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Earthquake Minister must accept judicial review on Red Zone

Earthquake Minister, please accept the judicial review on the Red Zone

…and look for a creative solution to help affected people move forward.

The Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network (WeCan) is calling on Earthquake Minister Gerry Brownlee to accept the judgment of High Court Judge, Justice Pankhurst.

WeCan spokesman, Rev. Mike Coleman, says the decision is clear, and he and his team would be extremely disappointed if Mr Brownlee attempted to put people crippled by his original decision in 2011, through another distressing court proceeding.

“The Government offer to affected people in the area of the red zone has been judged as being unfair; going against the basic human rights of those seriously affected in the Canterbury earthquakes,” he says. “Ordinary Cantabrians, represented by the Outcasts Group, stood to lose much of their properties equity and it would be a further slap in the face should Mr Brownlee decide to appeal this decision and continue the stress and pain even longer,” he says.

Coleman adds that the Minister could show a real sense of justice and a sincere focus on the recovery by accepting the court’s decision.

“In doing so, Mr Brownlee would enable the families, elderly and others who have been through a living hell over the last two and half years, to finally move on with their lives,” he says.

WeCan adds that there is clear legislation included within the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act designed to bring about effective and timely recovery for the people of Canterbury.

“The decision by Justice Pankhurst states clearly that the Earthquake Minister refused to use the powers of the Act that could have assisted this community, so he could make unfair offers for land. WeCan believes the offers amounted to coercion as people had no choice but to sell their properties,” says Coleman.

“It was clear from the beginning the Government wanted people off these areas. Even the words at the bottom of the ‘offer’ stated, ‘if you do not accept this offer we can compulsorily acquire you’. The threat by the Prime Minister stating, there would be no infrastructural services available in these areas which created a fear among the community. In the end people felt they had no choice but to leave, and in the porocess lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, to say nothing of the stress and extreme upset it caused,” says Rev. Coleman.

WeCan have continued to challenge the Red Zoning of land since the announcement on the 23 June 2011. Rateable Value was used by CERA and the Earthquake Minister to set values and as an assessment of equity despite Property Valuers writing to Mr Brownlee stating this would be inaccurate by up to 40% in one in three cases.

“In the end, the Minister would only pay out 50% of the value of both sections and homes. This has now been judged to be illegal,” says Coleman.

WeCan is repeating its calls for the Earthquake Minister to accept the finding of Justice Pankhurst and to start a conversation with affected people to find a new solution which will result in a fair payment to those affected in the areas of the red zone.

“The solution must honour the full equity people had in their properties at the time of the earthquakes,” says Rev. Mike Coleman.

WeCan, therefore affirms Justice Pankhurst’s statement that the Minister and the Chief Executive “reconsider and reach a new decision to purchase the applicants properties, such decisions to be made in accordance with the Law.” In this regard he requires the “purposes and principles of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011 to be applied when they make such decision.”


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