The high ground on quake relief

Canterbury residents stressed out from the ongoing rebuild of earthquake-damaged Christchurch are being offered an unlikely chance to chill out and relax.

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party is proposing the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) uses its extensive powers to relax the cannabis laws in Canterbury.

Canterbury recovery spokesman Robert Wilkinson said the people of Christchurch had already suffered enough stress following the earthquakes.

Legalising cannabis would relieve some of the pressure.

''Cannabis is great for relieving stress and has been proven to have medical benefits for PTSD.''

Canterbury would also receive an economic windfall worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually if it became New Zealand's sole supplier of legal cannabis.

A special levy would direct the profits from legal cannabis sales to pay down Christchurch City Council debt and pay for the rebuild, Mr Wilkinson, a former EQC employee with experience in settling earthquake-related insurance claims, said.

On a different note, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee took issue with Labour leader David Cunliffe during Mr Cunliffe's visit to Christchurch yesterday.

Mr Cunliffe had used the leaders debate earlier in the week to accuse the Government of being slow to react to the rebuild and claimed that thousands of people were still waiting for their insurance payouts.

Mr Brownlee said Labour must end its dishonesty over the number of people yet to get clarity over their earthquake insurance claims.

''Claims of anything like 10,000 Christchurch property owners in some sort of limbo are an outrageous exaggeration and Mr Cunliffe knows it.''

Settlement of an insurance claim occurred only when a repair or rebuild had been completed and the keys handed over, or a cash offer had been accepted and the cheque had been banked, he said.

Of 170,000 residential dwelling claims, about 900 people did not yet have an offer from a private insurance company and about 3500 people were working with EQC to get clarity on how and when their properties would be repaired.

''After a great deal of patience and hard work from homeowners and insurers, all of whom I salute for their efforts, we're actually nearly there,'' Mr Brownlee said.

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