The Human Rights Commission is calling for greater protection of property rights for New Zealanders, following today’s release of a monitoring report on human rights in the Canterbury earthquake recovery.
The Report, Staying in the Red Zones: Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, is the second of two monitoring reports from the Commission and highlights the experiences of those who remained living in the red zone following the earthquakes and refused the Government’s offer to buy their properties.
Chief Commissioner David Rutherford says that while the group of residents that the report focuses on is relatively small, their experiences and stories are ones that much can be learnt from.
“New Zealand is susceptible to natural disasters, which means all New Zealanders have the potential to be in the same situation as those who lived, or continue to live or own property in the residential red zone.
“Many of us would believe that our domestic laws are strong enough to protect our property rights, however, as the situation in Canterbury has shown, the Executive still has the ability to override those laws.
“Instead of using the extensive powers Parliament had given it to undertake the recovery, the Executive instead used the so called “third source” of power to declare the red zone. A decision that still impacts the lives of residents in the red zone today, particularly around the provision and maintenance of services to their properties.”
“We need to look at all mechanisms available, such as the Bill of Rights Act, to better protect property rights to ensure that if a significant event like the earthquakes happen again, people are offered more options than either selling their family home, or facing a lack of support from government,” Mr Rutherford says.
In addition to the call for property rights to be better protected, the report has five key messages. These are:
- Human rights must be front and centre in disaster recovery, prevention and preparedness.
- Recovery activity should always be guided by legislation and limited to the powers provided by Parliament.
- Communication is key – not just immediately post-event, but ongoing in decision making.
- There must be a “Nothing about us without us” approach to community engagement.
- There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to disasters, agencies need to be flexible.
“The opportunity presented by this report is to build back better – not just in terms of bricks and mortar, but also in terms of ensuring that human rights considerations are front and centre in disaster recovery, prevention and preparedness.
“We are hopeful that this report and the experiences of those who have lived, or still live and own property in the red zone, give all New Zealanders an insight into what they could potentially face if our property rights are not better protected.”
To read the report and interviews with those living in the residential red zone in mid-2015, click here.