"If I got my GV for my house, I’d be happy"

Kelvin Adrian in the living room of his Bexley home.

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.

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"The other side of town doesn’t understand"

This sign greets visitors to the Wallis' Bexley home.

Adrian and Cherie Wallis live with their children in Bexley, an eastern suburb situated in Christchurch’s red zone. They have made plans to leave their home.

Our kids have no kids to play with at all, only themselves.

Cherie: Holly our middle child, she’s seven, and she’s got a thing called selective mutism. She’ll just go mute on you, and stare at you like you’re not there. I thought they’d calmed down a bit after Christmas. Then February turned up.

The youngest one, after the September one and all that stuff, every time there was a shake she’d start shaking. Keaton’s a deep thinker. When he talks to you, he says ‘oh, I’m not scared of them’ but really, he is. He hides it.

You can count our three, and maybe a couple, just in this block from Waitaki to Bexley. Our kids have no kids to play with at all, only themselves. Keaton and Chelsea had two wee mates across the road. Really nice family, they just upped and left towards Blenheim.

Honestly, it’s amazing I haven’t gone grey, but all my hair’s falling out. They’ve got to cope in their own way, I can understand that, but so do we. Sometimes they can just really push your buttons. They have been pretty good since the earthquakes.

C: Wherever you’re standing, it’s like ‘oh, okay. We’ll just stay there.’ Your heart rate goes up and you’re still like ‘is that me shaking, or is that the earthquake?’

On Christmas in the red zone:

'Father Christmas is budgeting this year.'

Adrian: We haven’t got a Christmas tree up at the moment. They’re not worth it.

Cherie: We’re going to wait until we move. Christmas presents are around at someone else’s house. The kids are on a limited budget for Christmas presents. I said ‘Father Christmas is budgeting this year.’

Keaton learned, through school of all things and you know what kids are like, he knows it’s not real any more and he’s only nine. The other two still believe in it.

Our youngest one goes ‘can I have a laptop?’ and I’m like, ‘where are you going to get that from?’ They’re limited to $100 for each child.

Adrian: It’s been hard for them because they don’t understand the money’s value.

I’d like another laptop. A lot of people don’t realise that places have closed down or moved from town. There’s not much money around.

On housing, and dealing with CERA and EQC:

She put it in the ‘too hard’ basket.

Cherie: We’re renting. The landlord’s bought a place out of Christchurch and we had first option. She is the coolest landlord ever. She’s been very, very good with us.

Adrian: At one stage, she didn’t know what was going on. She was having a battle with EQC, I suppose, like everybody else is. They were giving mixed messages and all that sort of thing. She didn’t know what was happening. She kept us informed as much as she could. We’ve got our money, but it’s only half of what we wanted.

A lot of landlords upped their price in rents. We went to a place, what were they asking? $350? In between the shower and the bath – and it had carpet in the bathroom, silly idea – my foot went through a huge, big hole underneath the carpet.

I got quite annoyed at one stage. I’m always checking TradeMe for houses for rent, and the amount of places that you look at on there, you go to landcheck.org.nz and find that the places are orange-zoned or red-zoned. What’s the use for us to find a place that was red-zoned when we’re already in the red zone?

Cherie: Or orange, because you don’t know what orange is going to turn out to be.

Adrian: There was a place in Parklands that I was humming and haaing about. I was waiting for Gerry Brownlee and his merry men to find out what kind of direction it was going in. In the end I think it went green, but the land underneath is all blue, which is prone to liquefaction.

Cherie: They keep on changing their minds, it’s like EQC. When we first did a claim, you didn’t have to take photos. Then we heard that you had to take photos and certain things, under a certain amount, you didn’t have to take photos, and then it was. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand’s doing.

Adrian: We were dealing with a lady in Australia, she was brilliant. At the same time, we got a call from a lady who was working for EQC in Oamaru. She wanted photographs of stuff that had already been photographed, plus stuff that had already been processed.

I sent an email away to the lady in Australia, and she was a trained insurance person. This person down in Oamaru, I asked her some questions that needed to be answered and she’s all ‘I need to go, I’m finishing at half-past two’ and this was at twenty-past two. She had her say and she put it in the ‘too hard’ basket. She said ‘it’s not up to me, it’s up to my supervisor.’

She passed the buck. It’s just crazy. Mind-boggling.

On the earthquake fatigue:

You don’t know which way to turn.

Cherie: I know people give you advice and stuff like that but I’m only doing it one day at a time.

Adrian: Our minds, our fingers are in so many pies. You can’t concentrate on one. It’s sort of like a state of shellshock. You sort of … this is really happening? It’s like a war movie.

We’re tired. Mentally drained, physically drained, and emotionally drained. Constantly getting battered, everything coming at you and you don’t know which way to turn. It’s like getting dug into a hole. You feel like giving up the ghost sometimes.

Cherie: We have had help from here, there and everywhere. I appreciate the help that people have given us. The community spirit is really strong.

 You probably have people, not only in this area but in other areas, who’ve buggered off. You look at things and you’re like ‘I don’t want to take that.’

On leaving Christchurch: 

In some respects, I’m glad I’m moving.

Adrian: I’m an import. I’ve been living over here for 20 years. I’m not going back to Westport. There are jobs up at the mine but that’s not my cup of tea, especially after Pike. Lost one of the guys I went to school with in that. Terry.

Cherie: I’m a New Brighton girl. It’s always in the back of your mind, when is the next one going to hit? Every time someone comes in here and they’re like, ‘I don’t know how you can live in here’, well it’s a case of having to. In some respects, I’m glad I’m moving.

