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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

CERA, its values, and the 30 April deadline

The world of the earthquake-affected is generally aware the Government offer to Red Zoners, and especially the maximum settlement date of 30 April 2013, was premised upon a number of factors that haven't materialised, assumptions that turned out to be unrealistic,  and a lack of foresight by those who set the date and manufactured it's justifications.

Since the setting of the date the situation has been exacerbated by more earthquakes and incompetence in critical places. Despite this the Crown Offers drawn up before the obstacles created by EQC, insurers, and the market in general, changed the playing field completely, are the objects of gross intransigence.

The biggest issue for those wanting to rebuild is failure of the market to meet the needs of  Red Zoner’s. A primary failure is in making available, on time, suitable sections for those entitled to rebuild. The NZ Herald reported yesterday (here) that the Minister of Finance Bill English told Parliament "housing affordability remains a deep-seated, complex and serious problem,'' and “Despite demand for low cost houses, relatively few are being built - in part because of the very high cost of land, particularly in Auckland,''.  The idea the problem “remains deep-seated” is important here. This is not a recent discovery – the problems associated with affordable housing have been around for a while. Clearly this is Christchurch’s problem too.

Along the way an expectation was created that suitable land would become available, people acted upon that expectation, and it hasn't happened.  Why did CERA help create this expectation? Was it a mistaken belief, or politically soothing misinformation? Whatever the cause, the fact remains that many of those entitled to a rebuild won’t have a new home before the 30th of April.

How is CERA dealing with the conflict between the impending deadline and the externally inflicted inability to move on?

  1. CERA has stated it is mindful of the need for land to become available for people with Red Zoned properties. That is a fine thing, but does not seem to be backed up by results. Practically all land that has become available, and is scheduled to become available in the next six months or so, is beyond the financial reach of Red Zoners. The sections cost much more than the valuation attributed to Red Zone sections. Covenants place restrictions that push building requirements beyond what is provided for with home insurance policies. Has CERA analysed this? Does CERA have up to date information on what is happening, and the extent to which it is genuinely relevant to those who have been Red Zoned? Has CERA any idea what the land affordability situation is? If CERA does, where are the encouraging numbers? If the numbers are not encouraging, what is CERA going to do about it?
  2. We are told CERA is working closely with local government and the private sector to open up land for residential development. Has CERA checked to see how much of the land that will become available is relevant to the needs of those who are Red Zoned?  Again, will it be affordable and have covenants that encourage rather than obstruct prospective Red Zone settlers? Will titles be issued in time for building to be completed by the 30th of April? If not, what will CERA do about it?
  3. We are also told CERA is monitoring the situation closely. To what purpose and how is this being done? How will monitoring help people stuck in the Red Zone get a new property built by the 30th of April?

CERA ran an extensive campaign advising people to take their time and make a considered decision - now CERA wants to pressure them into hasty action to meet an increasingly meaningless deadline.

The pursuit of the 30 April deadline is further victimising those who have suffered not only earthquake damage but delays caused by EQC, delays caused by their insurance companies, and massive market failure. CERA's conduct in this matter just heaps further misery upon those least able to do what they want to do - get out in one piece.

As we look about we see many people being harmed by the blinkered, intractable, and brutal officiousness they keep encountering. We see them aging prematurely and harming themselves through anxiety and inappropriate coping. The University of Canterbury has research to demonstrate this. How long will it be before we have our first acknowledged "death by CERA"? Will this become an emotional cancer taking it's toll for decades to come?

What has the greatest value to CERA - the 30th of April or human wellbeing? They can’t have it both ways.

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