Christchurch earthquake: Homeowners' 10-year fight for property to be red-zoned

Homeowners who have battled for nearly a decade to have their property red-zoned after the magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked Canterbury in 2010 now face accepting defeat and continuing to live in a mouldy, damp and flood-prone home. 

Kerrie and Pablo Rodrigues' house was built in Brooklands, a settlement built on former swampland in north Christchurch 30 years ago. They'd never had any issues with the property until the devastating quake struck in the early hours of September 4.

Their land dropped 300mm but unlike all the properties surrounding them, they weren't classified as being in the red zone. Originally, the home was zoned orange like others in Brooklands.

When the wider area was eventually deemed part of the red zone, their house was made green.

Flooding underneath the couple's home.
Flooding underneath the couple's home. Photo credit: Supplied

"We questioned and wanted to know why," Kerrie told Newshub.

Just last year, the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) said it has concerns about the mould under the house and in the bedrooms caused by the dampness from floods in the wake of the quakes.

Kerrie and Pablo are worried about what these implications might have on their 12-year-old son.

They want their property to be red-zoned so they can be paid out for what their land was valued at prior to the quakes.

"We just want a fair shot like everyone else," says Pablo.

During significant rain events, their land can become completely inundated. One year it rained so much, their property was flooded for more than six months straight.

Despite this, filling - the process of reusing soil to strengthen foundations - continues to take place on neighbouring sites, making the couple's flooding issues worse. They say they've pleaded with the Christchurch City Council to have it stopped.

The council instead classified the couple's property as a ponding area - meaning it's a high risk of flooding.

Demolishing the house and rebuilding on the land is out of the question. A resource consent application report says the risk of development on the property is "unacceptable" because of the home's remoteness, the large flood damage, duration of flooding and flood depths. 

"The flood risk is predicted to worsen over time with ongoing sea-level rise it might be appropriate to consider a relocatable building design," the report, seen by Newshub, says.

Christchurch earthquake: Homeowners' 10-year fight for property to be red-zoned
Photo credit: Supplied

"This has become worse and worse and worse for us that we can't rebuild here," says Kerrie.

"Even if we were able to rebuild here the land issues would not be fixed and we would be on stilts with water everywhere. We can't do anything, we're stuck basically."

The couple says they're also affected by the overflowing of the nearby Styx River when it's at full capacity. The council currently has a resource consent application to discharge stormwater into the river.

"Our land is being sacrificed for upstream development," says Kerrie.

The council says red zone policies and boundaries are the responsibility of the Crown. In terms of the health issues highlighted by the CDHB, the council told Newshub it noted the "nuisances" described and inspected the property.

A council spokesperson said: "The council has considered its various powers under the Health Act 1956 and elected not to use them at this stage as they would put the burden of acting on the landowner".

In terms of filling being undertaken in the area, an investigation is ongoing and compliance officers are "working with the property owner to address the issue", the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the Crown says the property didn't reach red-zoning criteria under the original zoning decision "as the damage to the land/property could be feasibly assessed on an individual basis".

Christchurch earthquake: Homeowners' 10-year fight for property to be red-zoned
Photo credit: Supplied

"Flooding and coastal hazards were not included as criteria for red zoning," a Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) spokesperson told Newshub.

The Crown says while it sympathises with the family, it does not intend to change the zoning criteria.

"As this property did not meet the Crown's zoning criteria, it would not be appropriate for the Crown to offer to purchase the land owned by the Rodrigues family," the LINZ spokesperson said.

But that's no help for this family, who face further stress living in an unhealthy home on a flood-prone property.