Tourists are setting up tents in abandoned houses in Christchurch’s earthquake damage zone and using bedrooms as open toilets, New Zealand officials say.
“Farewell bonfires” are also something of a problem for authorities keeping an eye on some of the 3000 properties still to be demolished in the red zone, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority says.
“Some of the work the security staff needs to do beggars belief,” said chief executive Roger Sutton.
They have started using video cameras to record some of the things they come across.
That included tourists setting up camp inside a house, with their tent pitched in the lounge and a BBQ set up for cooking beside it.
“That may well have been a misunderstanding, but the behaviour of the group to then use one of the bedrooms as a toilet was inexplicable,” Mr Sutton said.
“In general it is just disgusting behaviour and not something we would want other tourists to think was acceptable anywhere in New Zealand.”
The government had paid out the house-owners for their uninhabitable properties, but CERA staff had come across cases where the owner was planning a “farewell bonfire”, Mr Sutton said.
Officials were trying to reassure people living next door to the abandoned houses that they were safe.
Mr Sutton says settled properties in the red zone are crown-owned and not abandoned.
“It’s not a free-for-all for anyone to use or destroy them, and we need to make sure we work through the insurance issues and EQC issues before properties are demolished or relocated, so that the taxpayer gets the best value out of the money being spent.”