One year on: People of the quake

By Jarrod Booker

Srecko 'Alec' Cvetanov - pictured yesterday with his children Todor and Katerina - spoke by cellphone to his wife Tamara (inset) as she lay trapped in the CTV building.
Photos / Martin Hunter, Supplied
Srecko 'Alec' Cvetanov - pictured yesterday with his children Todor and Katerina - spoke by cellphone to his wife Tamara (inset) as she lay trapped in the CTV building. Photos / Martin Hunter, Supplied

Srecko "Alec" Cvetanov is still haunted by his final cellphone conversations with his wife, Tamara, as she lay trapped and dying in the rubble of the Canterbury Television building.

Cindy Gibb's husband, Sam, died in the same collapsed Christchurch building. She now helps sick children in poverty-stricken Tajikistan, partly driven by her terrible loss.

The pair have very different lives but are forever linked by the devastating earthquake that claimed 185 lives almost a year ago.

Nearly 12 months on, the ripples from the magnitude 6.3 quake spread far and wide. Some survivors are moving on from their tragic losses, others cannot until their questions are answered.

Today, the Weekend Herald revisits 21 lives forever changed on February 22, 2011.

For Mr Cvetanov, the last year has been the hardest of his life, but he tries to stay strong for his children, Todor, 10, and Katerina, 8.

"Any time we have good moments, we are sad. When we have sad moments, we are sad more. In the good times we want mum to be there to see that."

Though his kids are getting "better and better" at coping with their loss, Mr Cvetanov is trying to juggle his work commitments to spend more time with them.

He is also fighting for an independent inquiry into the search and rescue effort on the day of the quake to try to understand why his trapped wife could not be rescued over a period of almost three hours in which he spoke to her by cellphone.

In their conversations - one of which was dramatically caught on camera and played out on live television - Mr Cvetanov learned his wife was trapped alongside four other people who were also alive. In their last talk, at 1.13am on February 23, she suggested turning her cellphone off to conserve the dying battery.

"I said, 'Good idea. Use [the phone] if you are in danger.' I said, 'I'll wait for your call then.' She said, 'Please hurry up'," Mr Cvetanov says.

He never heard from his wife again - and never got the chance to say goodbye.

He thinks an inquiry into the search and rescue effort will result in important lessons being learned for the response to future disasters.

Mrs Gibb, 29, says she has kept going because she knows that's what her husband, a CTV journalist, would want.

"In the beginning, it would have been so easy to just curl up into a ball and not move, but I wanted to find a way of carrying on, for Sam."

A trained nurse, Mrs Gibb left Christchurch after the disaster to work for aid organisation Doctors Without Borders in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where she leads a team battling drug-resistant tuberculosis in children. "I have always wanted to do this type of work and a few years ago I was presented with the opportunity... However, Sam and I decided at the time that we would rather get married, save to buy a house and begin having a family.

"I felt this was the best thing to do following my loss of Sam," she says.

Her decision was also influenced by a visit last year from the Dalai Lama. "He talked of the benefits of helping others as a way to process your own personal grief and needs. He discussed how easy it is to turn to anger when faced with a difficult situation and that the world we live in will always present us with difficult problems. However, if instead of focusing on ourselves we accept that everyone undergoes suffering, it becomes easier to engage in a more realistic and less angry perspective."

Mrs Gibb said the move had other unexpected benefits. "Being in a different country allows me to grieve and process my own emotions without this being forced upon me by the earth moving, media reports, and conversations at work, in the supermarket etc."

The past year had still been "phenomenally difficult".

"Simple tasks became overwhelmingly difficult. For example, changing a light bulb. This in itself is not a difficult task and I have done this numerous times in my life, but it had become one of the jobs that Sam would do around the house.

"All of a sudden he wasn't there to do it and somehow this became an insurmountable task."

Mrs Gibb said she would follow media coverage of the anniversary and keep in close contact with Sam's family in Timaru, but as she was in a Muslim country she planned to remember her husband the way Muslim people did.

"Here, one year on from losing a loved one, people donate money or food to people in need and meet to celebrate the life of the loved one over a meal with friends and family. I plan to have a meal here of plov [a traditional rice dish] and also provide this for the children at the hospital in which I am currently working.

"We will talk about Sam and I will share stories and photographs of him with my team and friends here."

Mrs Gibb has faith in authorities making every possible effort to get the answers that she and others are looking for. "I know that something wasn't right for the [CTV] building to have responded as it did, yet I don't hold anyone individually responsible for this, nor would I want any one person to have blame put on their shoulders."

