The $1.5 billion loss on Christchurch red zone land

When the earthquakes stopped ravaging eastern Christchurch, thousands of properties lay broken and abandoned. The owners had fled either because the quakes were too much to handle or their properties had suffered such severe damage as to be no longer inhabitable.

The Government came to the rescue, offering to buy them up at their 2007 rating value. Many people accepted and one by one the remaining occupants, upon reaching deals with their insurance companies, packed up and either left town or bought property elsewhere. By the end of 2016, only a few properties were still occupied.

Now, it has come out that since the Government snapped up what was N.Z.$1.5 billion worth of red zone land in eastern Christchurch, the value of that land has plummeted to a mere $21 million. If one works that out, 7,000 properties were worth an average value of $214,285. Now they are worth about $3,000 a piece. In addition to the money sunk into purchasing the red zone properties which take up all of Bexley, parts of Dallington, Avonside, Avondale, Aranui, $130 million was sunk into maintaining them.

To translate, the $3,000 I spent on courses for my Graduate Diploma would have been able to buy one of those properties.

So, what happened?

Effectively much of this is land that is not fit to be built on in terms of residential development. The properties either suffer lateral spreading that means during the shaking different layers of strata moved at different speed, and came to rest in different places from where they started. This has the effect of making the land unstable to build on.

Due to the high intensity of the ground shaking, in some places up to Modified Mercalli X, the dwellings would have also been subject to liquefaction, which would have caused subsidence. This would have damaged both the dwelling and the infrastructure such as the sewerage and water mains, and underground electricity cables.

Political parties as part of their campaign efforts in Christchurch are trying to figure out ways of capitalizing on the empty land and are proposing extra spending to fund projects that might make use of the land. No long term plan has yet been worked out. Locals are divided on what it might be used for. Some support letting it become light farming or horticultural land as this will not involve heavy dwellings such as houses. Others believe that it should become a sports mecca with rowing facilities and so forth.

Being a natural hazards graduate I tend to take a cautionary view of the land. It has suffered damage and there is nothing to suggest further earthquakes in the future will not cause similar problems. Seeing as the land is in what was the so called “Green Belt” around Christchurch, an appropriate use would perhaps be to let it become farmland. Large swathes of it are too low lying and too prone to flooding to be insured by insurance companies, which makes it difficult for anyone wishing to rebuild in the area.


2 thoughts on “The $1.5 billion loss on Christchurch red zone land

    • Some sort of decision needs to be reached so that the City Council and Government a) know who is responsible for the land and who is paying for its future up keep b) stop it from being swallowed up by developers again.

      Environment Canterbury opposed the development of Bexley subdivision in 1998, for the very reasons Bexley ceased to exist in 2011: liquefaction.


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