They are still in limbo. Annette Thomson, husband Emlyn Wright, children Campbell, 17, Logan, 15, and Heather 12, live in a modest "as-is-where-is" place bought with an EQC payment and borrowings but it is not the family home they imagined.

That home, up on the hills of Mt Pleasant with its jaw-dropping view towards the Kaikoura Ranges is empty and in the same sad state it has been since shortly after Annette got under the kitchen table that Tuesday, five years ago,at 12.51pm.

They are still in negotiation with insurance company Southern Response.

There is a crack in the brickwork broad enough to lodge a cellphone. The wrap-around deck has drifted away from the house by 200 millimetres.

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Some of the land from the section above (now cleared) slipped.

They built the place themselves. It has secret nooks and passages - such as a storage cupboard that exits in a different room - that any kid would love.

But it is five years, that age of wonder has passed their children by.

"It's actually quite hard to come back here," says Thomson. "It takes you back to different layers of loss. Friends who have moved away, the kids losing their school [Redcliffs], children who might not get to live back in the place we hoped would be our family's home."

"Emlyn lost his brother who is very much part of this house because he helped build it. Insurance companies and banks don't get the emotional attachment you have."

Owen Wright, a joiner, was killed on the Port Hills that horrific day in 2011.

He'd tidied his workshop in Waltham and headed for his Lyttelton home in his Landrover, driving slowly up the Bridle Path track when he found the road tunnel blocked.

Those who last saw him noted his big grin as he gave a ride to people trudging up the climb towards home in the bays on the harbour-side of the hills.

He drove as far as he could then took the Major Hornbrook foot track towards his Lyttelton home. His body was found later. He'd been hit by a rock dislodged in an aftershock.

The site of the family's home is fit to rebuild on. First they need to settle the insurance impasse, then decide.

"If it's a rebuild, it's still going to be two years before we get to the stage we can live back on the site," says Wright. "Where do we see ourselves in another five years? Yeah, I'm not sure where we will be."