She wants her husband to be remembered as the "funny, kind and generous person he was".

"I have to accept that my loss of him is not just a personal loss, but that he will now always be a part of Christchurch's history, and this is phenomenally difficult to imagine."

Survivors' tales of hope and despair

The February earthquake turned lives upside down as well as knocking over buildings. One year on, Weekend Herald reporters have revisited those who lived through it and found some struggling to come to terms with their losses and others moving on and rebuilding their lives

Betty McGrail
Betty McGrail fled her Heathcote Valley house when the quake struck and returned to find a massive boulder had smashed through her living room wall and embedded itself into her floor, right next to her favourite chair.

At the time Mrs McGrail, 80, described the boulder, the size of a dining room table and estimated to weigh several tonnes as "pretty big". In fact, it was so big it took months to work out how to dislodge and move it.

But, the boulder is finally out of her living room and she's raring to move back home. Her house was red-stickered and it is unclear when or if she can repair it.

But she said she could not wait to "get back in there".

"The rock's out and it (the hole) is all bordered up. Everything seems fine. I've got to do a bit of work inside before I shift back in there."

She said the boulder was "jacked up" and then put on rollers. It was pushed out of the house and is now sitting on the front deck.

Mrs McGrail is living in a portacabin on her son's property. He lives just a couple of hundred metres along the same road.

She is still working each day at the family's orchard, and runs a busy fruit stand.

She had lived in her house for 45 years and heard rocks tumbling down the hill as she fled during the quake.

"They came from everywhere with a 'boom, boom, boom'. When I went back to my house this big boulder was in the sitting room. It's sitting there quite nicely, like it's happy to be there," she said at the time.
- Anna Leask

Mark Maynard
This time last year Kelly Maynard was getting ready to go back to work after taking time out to raise her young daughters Molly and Matilda. Now her husband Mark is facing his new life as a single dad after Mrs Maynard was tragically killed when the Pyne Gould Corporation building collapsed.

Mrs Maynard, 43, was into only her fourth day at Perpetual Trust on the first floor when the quake struck. Mr Maynard said he and the girls, now 3 and 4, were doing "okay".

"We're not too bad. It's happened and we've got to carry on. I've taken on more responsibility with the girls than I ever thought I would, I've now got a couple of roles - being the father and the mother."

He said life without his wife became easier over time but was still sad at times - especially at Christmas, which he spent with his family in the South Island.

Molly is starting school in April, a milestone he wished Mrs Maynard had been here to see.

"The girls talk about her all the time, they ask if they can say a prayer for her and they still remember her well.

"It's my job just to keep reminding them about her."
- Anna Leask

Bonnie Singh
Bonnie Singh is still recovering from multiple breaks to her back and neck and a major head injury she suffered when the tattoo studio she worked in collapsed around her, trapping her in the rubble.

The mother-of-one managed to crawl out of the building despite having seven broken vertebrae and a severe concussion after being hit in the head by a slab of falling concrete. Her close friend and workmate, Matti McEachen, also tried to escape, but did not make it out alive.

Ms Singh said the last year had been "very emotional".

"It's been really up and down. I'm still in pain every day... I'm definitely better though; it's just been really slow," she said.

"My life has changed in a million ways. I realised how easy it is to die, how much this has affected my child. We're having to battle the mental sh*t every day. We constantly think about where we're going and should we go there - as well as dealing with the loss.

She remembers February 22 every day.

"I think it's maybe even clearer now than it was. It was getting easier until the quakes on December 23."

Ms Singh is working towards completing her tattooing apprenticeship. Mr McEachen was close to finishing his and Ms Singh decided to carry on for him.

She has become close to his family, and has an especially close bond with his mother.

"I'm not really sure what we'll do on the anniversary. I'm keen on being with Matti's family for some part. Whatever we do, it'll be something that Matti would like."
- Anna Leask

Doreen Tomlin
Doreen Tomlin still has her son Shane's number programmed into her cellphone. It makes her feel better to know it's there when she scrolls through.

But knowing that his phone is somewhere around Christchurch, along with his wallet, amid the rubble of the bakery he was killed in in the quake is still a strange concept to her.

Shane was working in the Trocadero bakery in Cashel Mall when the quake struck. He was photographed being carried out of the rubble - his face pained, bloodied and dirt-streaked.

