Christchurch, New Zealand. December 27th, 2011.


SINKING FEELING: Geologist Vanessa Tappenden, pictured with a sink hole in Monterey Place, says the flooded street is unfixable and should be rezoned to reflect that.

Parklands residents are demanding the Government write off hundreds of homes that were previously declared habitable.

Christchurch geologist Vanessa Tappenden lives in Monterey Place, which flooded after Friday’s big earthquakes and is now riddled with silt-choked holes.

Many of the houses in the Parklands street are already writeoffs but have suffered significant new damage, with a metre-deep sinkhole opening beneath one house.

“This road should never see houses on it again, unless it is raised three metres,” she said. “You can’t change geology.”

Tappenden, who specialises in how soil conditions influence engineering, said a large part of eastern Parklands should be rezoned red, allowing people to sell their damaged properties to the Government and move on.

The same streets had been hit repeatedly by quakes, showing the weak land could not support houses, she said.

“We’ve been told the land has building capacity between earthquakes. It’s like saying a house isn’t burning down between fires.”

Nearly all of Parklands was zoned green-blue on October 28, allowing people to remain on their land provided they met tougher foundation standards for rebuilding or repairing their homes.

At the time, some Parklands people said they were pleased to go green, but no-one who spoke to The Press yesterday wanted to stay.

“If you’re collecting votes to go red, you’ve got mine,” Wisteria Place resident Holle Stelle said.

Chris Innes is moving out of his Foresters Cres home forever after his insurer’s engineer deemed it uninhabitable on Saturday. All the family’s belongings had been packed into a trailer but Innes said they were still looking for a new home.

“We are not quite sure where we are going.”

Like many, he was struggling to understand why authorities ever believed he could rebuild. “No-one here has any confidence their land will perform any better in future quakes,” he said.

Tina Holewood, of Monterey Place, has watched a metre-wide hole slowly munch through her front lawn with each new quake.

After every quake, contractors have filled the hole with gravel, but it has always returned. “It has got bigger. How far is it going to come up next time?” she said.

Her house is a writeoff, but with the land still zoned green, theoretically she will eventually have to rebuild.

“But I personally wouldn’t rebuild here,” she said.

Others have already decided to leave, regardless of the land classification.

Lamorna Rd resident Fiona Macpherson said even if her property was deemed habitable, she was unlikely to rebuild.

“It’s just going to keep happening, isn’t it?,” she said.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority chief executive Roger Sutton said he understood why Parklands residents felt their land should be rezoned red.

“I can absolutely understand that,” he said. “I went through that area on Friday and it was pretty grim.”

Sutton said parts of Parklands and other areas hit hard on Friday would be reassessed by geotechnical engineers early in the new year. He defended the decision to classify Parklands green in October, which he said reflected the best available information at the time.

“We will re look at it and check we have got it right.”

However, reassessing the land could take months, meaning land damaged in Friday’s quakes would remain green even as its status was being reviewed.

Sutton said anyone who had suffered substantial new damage should hold off on repairs.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee would not comment until he had received more geotechnical advice in the new year.

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