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​Property rights must be better protected

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The Commission has just released the second of two monitoring reports following the devastating earthquake in the Canterbury region.

The Human Rights Commission is calling for greater protection of property rights for New Zealanders, following the release of its monitoring report on human rights in the Canterbury earthquake recovery.

Staying in the Red Zones: Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery is the second of two monitoring reports from the Commission. It highlights the experiences of those who remained living in the "red zone" following the earthquakes and refused the Government's offer to buy their properties.

Chief Commissioner David Rutherford says that while this group of residents is relatively small, much can be learned from their experiences and stories.

"New Zealand is susceptible to natural disasters, which means all New Zealanders have the potential to be in the same situation," Mr Rutherford said.

"Many of us would believe that our domestic laws are strong enough to protect our property rights. However, as the situation in Canterbury has shown, the Executive still has the ability to override those laws.

"We need to look at all mechanisms available, such as the Bill of Rights Act, to better protect property rights to ensure that, if a significant event like the earthquakes happen again, people are offered more options than either selling their family home or facing a lack of support from government."

In addition to calling for property rights to be better protected, the report stressed that:

  • Human rights must be front and centre in disaster recovery, prevention and preparedness
  • Recovery activity should always be guided by legislation and limited to the powers provided by Parliament
  • Communication is key – not just immediately post-event, but ongoing in decision making
  • There must be a "nothing about us, without us" approach to community engagement
  • There is no "one size fits all" approach to disasters, agencies need to be flexible.

"The opportunity presented by this report is to build back better; not just in terms of bricks and mortar, but also in terms of ensuring that human rights considerations are front and centre in disaster recovery, prevention and preparedness," Mr Rutherford said.

Date: 3 November 2016

Source: New Zealand Human Rights Commission