Adrian: The thing is, we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. We love this area and the community’s great around here. Friendly. The thought of going somewhere else, where you don’t know anyone, it’s like starting your life all over again.

On the events of February 22: 

'Are you alright?' 'Yeah, yeah, I'm just, um, yeah.'

A: Prior to last Boxing Day, it had got quite quiet. There’s a pattern. There’s a big one, a big swarm of them. Last Boxing Day there was a heap of them and for about a week it just slowly got less and less. It was about a month, there was only the occasional, odd one. Then February hit and it was just constant. We couldn’t sleep because every two minutes, there was an aftershock.

We were not that far away from the epicentre.

Cherie: I just went down, over the bridge. There were people outside their house. There was this guy; he had blood on his head from a scratch, or something like that.

I was like, ‘are you alright?’

‘Yeah, yeah, I’m just um, uh, yeah.’

I was just in my zoning thing and I’m glad I didn’t take the car because it was bumper-to-bumper. When the kids came home, I had to do a chain link with them. It was up to just above my knees, with silt and stuff. Chelsea, she’s only a short, wee thing, it was up to her waist.

Adrian: I don’t think there was sewage. Around here it was frothy, brown water like when the sea comes in. I don’t think it would have been the sewer. You would have smelt it.

Every time the Council turns off the water, we’re panicking because when they turn it back on, it overflows and overflows.

Cherie: Two days from the February one, I was like ‘let’s just go.’

It’s always in the back of your mind – when’s the next big one going to hit? That’s my constant fear.

On the Government’s handling of the eastern suburbs: 

I don’t think they wanted a cup of tea with us.

Cherie: Out of National and Labour, with the September quake, Labour was the best one with a response, community-group wise. National? One of the National MPs was there when all of the Bexley residents had a community meeting. The Labour MP was up front, talking and all that, and the National MP didn’t even get up. He sat back. Didn’t say yay or nay.

Kindergarten kids could run Parliament better. I notice all the communities around the area, some of the church groups, Salvation Army, St John, Red Cross, they have been bloody brilliant - but did I see any National MP around this area? Nope. I don’t think they wanted a cup of tea with us.

Adrian: Lianne said this isn’t a party issue, this is a community issue. It’s like drawing a line that National and Labour shouldn’t be fighting, not ‘it’s black, that’s white.’ They should work together, not as individuals.

The other side of town doesn’t understand what we’ve gone through. I think people on the other side of town wouldn’t really know about this.

Cherie: You don’t really want them around here, either, damaging the place and rubbernecking.

In some parts of Papanui they’ve got pockets, but you go down the main street and you go ‘God, there’s not really even a crack.’

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"EQC had the wrong paperwork … we’re still waiting"

Sandra Forsey with her son, Matt Kenyon, in Aranui.

Sandra Forsey was present when her son, Matt Kenyon, was honoured at a graduation day for pupils at the Agape Trust, an alternative education provider based in the eastern Christchurch suburb of Aranui.

EQC had the wrong paperwork … we’re still waiting for them to come back.

We got burgled after the second earthquake. We had to leave the house because we had no power or water.

I’m actually moving out next week so that EQC can finish their assessments and the house can be fixed. They’re going to fix it, they say. We had EQC around, I think about July. They came around, then people came after that but they had the wrong paperwork.

We’re still waiting for them to come back. That must have been three months or so ago, we haven’t heard anything. I know we’ve got to be out for them to fix it.

On leaving Christchurch:

It’s for me now.

I’m actually moving to Australia. I’m selling everything I own to go, apart from what the kids are taking. My son is going to go and live with his dad. He’s never lived with his dad, ever.

I had a job, but because of the earthquake I don’t have a job now that the building’s got to be pulled down. There’s not much job opportunity here, so I’m going over there for a fresh start, to try and do something with that.

I don’t see the point of sitting back for another 12 months myself, because then something else will happen and I’ll never get to do what I want to do.

The last 34 years were for the kids – it’s for me now.

On Matt - his schooling, his life, his future:

He always felt he had to be my protector.

I’m very proud. He’s just got into a mechanics course for next year. That’s why he’s staying here.  

The whole focus of the move, or part of, was to give him a complete, fresh start.  I was hoping he’d get into courses over there. I can’t say I’m happy with it.

He never lasted at any school long enough. Some schools just couldn’t be bothered - they didn’t know how to cope with kids like him. He just stayed at home for 12 months.

He went to intermediate, they couldn’t cope either. He ended up going to Linwood High, but he lasted six weeks. It took nearly 12 months to get him into something like this.

He’s been to a lot of AEs but this one was the different one because they just relate differently to them. He’s a completely different kid to how he was. Just angry. He’s got a lot of things in his past, and he always felt he had to be my protector.

Matt’s really close to the teachers here, and his boxing coach. He’s still got four older sisters here and my dad’s still here. He’s still got somebody if he really needs.

I think he’ll be okay.

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"We’re just left in limbo land here."

Bex Davies and her daughter, Georgia, at their Christchurch home.

Bex Davies lives with her two young children in Edgeware, on the northeastern fringe of the Christchurch CBD. She is undecided about where her family’s future lies.

What sort of person does it make you if you walk away?

I’m so torn now because we don’t have a lot of information about what kind of a future Christchurch has. It’s taking so long for everything to happen. We’re just left in limbo land here. It’s been total pain. It’s been a strange way to live.

Do we love Christchurch enough to stay put, or do we go somewhere that’s actually a city? It’s so strange living in a city without a city. There’s basically very little opportunity here. Except for training, you can’t do an awful lot here unless you’re self-employed in a fantastic business where you have no competition.