Mrs Tomlin had been trying to call him after hearing of the quake, and was relieved when her daughter phoned to say Shane was "okay", that she'd seen him on television, awake and alive.

Tragically, Shane did not survive his injuries, leaving his family devastated. They suffered another blow in October when his father Bernie died as a result of a heart condition.

Mrs Tomlin said her husband never got over Shane's death.

"He lost the will to live. He said to me several times that he was going to go and be with Shane," she said.

"He said: 'it should be me there, not him'."

Mrs Tomlin said it was "quite strange" to have lost her son and husband in such a short space of time.

"I'm not always strong. I miss the text conversations I used to have with Shane, and the house is so quiet."

She said it had been a tough and emotional year, but she was determined to be in Christchurch to remember Shane on February 22.

"You just keep plodding on, don't you? We'll be there alright."
- Anna Leask

Emily Cooper
Emily Cooper cannot remember leaving the CTV building on February 22, nor can she remember what she said to her colleagues in the newsroom as she walked out.

But she certainly remembers standing in nearby Latimer Square the next day, her birthday, watching rescuers comb through the collapsed, fire-ravaged remains of the building for survivors.

Miss Cooper, a journalist, was out of the office on a job when the quake struck. Many of her workmates were in the building when it collapsed and did not survive. A year later, her feelings about the day are the same.

"You're always going to be sad about what happened, you can't change that. It was such a major tragedy, we're always going to be changed by it.

"You can't go through something like that and not be changed," she said.

She was "doing okay" and keeping busy with her new job at Radio Live, but the quake was in her life each and every day.

"As a reporter I have to be face to face with it every single day, my life has changed dramatically. I'm doing things I never imagined having to do in my life - covering the devastation in the city, and not having those people there like they were before ...

"I'm still reporting on the same earthquake-related things.

"But it's okay. I like seeing what's going on in the community and how people are coping with their own situation. Being out there is strange, but I enjoy it."

Miss Cooper will return to Latimer Square on the anniversary.

"It will be a poignant day ... It will be really emotional, but I'll always remember. I'll also go to Hagley Park and I really hope it's a day to remember and reflect. The most important thing is to remember."
- Anna Leask

Chris Greenslade
His bride-to-be was huddled under her desk in the ruins of her collapsed office building, but Chris Greenslade had no idea whether she had survived the quake. He had run across the CBD from his own office, helping some and carrying others out of rubble along the way.

He stood, helpless and frantic, as rescuers dug for survivors at the Pyne Gould Corporation site. Then, Mr Greenslade got the best text message of his life - Emma Howard, the woman he was due to marry that weekend, was alive.

"I'd been outside watching the aftershocks shake the sh*t out of the building... it was horrible," he said.

"Then I got her text and I knew that because they were looking for her, and they knew where she was, it was just a matter of time.

"Up until then though it was pretty horrible. I was just looking at the building, completely flattened, knowing where people would have been sitting."

He remembers the day clearly, but is reluctant to go over it in detail. He says he doesn't like to "dwell" on it. "I remember the image of coming around the corner and seeing her building ... and then I remember when she got out. I remember it all but I've blanked out the emotion."

Three days after the quake the couple married, despite the city being in ruins.

A year on, they will celebrate their first anniversary at the same place they spent their wedding night. But not before they remember those lost on February 22.

"You can't dwell on everything. We'll remember it because it was a horrible day. But for us, we're trying to focus on going forward instead of looking back."
- Anna Leask

Simon Nicol
Within minutes of the February 22 quake, silt, water and raw sewage had poured through every floor in Simon and Erin Nicol's Avondale home. The quake also caused irreparable damage to the spine of their home, which has now been "written off".

The house was badly damaged in the September shake and days before the fatal 6.3 magnitude quake struck they had been given go-ahead to rebuild. They had plans for a "bigger and better" home for their family.

The Weekend Herald spoke to the couple as they were packing up and leaving the home to stay with family in Timaru.

A year later, they are still there and planning to build a new house. Mr Nicol said they'd sold their "munted" land in Christchurch to CERA and were now settled in the smaller and much calmer town.

But there was another blow for the family when Mrs Nicol's mother died.

"Her house was quite badly damaged in the June quake and we brought her to Timaru, the poor dear," said Mr Nicol.

"But she had a stress-related ulcer that caused a heart attack and she passed away. It wasn't what we needed, it wasn't good. She was a sprightly 80-year-old before the quake, but not after it."

