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Christchurch Earthquake bulletin edition 87

Christchurch Labour MPs
3 August 2011

Christchurch Earthquake bulletin edition 87

The Labour Party’s Christchurch electorate MPs, Clayton Cosgrove (Waimakariri), Ruth Dyson (Port Hills), Lianne Dalziel (Christchurch East) and Brendon Burns (Christchurch Central) have started a regular bulletin to keep people in their electorates and media informed about what is happening at grass roots level.

CLAYTON COSGROVE: Yesterday the Government finally decided to provide some legal support to insured Canterbury homeowners living in the red zone. Labour has been pressing Gerry Brownlee, on behalf of constituents, for months on the need to provide low-cost or no-cost legal advice, but until now he hadn’t made any determination. While targeting red zoned residents is a good start, thousands of other homeowners facing technical decisions, without independent advice, will also need help. These are people who may live in green zones, but still face the need to sign off on contractual arrangements with insurers. They are people whose own home might be intact, but who live in close proximity to a zone of houses that are in trouble. Many people who have lost their jobs as well as their homes can’t afford legal advice. They want fairness --- and fairness is not served simply by helping to pay the legal costs of those who choose to accept the Government’s offer because they don’t know what else they can do. Giving people low-cost or no-cost access to legal advice will help speed up the recovery and give people confidence to get on with their lives. On another issue, I note that the Canterbury Employment and Skills Board estimates that up to 30,000 workers will be needed for the Canterbury earthquake rebuild over the next five to 10 years. That’s why Labour has been advocating so strongly for a skills policy that trains or re-trains New Zealanders, especially those living in Canterbury, to tackle the work that lies ahead. National’s response has been to cut back on skills training. When National came into office at the end of 2008, there were 1049 building and construction industry trainees in Canterbury. By December 2010, the number had dropped 45 per cent to 578. That’s staggering. It makes no sense whatsoever.

RUTH DYSON: I am in Wellington this week as Parliament resumes after a two week recess. Last night’s estimates debate gave my colleagues and me the opportunity to raise some issues of on-going concern to Canterbury. From my perspective, one of the biggest threats to the success of our recovery is if people don’t feel involved in the process and therefore don’t have any commitment to our region in the future. People need to be informed about the options being considered and have a genuine voice in the decisions being made. My constituents and I understand the tension that arises when information is given out, and that leads to more questions for which there are not, as yet, any answers. What we all deserve is access to the information currently available – tell us what you know, is my message. We want our future citizens to be passionate and committed to our region. We want to retain our skilled residents and we want a region we can continue to be proud of. That’s what Parliament heard from our team last night. Reports that 26,000 people have left the city since February 22nd are puzzling. I am sure that all electorate MPs will be following up with the Electoral Enrolment Centre to determine exactly what figures are being quoted and whether they are accurate. These figures need rigorous analysis, and consideration, before we can debate the implications for the region in the long term.

LIANNE DALZIEL: In last night’s estimates debate I asked the government to confirm that it had not managed to preserve the equity in the properties of those in the red zone, despite best efforts. This is not a criticism of the government’s efforts nor of the Minister, who I know worked hard to achieve that end. The reason that I keep raising this issue is the fact that the widespread public belief that the government’s offer is enabling everyone in the red zone to move on, means those facing challenges in the red zone are being made to feel ungrateful, when they are really fearful about what the future holds. The four groups of people that face real challenges are 1) People who bought their home when the market value exceeded the 2007 Rating Valuation. These people face the prospect of ‘negative equity’ – i.e. the offer means these homeowners would have to accept less than the amount they owe on their mortgage. 2) Homeowners who cannot buy property without borrowing and who cannot afford to service a mortgage or who do not meet lending criteria. 3) Homeowners whose land component of their 2007 Rating Valuation does not represent the market value of an unimproved section and/or is insufficient to buy an equivalent sized section in the current market. 4) Homeowners whose properties have not been so damaged as to warrant a rebuild and whose insurers are only willing to fund the cost of repairs. This is causing significant anxiety among homeowners, who have been told that their home is able to be repaired if they were not in the red zone, or whose insurer hasn’t yet advised them of the assessment. These homeowners are asking why, if they cannot repair their house, someone will not meet the cost of a replacement home on a like for like basis. That being said there are a number of people who will be able to accept one of the two offers from the government and achieve the sense of closure that we are all looking for. But people from the red zone are not all in the same position, so I asked that we be respectful of that reality and not judge those who express concerns about the challenges they face.

BRENDON BURNS: I have learnt one of my constituents has been getting the run-around from the city council on whether chemicals are still available without charge for chemical toilets. One of my staff spoke to the council call centre and was told things are changing on a daily basis with regard to chemicals. Originally chemicals were able to be collected from the Linwood Service Centre, but the centre is no longer providing them. After some investigation it appears the council are now delivering the chemicals to people who need them. People are still paying their rates, even when they don’t have functioning toilets, on the basis that alternatives (portaloos and chemical toilets) are being provided. Clear and consistent information is needed from the council here. I used my speech in the CERA estimates debate last night to acknowledge the huge task CERA has, not least its chief executive, Roger Sutton who has arguably the hardest job in New Zealand. I commented on what appears to be a buttoning back in the Government’s heating programme, later confirmed in the House by Minister Gerry Brownlee. He said this was inevitable once the more urgent cases were dealt with and argued some 9000+ new heaters had now been installed. The Fletchers EQR website shows 6,861 heat pumps and 2,452 solid fuel burners have been installed. While that’s doubled from the start of winter I am still meeting constituents who remain without heating. I door-knocked an Avonside home last Sunday where a family was still trying to get heating sorted (although Fletchers does generally respond quickly if I alert them via my office). We are now in the last stages of winter and some priority families are only just getting their heaters.

ENDS

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