Trashedville. It’s bad when you’re going to Auckland and you go ‘wow, that’s fancy, you don’t have tarpaulins for roofs – you guys are high rollers.’

Do I move back to Auckland, or do I stay here? Do we move to Canada, or do we stay here? It’s really difficult because sometimes you get a bit of survivor’s guilt – are you abandoning your city if you walk away? What kind of person does it make you if you walk away from things when they get hard?

In New Zealand, you get it drilled into you that you don’t just walk away because things are hard. You sort your shit out, you’ve got to pull your socks up and get on with things. I think it’s all good for a lot of us to think that is feasible, but after a while it just doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to be realistic.

I love Christchurch so much. It is a beautiful city. I think to myself, have we gone through the worst of it? Is there much point leaving if we’ve gone through the worst of it already? Is it going to get any better?

If we can actually rebuild within a feasible timeframe and it’s not going to take another 15 years for us to find our new normal, I would want to stay. We just don’t even get enough information to gauge whether we do want our kids to grow up here. It’s tricky. It would be a hardcore debate, I think.

On Christchurch’s economic pain and the EQC response:

You’ve had to go for so long, stretching your budget.

Businesses are crashing because they’ve got maxed-out credit cards, they’re having to cover the cost of stock losses any way they can.

They’re not getting anywhere with EQC. There’s people filing for bankruptcy and having to leave because they’re just not getting any payouts. They’re getting completely screwed. It’s really hard to see so many people going through it.

I’ve just been paid out by EQC, two weeks ago. That was good, but you’ve had to go for so long, stretching your budget. We lost pretty much everything in our house, besides the couches and the table. We had no power, so we lost all our food. Everything that was in the pantry fell and was covered in glass.

We just had to pack up what we could, while there was light, and go off to Auckland. It’s really hard for most of us, having to have covered that cost of replacing everything.

So many people didn’t have jobs any more. My children’s father only just got his job back in September. They were going to open in June. The owners ended up selling and he had to find another job anyway, after waiting so long and rebuilding that place. He works right next door.

It’s a long time to try and make ends meet when you’re having to work together and work out what are we going to replace, what are we going to go without to try and do this and that?

I don’t even know what kind of damage we have. The EQC guy that came through with the property manager was just rude. I don’t really get given a lot of information myself, and I don’t know if the owner of this house has been given an awful lot of information.

They say the damage to our house is non-urgent. I’ve got a roof over my head and it’s not going to fall in on me if we have another quake, so I guess I’m lucky in that sense, compared to a lot of people.

I think if there was another really big quake, I’d say my garage would probably go. I try not to keep much of value in there just because the wall - the side that’s on my neighbour’s house – is completely buckled. I don’t think the actual house would go. I’m not panicking that the whole house is going to collapse.

On parenting in an earthquake zone:

They get that the city’s pretty screwed.

Brooklyn’s autistic and when the initial quake hit, it really bugged him. He freaked out and was blaming everyone around us, telling them they broke everything.

Now he’s decided that the dinosaurs did it. Every time there’s an aftershock, it’s ‘oh, the dinosaurs are stomping again.’ If that’s the way he wants to cope with it, that’s fine.

Georgia is two and a half. If she’s awake – and we’re lucky, most of the big ones have happened at night – she just comes bolting over and gives me a hug, then she’s forgotten about them in about 10 minutes. I’m pretty lucky they’re at that ideal age, thank goodness.

I have to keep calm for them. I have to focus on them rather than focusing on what we lost or what we’re struggling with. I have to just focus on what we can do and what needs to happen for them, but normal kid stuff drives you crazy. That’s life.

I think Brooklyn may vaguely remember. Georgia definitely won’t remember anything. I haven’t taken any photos myself but there’s enough out there that they’ll be able to find some. I think they’ll definitely have a lot of questions when they’re adults, maybe when they’re parents if they choose to be parents, they’ll be wanting to explain to their kids how we did it and how we managed to get through everything. I guess a lot of kids will want to know what it was like, living in an earthquake zone for a year.

When we try to go to the container mall in town, they get really frustrated because it’s so difficult to try and work out how to get into it. It’s in the centre of town and most of the roads are blocked. It takes forever and they get really angry because they’re like ‘I just want to go for a run around,’ and I’m like ‘I’m sorry, I’m just trying to work out what street isn’t cordoned off today.’

They get that the city’s pretty screwed. They get that it’s tricky to get around. I think the thing that frustrates them the most is that so much is closed and gone. There’s not really a quick drive any more because the roads are still closed after nearly a year. A lot of their playgrounds got closed. That really bugged them.

It’s a matter of working out how important things are to them – do we drive to the other side of town to go and do that? There are not many McDonald’s down here any more and the ones that have playgrounds are scarcer. Linwood’s still getting repaired because of the earthquake damage - do we now drive 25 minutes to Riccarton in rush-hour traffic to take them to a playground, or do we say we can’t do that any more?

On her son’s stunted education:

I’m hoping he’ll be ready for school by April.

The hardest thing for us was that Brooklyn lost his preschool in the earthquake. He only just started again recently, he’d been without a preschool since February. That had a huge impact on him because we were frantically trying to find a preschool that would take him. I don’t think he’s ready for school because he’s been stuck.

I used to be able to take them to the museum – we’d have Fridays at the museum, just learning things. We can’t do that anymore, we don’t have a museum. I can’t take him to the Antarctic Centre every week, it costs $125 for a family pass. Everything just got shut, and there was just nothing. You could do online computer games but there was just nothing that you could actually do around Christchurch to teach your children without it being traumatic, because it’s like ‘this is the rubble, this is where this used to be, this is where that used to be’ and that’s about it.

