Wednesday, 16 November 2016


The Christchurch earthquakes 5 years ago left us feeling like a third world country as we struggled to deal with the scale of a major disaster in our second largest city.

The midnight earthquake, about 60 hours ago, which hit North Canterbury, Marlborough and Wellington, our capital city isolated rural communities and came at the beginning of our tourist season but we seem better able to cope with the emergency this time.

The worst affected town, Kaikoura, is the Whale Watch capital. This was a small coastal town with a depressed economy until some locals set up Whale Watch. Kaikoura is set on a rocky stretch of coastline, I will never forget the first time I drove along this coast. It appearedto go on forever and is a an amazing experience. Mountains steeply climb directly up from the sea. For an hour or more the road wriggles along the sea shore a few feet above sea level.
The railway runs alongside the road. There are many rail tunnels and a few road tunnels. The mountains soar above the sea causing a crick in the neck as you try to take it all in. Here and there seals can be seen basking on rocks or even the road itself.
One time we had a memorable trip south in late winter. The sea to the right reflected the blue of the sky and quiet waves splashed white along the rocky shore. On the left were mountains capped with snow flowing down the nearly vertical sides like icing on a cake. Emotional tears often flow as we drive around our beautiful country. It was one of those days. A crisp sunny day that is etched into my memory forever. When we travel I become overwhelmed by the spectacular beauty not forgetting the beauty and peacefulness of our forests, beaches, hills and plains of our homeland.

State Highway One is broken. It links the North Island to the South Island from Wellington where the Interislander Ferry carries foot passengers, trains, freight trucks and passenger cars to Picton, a three hour trip across Cook Strait. SH1 then continues along the east of the South Island to Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill our most southern city.There is an alternate road route going west before crossing the Southern Alps. There appears to be 100 kilometres , (63 miles), of road closed by slips or crevices. Some sections are open to 4WD with care. We expect the road north of Kaikoura to be closed for several months necessitating a long detour. The road from Christchurch to Kaikoura through north Canterbury should open next week.

As I write the Navy has come to the rescue. HMS Wellington is surveying the sea bed before HMS Canterbury delivers desperately needed supplies and helps with evacuation. It is expected that 600 people will be evacuated today and more again tomorrow. Yesterday helicopters, military and private, lifted out as many people as possible starting with elderly, young families, pregnant women and others with particular needs. A few desperate tourists chartered private small planes or helicopters so they could continue their holiday or catch pre-booked flights from Christchurch. To indicate the scale of the effect this has on tourism, just one operator has to reschedule 900 people who had booked to be in Kaikoura during the next week or two.


The people of Kaikoura are looking after hundreds of tourists as well as their own community. It has been a stressful two days with no water limited sewerage. The Marae, Maori meeting place, has put out about 7,000 meals including crayfish, (lobster), and paua, (abalone.) Local restaurants with gas cookers have provided meals for those who have been camped out too. Water was beginning to run out. I know from Amanda and Wayne's experience in the Christchurch earthquakes that water is the single most important thing in a disaster. Imagine having to use portaloos and no water to wash with let alone to drink. Hand sanitisers such as Purell are at a premium.

Talking of the Navy.... This year the New Zealand Navy celebrates its 75 year anniversary. Ships are arriving in Auckland this morning for a week of international fun. USS Sampson is heading for Kaikoura, as is an Australian frigate. People are being brought to Christchurch, where they will disembark in Lyttleton Harbour,which is still not fully operational after the Christchurch earthquakes. HMS Wellington has to check the seabed there too before large ships can enter.

Here in Christchurch, we remain almost unaffected. I've only felt 2 or 3 shakes all of which were gentle rocking with no jolts but they did seem to last a long time. Christchurch people have crowded the Supermarkets to stock up and there was some concern that fresh supplies would be delayed. I don't think this is likely now but memories of shops running out are still fresh in the minds of people here.

We had Tsunami warnings but generally nothing to worry about. Many people within one kilometre of the coast were told to evacuate and there have been a few complaints about the lack of co-ordination, no sirens or too many sirens, and in particular information coming too late had there been a serious Tsunami. Mostly there were only high tides and waves not very different from a strong east coast storm with a king tide. The one house, that we know about, that was damaged by a Tsunami wave was at the end of an inlet where the water had nowhere else to run. It was clearly a powerful surge of water.

Today life continues it's normal pattern. Amanda and Wayne have returned to their normal work routine and Ava-Jane  is back on her usual timetable with her main carer, the next door neighbour. John and I live in the sleep-out attached to their garage which is comfortable but has no running water. Now that winter is over the run across to the house, about 20 paces is no hardship.

John and I have heaps going on. I had all my top teeth out a while ago. Last week I had some of my bottom teeth out. Tomorrow I get stitches out and also impressions done. Hopefully I will eventually have  a super-duper fitting top plate and partial bottom plate for the cost of a brand new small car. It's been difficult to accept the cost but I know I must go to the best possible person because of the way Bells Palsy has changed my face and the way I eat. Maybe I could have flown to Mexico and had implants but not quite as practical as I will need lots of follow-up.

Our family Beach House which has been listed for sale for the last 12 months after some renovation and upgrades went to auction last Friday. It was passed in but we now have a written offer. Negotiations are tedious with 4 trustees on our side. We have many phone calls, emails and documents to print, read, sign, scan and return. Our current buyers are not even close to the capital value, 1.45M NZdollars or what other similar properties have recently sold for. I hope we can reach an acceptable settlement.

This was my mother's home and she died in January 2012. We had a sale in June 2014 until it was discovered we had no Code of Compliance Certificate from the local authority, who then demanded some upgrades and repairs before issuing the CCC. While the work was being done we freshened up the house with paint, carpet and curtains hoping to make it more attractive to buyers. We listed the house again about a year ago and this is our first proper offer. It's a beautiful property. I know there are a few negatives but the difficulty has been finding someone who is financially able, (we are told this is the top 3% of buyers), who like it enough to spend a lot of money.

John and I have been looking at properties in Christchurch and so far have seen three which we might have purchased had we had my share of cash from the Beach House. Hopefully we will shortly be buyers. I must admit I'm feeling a little frustrated as property values are increasing all around Christchurch again.

We are looking at the seaside suburb of New Brighton. I don't think we will let yesterday's events, when people were rooted out of bed and evacuated for 8 or more hours, put us off. The Tsunami siren went continuously for most of that time then intermittently until mid-day. It was very much a non-event but better to be safe than sorry or dead.

It's a beautiful sunny day in Christchurch. much better than the weather bomb which hit Wellington on top of the earthquake.



Gypsy said...

What an interesting and thorough update on the situation in New Zealand. It will probably take years for all things to return to normal, but I'm glad so few lives were lost. The lack of water would be the most concerning thing - you can cut down or go without food for a while but you can't do without water to drink.

I'm glad you aren't going for dental implants. I have heard so many failure lately relating to implants, and my brother in law nearly died (from sepsis) when his implants failed.

Take care and please keep us posted on the situation there in Christchurch as well as the rest of NZ. Your photos show such a beautiful place!

Lynda said...

I do hope the sale goes through!!! It would be wonderful for you two to finally get your own place down there. Good luck.

Chris H said...

just wondering how you are Chick? Hope all is well.