Staying in the Red Zones: Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery 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.
The report was launched in Christchurch where Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel, Waimakariri Mayor David Ayers, Chief Commissioner David Rutherford, Red Zone Resident Martin Gastinger and NZ Red Cross Recovery Manager Michael Donoghue spoke.
Chief Commissioner David Rutherford said that although the report focuses on a small group of affected people, their experiences could have an important impact on how we protect property rights in New Zealand.
“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.
“Our whole country 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.
“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.
“Following the most recent earthquakes, which have hugely impacted Kaikoura and Wellington in particular, thousands have been looking to the experiences of those in Canterbury for ideas about what to do next.
“We have seen some positive improvements in process this time around. It’s important that we continue to build on that for the good of people who are impacted this time around, as well as to show Canterbury residents that their experiences were not in vain."
Red zone resident Martin Gastinger, who spoke at the launch event, has provided the commission with the speech he gave at the launch. Martin spoke of he and his wife Anne's experience of being red zones and is worth a read - the notes are available here.
The report, and interviews with red zone residents can be found here.