It really stunted his education quite a lot. We struggled with that, so I’m hoping that he’ll be ready for school by April.

On Christmas in Christchurch:

You work out where you can get good deals from.

It’s hard because you really want to support local businesses but there’s really not many down here anymore.

Because you’ve had to already have covered so much debt and you’ve had to scrimp and save all year to cover the fact you lost everything and EQC weren’t paying out, it really affects your budgeting. Once EQC does finally pay out, you have either a ton of stuff you need to replace or a ton of debt you need to repay. You work out where you can get good deals from.

I don’t think we are going to have an excessively luxurious Christmas. I think we’ll do alright. Being without jobs for months on end affects your year-long budgeting and it affects how much you can put away for Christmas.

On the city’s recovery:

It’s going to take a really long time before we’re actually thriving.

We’ve got our beautiful little container mall, but I really don’t think we’re making an awful lot of progress.Googling a business is pretty pointless now when it says it’s open but it’s not actually open. You have to go with what you already know, rather than trying to wing it.

I haven’t watched that film that they’ve made, When A City Falls. I don’t know why they didn’t make it after we’ve rebuilt. Why not wait? There’s going to be so much more of the story. I can’t imagine that it was left on a positive note. It would have been: ‘yes, our city fell down, a whole lot of people died, a whole lot of families got torn apart, and we’re just in a plateau now.’

I think it’s going to be a good five to ten years before we get anywhere but I’m then I’m thinking, long-term, we get our rebuild and we’ve got our new buildings, our city’s going to look great for three or four years, then it’s going to look dated because everything’s being built at the same time, and a lot of it’s being built by the same people.

It’s not like a nice dated. We’re going to have to wait another 120 years or so before we get to the historic stage again.

I’m interested to see what it looks like in five years’ time but we’re going to be in such a lull because there are so many businesses that have been crippled, and so many families hugely affected by it. It’s damaged a lot of marriages and a lot of friendships.

I think it’s going to take a really long time before we’re actually thriving.

On community support, online and offline:

We all helped each other out.

For me, the big thing has been really connecting with people on Twitter. You can just say ‘hey, I’m feeling really down’ and somebody’s listening who is like ‘are you okay?’

‘Does somebody want to catch up for coffee?’ You can just tweet that and someone, generally, will be okay to do that. The Twitter community has really stuck together and bonded a lot, especially through the initial month or so. We all helped each other out.

Friends of mine helped set up another friend’s house after it got demolished. We were sharing water, sharing food, helping each other clean up. I think that the Twitter community has really been a big factor in it.

I’m a volunteer in quite a lot of organisations. We’ve helped each other out quite a lot, been there for each other, and been making sure we’re doing as much as we can to connect with people.

On coping with life after the earthquakes:

'I have to keep the kids warm and it's going to snow soon.'

It gets really annoying. It’s the fact that it just keeps going and you have to try not to live in fear that there’s going to be another big one. We were so sure that after the big earthquake in September, it was going to be fine and we got off so lightly. Then it got past that six-month point when we were told that ‘your chances of having another one are dramatically decreased.’

Anything around a 4.0-5.0, or even just over a 5.0, you think ‘is this another big one?’ and you start thinking ‘have I got an emergency kit ready, what am I going to do if something does happen?’ because, especially here, if there’s anything over a 4.0, we lose our power and water straight away.

It’s frustrating when it’s the middle of winter and you’ve lost power for four hours because there’s been an earthquake, and you’re like ‘gosh, I have to keep the kids warm and it’s going to snow soon.’

You just have to decide, ‘can I handle this enough to stay in Christchurch or do I let it go now?’ I haven’t quite reached that point where, without a shadow of a doubt, I need to go.

There are a lot of people who have, and I don’t blame them for a second. I don’t blame anyone that’s felt they have to leave.

One of my friends fell out of the CTV building, and she was there getting counselling for her son who was traumatised in the first earthquake. Her son and her daughter fell out – they were right up the top. It was so sad that they were there for counselling for the first earthquake and they ended up falling out.

She’s gone to Timaru now. She survived. She got carried out. Her little baby was fine; her four-year-old was fine. They were just traumatised, and they just left Christchurch straight away.

There are just so many sad stories like that.

"They looked at us like we were scum."

Kylie Davis hopes Christmas can distract her from her troubles.

Kylie Davis lives with her family in Dallington, near the Avon River in Christchurch’s east. She plans to leave the city as soon as possible.

We were sort of homeless until about June.

This is our third house since the September earthquakes. We were in a house in Avonside, we’d been there for 13 years. In the September quakes it came apart about a foot and wrecked everything. We had to move out straight away.

We’ve been staying with relatives, and people like that. My partner’s cousin had a house that they were selling. We managed to rent that for a couple of months, we were there until the February earthquake.

We had to move out. We went up north, and we thought we’d see what we could do. But you’ve got no money and nowhere to live. You’ve still got all your hassles in Christchurch, so we came back again and we were sort of homeless until about June.

Then we got this place, it’s been a godsend. It’s very small but it’s better than being at work in an office or wherever. We’ve been in quite a few places. It’s nice to have somewhere where we can all be, and it’s stable.

We’ve got lovely neighbours. They’ve been really nice and really welcoming.

On the divide between east and west:

They have no idea.

After the February earthquake, we didn’t have ATMs, so we couldn’t get any money out. We ended up going to one of the welfare centres. It might have been only a couple of days later.

We got one of those food vouchers and we had to go over to Papanui. We were covered in liquefaction, we had gumboots on and I looked a mess. We hadn’t had a shower. We walked over there and they looked at us like we were scum. They were all driving around, walking around, and they obviously had showers. I watched them with quite a few people that I recognised from our side of town who were over there as well, and just their attitudes.

