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Quake's worst hit still waiting for answers

Published: 8:10PM Thursday September 23, 2010 Source: ONE News

Claims that Christchurch mayor Bob Parker lied about council opposition to building on some of the land worst affected by the Canterbury earthquake has added to the misery of Christchurch residents already struggling to recover.

Pacific Park in Bexley suffered extensive damage when the 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit on September 4, and residents say although the council and Earthquake Commission (EQC) were initially quick to help, many people remain in limbo with their futures still uncertain.

Parker claimed the council went to the Environment Court to fight building on some of the land as it was unstable.

However, Councillor Chrissie Williams of the Burwood Pegasus ward rubbished that comment as untrue.

"There had been pressure to start building on this less desirable land, more expensive land, where a lot of fill was needed," she said.

Williams provided documentation showing that 20 years ago the council wanted to add more houses than what is in the area now, but that the planning tribunal reduced them.

She also said the mayor's claims that he was informed incorrectly were "surprising".

Parker owned up to his mistake on TVNZ's Close Up tonight, maintaining he did not have the right information, but admitting the blame ultimately lay with him.

"I sought advice on that from staff, got advice, but at the end of the day that was not correct and I have to apologise for that. I was wrong.

"This has been all about communication, and when something as important as that is miscommunicated then I have to take responsibility," he said.

He also said the situation would be made clearer tomorrow, when the EQC will make an announcement about the possible remediation of the land.

"That will be step one of the process. It will really tell us what we need to know in terms of how we take our decision making process.

"We want to protect equity. We want to protect the money that ordinary people have in their properties and ensure that as much as we can, they get it out."

Homeowners frustrated, angry, and still waiting

The words may be of little comfort to Bexley homeowners though, whose frustration has grown along with their desperation for any indication of progress.

Resident Malcolm MacLeod was among those struggling for answers, which he said are in short supply.

"No one knows, no one is getting any information, no one is forthcoming. This is what we've worked all my working life for and it's just wrecked."

"If I can get the money for this place I will walk away," he added.

Nearly two weeks on from the quake, there has been no contact from the council or an update from the EQC.

Ex-doctor Don Dalley is another who wants to make his complaint known, after his house was condemned and retirement dream home broken.

"I think that's where the frustration and anger arises from... Lack of communication, lack of reassurance, and that's what we're getting at the moment.

"There are too many uncertainties, we just feel that our own decision making has been taken away."

But the EQC's Ian Simpson said that while he understood the residents' complaints, they needed to look at the wider picture.

"Some people want to stay, some people want to leave. We need to make sure that we're not just firing off after our own interests but we're part of a bigger solution.

"Absolutely everybody wants to give clarity as soon as possible, but it's worth spending a week or two now to make sure we get the right answer and the fairest answer for everybody," he said.