Kelvin Adrian lives in Bexley, a severely damaged suburb lying east of the Christchurch CBD. In 2009 he was hospitalised with leukemia, and has only recently finished receiving chemotherapy. Kelvin has one child and is a stepfather to two more. He is currently unemployed.
There’s been no information out there.
I’ve been stressed, thinking I could lose my house. I’ve got a mortgage and I’ve got no idea what’s going to happen. There’s nothing that I can do about it apart from wait and see what the Government’s going to say. As far as I know, if you’re in the red zone you’ve got nine months to two years to move out.
There’s been no information out there. Not even my bank could tell me anything at all. There is common law, that if the Government wants your house and land, they have to give you a fair and reasonable price for it.
Are CERA going to abide by common law? I hate to point out that the law isn’t always on your side, is it?
They haven’t said ‘boo’ either way. I’ve had people around from CERA and everything else, and they don’t know anything about it. I’ve talked to people from CERA and they don’t know anything about it. All they know is they’re sorting out the insured people first.
On unemployment, illness and the future:
If I stayed at home another day, I would have carked it.
I’ve only just stopped taking chemo about three weeks ago. Since May 2009, I’ve spent about nine months in hospital with leukemia.
I was an auto and marine upholsterer. I had insurance for me being sick, to cover my wage and stuff, and then my insurance company said to me: ‘hey, why don’t you go on ACC?’ It took a year from when I first applied but I’m on ACC now. They are trying to get me off as fast as possible.
When I first went into hospital, I had a seizure because I was really, really crook. If I stayed at home another day, I would have carked it. I had a temperature of 46 degrees or whatever it was and I was convulsing and everything. I ended up slipping two and a half discs in my back, right in. My back’s still a bit dodgy from that. I was quite crippled in hospital. It wasn’t much fun.
I’ve just been chugging along with what I can do. I definitely want to get back into working. It’s been such a long time.
I’ve got all my tools, built up over the years, and it would be great to get back into it. Fantastic, in fact. I’ve got a few jobs lined up next year that I’ll be starting, that’ll be pretty cool. All of our old clients want me to go and work for them.
It’ll be a lot better, I’m hoping, just working for myself. One person, less stress, more movement with kids.
I’m alive and the kids are sweet. I’ve still got a house over my head. I guess the small-term goals are just as good as the long ones. I’ve hardened up a lot about some of the small things, just from being in hospital and having leukemia, which was a pretty scary situation as well.
On raising children in the red zone:
'Oh silly ground, farting again!'
I guess for them, it’s about having a good, exciting Christmas and getting things swept away from what’s happened. I guess that’s been a big part of my coping skills, being able to put my focus on the kids rather than myself. It’s a distraction.
They seem to be pretty resilient, to be honest. I think it’s more the age of them, not being able to comprehend it all properly, compared to if they were a little bit older. I think it would have affected them a lot more.
I’ve finally got my boy not sleeping in my bed. Every time I put him in his bed and there was one little tremor, it was like – zoomph! – scared crapless about the earthquakes.
But that can go for the adults, you know. That’s not a pleasant situation at all.
The kids took a long time to get used to it. I reckon at least four months before my boy stopped running across the room and jumping into my arms. The preschool had quite a cool idea of calming the kids down – it was a truck, or the earth farting. The kids thought that was amusing, it took their minds off the actual scare of the earthquake, which was quite good.
You just try and make humour of it – ‘oh silly ground, farting again!’ – and if you kept on saying it, the kids would finally calm down so when it happened, it wasn’t so much of an issue.
You give as much cuddles and love as you can give your kids, and reassure them they’re not going to cark it overnight. What else can you do apart from the obvious?
I’ll try and be as honest and truthful as possible, without affecting them at all. It’s not easy going through it all, especially with the kids. Being in hospital, and then sort of coming back on the main track, and then boom – the earthquake struck and it was like ‘oh, man.’ It has not been easy at all.
On the February 22 disaster:
It was one thing after another, all day long.
Just take a walk down the street and look at every house. They are stuffed, fallen apart. All the streets were flooded, all the roads were just toasted.
When I went to pick the kids up, it was just like 600-odd people screaming, including teachers and everyone else. It was freaky that day. I got to the school and there were a couple of ladies screaming at the top of their voices, ‘my house just fell down’, and you just felt this weight.
The bridge was stuffed. You couldn’t get over because the ground had sunk. There was water everywhere. It took us two and a half hours just to get back here. When we drove back this way we could see some of the brick places were just a big pile of rubble. A big reality check of what happened.
We saw so many cars that were just gone on the road, you could only see half of them, sunk in the liquefaction which was pretty scary when you were driving through all this water, thinking there could be one of those places anywhere. Wherever we drove, I made sure to follow a car and if they go in, I’m going back. It was a smarter way of doing it.
I left the car up there and we walked. A mate of mine drove past, he’s got a big Nissan Grand Road, so we all jumped in that and he drove us all the way back up to here. It would have been maybe six hours later, from listening to the car radio … town had been completely munched. My ex’s sister was in town at the time. She came around with her kids and we decided to go to the coast. It was one thing after another the whole day long. Not much fun.
The day after the quake, we went out to the coast for about three or so days. I left Jordan – that’s my five-year-old boy – over there while I came back and sorted out a few things. I had quite a few friends come around. We had the Farmy Army, they came around. There were about 26 of them here, all day. That was just awesome, because my whole yard was caked.
My dad flew me and Jordan up to Hawkes Bay for a couple of weeks, then my mum flew me over to Melbourne for a few weeks, which was just awesome. No power, no flippin’ anything here and I’m not supposed to be around unhealthy, unsanitised areas, because I was still on chemo.
