My post yesterday about our demolition experience in Christchurch certainly touched a nerve – the comments, Facebook likes, retweets et al have shown just how important this is to people. I read last night another article which showed just how bad things ar e for some people. It seems that Chris Meyer, who owned a café in a building demolished after the September quake, had an even worse situation. The contract between the building owner and the demolition company gave the company the rights to salvage any material from the Manchester Courts property.

This is a standard approach with demolition contracts – the company performing the demolition has the rights to any salvage materials.

But here it gets far murkier. You see Civil Defence had deemed the building unsafe and hence the tenant, Meyer, was not allowed access to remove his own fittings and fixtures.. The demolition contractors therefore made off with the materials recovered from the building itself, but also those from the individual tenancies.

Meyer has since had to pay the demolition company to recover some of the materials, while others have been found for sale in other parts of the country.

There is a case here that I believe needs to be heard. As far as my Laws 101 training would indicate, at no point did title on tenants good move from the tenant – not to Civil Defence, not to the building owner and certainly not to the demolition company. As such, and notwithstanding any costs incurred in removing the items from the building )more on that later), the tenant has every right, as far as I can see, to reclaim those goods.

As for costs claimed by the demolition company, anecdotal evidence suggests that demolition crews were seen simply walking into the building to remove these goods, that being the case, the onus must surely fall on Civil Defence to determine honestly whether the building is unsafe to enter or not – if it is then both tenants and demolition crews should be held to the same standard.

This is a case that needs to be heard, I believe there is a barrister somewhere (as opposed to a barista, Meyer can fill that role) who would be prepared to take on this case pro bono. I’d be prepared to put up some cash to cover filing costs and disbursements. A precedent has been set in Christchurch for mandated looting, we need to right that wrong and protect the property rights of business and building owners. I believe there is a case to answer, by Civil Defence for not policing the disaster scene, by the building owner for not protecting the rights of his tenants, and by the demolition company who profited from the removal of assets they had no right to. Who’ll join this quest?

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • I’m up for kicking in some cash and if needs be some research time….

  • Ben,
    I would be interested in your class action re damage to private property in the cbd. My business suffered unnecessary damage and was featured in a SST article on 20 March. I also was able to make a number of comments via national media and was part of last Mondays protest.

  • Hi everyone…
    CanCern-Canterbury communities Earthquake recovery network, and CBRN as an affiliate -Canterbury Business
    Recovery Network , have successfully connected with Dean Lester – former insurance broker for 20 years- who has in his network and has brought in to Chch Andrew Hooper, a specialist insurance lawyer from wellington- Andrew helped draft insurance law that NZ operates under.. Andrew in conjunction with Dean are looking for these sorts of issues to help resolve and at this point of time they are not charging for any services. Dean ” used to live in the Red zone CBD”- so is fully aware of the issues on hand. He and Andrew are volunteering their services to CanCERN and CBRN- hope this helps … please circulate this information widely as we know these events are happening to many individuals, but can not reach everyone.

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