Wedded bliss started on shaky ground

By Jenee Tibshraeny

It's taken Sonya and Dale Swainson two major earthquakes, a string of aftershocks, a 955km journey away from home, and a lot of patience to tie the knot.

The couple's plan to get married at the Avonside Holy Trinity, and celebrate with a reception at the Leander Club, Christchurch, crumbled after the buildings were destroyed in the February 22, 2011, earthquake.

It was only after moving to Tauranga in October 2011, that they could make new arrangements to say "I do" at Charlemagne Lodge in January.

Mrs Swainson said the wedding marked a fresh start for her family in Tauranga.

"I didn't want to go back there and get married. I loved it up here. We thought all our friends could do with a holiday too."

Mr and Mrs Swainson found out their rental home was red-stickered after the June 2011 aftershocks. They had intended signing the contract to buy the house only three days after the February earthquake swamped it in liquefaction.

"We had the opportunity to get out of there, so we did", said Mrs Swainson. "You do what you need to do for your family ... Most of our friends and family have been very supportive and said we did the right thing."

However, Mrs Swainson admitted taking her three children - aged between three and 16 - away from their extended family was the hardest part.

They have settled in to life in Tauranga, despite continuing to get frights from the tremors caused by passing trucks.

What I enjoy the most [about the Bay of Plenty] is that everything's on your doorstep. You can go to Pilot Bay, swimming holes ... It's a total lifestyle change."

Mrs Swainson is grateful for the support of her neighbour - also a former Cantabrian - and Rosalie Crawford, founder of the project, Rise Up Tauranga, and Facebook group, BOP Cantabs.

Ms Crawford has spent countless hours settling people into homes, sourcing furniture, helping them get work or Government assistance, and providing moral support.

She noted people didn't always realise it takes just as much courage to move from Christchurch, than to rebuild a new life there.

"There are lots of other families here who have really just bedded in, getting established into work and schools ... There's a lot of resilience."

"It would be foolish to try and estimate how many have permanently moved here, and the Census should give a good snapshot of that."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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