Everything had just started getting better and life was getting back to some normality, and then June again, just the same thing. Streets flooded, liquefaction popping up everywhere.
You know how they announced there were 5000 red zone homes at the start? Well, 3000 are from Bexley. It’s pretty bad. I was expecting a red zone for around here. I was expecting this area to be gone. It’s just what was going to happen.
I wanted to do what I could to have a property and a house. I bought this place because it was a cheaper place to do up. I certainly hadn’t imagined being stuck in a predicament where I could get it all taken away, and I owed the bank XYZ amount of dollars.
Bankrupt really, isn’t it? That does scare the crap out of me.
On the personal struggles:
How easy it is to get into that slum in your head.
It’s been unreal. It’s not been a good year at all. It’s not been a good couple of years. I’m lucky I’ve got some really good friends.
If I just lost the house, I could have coped with that. It’s everything, stacking up one by one. I’ve had plenty of times where I’ve felt a bit down and everything else. My ex-partner, she’s got bipolar and I guess I learned a little bit from her about how easy it is to get into that slum in your head.
Making sure you’ve got people around you is a real big thing.
On Christchurch’s slow march to recovery:
We’re not going to move fast.
You know how they’ve got to fix sewage and everything else? They’ve done about 80 metres in four months. How many kilometres of sewage and water have they got to do throughout Christchurch? It probably would be in the thousands of metres. It’s going to take a long time. We’re not going to move fast.
You go to South New Brighton School and there are still ten diggers, still doing what they started four months ago. It’s a massive undertaking because they’re actually redoing all the lines. It’s a huge job and it is reinforcement.
Maybe in 10 or 15 years time, I’m sure once things get rebuilt and people go down and spend some money back in Christchurch, it’ll pick Christchurch up phenomenally. There are going to be a lot of new buildings coming out of town, it will change the city somewhat. In fact, it’ll be a new city.
You would think Christchurch would be quite a pumping place in 15, 20 years’ time.
On getting caught without insurance at the wrong time:
Boom. No insurance … then February hit.
I’ve had insurance most of my life but, just a bad choice. I was a couple of months behind in my policy, which I was aware of. A couple of my friends had changed policies to AA and they were $30 cheaper a month. I thought ‘far out, that’s a lot of money, not a huge amount but every bit’s a savings, eh?’
Looking back, I should have just gone and paid up my policy up to date so I didn’t have problems either way, but I didn’t. Then I tried to get insurance through AA. On the phone they said yes to me, and it was about two weeks later that a lady rang me back and said ‘sorry, but no one’s insuring anyone in Bexley.’
Boom, no insurance. Gutted. Then February hit. My house was fine after September, but February, nah. I couldn’t really do a heap of a lot about it.
On the damage, EQC and the big wish:
If I got the GV for my house, I’d be over the moon.
They reckon it’s $100,000 worth of damage, but what they say is $100,000 is a bit … I mean, just because they’re from EQC, they’re not actually qualified building inspectors. I think it’s just too many properties at once.
We were watching them go from house to house, walking up the drive and going back, writing down. Not rocket science to say they’re not going to get that right every time. They do in the end because they have to have a proper inspector come through, and the insurance company as well. EQC only pay out the first $111-112,000 and the insurance company is paying everything else. But that’s being in the red zone.
There’s a lot of people around here who really like Bexley, and they’ve put themselves in that predicament. They’ve got their new garage, they’ve got their car, they’ve got everything they want and they’re going to stay there for 30-odd years. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got two people that are working and they are able to pay for their mortgage, even if their house is mortgaged up to the max, they’ve got everything they want.
That bit doesn’t matter, does it? If this happens and they’re mortgaged up to the hilt, and their house value’s not good compared to everywhere else in Christchurch, you can see their predicament. There will be a lot of people with insurance who will end up being bankrupt, which is really sad.
There’s heaps of old people that live around here. They paid around $110,000 for their two-bedroom units. If they get bought out, there’s no way they’ll be getting $110,000, which is really sad, and there’s no way a bank’s going to lend them money at 80, or 70, or whatever they are.
There’s so many people that are semi-screwed.
I’ve heard of quite a few people who have gone on holiday with their EQC money. Isn’t that supposed to fix your house? Even if your house is livable, you can’t get the money back. If they don’t fix their houses, in a year or so’s time the insurance people are going to start getting tough on getting building reports and ‘have you done the work, blah blah blah’, how’s that going to be insured?
I’d like to be paid out for the house. If I got the GV for my house, I’d be over the moon even though there’s tons of people around here who wouldn’t be. I paid off heaps of my mortgage. If I didn’t get anything for my house I’d still be screwed but if I got my GV for my house, I’d be happy. I’d go get another house.
On the likelihood of staying in Christchurch:
You can only cope with so much.
I want to stay in Christchurch. I don’t actually have any family in Christchurch apart from my own kids. My mum lives in Melbourne and my dad lives in Hawkes Bay. I don’t have one relative in the South Island.
Seriously, after June, if it happened again I would have been out of here. You can only cope with so much. That would have been my tipping point.
Christchurch, as a whole, has coped amazingly well. There’s a lot of really, really wicked people with some awesome, big hearts that have just gone above everything, you know? After the earthquake – no power, no nothing – people would just come around with trucks, from here and there, bringing out food. It was amazing really, in that situation, to have so many people there and willing to help with a big smile on their dial – ‘it’s all good mate, you’ve got some tea tonight.’
We had heaps of people who’d just arrive with hot dinners. They didn’t have to do that.