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The city's quake recovery reached a milestone yesterday when contractors moved in to begin demolishing the first 11 of between 5000 and 6000 homes deemed to be on quake-damaged land that is too costly to repair.
Owners of those red-zone homes can sell their land to theGovernment and have the option of selling their homes to theGovernment, too, or being paid out on their house insurance.
But as the demolitions began in thesuburb of Bexley yesterday, a dispute arose over what those properties' former owners have the right to know.
Christchurch East Labour MP Lianne Dalziel yesterday told TVNZ's Breakfast: "There are people who are only just finding out their homes are going to be demolished this week, and I think that's really not good enough.
"Some of those people have been out of their homes since September 2010 but nobody's bothered to tell them it's their house that's coming down.
"When the house is transferred to the Government it might just be a property, a house, to them, but to people they'll always be their homes."
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said he did not consider it reasonable to inform every former homeowner of the steps taken with the properties.
"With all due respect to them, I have got to say to them 'What do they expect?' Once they have sold that house, their interest in that house has gone," he said.
"I think the broad indication that an area is going to be progressively demolished is about as good as can be achieved. In the end, these houses now belong to the taxpayers of New Zealand, who have outlaid quite a large amount of money to acquire them."
Mr Brownlee said there had been a street meeting, door-knocking and booklets to explain the demolitions to the affected neighbourhood. Many of the former homeowners had moved away.
He called Ms Dalziel's comments a "beat-up".
"I guess this is a demonstration of the new bi-partisan approach that the Labour Party wants to take."
Houses were being first stripped of reusable items, and the remaining materials transported to waste collection points.
It was still unclear what would happen to the red zone areas once the houses were cleared from them.