Mr Nicol said the family wanted to return to Christchurch eventually, when order and infrastructure was returned to the city.

"We just find life's easier where we are. Once Christchurch is back up and running, then we'll probably toodle on back."

Mr and Mrs Nicol are taking their children Finn, 12, and Mollie, 10, out of school for a family trip to Christchurch for the anniversary. Mr Nicol said it was important for the family to be there for the anniversary and they would attend the ceremony at Hagley Park.
- Anna Leask

Michael Willetts
The sun was beaming down on Christchurch as painter Michael Willetts downed tools and headed into Cathedral Square on his lunch break on February 22 last year. He got himself a hot dog and had just taken his first bite when the city began to shatter before his eyes.

"I felt a rumble. Then I looked at the Cathedral. It felt like the middle of it went left, then went right, then came down," he said.

"It was surreal, like being in some sort of movie, something you've never seen before."

Mr Willetts said everything seemed to happen in a split second. There was no time to think.

"I don't remember thinking. You're not really worried about yourself - or anyone else. It's a moment I don't know how to explain."

Mr Willetts ran back to his work site to check on his colleagues and then on to his central city flat.

"It was pretty munted. I waited a few hours for the roads to clear to get to my mother's."

Her yard was full of silt and he picked up a shovel and started digging straight away.

"That was a good four or five days work. A lot of people were giving a hand though."

Over the past 12 months Mr Willetts life has remained busy.

"Being a painter and decorator, the work has been more consistent, as you can imagine. It's been more full on, both mentally and physically with everything happening.

"You're more aware of things, you kind of watch every step you take."
- Anna Leask

Aaron Frazer
There is one vivid memory of February 22 that still upsets Aaron Frazer. It almost reduces him to tears to speak about it.

Mr Frazer was one of many who tried to help rescue people from the collapsed CTV building on the night of the quake. When he arrived he was asked by officials to build a morgue with tarpaulins and ropes. There were already five bodies waiting.

He then raced around the site to help remove debris whenever survivors were found: "I could see a person's hand, someone trapped in there, and it was moving," he said at the time.

But it's the toys from a creche in the building that he had to pick through while digging for survivors that gut him to the core.

"That's the one thing that does my head in every time I think about it. The thought of finding a child in that broken building ... that was pretty horrible," he said.

"I also remember the fire guys crawling into spaces that, even in other circumstances, I wouldn't go in. They were in the most extreme circumstances, but they were charging in trying to save people."

Mr Frazer's wife refers to him as "my hero". But he shrugs off the accolade.

"People say "you were so brave'. But I didn't feel brave at all. I felt really scared. I think everyone felt like that. I don't think anyone was trying to be a hero - everyone was just trying to be human."

He tries not to think too much about the day, rather focusing on the relief that his family were not hurt.

His wife is due to have a baby in about three weeks.

And on the anniversary, he'll remember those the rescuers could not reach. "I'll probably have a wee cry," he said.
- Anna Leask

Raemon Greenwood
Through the anguish of losing both her parents in the February earthquake, Raemon Greenwood says there came a point where she had to let go of the grief.

"About halfway through the year, I think I said I have to start flipping what I called my grief coin. You can't wallow because it's not good for your soul," says the Christchurch mother of two.

"I just had to celebrate everything that was wonderful about my parents."

Earl and Beverley Stick were travelling by bus into central Christchurch for Mr Stick's cancer treatment on February 22.

The couple, married for 51 years, were looking forward to his radiation treatment ending that week. The bus the pair were travelling on was crushed by falling masonry and debris in central Christchurch.

Mrs Greenwood thinks she will visit her parents' graves in North Canterbury on the anniversary and spend time with friends. Until recently, she and her family were living in her parents' home, after her own home was badly damaged in the quake.

"At times it was comforting at the beginning, but in the end we realised we have all got to go forwards somehow or another."
Jarrod Booker

Summer Olliver
When the first anniversary of February 22 rolls around, earthquake survivor Summer Olliver will be away from Christchurch and the painful reminders.

The 23-year-old administrator was in the Pyne Gould Corporation building that collapsed in the quake and killed many of her colleagues, including her aunty, Jane-Marie Alberts, 44.

A concrete beam landed on Miss Olliver's lower back as she was kneeling, trapping her for five hours, fracturing her pelvis, crushing her sciatic nerve and raising doubt about whether she would walk again.

She spent three and a half months in hospital and is still recovering.

Miss Olliver wants to avoid the attention and hype that will inevitably come with the anniversary.