Even now, you get the odd person who says ‘get on with it’, but they didn’t really lose a hell of a lot. They have no idea.

On the emotional fallout:

I was embarrassed that I couldn’t provide something better.

We were having community showers, where you’d go down to somewhere like Cowles Stadium. You had to be in by 7pm, so we’d schedule that at 6pm every night, we’d have our shower stuff ready to go. We did that for a such a long time.

Where we work, we had an office upstairs. We had a sofa bed and we lived there for months. It was humiliating. We were too embarrassed to tell anyone we were doing this. We’d gone from being the people who helped everyone, to needing the help.

Being in that situation, I was embarrassed that I couldn’t provide something better for the kids. They were actually quite angry with me, but I understood why. They didn’t understand what was going on either. They were trying to get through. They were actually suffering themselves. They’d lost everything.

Where our house had come apart was my daughter’s bedroom, and she lost most of her stuff. They were struggling quite a bit with it, and the person you blame is you.

Someone explained it to me, that they were blaming me because I was their main caregiver. I did feel responsible, just because I didn’t have things in place to make sure that we were better provided for. That’s a mother’s thing, actually.

On the distraction of Christmas:

This’ll be a way to try and forget about it.

We put the Christmas tree up. The kids are 16 and 12, and they said it’d be lovely. It’s just the little things. I didn’t think it was that that important to them, but obviously it is.

We’re self-employed and we’ve lost use of the business three times this year.You’re trying to run a business that’s actually closed. Straight after the February earthquake, we were closed again. We were trying to recover from the September thing, and then we get closed again.

There hasn’t been any money, really. It’s been pretty tough but I thought this’ll be a way to try and forget about it.

On starting again somewhere else:

When I leave here, I won’t be looking back.

I was born in Christchurch and I’ve always loved Christchurch. Now, something’s changed. It’s not the same. Christchurch scares me now.

People keep saying we’re going to rebuild and it’s going to be better than it was before, but it’s not the same.

I’m tired. You’re always on edge. The threat’s always going to be there. Every now and then we’ll have a biggish one and it brings back everything. I don’t feel that it’s over yet.

It’s the most terrifying feeling. It just makes me cringe, every time. I get heart palpitations, my heart starts racing. Maybe if I’d have gone away for quite a while after the September earthquakes, I probably would have felt a bit stronger coming back, but it’s just too much. We’re still losing water every now and then.

They’re talking about the inner city and things, that’s fine but you only need to look around. Everywhere you go, there’s damage. They’ve started tidying up, but I think it’s too big.

I’d love to go somewhere where there’s no road signs, things knocked over, holes or cracks. It really plays on your mind. Reminders, all the time, and you just get sick of it. I just want to go somewhere normal, where you know where the shops are.

We went away for about a month and that was good, but we still had to come back. There was still so much that had to be sorted out. I didn’t want to come back then. If I could have, I would have kept going.

In February, we’re going, probably to Hamilton. I don’t know where we’re going, I don’t know how we’re going to make money or anything. It’s going to be a new beginning. I really can’t wait. When I leave here, I won’t be looking back.

I know that as a Cantabrian, I’ve got to have faith and be pro-Christchurch but no. I want to be, but I can’t. I’ll always love Christchurch - the old Christchurch.

I love it, but it scares me.

On the family’s struggle to cope:

We had a lot of family members die in between all this.

My oldest daughter was actually referred to youth specialty services, because we had a lot of family members die in between all of this. Just before the earthquakes, I lost a cousin. I was quite close to him. Then we had the earthquakes and his brother died not long after, in October.

My partner’s brother passed away in September. Then there was my cousin in November, his other brother passed away. Between losing everything and being homeless, and all these dead people everywhere, the kids just didn’t handle it at all. The youngest was seeing someone in the children’s outpatients at the hospital. It’s been pretty tough.

Even doing the day to day things was horrendous. We were living in people’s houses, staying on the couch or whatever for one or two days at a time, and then having to move on. We just had our clothes and things.

When you’ve got to carry on and you’ve got people that are depending on you, it’s the hardest thing. You know that no matter what, you’ve got to get through and you’ve got to get these people through. Your survival skills come out.

I don’t know how we did it. I don’t even know how we got here. Your life really flashes in front of you.

On the difficulties with support agencies:

It’s the same old thing, everyone sends you in circles.

I had the two girls and I tried to get them out. We had no money. I went to Winz and I begged the lady. I said ‘look, I need to get my children out, can you help me?’

She said ‘are you on a benefit?’ and I said ‘no, we’re self-employed.’ She said ‘go and see your insurance company.’ I said ‘we can’t just get money from them.’ I begged her to help me get the kids out because they were offering $50 airfares. She said no.

We had no money, we had nothing.

We’re still going through our EQC claims and things. We’ve had a claim for September but we’re going into February and I’m still actually trying to get that claim in, because it’s huge. We’d gone from having everything – in a heartbeat, it’s all gone. Your security. It’s all gone. Devastating.

It comes rushing to you and you think, ‘what are we going to do?’ You’ve got nowhere you can go and you can’t ask anyone for help. It’s the same old thing, everyone sends you in circles. ‘Go and see Winz,’ Winz says ‘go and see your insurance company.’ Your insurance company says ‘surely Winz can help? Go and see the Mayor’s Fund’ and all this. There’s actually nobody who can help you. You’ve got to get through yourself. There are so many people in that spot.

