Background on the residential red zone

The Canterbury earthquakes and their aftershocks caused unprecedented and widespread damage to land and buildings in greater Christchurch.

Following the 4 September 2010 earthquake, the Government, in its role as insurer through the Earthquake Commission (EQC), gathered a significant amount of geotechnical information about the damage that had occurred and the condition of the land. Gathering this information was intended to enable it to meet its liabilities in respect of land damage.

This meant the Government had extensive information that could help property owners and insurers in their decisions about rebuilding and/or repairing properties.

There was an urgent need, following the 22 February and 13 June 2011 earthquakes, for the Government to quickly assist people in the worst affected areas who were otherwise facing lengthy negotiations with their insurers and the prospect of living on damaged land with damaged infrastructure for long periods. Also, the Government was concerned insurers may not renew existing policies. Action was needed to understand the land damage and ensure that insurance would continue to be available in greater Christchurch.


Why did the Government zone land?

As the Government’s EQC geotechnical information was assessed by national and international experts and officials, it become clear that there were areas where the extent of the land damage meant that area-wide solutions would be required to address the damage that had occurred.

The Government’s zoning decisions were in response to the wide spread damage caused by the earthquakes and to help people in the worst affected areas. Without Government involvement, property owners were likely to face significant delays to repairing or rebuilding their homes.

Some residential red zone areas experienced significant liquefaction and lateral spreading, with extensive area-wide land damage that was assessed as being difficult to remediate and, in some cases, remediation would take a very long time to complete and be disruptive for property owners.

The Government had agreed to the following rebuild objectives for greater Christchurch and these helped guide its decisions about these areas:

  • Achieve certainty of outcome for homeowners as soon as practicable
  • Create confidence for people to be able to move forward with their lives
  • Create confidence in decision making (for home owners, business owners, insurers and investors)
  • Use the best available information to inform decisions
  • Have a simple process in order to provide clarity and support for land-owners, residents, and businesses in those areas.

Doing nothing was not going to meet these objectives.

On 23 June 2011, the Government agreed to an emergency social policy response to the wide spread damage caused by the earthquakes and to help people in the worst affected areas consisting of:

  • An area-wide process for categorising properties that resulted in properties being categorised green zone or residential red zone
  • Terms for a purchase offer to owners of insured residential properties in the residential red zone.

The zoning was not a formal Resource Management Act zoning or hazard mapping tool; it identified where the Crown would offer to purchase the damaged land and buildings.

More than six square kilometres of land (about 7350 properties) was zoned red due to land damage. These areas extended along the Ōtākaro/Avon River corridor, Southshore, Brooklands and the Waimakariri areas of, Kaiapoi, The Pines Beach and Kairaki.


How was red zone land defined in the flat lands?

Land was zoned red where:

  • There was significant and extensive damage area-wide land damage
  • The success of engineering solutions may be uncertain in terms of design, its success and possible commencement given the ongoing seismic activity and
  • Any repair would be disruptive and protracted for property owners.


What does this mean today?

The red zoning was for the purposes of making a Crown offer to assist people in the worst affected areas. The Crown now owns a significant amount of land across greater Christchurch. No decisions have yet been made about its future use. Regenerate Christchurch is responsible for leading the development of visions, strategies and Regeneration Plans for the long-term use and regeneration of the residential red zone in the Christchurch district. As part of this work, Regenerate Christchurch is expected to leave open some options for future use that might offer financial return for the Crown.

The Canterbury earthquakes and their aftershocks caused unprecedented and widespread damage to land and buildings in greater Christchurch.

Following the 4 September 2010 earthquake, the Government, in its role as insurer through the Earthquake Commission (EQC), gathered a significant amount of geotechnical information about the damage that had occurred and the condition of the land. Gathering this information was intended to enable it to meet its liabilities in respect of land damage.

This meant the Government had extensive information that could help property owners and insurers in their decisions about rebuilding and/or repairing properties.

There was an urgent need, following the 22 February and 13 June 2011 earthquakes, for the Government to quickly assist people in the worst affected areas who were otherwise facing lengthy negotiations with their insurers and the prospect of living on damaged land with damaged infrastructure for long periods. Also, the Government was concerned insurers may not renew existing policies. Action was needed to understand the land damage and ensure that insurance would continue to be available in greater Christchurch.


Why did the Government zone land?

As the Government’s EQC geotechnical information was assessed by national and international experts and officials, it become clear that there were areas where the extent of the land damage meant that area-wide solutions would be required to address the damage that had occurred.

The Government’s zoning decisions were in response to the wide spread damage caused by the earthquakes and to help people in the worst affected areas. Without Government involvement, property owners were likely to face significant delays to repairing or rebuilding their homes.

Some residential red zone areas experienced significant liquefaction and lateral spreading, with extensive area-wide land damage that was assessed as being difficult to remediate and, in some cases, remediation would take a very long time to complete and be disruptive for property owners.

The Government had agreed to the following rebuild objectives for greater Christchurch and these helped guide its decisions about these areas:

  • Achieve certainty of outcome for homeowners as soon as practicable
  • Create confidence for people to be able to move forward with their lives
  • Create confidence in decision making (for home owners, business owners, insurers and investors)
  • Use the best available information to inform decisions
  • Have a simple process in order to provide clarity and support for land-owners, residents, and businesses in those areas.

Doing nothing was not going to meet these objectives.

On 23 June 2011, the Government agreed to an emergency social policy response to the wide spread damage caused by the earthquakes and to help people in the worst affected areas consisting of:

  • An area-wide process for categorising properties that resulted in properties being categorised green zone or residential red zone
  • Terms for a purchase offer to owners of insured residential properties in the residential red zone.

The zoning was not a formal Resource Management Act zoning or hazard mapping tool; it identified where the Crown would offer to purchase the damaged land and buildings.

More than six square kilometres of land (about 7350 properties) was zoned red due to land damage. These areas extended along the Ōtākaro/Avon River corridor, Southshore, Brooklands and the Waimakariri areas of, Kaiapoi, The Pines Beach and Kairaki.


How was red zone land defined in the flat lands?

Land was zoned red where:

  • There was significant and extensive damage area-wide land damage
  • The success of engineering solutions may be uncertain in terms of design, its success and possible commencement given the ongoing seismic activity and
  • Any repair would be disruptive and protracted for property owners.


What does this mean today?

The red zoning was for the purposes of making a Crown offer to assist people in the worst affected areas. The Crown now owns a significant amount of land across greater Christchurch. No decisions have yet been made about its future use. Regenerate Christchurch is responsible for leading the development of visions, strategies and Regeneration Plans for the long-term use and regeneration of the residential red zone in the Christchurch district. As part of this work, Regenerate Christchurch is expected to leave open some options for future use that might offer financial return for the Crown.