Quake spells end for historic homestead

By Jarrod Booker

Louise Deans says the decision to pull down the Homebush homestead, which was damaged by the Christchurch earthquake last month, was a blow. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Louise Deans says the decision to pull down the Homebush homestead, which was damaged by the Christchurch earthquake last month, was a blow. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A pioneer Canterbury homestead shattered by September's earthquake is to be pulled down because restoration would cost too much.

The decision to dismantle the 154-year-old Deans homestead at Homebush, inland from Christchurch, is a painful blow to the Deans family.

But they plan to save historic remnants of the grand brick building and incorporate the "old with the new" in a new home to be built nearby.

"It's really, really, really hard," said householder Louise Deans.

"However, time has passed and you just have to move on and reconcile yourself to things."

The Deans are among the earliest Pakeha settlers in Canterbury, and the homestead has a category two Historic Places Trust rating.

The devastated building was photographed by the Herald soon after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck on September 4.

The main staircase collapsed and Jim and Louise Deans escaped to another house on the property.

Strong aftershocks have continued to rattle Canterbury since the main quake hit. Several were felt yesterday, including a 4.4 magnitude shake that struck at 9.28am.

The decision to demolish the homestead was made after surveyors concluded that restoring it would cost more than the insurance would cover.

"Like everything, it always boils down to money," Mrs Deans said.

In central Christchurch, the historic Manchester Courts building, which houses businesses, was also so badly damaged it has to be demolished.

But the decision was made only after lengthy city council discussion, and protests against the move.

"But when it comes to a private dwelling, it's a different story isn't it," Mrs Deans said.

"It's a difficult situation being a private home which has got a lot of public recognition. And somehow it just falls through the gaps."

The local district council did not have the money to save the homestead, she said, "and if they did [pay for it], imagine the outrage."

Dismantling the homestead will begin next month, and pieces of it will be preserved.

"There's a full-sized billiard table up the top which everybody is fairly anxious to save, but not sure how."

A archaeological dig would take place at the site.

"I think we'll probably fill it in and maybe do a footprint with a nice garden and a meditation spot or something like that."

- NZ Herald

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