At one stage I’d sit on the phone, just ringing, because you had to be able to get through because the phone lines would be jammed. You’d ring and they’d say ‘well, your claim is pending’ and that went on for months. They’d say ‘look, I can’t tell you anything else but that it’s pending.’ I just gave up after a while.

It’s just mainly the big things, sorting it out, getting somewhere to sort out your storage unit out – and then being in a mental state to be able to do that.

It’s just huge, trying to sort it out in your head. Your mind sort of goes blank.

On Government support for business owners:

It’s just a big, shiny look for the rest of New Zealand.

They’d have on the news that the Government’s got all these packages for businesses, we had this big rebuild Canterbury business thing. It came out with a whizz and a bang, the guy came out and said ‘I’m going to do this’ – we’ve had nothing.

The Government keeps saying we need to keep these businesses going. They’re lying. People are hanging on by the skin of their teeth and they’ve had no help from anyone, apart from the subsidies they gave out to keep the employees going. That was it, and that was only so they didn’t bowl up to the dole queue.

So many people have just folded up and they keep saying ‘we’re going to keep all these businesses going.’ They’re talking crap. It’s just a big, shiny look for the rest of New Zealand so nobody gets wind that they’re not doing anything. I just hate it when they say ‘we’re doing this and that’ but they’re doing nothing. All sorts of nothing.

My sister, she’s a great one. She’s in Auckland and she says ‘I see they’re doing this and they’re doing that for you’ and I’m like, ‘eh? They must have overlooked us.’

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"The competence is a big, fat zero"

A truck waters damaged streets in Bexley.

A middle-aged couple, who did not wish to be named, spoke from their home in the east Christchurch suburb of Aranui.

Our bedroom has a big sinkhole in it.

Anon. A: With the EQC report, they said we dropped 25mm-plus. I was in Wellington when it happened. I texted and asked if they’d used the lasers. They hadn’t used the lasers. They had to be told to use the lasers. She’d dropped about 55mm.

Upstairs, all our flooring is twisted and bent. Our bedroom has a big sinkhole in it.

Anon. B: If I hadn’t insisted that there was something wrong with the floor, I don’t they would have even used the laser lights. They were ready to go. That’s what shocked me.

On their EQC experience:

EQC was supposed be something … we can lean on and trust.

Anon. A: We had quite a bad leak in our bathroom floor. We got a plumber in, he said the vanity’s got to come out, and the floor’s got to be ripped up and fixed because we’ve got a big hole in it. This is how we got onto Fletcher. When the Fletcher guy came around, he said upstairs was twisted.

He complained about the fact that all his workers were sitting on their butts, doing nothing, tied up to EQC. He wanted to get his own engineers in and actually start working, but EQC is actually stopping him from doing it, and he can’t bring his own team up to do it because Fletcher’s not letting him do it.

Anon. B: The original builder said he wouldn’t touch it. He said there was no point until we’d fixed the whole floor. For several weeks, we were without a bathroom because they wouldn’t touch it. It was difficult, but we got through it.

The one thing I have heard from EQC in the last couple of days is that we’re going to get reassessed. All the ones in the TC3 category are going to be reassessed. Some representative from our insurance company will be here with them. Tower didn’t even want to know when I rang them – until they’d heard from EQC that it was over $100,000.

Of course EQC says it isn’t, because they don’t know about the structural floor thing, because the assessor didn’t tell them. It’s ridiculous.

Anon. A: The competence is a big, fat zero. Are we getting satisfaction? No.

Anon. B: This is a guy who was regurgitating his lunch, had a fart thing for his ringtone and chuckled every time he got a text. Officially there’s nothing wrong with our floor. That’s the official thing until someone else comes along and assesses it.

When I rang EQC they said they’ll be sending an engineer, but that’s several months away. I know we’re not in any danger of it falling down, but it’s just infuriating.

EQC was supposed to be this big thing that was going to come along and help us all out, see us right, be something we can lean on and trust. It’s not. EQC is just a lot of people making a lot of money. $75 an hour. My goodness.

They just seem to have a pile of really good excuses.

Anon. A: I’m disgusted that they can get paid $75 an hour. They’re not qualified in any sense or form, they come around and point lasers at the house.

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"They won’t let me leave with the kids"

Lynn Jelley stands at the back door of her Aranui home.

Lynn Jelley lives in the eastern Christchurch suburb of Aranui, which suffered extensive damage during the earthquakes. She has had a long-running battle with authorities to get help for her family. Meanwhile, her brother Tony has been doing patch-up repair jobs on her home and nearby properties.

Each one will send you somewhere else.

Lynn: September didn’t really do a lot – just broken bits and pieces, it was actually the aftershocks which did more damage in September. February has been all the serious damage, all the water, all the power.

You’ve got EQC, then you’ve got CERA, then you’ve got the Hub, then you’ve got Council. Each one will send you somewhere else, they just pass the buck.

The Hub work for EQR, the ones who send out the contractors. Each area’s got their own Hub. Every time you ring, they’ll just send a contractor and it’s a different one. If they sent the same one, they’d say ‘this has got worse or this has got better’, but it’s a different one. ‘This is Council’s problem, it’s the drainlayer’s problem.’

You’ll make a phone call and they’ll hang up on you. The Hub did. It may have been accidental.

The lady at EQC, our contents claims are actually in Australia. They’re sitting there, saying to just ring the Council to fix it. I’ve done that.

Since June, it’s been a constant battle. The drainlayers have been awesome but they won’t come without the go-ahead, or they won’t get paid. Fair enough.

