Derelict Christchurch buildings in council ‘crosshairs‘

Christchurch may have to impose a special tax on building owners who refuse to deal with their derelict buildings, a councillor says.

February 2011 earthquake damage in Christchurch Photo: AFP

In May last year the Christchurch City Council released a list of 30 derelict buildings or sites which it said were holding up the central city‘s regeneration.

The sites varied from just exposed foundation work, heavily tagged and damaged office buildings to high profile heritage buildings such as the Anglican Cathedral.

The council‘s list was last updated on 16 February and now lists 20 buildings – it removed two after complaints from the owners. Eight other buildings are still listed as sites where intentions are yet to be confirmed or subject to insurance disputes.

These include the ten-storey Oxford Apartments and the heritage protected Peterborough Centre.

Christchurch City Council head of urban regeneration, urban Design and heritage Carolyn Ingles said the list would updated in July.

“It is the responsibility of the property owners for those sites identified where action has yet occurred to initiate the necessary work and inform the Council.

“We have and will continue to work to support them as they work out what the future of their buildings will be.”

Each building and owner had different issues and challenges they faced, she said.

“It‘s not going to happen overnight. It takes time. But the council is committed to working with, and supporting the building owners in the first instance, and we are happy to discuss matters with them at any time.”

Councillor Jamie Gough initially raised the issue with derelict houses and wanted them eradicated.

“We can‘t get complacent and pat ourselves on the back and say, ‘Hey, we‘ve gone from 30 to 8‘.

“We shouldn‘t be afraid to really cane these absentee land owners because it‘s a real kick in the guts for the good people in Christchurch who have put their money where their mouth is, stuck around Christchurch and backed the city.”

When the Council released the list of derelict buildings it said would start with working with the owners, and then move to pressure in the form of fines. The final step would be land acquisition.

Mr Gough wanted a tax on derelict sites if people refused to take action.

“My dream outcome would be for them to financially hit them in the pocket and have a derelict site tax imposed on them. It hasn‘t got to that point yet but it is certainly an option at our disposal.”

The net was cast too wide initially, including owners who were genuinely trying to fix their buildings.

“[Now] it‘s people who have had a sizeable insurance payout and can‘t be bothered getting off their chuff and doing anything. They are the ones in the crosshairs.”

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