Earthquake Update

- Murray Horton

This issue of Watchdog has been produced under unusual circumstances (to put it mildly). I work from home and our place was one of the tens of thousands of Christchurch houses damaged by the series of earthquakes which started in September 2010. In our case it was assessed as “moderate” damage (basically meaning cosmetic, not structural) and, very fortunately, there was no land damage or liquefaction at our place or in our immediate neighbourhood. Nor did we suffer any broken pipes (although we did lose power and water for five days after the February quake). We were unofficially told that the cost of fixing our place was $30,000, which is an infinitesimal amount when compared to the tens of billions needed to fix the grievously damaged city. We were in no great rush to get it done and settled down to wait. We weren’t nagging the Earthquake Commission to fix our place in a hurry.

To our surprise we were picked as one of the first places to be fixed (I was at the other end of the country, in Whangarei on my CAFCA speaking tour, when I was rung and told). So, suddenly it was all happening. We have no idea why we were among the earliest claimants to be repaired (my colleagues have conspiracy theories about Fletchers being worried about being nominated for the Roger Award). We had to fit in preparation for the repairs with me spending several weeks away on the speaking tour (which took me from Whangarei to Dunedin and many places inbetween) and with Becky taking a five week quake break to visit family and friends back in the Philippines.

Work started immediately after Queens Birthday Weekend. To enable the tradesmen to get at our ceilings, walls and floors, we had to empty out about 80% of the house (including my office) and temporarily store it all in the garage. Then we (two people and Beastly the cat, who came with the February quake) had to move into our dining room. I moved the computer and a bare minimum of office stuff in there so that I could continue working. So that’s where we lived for eight weeks (we had been told the repairs would take three weeks but I knew that was unrealistic, as midwinter is the worst possible time for things like plaster and paint to dry) - working, cooking, eating, watching TV, drying washing, and sleeping in that one undamaged part of the house. We were kept warm by the free heat pump that was installed after we lost our chimney and logburner. We slept on makeshift mattresses on the floor (in my case, on my trusty old 70s’ vintage lilo that normally only gets used at the annual Waihopai spybase protest camps. In my travelling days it went around the world with me and served me well on several continents). It literally was our living room for June and July.

That’s where we were living during the June quakes (we took to sleeping under the table again after that; rather like bunking down in a submarine, I imagine) and during July’s big snowstorm, which gave Christchurch one of its coldest days in more than 90 years. Living in a construction site is always character building (we had done it for three months in 1998, when we had the back of the house renovated), with the constant presence of tradesmen and the attendant noise, dust, mess and smells, not to mention the mandatory dog and their choice of radio station. One reason we stayed in the house was for security and this was vindicated when a would-be looter turned up. I was editing this Watchdog when I realised a stranger was peering in the window at me. As I was expecting a tradesman, I answered the door to be greeted by a bullshit story about how he thought it was for rent because it looked empty from the street so he had wandered around the back to check it out further. Yeah right – I called the cops and reported him, after he had sloped off.

So those were the circumstances in which this issue was produced. If I needed to get anything from my files or office supplies I had to literally climb over heaped up furniture and stuff in the garage to try to find it (or not, as was more usually the case). I’m pleased to say that it’s all finished now (we’ve put in a third claim for a handful of new cracks from the June quakes, but they’re in places not readily visible) and that we’re at the stage of moving everything back into the house, setting it all back up again, and trying to remember where we put things when we packed them (the fact that I worked as a household furniture packer for eleven years doesn’t make me any better at it when it comes to my own stuff). I must say that it’s nice to sleep in a bed again. The office is back up and running – when it came time to pack it all up I took the opportunity to dump a whole lot of old, historic CAFCINZ/.CAFCA material (I offered it to the University of Canterbury’s Macmillan Brown Library but they never got back to me) – so there’s marginally less clutter in it now. If there’s another big quake that buggers things up once more, then we will grit our teeth and start again (after all, what’s one more after 8,000 of the bastards). We’re not going to be beaten by this.

It takes a lot of work to compile and write the material presented on these pages - if you value the information, please send a donation to the address below to help us continue the work.

Foreign Control Watchdog, P O Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand/Aotearoa. August 2008.


Return to Watchdog 127 Index