A Christchurch City Council decision to buy seven homes plagued by Ruapuna Raceway noise has been greeted with tears of relief.
A council meeting yesterday approved the $5.3 million buyout of the Templeton homes.
Fay *****, who owns one of the houses, attended the meeting and wept with relief at the decision.
"I am rapt. I cannot believe it," she said.
"We have been robbed of our life. We have been robbed of our health ... It has been a living hell."
****** said she believed councillors voted to buy the properties because it had become a "moral, human issue".
No decision was made on the future use of the properties, which could include reselling them with restrictions on complaints, opening the area for quarrying, using it for raceway facilities or extending the adjacent golf course.
Council chief executive Tony Marryatt admitted the council was unlikely to recover the money, even if the land went for quarrying.
"There is no way we will get all the money back," he said.
Councillors emphasised the buyout drew a line under noise problems at the raceway and did not set a precedent for future purchases over noise issues.
"We have been dealing with this for years. This is the pragmatic way through it. This is the finale. This is the finish," Cr Barry Corbett said.
The seven Hasketts Rd properties are in an area exposed to "unreasonable noise" from the raceway, according to a specialist report commissioned by the council.
A planning change in 1999 allowed the racetrack to operate every day, up from 120 days a year. It also raised noise limits and extended opening hours.
Residents claim the noise problems increased dramatically in about 2004 as activity grew at the raceway.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the council had a responsibility to resolve the problem.
"It came about because of planning issues for which the city has a real responsibility," he said.
The purchase would not increase rates as it would be funded from an existing strategic land purchase account.
Canterbury Car Club chief executive Lloyd Proctor said he welcomed the proposal in principle, but was awaiting legal advice on the plans.
Councillors also voted to cap noise levels and activity at the raceway at present levels and to use lease negotiations to impose noise limits, shorter hours and noise-free days.
The councillors voted nine to four in favour of buying the properties.
Bob Shearing, Yani Johanson, Mike Wall, Parker, Helen Broughton, Corbett, Chrissie Williams, Ngaire Button and Claudia Reid all voted in favour of the purchase. Sue Wells, Gail Sheriff, David Cox and Norm Withers voted against.
Wells said the Ruapuna noise issue was a "horrible thing to try and solve", but feared the purchase was a "slippery slope" to further buyouts.
Sheriff also opposed the buyout.
"I do not support using ratepayers' money to buy out the properties. I have struggled with it, but I would rather see another way around it," she said.
Campaign group Quieter Please issued a statement praising the decision. "We are very pleased for the owners of the seven most affected properties that after five years of horrendous living circumstances they have a result."
- By CHARLIE GATES, The Press