17 Nov 2015

Liquefaction label for some Christchurch homes

6:37 pm on 17 November 2015

Nearly 4500 Canterbury homes have been classed as being more vulnerable to liquefaction since the earthquakes.

Liquefaction following a swarm of earthquakes in Christchurch in December 2011.

Liquefaction following a swarm of earthquakes in Christchurch in December 2011. Photo: RNZ / Bridget Mills

Liquefaction is the process whereby the ground turns to liquid during earthquakes. It left large parts of east Christchurch covered in thick layers of silt, and toppled houses off their foundations.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) today held an information session for affected residents, who were told they would be officially informed of the classification by early next year.

It was unlikely to be a surprise to those affected but did mean they would qualify for an EQC payout.

South Shore residents Pete and Marion Neal are among those waiting to find out if their land is classed as being more prone to liquefaction than it was before the earthquakes.

However, they're in no doubt that it actually is, with liquefaction and the silt it produces a major problem around their home.

"We had 22 tonne in our garden, of liquefaction, I know that for a fact, and that would be a conservative estimate...that's what I took away...me and her with shovels."

EQC head of land settlements Keith Land.

EQC head of land settlements Keith Land. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

EQC head of land settlements Keith Land said compensation would be based on either the cost of preventing liquefaction from recurring - or how much a property's value had fallen because of it.

"The qualification packs going out now should be completed, hopefully, within weeks. There may be a few really complex cases which might take us that little bit longer but they should all be done this year," he said.

Payments would be cash settlements and would start early next year.

Mr Land denied it was a subjective judgement and said figures would be arrived at based on assessments by engineers and valuers.

"We believe it's actually quite an objective call based on the criteria we're using...how that then feeds in to a market is a whole different question which I can't really comment on."

Mr Neal said he already had a good idea what he would be eligible for based on the most recent valuation the council did on his property when it set its new rates charges.

"They've reduced our land value from $280,000 to $260,000, so somebody has come up with a figure somewhere...I don't know, these are all uncertainties that I don't seem to be able to fathom," he said.

Another homeowner waiting to find out if he qualified for a payment but who asked not to be named said the land damage in his area was so bad he wondered whether he was being given the correct advice on the type of foundations his rebuilt house would need.

It had been a two-year battle to get EQC to stump up for the full cost of rebuilding his home, and wondered if the same would happen with getting it to pay out for the damage to his land.

"I've had a heart attack, I've had a stroke, and my doctor attributes these to the stress that I've been under with taking up the battle with EQC...it's continually having to fight for what you know is right."

The commission has already begun settling claims for the 9500 households deemed to be potentially more vulnerable to flooding because of quake-related land subsidence.

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