Council scraps Alpine Fault building restrictions

A rift on the West Coast between council and landowners living on the Alpine Fault has been settled, with the council voting to scrap property development restrictions in a move scientists say could lead to deaths.

The Alpine Fault runs the length of the South Island. It cuts through popular tourist town Franz Josef, and would put properties and people at risk in a major earthquake. 

"The Alpine Fault has the highest likelihood of rupturing of any fault in New Zealand in the near future," says Virginia Toy, University of Otago staff member specialising in fault lines.

An avoidance zone was established to restrict future development of properties within around 100 metres of the fault line. 

But councillors scrapped those restrictions on Thursday despite a letter from scientists warning it could lead to "significant loss of life and property within the township during our lifetimes".

Ms Toy says the council is "not taking account of really good scientific information that we have put a lot of effort and time into preparing for them".

Councillor Gray Eatwell, who runs tours to the fault line, voted to keep the avoidance zone.

Like all councillors he was told by the Mayor on Sunday he wasn't allowed to be interviewed by Newshub, but he did say councillors have given in to pressure from property owners and to fear of a looming costly legal challenge.