100,000 homes damaged, 10,000 unsavable — early estimates

Wellington, March 1 NZPA - As many as 100,000 homes need repair after last week's devastating Christchurch earthquake and 10,000 will have to be rebuilt according to early estimates, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says.

Residents and business owners would have to be patient as the Earthquake Commission (EQC) and private insurers swung into action to get assessments under way, Mr Brownlee said.

"Assessments on damage can take up to five hours on each property, so if you multiple that out across the numbers of properties that are involved, and divide that by 2000 hours for an average year's work, you start to see the enormity of what we are trying to deal with," he said.

"In many, many cases once an assessment has been done more damage has been found than was reported."

Fast financial settlements would not be in the interest of homeowners, Mr Brownlee said.

"People get impatient but I think the fact we have had another event of considerable size that's done even worse damage (than the September quake) shows that you can't rush these things and you are just a complete fool if you delude yourself that you can."

All land would again need to be assessed as was done after the September quake, he said.

Initial "sweeping observations" were being made about the land in different areas but that would be followed up by detailed analysis.

"Once again you have to go property by property."

All roads would also have to be checked and even sections that looked OK could have scrambled piping underneath.

The council works team City Care headed by Mark Christianson had made a "fantastic effort", he said.

"You've got people out literally up to their elbows in the mud doing very long hours at the moment...people desperately want their water, they want their sewer and these guys are the people who deliver it for them."

Housing people in the meantime would be a challenge. If possible residents should stay at home.

"(Houses) may not look pretty but if they are safe to occupy and there are services on that's the best option for people."

The Government was looking at helping with temporary accommodation on site, such as caravans, but that would not suit some people, especially those with large families.

"We are desperately trying to come up with some fast solutions around that temporary accommodation...modular dwelling units of some type."

The Housing Department and Housing New Zealand were looking at options.

Meanwhile Mr Brownlee said many heritage buildings would not be able to be saved. After the last quake the council had refused to allow some to be demolished.

"I am pretty determined that some of the nonsense that went on after the September 4 is not going to get in the road of the rebuild this time," he said.

"The fact is that if a heritage building is damaged it's structural integrity will be gone and it is either rebuilt to code or it comes down, in most cases it will come down."

Mr Brownlee expected "every effort" would be made to save buildings in the heritage precinct and one or two other buildings would be focussed on but all would be strengthened.

"The fact is that a number of people did die while they were working on buildings they were trying to preserve so I am just saying life is more important and so is the future of the city, we must have a reputation in the future of being a city that has very safe buildings following this event.

"That has to be the heritage that we leave future generations."

- Content provided to you by NZPA


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