"There would be nothing worse than if there's an earthquake on that day."

Suffering from chronic ongoing pain and trouble walking, she has slowly been building back up her working hours.

"I'm trying to get back to as many normal things as possible, but it's a bit hard when you are still on a cocktail of pills, have no feeling in your foot and get exhausted easily."

Miss Olliver recently fundraised to take a group of children whose parents were injured in the February quake on a trip to Auckland to visit various attractions - something she thinks her aunty and colleagues would have encouraged her to do had they survived.
Jarrod Booker

Anne Malcolm
Earthquake survivor Anne Malcolm is trained to help others overcome their struggles, but this past year she's had to focus on overcoming her own.

Ms Malcolm, 72, a counsellor and mother to Outrageous Fortune star Robyn Malcolm, was rescued after the deadly collapse of the CTV building, but suffered numerous injuries that mean she will never quite be back to 100 per cent.

The collapse of the CTV building claimed 115 lives, but on the floor where Ms Malcolm was working, only one person died, which was "miraculous really".

"I did have a time with quite significant post-traumatic stress effects ... which I probably hadn't expected, but it sort of ambushed me. Over time I have got through that with some help."

Her physical injuries, particularly to her arms, initially left her dependent on others.

"There are a few neurological things that are a bit out of whack. So I'm not quite 100 per cent, but I'm getting there.

"Looking at what's happened in the year, I'm just eternally grateful for all the people who have given me their expertise to get me back to where I am now, which is marvellous."

She hopes to return to work in the coming months.
Jarrod Booker

Karen Bishop
Karen Bishop, who lost her son Andrew "Bish" Bishop in the February quake, doesn't like the suggestion that time is a healer.

"The last person who said to me that time heals, I was going to to thump. Because time does not heal. Time gives you a coping mechanism - and that's all it does."

Andrew Bishop, 33, was working for Canterbury Television (CTV) when the CTV building collapsed and killed him and 114 others. Mrs Bishop has her son's ashes at home with her and is not ready to bury them yet.

"I don't feel that the time is right for me to let him go. We shared a thing about fishing and if I go on a fishing trip, he comes with me. It sounds really weird to a lot of people."

At this time of year, with the anniversary so close, she feels like she is in the same limbo she was in after the February quake, waiting to see if her son had survived.

"Some days it feels like a big black hole but then you see a glimpse of light at the end of tunnel and you head towards it and hope like hell you are doing the right thing."
Jarrod Booker

Tony McCormick
Through the tragedy of the February quake, Tony McCormick has learned how strong bonds of friendship can develop.

The Christchurch man spent six hours at the side of a stranger, accountant Carey Bird, supporting him as he was trapped in the wreckage of the Pyne Gould Corporation building on the day of the February quake.

When Mr Bird, 48, died of his injuries before he could be freed, it fell to Mr McCormick to contact his widow Jan in Australia and give her the news.

"I have, I guess, established quite a strong friendship with Carey's friends and relations. I have caught up with Jan three or four times. We have continued to be in quite close contact."

Mr McCormick will be joined by Mr Bird's friends and family in Christchurch for the first anniversary of the quake.

He feels fortunate that he has been able to move on with his life without the quake weighing him down. He has recently taken on a new job as chief executive of an irrigation firm and that has kept his mind occupied.

"I haven't had nightmares, it hasn't put demons in my head. For others, it has. And that's really tough for those people."
Jarrod Booker

Graham Richardson
Every day Graham Richardson reflects on how lucky he is to still have his wife with him.

He was there to greet Ann Bodkin, 54, when she was pulled out of the wreckage of the collapsed Pyne Gould Corporation building after a 26-hour ordeal. She was the last person to be rescued after the February 22 quake.

"I still look at pictures of the building and think 'how the hell did she get out of that?'," Mr Richardson says.

"We always did approach life together, but it's special the second time around. You do celebrate each other and life in general."

The couple will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in April.

For much of the past year, Ms Bodkin has had to deal with the lingering effects of injuries she suffered to her brain, ribs, shoulder and back. Some injuries were only identified months after the quake.

"She's a positive person. Always has been. And that's what got her through the whole thing I think," Mr Richardson says.

While she was off work recovering, she wrote a book about her experiences, My 26 Hours in a Concrete Coffin, which proved to be therapeutic. The book can be purchased at www.blurb.com.
Jarrod Booker

Amy Cooney
A year on from the February earthquake will be a time for survivor Amy Cooney to remember the brother she lost - but also to take time out to reconnect with family.

