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Friday, June 17, 2011

Blindingly obvious - revisited

The last blog looked at the two sides of the land issue: who goes, and where to. The decision on who goes has clearly been made, because the government is looking at a package for those affected, and such a package couldn't be calculated and negotiated without knowing specifics.

To the extent that information is available, it seems the package concept does not skimp on the financial side. As earlier promised, the government intends to restore everyone to the equity situation they were in on the 3rd of September. How this is calculated will be interesting: the QV value current at the time, the rateable value, or the market value, all of which could be different.

There is no legal obligation on the government to restore anyone to that equity situation, and in many cases the end result will be better than could otherwise have been expected. This is especially so, for instance, for those who live on small pockets of reasonable ground and would be left behind. They in particular would be vulnerable to future problems with liquifaction, land movement, flooding, the availability and cost of insurance, and a likely inability to sell their property ever. Through the government this is a contribution to us from the whole country.

If we move, I will be grateful for what underpins the package. That does not, however, place me (or anyone else) under an obligation to accept anything inappropriate or unsuitable. This brings us to Bill English's comment in the Press (here) where he implies the package will provide "reasonably definitive answers". As we don't know the questions they asked themselves, we can't easily anticipate how definitive the answers will be. Certainly they will be reasonably definitive in specifying the areas to be abandoned. It won't be a final list, as land is still moving and settling, but it should set out what is known and what will happen if circumstances change. Some properties will be in the category purely because of location, and not problems with the land under them. Will there be some review process for those who are unconvinced by the assessment that has been made? Considering the number of shonky property assessments made so far, there will be a high level of scepticism in some parts.

The areas where Bill English's "definitiveness" will be open to question are: timing, the new locations, who will be in charge, when is it expected to be finished, and the amount of choice that will be offered. Of these, the two where individuals will especially want to make choices, involve timing and location.

Timing is essential for everyone living in a house where the land has sunk and is at risk of flooding from tidal flows or storm water. Timing is just as critical for those who had to abandon their homes some time in the past and are having to pay rent. No doubt there will be a schedule of priorities included in the package. Will this be negotiable? How?

Moving to a new location has at least six interpretations: having a new property built within the greater Christchurch area, having a new property built outside of the greater Christchurch area (or Canterbury), buying an existing property in the greater Christchurch area, buying an existing property outside the greater Christchurch area, relocating the existing house onto new land within the greater Christchurch area, relocating the house outside of the greater Christchurch area (or Canterbury). What choices will there be from these options? It might be useful to have a preference sorted before the package is announced, as that will provide a good base for assessing its suitability to you.

More issues tomorrow.

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