I’m finally getting contents, but to me it’s just stuff. This is the kids’ home. We finally had to have the drains done, but they’re still exploding because Council won’t fix their bit at the end. The fence has moved, it’s gone from private property to theirs, and where all their joins are, it’s actually now on our land and not theirs anymore. All it’s taken is a fence to move because of the earthquake.

We can flush finally, but we’ve had to cement over where all the goods were coming from.

Tony: I’ve just put some silicon around it. No sooner had I put the first there, then up came a nice, fresh log. A great way to start. It seems like these little tremors keep doing damage.

After February, Council was hopeless. All I wanted to get was a suck truck here. I extended the gully traps, just to give a bit of alleviation, and I had plans of getting a conduit in there so if there was any overflow I could dig a hole so it could go out there instead of floating around in the back yard, or at the front door. The plumber wouldn’t even touch the drainage here.

On insurance struggles:

They just don’t like our side of town.

Lynn: We’re all just losing the plot. I’ve had three assessments – they’re adamant I haven’t had two. They’ve lost all the paperwork.

From the worst one, everything was very broken but we’ve repaired heaps of stuff ourselves, just to keep living. Now they’ve gone and changed the number on my assessments to my uninsured time. The 2010 number became a 2011 number, they amalgamated the numbers.

We didn’t even do a house claim in September because nothing happened to the house. Two windows cracked and that’s all that happened. They’re trying to hide all this now under a number that they know I’m not insured under. I’m now disputing the assessment and I want a full, original assessment done again.

The first assessment, there were two of them and they wrote down every crack, very thorough. They had a picture of each bedroom, and they were under the house for ages. The one in June, they didn’t even go under the house. They were in and out in about half an hour, and yet they can’t find my first assessment. They’ve lost that, and there’s no record of a land assessment. There has been. They just don’t like our side of town. We feel like they just don’t like the east, because the east is buggered.

We’ve got to wait for a geotech to come in and say we can actually build on this land. It’s taken them that long, that we’re now underwater and it’s won’t be rebuildable. This is the Avon River that’s flowing in here. They reckon we’ve opened up our own well and this is our problem, this water.

Tony: There is talk, from the previous owner, about a soak pit supposedly being in here because this used to be the old New Brighton speedway.

Lynn: This is how desperate we’re getting, we’ve gone into the archives to get old plans. They found that the Council had done some interesting work, or consented to say ‘you can run your own sewers from the houses here.’ They found all this out the hard way – the drainlayers did – but that’s why the Council won’t touch it. It’s their mess.

Tony: People who need it are getting no satisfaction whatsoever. They’re getting the runaround. Council’s not helping. They said ‘you’ve got to get a drainlayer.’ I said ‘we don’t need a drainlayer at this stage.’ Every time somebody comes around to do something…

Lynn: …it’s coming off my final rebuild. You’re meant to get a $2000 emergency work grant with each earthquake. I’ve had plumbers come. Four times now with the electrician. The drainlayer was here for three days. As far as they’re concerned, ‘we’ve already done the work, we don’t need to come later’ and you get sick of calling them because we think at this rate we’re not going to have anything left.

Our general consensus is that town’s gone. Leave town alone. Save the houses that are in trouble, then go to town.

On the state of the damaged house:

There’s no way in the world they can repair this.

Tony: The land under this part of the house is disappearing. Don’t know where it’s going. Same at the other end of the house.There’s all this sewage under here. We’ve got photos of the liquid coming through, you can see mixed-up toilet paper all over the sand.

Lynn: My latest assessment has got me as cosmetic damage. That’s cosmetic, and it’s right through. I’ve gone from a complete rebuild to cosmetic. It’s frustrating. It’s really frustrating.

The kids’ room is all buckling, the steps have all broken. There are cracks everywhere, right through, underneath the house. Sewage is pouring in.

They don’t like that someone’s been brave enough to go under and take photos.

Tony: There’s no way in the world they can repair this. If you have a look around the house, you can see how far the foundation has come out. The slabs have lifted. The sand at the back end of the house has disappeared. Where it’s gone, I don’t know.

Lynn: We’ve been moving rocks to show them where the tide’s coming to now. It’s sitting and stagnating now because it’s not going back far enough.

They paid out too much in September, when no one had damage, and now they’ve run out of money. Everyone knows they’ve run out of money.

On being unable to leave home:

They won’t let me leave with the kids.

Lynn: I can’t even move out. You’ve got to have EQC say the house is not habitable before you can move and be insured, otherwise you’re not insured. I’m insured for stuff in storage – they’ve reluctantly done that – but they won’t let me leave with the kids. Not safe here.

The neighbours all want to help and support, but they can’t say ‘well, we’ve got the water at our place’ because they haven’t.

I’ve got some good advocates working for me now. A guy’s been to the house because I thought the veranda was falling off the house. He said the veranda was fine, it’s the house that’s moving. He’s gutted at my assessment because he knows what this house is like, so he’s trying to get someone to come around here.

He knows I want to get the kids out.

On coping with life in an earthquake zone:

The big kids have struggled because everything’s shut.

Lynn: We don’t like kids climbing any more, just in case we have another shake. If you say ‘the earthquake did it’, they stay away from it. They’ve got no option.

They’re good now. They watch me and see what I do. Anything that rattles has been taken out. I think that’s probably what a lot of us parents have done, and now we’ve just had enough.

Tony: You say to stay away from the water or you’ll come in half wet.

Lynn: It started all boiling out over the roof and it was pouring straight on top of the door - the wee fellow was just having fun.

The candles were good, every day was his birthday and he’d go around, blowing them all out. We’ve been really lucky with him. For three, he’s been pretty good.

