Is it too much to ask for these signs to be on my front gate? These Occupational Health and Safety signs indicating a construction area are popping up all around my city of Christchurch, and so they should. Every house, getting repaired following the earthquake damage, gets them and I’m thinking they are becoming a sort of badge of honour. Well, perhaps not honour but at least a badge of knowledge that things are actually finally underway.
Let me be clear. I don’t have such signs on my gate. I wish.
One of these would also not go amiss:
Ah, what I could do with one of these on my front lawn? I could clear the pile of damaged roof iron ( from the emergency repairs done after the chimney collapsed and bounced its way to the ground) from my back lawn. That would tidy things up but even more so the appearance of a skip (is that what they’re called in the rest of the world?) would again, be signs of things to come. Out with the old and damaged, and in with the freshly replaced. Aesthetically, it might not look much as an addition to a front lawn, but it would mean everything to me. I’d much rather have one of these than a goldfish pond.
But again, let me be clear. I don’t have one of these either, and nor do I have any sign of having either the skip or the signs any time soon.
From memory, there are around 180,000 house repairs to be completed in Christchurch and we have been told that 80 per cent of them will be completed by the end of 2014. I’m guessing that I’m going to be in the other 20 percent, and interestingly no timeline has been given for those.
One of the best kept secrets in this city, is in what order the repairs are being done. The only reason I can think of for the government authorities and insurance companies to keep this little bit of information from the public is public backlash. That’s because it seems pretty obvious that the approach taken is to do the easy jobs first. Maybe it makes sense if you’re a bureaucrat, after all it makes the statistics of repairs completed climb quicker. It might look good on the books but it’s not fair on the people having to live with the damage to their homes. Easy repairs generally don’t affect one’s living standard. More complicated and severe repairs do, but that doesn’t seem to matter.
I haven’t heard from anyone about my repairs (which rate as severe) for 11 months now, and that is pretty standard. Actually it’s not quite true. About a month ago my insurance company asked me (yes, me) to tell them what the repairs would be worth (so they could estimate their level of liability across the whole region). That’s in spite of an assessor being here 11 months ago, they still don’t know what the amount of the claim will be. When an insurance company wants me to tell them the cost, that’s scary. How would I know? In the end I gave them a rather large figure, after a stab in the dark (along with asking my ‘slightly, but not much, more knowledgeable’ brother to also have a guess) but I still have no idea what their thinking is, let alone whether they have the resources to meet their liability. But I’m not going to go there. Some things are better left un-thought-about. The company has actually now fled the country completely, although they say, if they can, they will honour the existing claims. That’s reassuring, isn’t it?
As The Spice Girls, many years ago sung, “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want”
What I want is to know. All I know is that at some stage I will be required to move out of my house (and live who knows where!) for about three to four months while repairs are completed. I don’t really care if that is still five years away (although please no one tell Roger Sutton or Gerry Brownlee that!). I’ll cope. But I like to know what is happening and when. At this stage I don’t know if I will be told tomorrow that I have two weeks to find somewhere to live (in a city with a major housing crisis). Someone must know how far down the list I am, presuming that they have planned sufficiently that there is a plan. Actually I suspect my house is on the too-hard list, if anywhere, so I’m sure it will be a while yet before it rises anywhere near the top. But don’t worry about me. My dear brother has kindly ‘offered’ me a very delapidated, draughty shed complete with holes in floor, walls and roof on his farm. So kind.
The thing is that while I (and many other people) don’t know, it is so hard to move on. Everywhere in my house there is evidence of the damage. I can live with it now that doors open again, although my windows don’t; but it is affecting me physically and mentally. Everywhere I look there is a reminder of the fear I felt during the quakes, and the loss I experienced as a result. It’s very difficult to move on when I still don’t know when my life can return to normal.
But that word ‘normal’. Actually it’s pretty hard to gauge just what ‘normal’ is now. Perhaps, normal is post-quake living with the damaged homes, businesses and roads and sounds of demolition in the air. My area (eastern Christchurch) doesn’t seem to have got far on the signs and sounds of construction yet, but it is obvious if I drive around the city.
I used to like my home. It felt safe and friendly. It has become just a roof over my head. I don’t like living here now, and I see all the negatives of the place. I really would love to just pack up and move on, but that is impossible. It would be impossible to sell or even rent out, in its current state. So I, like many thousands of other people here, just have to put up with it. I can’t even get insurance for it now. No company offers insurance in Christchurch anymore. We are stuck.
― Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie
- Reality… 10,000+ Earthquakes And Counting (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- All Senses Engaged… Water (Passions Profile Challenge #8) (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Cate’s Crocodiles (infinitesadnessorhope.wordpress.com)
- Sutton urges insurers to front up (stuff.co.nz)