GRA­HAM SNOOKE

Countryman - - COUNTRY LIFE | MECKERING EARTHQUAKE SPECIAL -

Gra­ham Snooke, now 77, has lived and farmed in Meck­er­ing all his life. He was on his trac­tor tow­ing a hay baler on that Mon­day morn­ing.

“I re­mem­ber the strong wind when, sud­denly, the trac­tor started jump­ing around,” he said. “I wanted to get home as soon as pos­si­ble. When I did, the house was com­pletely flat­tened. But I could not find any sign of my fam­ily. Un­be­known to me, they had started to walk into town.

“Many of us have had an op­por­tu­nity to tell our sto­ries about that day. But there are lots of sto­ries that have not been told. There were the two fam­i­lies who were re­ally im­pacted. One ran the lo­cal garage/fuel de­pot and they lost their busi­ness and their home when the quake hit. And the other fam­ily with four chil­dren who had to live in makeshift ac­com­mo­da­tion for sev­eral years. No one had home in­surance for earth­quakes.

“I also want to pay trib­ute to the eight very preg­nant women who had ba­bies within weeks of the quake and brought them home to very tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion . . . shear­ing sheds, army huts. Be­fore the earth­quake there was about 600 peo­ple in and around town. Now it’s much less. The State Govern­ment de­cided not to re­build the pub­lic works of­fice, the po­lice sta­tion and the rail­ways of­fice. Many peo­ple de­cided to leave town.

“It’s hard to be­lieve but some good came of all the destruc­tion. The old town­site was not in a great spot, of­ten prone to flood­ing. The new town­site is on higher grounds. The sport­ing fa­cil­i­ties — the bowls, the ten­nis, the golf and now the hockey — have been brought to­gether in one lo­ca­tion. And with the three churches de­stroyed, we now have one — the cross-de­nom­i­na­tional Trin­ity Church.”

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