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Quake outcasts settlement

06 Sep 2017

The Crown will settle with Christchurch's Quake Outcasts after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a lengthy legal battle with the uninsured red zoners.

The settlement brings the curtain down on a legal struggle that has been ongoing for nearly six years.

Last month, the Court of Appeal ruled former Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee made an "unlawful" decision to discriminate against uninsured homes during the red zone buyout.

On Tuesday, Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Nicky Wagner said Cabinet had agreed to pay each of the 16 homeowners 80 per cent of the 2007-08 rateable value of uninsured property improvements and a payment "to account for the court’s decision and extra uncertainties and costs". 

David Milner, the father of one of the outcasts and spokesman for the group, said they believed they were entitled to full value of their homes.

"I don't think it's a very good deal at all, but at the end of the day after five court cases we had to come to some sort of compromise," he said.

"It's nice to come to the end and a conclusion, but I wouldn't say we were 100 per cent happy."

The Government's previous proposal, in August 2015, offered the full 2007 rateable value of all land and of insured homes.

It did not offer to pay for uninsured homes, which the court deemed unlawful.

A previous offer made in 2012, for 50 per cent of the rateable value to owners of uninsured Christchurch red zone land, was also deemed unlawful in the Court of Appeal in 2013.

"As soon as we had the court's decision, we moved swiftly to provide certainty," Wagner said on Tuesday.

"In saying that, the decision to settle was not taken lightly.

"The Government carefully considered a range of factors, including fairness, financial responsibility, protecting the value of insurance and the litigants' wellbeing."

Property owners had already been paid 100 per cent of the pre-earthquake value of their land.

"The Christchurch quakes were like nothing we've ever experienced.

"The Crown purchased over 7700 properties, based on their pre-earthquake value, to help people move on with their lives.

"All decisions were made in good faith, with the best available information at the time," Wagner said.

A spokeswoman for Wagner said she expected other property owners might come forward to claim similar compensation.

Additional decisions in response to the Court of Appeal judgment would be made after September's election.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet had spent $146,092 on the case, while the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority spent $519,447.

The Quake Outcasts' lawyer, Grant Cameron, said the case had been "protracted", but it was pleasing to see Wagner move quickly "to resolve matters after the recent Court of Appeal decision in the group's favour".

"She certainly seems to have brought a new perspective and her decisive action has been extremely well received by the group," he said.

"It was a sad affair because it's taken nearly six years for these people to gain certainty and to be placed in the same position as other red zone residents were, all those years ago.

"Without being paid the value of their homes most were unable to get on with their lives but now their recovery process can commence. We've had very positive feedback from all group members and they are all very happy with the outcome."

 - Stuff

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