Ms Cooney was working in the Iconic Bar in central Christchurch with her brother Jaime Gilbert, 22, when the building partially collapsed and the pair were caught in the debris.

Ms Cooney was able to hold her brother's hand while they were trapped, but he later died of his injuries.

Aside from private memorials to be held on and around February 22, Ms Cooney said members of her family from around New Zealand and overseas would be gathering in Canterbury for an unveiling of her brother's headstone on March 1.

After that the family would be spending a few days together in a popular holiday spot.

"Although it will be a really sad time, we are going to try to use it as a good healing time as well."

Ms Cooney had been planning to leave Christchurch with her partner and three children, but has since changed her mind. She is now planning to study to be a construction manager so she can do her part to ensure the rebuilt Christchurch is safe.
Jarrod Booker

Maurice Gardiner
Through the worst of times, faith and friends have helped Maurice Gardiner get through.

Mr Gardiner lost his sister, Donna Manning, 43, in the collapse of the Canterbury Television building last February, and also had to cope with the loss of his wife Nola to illness just 10 days later.

"We did notice this at Christmas ... and our family seemed to be incomplete."

It had been difficult coming to terms with the loss of Ms Manning "in such a horrific way".

Mr Gardiner said time did not diminish his losses, but he learned to live with it more.

"To have the support of friends, to spend time one on one with them, meeting for coffee, helping you get through issues, is the way we do it these days. What was normal before is not normal now."

Ms Manning's teenage children were doing well in the circumstances, Mr Gardiner said.

"They have their days of course. But I'm very proud of them. I think they are doing extremely well and I think they are getting on with life."

Ms Manning's ashes will be laid to rest in a private ceremony around the time of the one-year quake anniversary.
Jarrod Booker

Jayden Andrews-Howland
Jayden Andrews-Howland's parents will start a new tradition this year to remember their son's birthday - a day after the anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake, in which he was tragically killed.

Jayden had been on a bus into town on February 22, last year, after school finished early that day.

His family believe he had been heading to town probably to figure out what he would use his birthday money for. He was to turn 15.

Jayden and other passengers on the bus were killed when it was crushed by falling debris.

His mum Helen Andrews says a new family tradition will begin this year to mark her son's birthday.

"Jayden wanted Indian for tea, for his 15th birthday ... he loved butter chicken and spicy food.

"So I've made a pact that every year on the 23rd of February we're going to have Indian for tea, for Jayden."

Ms Andrews still struggles to speak about her only son not being around anymore and admits that his loss is still very raw.

"It's pretty tough - very tough, really. He was our only child, so [there's] a huge hole in our lives now.

"He was a kid who never expected a lot. At Christmas 2010 ... we gave him $20 because we couldn't afford much. He just looked at us and went, 'well mum, dad, I didn't expect that 'cos I know you don't have much money'.

"That was the sort of kid he was - he was very thoughtful - never expected anything."

Since the earthquake and the loss of their son, the couple have moved to Greymouth.

"After the earthquake and losing Jayden, we just didn't want to live there anymore," she said.

"We'd just had enough. We just wanted to get well away from Christchurch."

The family will hold a memorial service for Jayden in Leeston, Canterbury, a place his mother says he loved to visit.

Ms Andrews said they were doing their best to move forward, but she admitted it was at times very difficult.

"I still think about it at times - quite often, actually.

"He was a loyal, loving, caring young man who adored his family and is so missed."
Vaimoana Tapaleao

Brent Cairns
With his family home in one of the earthquake red zones, Brent Cairns and his family are expected to take a payout and move on.

But the volunteer firefighter is not having a bar of it. He believes the damage to his street in the town of Kaiapoi - just north of Christchurch - is only minimal, and does not understand why he should have to go.

It leaves Mr Cairns, his wife Shirley and their son in limbo as they wait to see if authorities will eventually force them to leave an area deemed by experts to have land damage that is uneconomic to repair.

The February quake has seen the city carved up into different coloured zones, with the Government offering to buy up the land and houses of those in the red zones.

But a determined group, including the Cairns family, are not budging. Their home insurer will not pay out to rebuild their badly damaged home because they are in a red zone.

"The problem we have is almost a David and Goliath situation," Mr Cairns said.

"We are in a far better position just staying where we are. Why should we (take the payouts) and go into debt?"
Jarrod Booker

- NZ Herald

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