisions out of their whim and decide to take away people's houses with no compensation," he said.

The decision has not made a ruling about the lawfulness of the red zone establishment.

In 2011 the Government established the residential red zone because land in many parts of the city was deemed too damaged to build on.

Most people received buyout offers from the Crown of 100 percent of their 2007 rateable value.

Mr Brownlee said the Crown would review the decision and then assess what steps to take next.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford called on the Government to act quickly to allow affected owners to move on with their lives.

He said decisions about the residential red zone should have taken human rights principles into account.

Mr Rutherford said the failure to do so had negatively affected the mental and physical health of the affected owners and the Government now had the opportunity to put things right.

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