He’s come to me through CYF and you can imagine what their health and safety thing is, not even an inch of water. It’s two-foot deep in the back yard. He’s allowed outside as long as I’m outside, because the fence is gone. Too many trucks come up and down, not so much now but there was always something happening.

It gets hard sometimes because the places you want to go are shut still and they can’t swim at the beach around here. You wouldn’t want to. You’ve got to go further afield. The big kids have struggled because everything’s shut. Biking to school was a nightmare because either in pot holes or road works, Daniel had a few accidents.

They also have slowly watched me deteriorate, listened to me fighting, and reading mail and going ‘oh God, what happening now?” Daniel’s quite aware of it.

They can’t get away from here, you can’t get help to get out. They have all these free trips for kids and they’re not even from this area. They’re not even the kids who are in a house that’s damaged. Kids have been to Auckland, there have been kids sent to Australia and all sorts to get them away from the quake.

On the disruption of essential services:

They could have least offered me a generator.

Lynn: You can’t drink the water – you can only drink it out of the bottles that nana gives you. We’ve only had a decent fridge for a week. We’ve had chilly bins and a beer fridge up until now, because we’re not insured. They won’t do your contents. Luckily, Smiths City and the Red Cross have helped out when there’s been an insurance problem.

We’ve got to buy water or travel outside town to get water. We can’t drink ours yet. It just stinks.

EQC, AMI, the Hub, everybody knew we had no power, two children and no heat over winter. My power bills are phenomenal. There must be something faulty, because everything else in the house is. $600 bills, and I had no power. I know what my power should have been.

‘Have you had an electrician come in?’ Of course I have. It was a long, cold winter and they could have at least offered me a generator.

Those that think we’re doing fine can get stuffed.

On the importance of being noticed:

We find it very frustrating, reading the moaning in the paper.

Lynn: We’ve removed doors, one is stuck halfway open, and then you read in the paper that someone’s moaning because they still haven’t had their new door put on.

The other side of town? We find it very frustrating, reading the moaning in the paper about helicopters. The noise bothers them. Well, they can’t see unless there’s helicopters flying over.

Just driving along, you can’t see what’s going on. There happened to be an aerial photograph, you started to see water lying where there shouldn’t have been water. Now they’ve worked out that there’s a water shortage, probably because there’s leaking pipes somewhere.

There are so many houses empty – they don’t know if they’re leaking – and this is probably why we’re getting a bit lost.

On the events of February 22:

We lost our wee neighbour, Jayden.

Lynn: The kids were good. There were two half an hour apart but the teachers had already learned to keep them under the tables. We were already well and truly on way down there by then.

We lost our wee neighbour, Jayden. He was on one of the buses in town. I don’t actually want to get on a bus anymore, or at the moment.

For a surprise, our eldest brother came over in February. He was at Kaiapoi where his daughter is. Seven hours it took him to get from Kaiapoi to here, and because we weren’t answering the phone, he started to panic. He didn’t know what to bring, but he had some bottles of water and a loaf of bread.

Tony: I was in a B-Train when that second one hit, out at Hornby. I managed to go out through Halswell, where it was hit last time. Then I had to go to Lyttelton to get back to here, through all these diverted routes and flooding. I pulled out about three cars. In June, I pulled even more out.

Lynn: A lot of people say it’s eerie, going on those bus trips. The bus is dead silent, nobody says a thing. There’s no commentary, apparently.

No interest at all of going in. It’d just be too creepy.

There are so many roads closed because of the cordon, versus road works. Just trying to get my son to Sea Cadets in Montreal Street from here, you’ve got to do all these Mickey Mouse routes.

You should have seen some of the outfits we were wearing to get the kids to school. There was no dress code, get decent and go. The kids were upset because their shoes got wet.

I don’t think I’ll go into a top floor anywhere again. You hear of all the damage and if anything shakes now, you just worry. It took me a long time to go into a supermarket.

I took the kids up to Eastgate mall the other day and I was so nervous, because it was just destroyed.

The first thing the kids know to do is find the escape route. They’ve always got something on them that’s got their full name. I think a lot of us are doing that now. These kids will go out always in pairs, and know they can’t go to the toilet alone.

We know Eastgate has had all the specialised stuff done to it to quakeproof it as best they can. They learned where the weak bits were and why they were weak. That’s one good thing, the buildings and houses are going to be stronger.

On spending Christmas in the red zone:

This is not the place to come.

Now we’ve got to face Christmas, and I don’t want to have it here. It’s not exactly picnic material outside. We usually do a picnic, but we’re not inviting the family down from up north because this is not the place to come.

The restaurants are too dear. We’ll hit The Groynes or Spencer Park and have a picnic somewhere.

Their Christmas presents are just their things that got broken that have been replaced. How exciting for them. Well, the Xbox got munted so it’s being upgraded to an Xbox 360. They’re getting that for Christmas, well, the big one is.

That’s his time out from the wee fellow, hiding out in his room with the Xbox.

* Go back to nzherald.co.nz or the Star

Thank you. Again.

After spending several days in Christchurch shortly after the earthquake, speaking to people and learning what they and their communities were going through, it was a privilege for me to return for the national memorial service and be welcomed all over again.

Thanks, again, to everyone who took a moment to speak during this day and, again, I hope you’ll all keep supporting each other.

Kia kaha Christchurch.

Troy Rawhiti-Forbes
Social media and interactivity editor

Here we are

Jason Kerrison sang a rousing version of No Ordinary Thing before the service got underway.


"I don’t think so. It was good to get it out there, to do it in good weather."

— Rolleston teen George Steele, an aspiring broadcaster, and his friends are active volunteers in their community. George disagreed with suggestions that the memorial service took place too soon.