Keep Discovering

The Press, Yardley column. Jan 26

SAFEGUARDS  NEEDED  FOR WRITTEN-OFF HOMES.

Browse through the Christchurch property listings on Trade Me and you’ll soon stumble upon a slew of written-off homes, on the market.  It’s actually been the case for months. Prior to Christmas, real estate agents flagged their concerns with CERA about munted homes contaminating the market, but the government hasn’t seen fit to intervene.  In discussion with the Earthquake Recovery Minister this week, he was surprised that substantially damaged homes, deemed as  “write-offs” weren’t being routinely demolished. Not every written-off home is necessarily a basket-case. But when it is badly compromised, or structurally unsafe, should it be allowed to be on-sold “as is where is’? Should the new owner be allowed to fill it with unsuspecting tenants?  Sure, the rental housing shortage requires a degree of short-term pragmatism. But where are the safeguards that will ensure badly broken houses will be brought up to code, in time? And if you are unlucky enough to be living in a street, swamped by “as is where is” sales,  what’s that going to do your home’s market value? The Insurance Council’s Tim Grafton tells me that the industry would support the establishment of a public database that identified written-off homes.  I believe these compromised houses should be required to be brought up to code within 5 years, so as not to contaminate the long-term integrity of the city’s housing stock.  Either that – or bowl them.

Heart of Glass.

Bravo to Mayor Bob Parker for finally sharing his Cathedral dream.  Twelve months ago, the Mayor happily hitched himself to the retention wagon, before strangely going missing-in-action. Bob’s “snow-dome” solution for Christchurch Cathedral won’t win everyone over, but I commend the Mayor for siding with those who vehemently believe   the bulk of this building should be retained – not obliterated.  And I love Bob’s call for a vaulting new spire. The Church Property Trust’s long-standing position of levelling the Cathedral walls to a Lilliputian height of  1-2 metres,  is looking increasingly inane. Whatever the final shape is for this building, it should serve as a legacy emblem of our earthquake – just as it’s always been the emblem of this city.

Signposts.

I like to think I’m an attentive road-user, but I have a couple of beefs with the spanking new Southern Motorway. After lavishing $140 million dollars on this longer and wider artery-enhancement project, could we not have for smarter signposting? I hate to think how many airport-bound motorists have hurtled past the off-ramp for Curletts Road, and the airport, when they’ve come from Barrington. Have you noticed how hopelessly subtle the signage is? Meanwhile, don’t you just love those last-minute exiting motorists, who career across the lanes, in side-swiping fashion to leave the motorway?

( Mike’s weekly current affairs column in the South Island’s flagship newspaper, The Press. First published on January 26,2013.)7031646

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