21 Jul 2015

Coastal hazard zone worry for residents

8:51 am on 21 July 2015

Residents from seaside suburbs in Christchurch are worried their property values will drop and they will struggle to obtain insurance after a report has identified thousands of homes as being in coastal erosion and flooding zones.

Redcliffs and Sumner suffered major damage in the Canterbury earthquakes.

Redcliffs and Sumner suffered major damage in the Canterbury earthquakes. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The Christchurch City Council is holding a series of public meetings to discuss the findings of a coastal hazards assessment, which has estimated almost 18,000 properties throughout Christchurch are at risk of flooding inundation.

Less than 40 residents attended the meeting in Sumner last night, which many felt was disappointing.

But for those who did go along, some were left feeling that their burning questions went unanswered.

Sumner resident Aaron Dunlop said he was frustrated that the city council would grant building consents to some at-risk homes but could not reassure residents that being in a hazard area would not affect their insurance status.

"It seems like everyone is running away from liability," he said.

"If someone tells you you can build a house somewhere then you expect that you're going to be able to insure your house if you've been told by a government or a council that you can do that."

A member of the Burwood-Pegasus community board, Tim Sintes, who is also a Southshore homeowner, said the new coastal hazard zoning would hit property owners in the pocket.

"I have a neighbour, whose rebuild bill is up to about $1.7 million and he can't get insurance now."

He said because a property's coastal hazard status would be stated on the Land Information Memorandum people could struggle to insure, or sell, their home.

The council's natural environment unit manager, Helen Beaumont, said for high-risk areas, obtaining building consents would become more difficult.

"A more restrictive approach is proposed to avoid intensification of development in the high-risk areas," she said.

"We don't want to see more subdivision, unless that development can demonstrate that it's assessed all of the risks that are present."

She said residents should talk to their insurer if they were concerned about their property's future insurability.

A principle advisor of natural resources from the city council, Peter Kingsbury, said coastal erosion was not unique to Christchurch and referenced recent weather events in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.

However, he said the earthquakes had accelerated the risks the city faces from rising sea levels.

"What we're experiencing in parts of Christchurch is almost the 100-year sea level rise in that single event, or that single series of earthquakes, where the ground has dropped significantly."

City councillor for the Hagley-Ferrymead ward, Yani Johanson, said residents deserved to know the implications of being in a coastal hazard zone.

He said staff had held briefings with insurance firms to discuss the coastal hazard report and said the council needed to be "a little bit more proactive" about telling people what the likely insurance impacts were.

The draft natural hazards chapter would be notified and open for public submissions this Saturday.

An independent hearings panel would have the final say on the chapter.

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