Alf is given further evidence today of Christchurch being a place to visit, maybe, but not to live.
Not only does the sad city have a mayor who applauds the demolition of property because demon-fearing citizens yet to emerge from the Dark Ages are spooked by it.
It also has bureaucrats who expect a bloke banged up in jail for murder to come and clear up the mess.
Alf would have thought this was the stuff of hilarious fantasy, but it is earnestly reported at Stuff as news.
Murderer Jason Somerville will be sent a clearance notice in prison to remove the rubble of his former house from Christchurch’s “house of horrors” site.
Somerville, who owns the property on the corner of Wainoni Rd and Hampshire St, is awaiting sentence for killing Tisha Lowry and his wife, Rebecca, whose bodies were found under the floorboards of his house last September.
The Somervilles’ house and the neighbouring semi-detached house owned by a Gisborne couple were demolished last Saturday after a fourth arson attempt.
The Fire Service deemed the site a fire risk, and the Christchurch City Council has sent letters demanding the site be cleared within 28 days.
The council’s acting manager of inspections and enforcement, Anne Columbus, is quoted as confirming that the property owners and one interested party had been sent a copy of the notice.
This all stems from a curious hysteria generated by the murders, resulting in feeble-minded locals trying to burn down the joint where the bodies were found.
Mind you, the bloody media have helped to demonise the property and raise the spectre of spooks with persistent references to a horror house.
When two deaths turn a bit of real estate into a horror house, what extravagant language would the hacks pull from their lexicons to describe what happend in Cleveland, in the US, just a few weeks ago –
November 11, 2009 A stench has returned to the neighborhood where a suspected serial killer lived amid the remains of at least 11 women as police searched the house next door for more bodies or evidence.
Neighbor Terrance Johnson says: “It smells bad in the air, like death.”
Early Wednesday afternoon, four plainclothes officers carried bags of evidence from the house next to Anthony Sowell’s. Police did not indicate what was removed.
The neighborhood had reeked off and on for several years…
But back to New Zealand.
The hysteria generated by the Garden City’s irrational reaction to a bit of violence and the burghers’ rabid response is having drastic consequences for an innocent couple in Gisborne.
A distraught couple fear they may lose their Gisborne family home after the demolition of Christchurch’s “house of horrors”.
Christina and Jason Drain, who have children aged 11 and nine, still owe more than $130,000 on the semi-detached investment property that adjoined the house where the bodies of Tisha Lowry and Rebecca Somerville were found in September last year.
Nope. They didn’t invest unwisely in a shonky finance company.
They have a bit of money tied up in a house on the corner of Wainoni Rd and Hampshire St in Christchurch, lacking the foresight to see how the people in that city would become seriously unhinged by two murders.
Christina Drain said she and her husband had become the unwitting victims of Jason Somerville, who has admitted murdering his wife and Lowry.
“We’re now left with a pile of rubble,” she said. “Every time somebody tried to burn the house it just keeps getting worse and worse for us because we’re left with nothing. You can’t sell a section for the same price you can sell a house.”
The house was not insured on Saturday, she said, and had been vacant since news broke of the bodies being found next door.
Alf has enormous sympathy for the Drains, who presumably paid rates to the Christchurch City Council.
Drain said their tenants were on a rent-to-own contract, but walked away after news of the murders broke.
“It’s been an extremely big ordeal. We’ve been pretty stressed out,” she said. “Life’s on hold really. We don’t know what to do or where to go.
“The community’s saying that it’s [the demolition] fantastic, it’s about time it happened and it’s closure for them, but it’s no closure for us. It’s just blown it.”
The Fire Service has said it may try to recover the demolition costs from the houseowners, which include the Drains, the estate of Rebecca Somerville and a finance company.
Drain said the family had no money to pay for the clearance or the demolition, and they may have to sell their Gisborne house.
“We don’t have any money to pay the mortgage [in Christchurch], so the mortgage has been on a holiday … from when the murders happened,” Christina Drain said.
“Our two kids are saying, `Are we going to have to move; are we going to have to sell?”‘
The couple face either adding to their Gisborne home’s mortgage or selling their house and being out of pocket.
They say they want the city council to buy the Wainoni property; they want just enough money to pay off their mortgage; they say a sale and purchase agreement has been sent to the city council.
So how responsive is Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker?
He has been keen to consult with his hysterical citizens in his efforts to have the site cleared and turned into a park.
But when it comes to the out-of-town ratepayers who risk being impoverished by the hysteria:
“There’s no way I’d be getting into direct discussions with anybody at this stage. I would like to be able to help.”
The council’s acting manager of inspections and enforcement, Anne Columbus, said if the rubble from the property was not removed, enforcement action could be taken.
The obvious lesson: if you want to invest in property, avoid cities where the superstitious locals are readily spooked and have a mayor who approves of the demolition resulting from their Midde Ages ignorance.