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64

Sharks Dine Out on Christchurch’s Red Zoners

by Mike Coleman

Many of us in the Red Zone realise the government package is probably the fairest approach to finding a solution for the damaged land in the east of Christchurch. If we could take our money and access good land and property we would be happy to go. The reality is we can’t! We can’t afford properties in the west of Christchurch, and we can’t afford to build new homes with the money we will get for our properties.

Why? Simply, the Red Zone area in Christchurch has low rateable values in relation to much of the city. The average house price in the Red Zone is $270,000-$280,000. But much of the cosy eastern suburbs where people were able to find affordable housing are now gone. We have no option but to head towards good land where the insurance companies will insure us. This land is significantly higher in price than our current properties. It is much like asking someone in Panmure or Onehunga to take their Rateable Value and buy in Epsom or Remuera. You just could not do it! Basically 5,100 people (plus many people now in the orange zone) will have to go and buy in the rich areas.

The property developers know this and have begun to buy up land. Prices are increasing as I write. I talked to a real estate agent today and her client had an offer of $200,000 on a section. Yesterday, the seller put their price up by $35,000. I contacted a subdivision in the weekend and they were putting up their section prices for the second time in the space of a week.

My land is valued at $170,000. This is higher than many, but even so I would need an extra $80,000 to get land in the city of comparable size. Put this together with trying to build and I would have to take out a mortgage of more than $200,000. Fine if you are a professional in Auckland—but way too much for most working class and retired folk in the Red Zone. As a consequence, I know of no-one in our neighbourhood who is building a new home. The Christchurch rebuild will not be as large as people may think, especially now the insurance companies will not rebuild the many Red Zone homes that they have deemed ‘repairable’.

There is little doubt in my mind that the overseas reinsurers have said to our government, “If you force us to honour our full replacement policies and rebuild people’s homes, then you will threaten insurance throughout New Zealand”. Somehow, the Australian government forced insurance companies to rebuild homes on new land after the 1989 Newcastle Earthquake but ‘little’ New Zealand is being held to ransom by Corporate America and Europe. Basically, the Red Zoners will become the scapegoat in saving insurance in our country. Is this how New Zealanders really want to treat the mums, dads, kids and retired grandparents in our country? If this package stays as the government has set it up, it will cripple thousands of people with debt for decades.

Our options in the Red Zone are these:

  • Try to purchase land and get torn apart by the property developer sharks keen to make the big dollars on the back of our large mortgages.

  • Fight the insurance company sharks to rebuild our homes according to the ‘Total Replacement’ policies that we have.

  • Rent and be at the mercy of the landlord sharks .

Mr Brownlee, please create a second half to the land package—provide sections we can afford to buy using CERA’s powers to purchase land. And be tough with the insurance companies so they will rebuild Christchurch with the premiums that we have paid for decades.

Please do not leave us in shark infested water!

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