This recent editorial in the Christchurch Press suggests that people should allow complaints to be resolved by the complaints process of EQC and insurance companies and/or by use of the Residential Advisor Service. These are all ineffectual methods of getting the entitlement under the EQC Act and the insurance policy. The best and quickest method remains the use of the High Court earthquake list that is set up to enable people to get their maximum entitlement quickly and economically from EQC and insurance companies.
Press Release by New Zealand Government at 5:27PM, 16 Sep 2013
The Government has today agreed to a new Order in Council, under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act 2011, to ensure people continue to be protected from earthquake related hazards in Christchurch’s Port Hills.
Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson says the latest geotechnical information confirms a level of risk from hazards, such as rock roll, still exists in the Port Hills.
“The new Order in Council will enable existing section 124 notices that prevent people occupying buildings at risk from hazards in the Port Hills, to remain enforceable.
“These notices not only protect property owners but also give them clarity about the issue as they make decisions about the future of their properties,” Mr Williamson says.
The Canterbury Earthquake (Building Act) Order 2011, which expires today, extended the definition of a dangerous building so that greater Christchurch councils could issue section 124 notices to buildings that were not themselves dangerous but were at risk from natural hazards including rock fall, landslip or cliff collapse. The notices could also be issued to buildings that were at risk of collapsing or causing death in a less than moderate earthquake.
“The Canterbury Earthquake (Building Act) Order 2013 is necessary to ensure Christchurch City and Waimakariri District councils continue to have the power to enforce the existing section 124 notices. The Order, which takes effect from tomorrow (17 September) and will remain in force until 18 April 2016, does not allow for new section 124 notices to be issued, based on the extended definition of a dangerous building.
“The Government’s next step is to consider legislative changes to address future situations anywhere in New Zealand where existing buildings become at risk due to a hazardous event, such as an earthquake, or where new information about hazard risk shows that existing buildings may be a safety risk,” Mr Williamson says.
The section 124 notices and new Order in Council is a different process to the land zoning undertaken in the Port Hills by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee says the land zoning in the Port Hills was designed to allow property owners to move on from properties that are subject to an unacceptable level of life risk over the long term which cannot be addressed on an individual or area-wide basis.
“It does not prevent residents from using their properties but clearly identifies the risk that does exist in the long term as a result of the earthquakes,” Mr Brownlee says.
“Unlike the process for issuing section 124 notices under the Building Act, decision making about zoning does not take into account existing protective structures, such as other houses, trees or rockfall protection structures, as there is no guarantee that these will always be present in the long term.”
The zoning decisions in the Port Hills have been subject to a review to ensure the zoning criteria has been applied correctly and consistently. The results of the review were due to be announced two weeks ago, but this has been delayed as a result of the `Quake Outcasts’ High Court judgment that raises issues around the zoning process.
“We are now looking forward to having those issues further clarified by the Court of Appeal,” Mr Brownlee says.
The new Order in Council is necessary so that the councils can continue to manage risks from earthquake-related hazards and is not related to the postponement of the final Port Hills zoning decisions.
Below is a message from the Property Law Section of the NZ Law Society about building consents of the Christchurch City Council.
Building consents issued by Christchurch City Council
As you know, the Section wrote to Ministers Brownlee and Williamson raising concerns around the issue of building consents in Christchurch. International Accreditation New Zealand revoked Christchurch City Council’s building consent accreditation in July following the Council’s inability to meet the required standard for processes. The Section was concerned by the Council’s lack of accreditation and the effect this could have on the consents issued by the Council. Under the Building Act 2004, loss of accredited status does not automatically revoke a Council’s registration as a building consent authority and as a result, Christchurch City Council has continued to issue building consents.
The Section received a response from Minister Williamson and subsequently met with officials from MBIE. Minister Williamson acknowledged the Council’s breach of the statutory duty to maintain its accredited status but both he and the Ministry consider that this has no effect on the legality or validity of the consents issued by the Council.
However, the Property Law Section continues to have reservations about this approach. Therefore, the Executive Committee recommends that members should consider modifying their solicitor’s certificates to note any relevant consents issued by Christchurch City Council during the period it remains unaccredited. This is important if a vendor is pursued for breach of warranty and also in terms of your advice to a mortgagee to avoid a situation where a bank may consider that it was not properly advised when issuing a loan. Members should also discuss the matter with clients to make them aware of these potential consequences, and the warranties they might give or receive.
The Property Law Section has no knowledge of how banks or the courts might treat such a claim. Further, the Section has not sought a public law opinion on the consequences of a breach of a statutory duty (as none is provided in the Act). However, the Section considers disclosure of the unaccredited status of Christchurch City Council to be current best practice.
The Section will continue to monitor this matter but if you have any questions in the meantime, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
LINX has published summary of all Court decisions arising out of the Christchurch Earthquakes. Most of the cases involve claims against insurance companies. A copy of the list is available here.