Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Canterbury quakes anniversary: A bucket list to avoid

As Cantabrians mark milestone since first quake, resident shares all-too-familiar story

Four years ago today, Cantabrians were tossed out of their beds at 4.35am.

The violent magnitude-7.1 earthquake came without warning. It would change Canterbury forever.

Confused, terrified, some ran outside into darkness. Others grabbed loved ones and huddled in doorways.

Watch: Christchurch earthquake remembered (Part two)


It sparked a two-year Canterbury quake sequence that would wipe out suburbs, flatten Christchurch's city centre, and claim 185 lives.

Four years on, 64-year-old gas cutter Paul Tobin can't believe that his comfortable life has been reduced to Third World levels.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) paid him out $54,000 last August for repairs to his historic 130-year-old Waltham cottage.

Read more:
Editorial: Quake rebuild needs drive from the top

The "age and condition" of the property was behind the cash settlement decision, the EQC said. There were also "significant deferred maintenance issues" with the property.

Three times the EQC claims to have fixed his sewerage system. But it is still broken and Mr Tobin is still "crapping in a bucket".

"He's pretty jaded with the whole thing," says his exasperated son Mike Tobin. "It's a very familiar story to many Canterbury residents."

Mike Tobin has launched an online campaign to fundraise $8000 to finally fix the underground pipes once and for all.

Last night, Paul Tobin dismissed the EQC's statements that they will review his situation. "I've heard it all before. They've been reviewing it for the last four years - it's just words."

He said no proper engineering report has been done on his property.

Suggestions the damage was historic and not linked to the quakes was "nonsense", an emotional Tobin said.

"It's been so long, I don't know what to do. They told me after February [2011] when I had no water, no sewage that my house was 'moderately liveable' ... It's just an insult.

"I feel like giving up."

Yesterday, when approached about Mr Tobin's situation, the EQC's Canterbury home repair programme general manager Reid Stiven said it would take another look at the situation - a U-turn on his comments to media six months ago.

"At the customer's request, we are currently reviewing this decision."

While February 22 is the most poignant earthquake memorial date, Cantabrians will still pause to reflect today on the moment that would change their lives forever.

The Christchurch City Council will move its earthquake recovery committee hearing from its city HQ out to the eastern suburbs at 10am.

The meeting, at North New Brighton Community Centre, will cover plans for a new eastern recreation and sports centre to replace the demolished QEII complex, as well as a legacy project in New Brighton.

The meeting will also discuss the rebuilding of broken community centres, libraries, public toilets, and sports facilities. "September 4, 2010 is a significant date in our city's history so it is poignant that this meeting is held in the east of Christchurch, an area that suffered extensive damage following the earthquake," said the Mayor, Lianne Dalziel.

She said while today was about reflection, it would also be a chance to look to the future.

Four years on, by the numbers


aftershocks of magnitude 3.0 or higher

buildings in the CBD demolished

red zone property owners have settled with the Crown

sq m of road (27 per cent) repaired/replaced

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