Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

My life's in that Rena container - expat

Anyone wishing to volunteer in the clean-up effort should register online here or call 0800 645 774. For other offers of help please email with 'Volunteers - 1 for all' in the subject line, full name, contact number and relevant experience.

Christchurch man Gene Rhodes. Photo / Supplied
Christchurch man Gene Rhodes. Photo / Supplied

Three weeks ago, Gene Rhodes left Christchurch to escape the quakes.

He wanted a better life for his partner and daughter, so he packed up their lives into a shipping container and headed to Brisbane.

That container was due to arrive at his new home within a week, but it is now stuck on the Rena, and in danger of ending up at the bottom of the ocean.

"My heart's in my stomach at the moment," he said. "It's all our stuff. Everything is in that container. My life's on that container."

Mr Rhodes loaded furniture and personal possessions, including family photos, property belonging to his partner's dead father and things he inherited from his grandmother.

"All my workshop tools, my contracting tools. I'm over here using crap tools at the moment. I was waiting for my tools to arrive. I've got a motorbike in there as well.

"I was totally oblivious to what was going on. Because it's not in Australian waters it's not in the news.

But the freight company emailed me and said the ship had struck a reef.

"Last night, I got an email and they pretty much said in black and white [that] if I was a betting man, I could bet I'm not going to see my stuff ever again.

"When you sit down and think that you're never going to get that stuff back, you're just constantly feeling sick," Mr Rhodes said.

"We've found out that our container is still on board. It's one of the bottom containers in front of the bridge so it's still above deck in a pretty good place.

"It's not going to fall off, but if the ship sinks, then we're looking at a different story."

Mr Rhodes may also be left short on his insurance. His first thought was, "The ship won't sink", but he insured his contents in case anything was broken.

"We were pretty sure $25,000 would cover it, but now we've been going through everything ... that insurance is not going to cover it all.

"We're hoping we're going to get a good outcome but when we found out this morning that 70 or so containers had slipped last night ..."

Mr Rhodes accepts that the salvage effort may take time, and he is happy to wait - as long as he gets his property back.

"I'm not being selfish, I know that the oil is a big problem. But I've spent a lot of my life building up and I'm not going to get that back."

- NZ Herald

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